What Is A Social “A” Ride?

Roger and I have been leading so-called Social “A” rides for almost two years. We felt the club was running on a steady diet of B+ rides, which often were quite a bit faster than B pace, and really didn’t have much to offer cyclists who would like to go perhaps a bit slower. Since the club is for all LGBT cyclists (and our fellow travelers and co-conspirators), we were hoping to break the cycle of B/C/D rides attracting faster cyclists who then joined and led more B/C/D rides by offering something different and seeing if we could get some momentum going and rebalance the club at least in this respect (there are other imbalances such as race, age, gender, and road vs. dirt).

We’ve had some success with a small but steady number of participants. Some riders have told us they welcome the slower paced rides because other club rides are just too fast for them, and for that reason they rarely go on club rides anymore. Some are new to the club and want to test the waters before they go on faster or longer rides. That’s actually a good thing: we hope that people continue to attend our rides OR “graduate” to harder ones as they get stronger and more confident. Some attendees are B/C/D riders who are “slumming”, taking a recovery day, or getting over a bug; a few are lapsed Spokers who are reinvestigating the club.

Although we started these Social A rides, we certainly do not claim ownership of the category. We want others will jump in and lead this type of ride and offer it to the club. That hasn’t happened yet but we are hopeful.

We also try to offer our rides around the Bay Area instead of nesting them in just one location such as SF. We’ve offered rides mostly in the East Bay since we live here but we’ve deliberately spread them around to the Peninsula, South Bay, and Napa. We have plans to lead rides in San Jose, SF, and Sacramento too.

The core of a Social ride is hanging out and gabbing not just riding. All club rides regardless of pace have that, but for the slower cyclist there’s not a lot of it if you’re left in the dust and riding by yourself or are panting too hard from the effort to keep up! So that’s what we mean by “social”: it should be possible for the less speedy cyclist to have a good time too. Another aspect of our Social A rides is we always stop for a good lunch. We’re not into Clif bars, sorry! And lunch is a fabulous way to practice all those skills you learned at finishing school.

This past winter has been unkind to all club rides with cancelation after cancelation due to rain. But we seem to be past the worst of the inclement weather and looking forward to an incredible spring and summer. The first Social A ride of the year—a ride through the Midpeninsula with lunch at the Prolific Oven in Palo Alto—finally took place a couple of weeks ago after being postponed three times due to rain! It was a small group: Roger, me, and two newcomers Brian and Michael. Strangely enough both Brian and Michael, who didn’t know each other, were from San Diego but now live in the Bay Area. Both are also very strong cyclists and were checking out the club. In fact Brian had completed the Furnace Creek 508, which is an ultramarathon ride in Death Valley!

So what happened on our Social “A” ride is what happens at a lot of our club rides: the pace got a lot faster. Social rides may be slower but they are not necessarily flat. Going up Sand Hill Road, then Olive Hill, and then into Portola Valley there wasn’t any panting even though we were going well past 17 mph at times. It’s not that we usually go this fast, but with unfamiliar newcomers I was just checking to see if the pace might be too slow. And it was, it seems. No one protested and when asked later on they said they were comfortable with it. So there! Social A rides are supposed to have a moving average 8 to 10 mph (that sometimes get pushed to almost 11); this time it was 13.5, which under normal circumstances would have me profusely apologizing.

The day was one of the first dry days in a while and it showed: the Midpeninsula, which is a hotbed of cycling anyway, was crawling with bicyclists starving for a ride. No matter which way we looked or rode we kept running into mobs. We stopped at the Arastradero Preserve to freshen up and encountered a recumbent cycling club. Much chatting ensued, most of it about the e-bike Roger was riding and comparing notes with the e-recumbents. One of our former Ride Coordinators, Bill Bushnell, has and is a big e-recumbent rider and they all knew Bill. After our close encounter with the ‘Bent kind we rolled into Los Altos Hills and took on Purissima and Elena, short but gritty hills, admiring all the homes we cannot afford, before cruising up Foothill to our lunch stop.

We love eating at the Prolific Oven. It’s old enough—35 years—to have become a Palo Alto mainstay; let’s hope their rent doesn’t go through the roof and drive them out of tony Palo Alto. Sandwiches there go beyond the mundane and always include a small slice of their chocolate cake with your order. Well, there goes the Paleo diet! The only oddity about this visit was the place was full of students, all on Apple laptops doing their homework and research. I felt so old and dated.

Our next social ride is on Sunday April 30 where we will finally get the answer to Paul Simon’s question, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” Stay tuned!