The Scarlet Letter

Yes, the Scarlet Letter.  The big one.


R as in Recovery Ride.

Today’s post is not about self-flagellation or mutilation…it’s about Recovery Rides, and the paradox of being a little too competitive for my own good.  After being encouraged by some of the smarter riders I know, I’ve done some digging into recovery rides.  The science is sound–the day after a hard ride, you do a shorter duration (12-15 miles) at a low speed, low intensity, high cadence.  You never build up a burn, you downshift on hills, and generally, you ride in a leisurely fashion.  The science behind recovery rides has to do with clearing lactic acid and other exercise byproducts from your muscles, encouraging bloodflow, encouraging muscle growth and tissue repair, and putting down base miles that  continue to build your pedaling technique.

That all sounds well and good, but if you’re overly competitive, recovery rides are the hardest rides of all.  I once remarked to a friend that, having built some speed over the winter, I feel somewhat like a little boy who has discovered his manhood.  I’m never quite sure when to whip it out–and when I do, it’s often at inopportune times.  On group rides with faster riders, I sprint too soon, burn out, and get hammered.  And on my solo rides, I push too hard on every ride, and don’t build base miles or recover.  I’m trying to turn over a new leaf…so on the group rides this week, I’ve stayed with the group and followed the sprints, instead of leading them, and I’m trying recovery rides.

This week, I rode Monday (solo hard ride), lifted Tuesday, rode Wednesday (group hard ride), rode Thursday (small group 20 mile cruise on Rumblefish), rode Friday (a few hours of mountain biking), rode Saturday (easy group ride with interval sprinting) and rode today.  Today was a pure recovery ride…on the Ridley, 15-17mph, 100rpm cadence, downshifting at the first sign of resistance or muscle burn.  And frankly, that’s hard for me to do.  I want to ride as fast as I can, all of the time.  But frankly, I’m trying to figure out if this recovery ride technique works…because I want to get better more than I want to hammer all the time.

Riding on a Sunday morning at 6am, I ran into very little traffic…until I was headed home, waiting for a light at Randall Road.  Then, I had a 50ish year old man ride up behind me on an ‘entry level’ Madone and strike up a conversation as we waited for the light.  I tensed in anticipation of the green, paralyzed by an internal conflict.  On one hand, I was on a recovery ride, and didn’t want to ruin it.  On the other hand, I was riding by a cyclist that I could almost certainly drop, and didn’t want to let up when the opportunity presented itself.  That’s the overly competitive side of me coming out.  I thought about telling him, “yeah, I’m taking it easy–recovery ride today,” but felt that: 1) I would sound like a bad episode of $h!# road cyclists say; and, 2) I would sound as if I was making excuses.  My sense ended up prevailing over my ego, and I proceeded on my recovery ride–although I did make an unplanned turn to avoid continuing temptation.

Which leads us back to the Scarlet Letter.  Here’s a modest proposal: cyclists should all have a big red that they pin to their jersey when on a recovery ride.  The rules applicable to the Scarlet Letter?

  1. When wearing the R, you cannot ride out of the saddle.
  2. When wearing the R, you cannot ride in the drops, or in aero bars.
  3. When wearing the R, you cannot pass other riders, whilst riding hands-free.
  4. If another rider comes across a rider wearing an R, the other rider must immediately pass and say, “have a great Recovery Ride ™ .”
  5. When wearing the R, you cannot wear a skin suit or aero helmet, cannot use aero water bottles, and must have at least 2 items in your jersey pocket.
  6. When wearing the R, you have to install it before you start riding and maintain it for the full ride.  (I.e. no whipping out an R mid-ride if you feel you’re about to be dropped).

There are probably more rules, but that’s enough for one post.  I really think it could

I’ll leave you with something to ENVE.  I have no idea what the finish on the wheels is, but they make a spectacular color in direct sunlight.  All I have for now are terrible iPhone pics, but I’ll try to get some good high quality ones soon.  Teaser for now:


One thought on “The Scarlet Letter

  1. Pingback: Living Inside a Mistake | ridingagainstthegrain

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