The Greener Grass

Most of my riding is defined by solo trips to whatever hills or roads I can fit in the time I have available. As much as I try to stay consistent, it shifts a bit here or there, or doesn't happen at all. It's mainly just me, sweating or freezing or whatever, alone with my thoughts. There are occasional rides with a friend, very rare group rides, or road races to break up the solitude, but for the most part I'm on my own. This is the result of the nature of the local cycling scene, time constraints, the Anchorage road system, and my own introverted nature.

Other people's riding experience is defined by the social component of the sport. Their weeks and months are scheduled around group events, with solo rides just filling in the cracks.

Sometimes I envy them.

Riding with a group of like-minded individuals who push each other for no other reason than because it's fun... well, that's just a great way to spend a day. Every time I leave the state for a business or personal trip, I bring a bike and try to look up with a group ride. The vibe is almost always positive, I get to ride route I wouldn't have otherwise known about, and I see things I might not have noticed while riding alone.

Knowing that I could pick and choose from any number of weekly rides based on how hard I wanted to work and what terrain I wanted to cover... my head would probably explode.

On the other hand, riding is my time to re-center. Kinda hard to do when your experience is at primarily dictated by other people. While I enjoy that dynamic too, getting away from the social and figuring out what's flitting around between my ears is what drew me to the sport.

Anchorage isn't built for a huge group road ride culture. Some pop up seasonally, but usually fizzle as the temperatures warm, trails dry out, and the bike riding populace gravitates towards whatever it is that floats their boats. A couple guys here, a handful there... that's about as big a group as you'll see throughout the warm-ish months.

Instead, we race. Not so much as in some places, but a lot more than others that have a much larger riding population. Our races aren't for money or swag or anything else of a tangible nature. Mostly they're for pride, bragging rights, and to exert a sort of social order based on physical capacity. A meritocracy. The strong pay to beat up on the weak. The weak pay to get beat up by the strong.

I like the race-oriented culture. I like how things are categorized and quantified, so I know how low on the totem pole I sit. I like competing in a semi-controlled environment instead of sprinting around cars to get an edge on the competition. It just suits my demeanor.

The grass is always greener, especially when it's smeared all over your nice white jersey after a red-lined newbie on a touring bike took a corner hot and edged you off the road.

Yeah, racing is better.

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