Cycling Background

It Happens Every Spring

For several consecutive springs Naperville BC riders argued about ride speeds on rides.  We had several categories whose average speed was:
Beginner . . . . . 10 and below
Easy . . . . . . . .  11-13
Moderate . . . .  14-16
Fast  . . . . . . . .  17-19
Blur . . . . . . . . .  20 and up.
These categories became issues when some riders were in decent shape from spinning or riding trainers over the winter while other riders relaxed during the off season.  Some riders who took the winter off, could not longer keep up with riders they kept up with in the fall.  Their egos were bruised, so instead of vowing to train next winter, they took issue with ride speeds.  
This particular spring (late Apr or early May) some of us had trained over the winter and wanted to ride intervals.  I prepared a route with a long warm up, almost ten miles before starting intervals.  In the cornfields of Illinois roads often intersect every mile.  After the warm up my map, cue sheet, and text referred to intervals every other mile.  When we started the ride I suggested that if some riders had trouble keeping up on the intervals, they just ride steady state at a fast speed – the speed category I designated for the ride.  Well on the intervals we approached 30mph; while on the recoveries we were around 12mph.   It turned out that for the whole ride we averaged slightly below 17mph on a fast ride.
As we are doing the first few intervals the club vice president falls behind.  And he was a little upset.  We had a lengthy discussion about the designated speed, the average speed, how it was unfair to call a ride fast when we sped along around 30, at speeds faster than fast.  I was unsympathetic given my description of ride.  
A week or two later the club president was on a moderate ride.  We warmed up on city streets before coming upon the last traffic light which was red light as we approached the less populated neighborhoods.   When the light turned green the first few riders sped up a 20' hill clearly at a fast speed; not moderate.  Just so you know hills around Chicago are often interstate overpasses.  The president puffed to keep up.  The lead riders continued going fast for a good ways and the president continued puffing probably at and above her AT.  Clearly the ride started off too fast and while it became slower later several riders worked too hard to keep up at the beginning.  Actually the ride average 14.7, a fact that surprised the president who was convinced it was a fast ride.  She was a moderate rider and could keep up on a moderate ride, so the ride was fast.  And falling behind had nothing to do with a relaxed off season
The following day we had another moderate ride.  This one did not start off at a fast speed nor did it ever go fast except maybe for very brief times.  The average speed was 14.2; another surprise for the president who was also on the ride and thought the ride was a lot slower than the previous one.
A week or two later the club's board had a meeting where ride categories was the main topic.  Clearly many club members rode at politically incorrect speeds and the board was going to take action and action it took.  The numbers with each category stayed the same, but the definition changed.  The word "pace" replaced "average" with the explanation that pace meant 14mph on your computer on the flat with no wind.  You could go faster with a tailwind or downhill, but you had to go slower with a headwind or uphill.  I changed the designation of the interval ride to blur.

updated: 10 years ago