Lunch ride to Alice’s

Since I was working from home today and Kim has the week off, we decided to meet for lunch up at Alice’s.

It was a good ride up — I took the quasi-long way, as I wanted to both have a nice afternoon ride (cake) but to also get back in time to do work this afternoon (eat it, too).

The downside to riding past a quarry on a weekday

Dodging bicyclists on Stevens Canyon Road

Swoopies on Hwy 9

(The rest of the pics are here, though I didn’t take many)

I go through alternate phases of being happy and then extremely unhappy with my riding in the twisties; I’m in a “happy” phase now.

A couple of weeks ago, Peter and I took to the parking lot with our bikes and my camera; an hour or so of tight circles later, I had a nice collection of short movies and still photos. I spent a night analyzing them and noticed that my elbows never looked relaxed — they were always sort of sticking out at a painful-looking angle (and not just because of the elbow padding, either).

I started paying attention to my elbow position and quickly realized that I wasn’t keeping my elbow tucked into my body because I was always covering the clutch and brake levers. Since my hands are small, covering the levers means my wrists are somewhat bent outward, forcing my elbows out.

So, I started taking mental note of when I actually used the brake and clutch, to justify covering them so damn often. And the result was somewhat surprising: all. the. time. It turned out that every single time I felt like I was riding terribly in the twisties, I was feathering the clutch through the turns. We’re not talking hairpins, either — I mean that I was pulling in the clutch enough to feather through 2nd and 3rd gear turns.

Yeah. Well.

So, needless to say, I’ve been working on that. I’ve slowed down an average of 10mph or so in the twisties, and have focused on keeping the revs in a range that allows me to be comfortable leaning into turns without touching any pedals or levers. Usually this means that I’m actually up a gear from what I’d been doing.

With a couple of exceptions (hairpins, plus an SUV slamming on its brakes right in front of me), I was able to maintain this on my entire ride today. I’m not even sure that I’m taking the corners any slower than I had been anymore — I maintained a good 40mph average down Hwy 9 (before the aforementioned SUV, that is), which is fast enough to be exciting but slow enough that I didn’t have to brake hard before any turns.

It got me thinking about The Pace. The thing I like most about it is that everyone’s Pace is different, really — I get just as much enjoyment out of heading down 9 in 2nd gear at 40mph as someone else might in 4th gear at 60mph, or as another rider might at 30mph. I try not to have an ego while up in the hills — there’s always someone who’ll ride faster than I do. I think I enter those “unhappy” phases when I let myself stop riding The Pace and try to just Go! Faster! Now! — I tense up and enter corners too quickly, forcing myself to brake often, thus covering the brakes/clutch and making myself even more tense.

Maybe I should make a little card for myself, a hot pink Post-It with “PACE!” on it or something, and stick it on the triple clamp on those days when I’m unhappy with my riding. It’d be interesting to see if the riding improves with that simple reminder.

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