The Solo Ride…

No secrets on this one – I hate riding solo. Simple as that. I reckon I can count the number of ‘proper’ solo rides (by which I mean rides bigger than evening jaunts to Richmond Park for a couple of laps) I’ve done in the last three years on one hand, and without using all fingers. They’re the spawn of the devil I tell you. I think I’d prefer to ride with my worst enemy than ride solo.

I’ve never been good at it – back in my Mountain Biking days when I lived in Sussex it’d always take me forever to get out of the house, and then when I was up on the hills I’d never challenge myself and was rarely particularly inventive with my routes. These days I find myself stopping at every other junction to decide my direction and check my emails and twitter or to actually tweet some rubbish or other! I always have grand plans to do big distances, yet they always turn out to be a fraction of what I actually had in mind.

Useless…

However, based on the fact that my weekends are often now taken up with work I took the decision to promise Wendy that my mid-week day off would be my ‘big ride’ day so that we can maximise our time together at the weekends. As such, the solo ride has become an evil, painful necessity.

For the last two weeks my solo rides have been nothing short of pathetic. My first mid-week day off in the new job resulted in me doing almost everything in my power to avoid riding, eventually resorting to a couple of late afternoon laps of Richmond Park (about 45km all told). Last week I managed 100km, but I was grumpy the whole way round, and when I reached a point where I could easily have made the ride longer it took all of two seconds to decide I couldn’t be bothered. This week simply had to be better.

On Tuesday evening I announced on Twitter that I needed a ride plan. Despite the fact that I was really just announcing that I needed to get my arse in gear and sort myself a ride plan, a friend announced she was prepared to sort a challenging route for me and see what I thought of it. Perfect. So, ride uploaded, bike prepped and all set I took myself off to bed…

…and promptly awoke on my day off feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. Bugger.

It took ages for me to get around to getting up. Then when I eventually did I moped around having a slow breakfast, taking ages to shower, dress and get my one single chore for the day out of the way – and all the while the headache that I’d woken up with was getting worse. It was a stunning day too.

Eventually after some paracetamol, a coffee, a second breakfast and a bit more procrastinating / moping I decided I was good to go and got kitted up ready to ride. Except it was now 12:30. Idiot.

The late start meant that I had to make a decision at around 4pm – approximately 80km into the ride -whether to continue or head back to London. To be honest I’m glad I skimped on the extra 35km and headed for home because by the time I’d covered the shorter distance I was already losing the light. Still, I managed to bag a hot and hilly 130km, and best of all? I actually enjoyed it.

So what did I do differently?

For one thing, I had music. This is an odd one because I generally disapprove of wearing headphones whilst riding. In fact the only time I recall wearing headphones on the bike previously was on the Fred Whitton Challenge in 2009 when I put music on to help me get up Hard Knott Pass! I know a lot of folk do it, and each to their own. For me it’s always been something to be weary of, and not just because of not hearing traffic – with headphones on you can’t hear what’s going on with your bike, and that’s something I like to be able to do.

In case you’re wondering, my soundtrack for the day was a number of the VeloBeats podcasts, and they seemed to help me overcome the loneliness and just get on with it – occasionally also offering a bit of rhythm for me to pedal to.

Secondly, the route. Having someone else prepare it and me commit to it (well, sort of) meant a whole host of different things – more emotively, a new and more scenic route out of town, a couple of new hills and some fantastic new roads. On the ride side of things it meant not knowing where I was going aside from a vague idea from a brief look at the route and knowing where the roads I’ve ridden before would lead me. It was a shame not to have started early enough to do the full route, but to be fair given how hot it was (hottest September day on record I’m told!) and how much my legs already ache afterwards I’m also kind of glad!

So it seems the route to overcoming my hatred of solo rides is pathed – I just need to make sure I have a plan in mind and some music in my ears… and perhaps stop moping about, whining on Twitter, procrastinating and generally unnecessarily delaying myself. Flippin’ tosspot. I’m also going to get myself a ‘One Good Earbud‘ headset, such that I can listen to music properly in one ear (rather then leaving one earbud dangling and making the music sound awful) and still hear traffic and bike noises.

For future weeks I have a couple of routes in mind, although some of them – my beloved ‘CCC’ ride to the Sussex coast and back being one – might have to wait until I’ve got a little more solo ride experience under my belt, and perhaps the daylight is back in my favour a little more.

The biggest challenge will be adverse weather and the cold, miserable winter months in general – then I really will need a shove to get out.

Anyone want to sort me a ride route for next week?!

Rich [@RichTheRoadie]