Contributed by Jared Macary
When you’re 33 years-old and your routine thrives on adventure, you’ve probably sampled in some, small part much of what there is to offer. Sure, there will always be extreme and international adventures before you, but you’ve already done the basics: run in the rain, paddled watercraft, biked in the forest, and hiked in the snow.
This wasn’t the case for me.
Since my two feet could pedal, I’ve only had three bicycles: a BMX red rocket when I was preteen, a steel mountain baddie whose last day came during 2011’s SNOT cycle pre-ride, and now a Specialized Stumpy Comp 29r. The point being, I’ve never really biked on the road with a road bike. Heresy, I know. Especially when encountering statements like “road biking is the best way to become a better mountain biker.”
My V-card was punched, however, with help of teammates Lukas and Paul along Skyline Drive.
Paul, Lukas and I met at teammate Barry’s house in the wee hours on a Saturday morning. I was introduced to Barry’s blue-orange mistress – a 2011 Specialized Tarmac Comp. I fell in love with her cosmetics instantly.
I was pleased to discover that Barry’s lover was carbon fiber – also a first for me. I was intimidated, especially since carbon fiber is more fragile than anything I’ve ever ridden. I’m by no means a “bull in a China shop,” but this was not my property.
Paul, Lukas, and I arrived at the north gate of Skyline Drive just outside Front Royal, Virginia, at about 10 AM or so. We prepped our bikes and bodies for our journey of 50+ miles. Paul and Lukas added various cremes to their spandex shorts which they claimed aided in comfort by reducing chafing. I don’t understand why people lie to other people, especially when they are teammates.
Lukas lent me a colorful racing jersey for our trip. This too was a first for me. I’ve gotten by on many rides with only a tech shirt and perhaps a small backpack. The comfort of the racing jersey and it’s marsupial qualities were welcomed. Lukas expressed happiness with being able to take everything he needed for the ride stowed sufficiently in the three rear jersey pockets.
My start was rocky. Paul and Lukas noticed my inefficient pedal strokes. I pushed forcibly in my downstroke, but didn’t engage the upstroke. Lukas offered that I pedal in a full-circle with my heel foremost on the downstroke. I applied this technique and felt significant difference in my muscles. No longer was I straining myself, but equally leveraged the strength of the fibers of both my tree trunks.
The various slogs were great practice to find and follow a cadence to be most efficient. I worked to find an easy rhythm and bring my breath in line. I found that, toward the end of the day’s ride, I still had great reserves of energy – which I proudly demonstrated to Paul and Lukas.
Engaging any slope and speeding into a full descent reminded me of the freedom gained from downhill skiing. For one, both skiing and road biking give up tremendous speed with very simplistic transport. Barry’s carbon fiber sensation certainly didn’t weigh me down with a beefy frame or heavy shocks. The bike was simple – all it need to be – to provide great freedom akin to flying. In addition, it was a true pleasure to not have to worry about root or rock obstacles. Skyline Drive is lovingly maintained so the pavement is smooth and void of breaks and holes.
First, camaraderie truly pays off on long rides, races, and just about most things in life. Second, when tired during a long slog, it is important to raise ones head and smile, especially when surrounded by nature. Skyline Drive’s flora, fauna, and occasional views remind you of why you’re doing what you do. Third, I need to get a road bike.