I am one of a team of ride leaders helping out with the second annual Tripleshot Cycling Women’s Group Riding and Racing Skills clinic. We come from all over the cycling world and many of the team are very, very impressive: the cycling resumes that came out during our introductions painted a picture of a group of women ranging from 17 years old to [just never you mind]; national and provincial team members; and representation from all kinds of cycling, including mountain, road, and the track. And then, there’s me, the token triathlete. “Hey, Kate: how many triathletes does it take to screw in a light bulb? What? You can’t tell me until you find a carbon fibre ladder and check with your coach? Bwa ha ha ha ha ha!!” (sigh)
Anyway, our Grand Poobah, Jen Erlendson, has asked me to write up the clinics as we go, saying she’d like my “on the ground, leader perspective.” Now, I have to say I didn’t spend that much time on the ground Monday night and had kind of hoped she wasn’t looking when I toppled. Oh, well.
Thirty intrepid women turned out at the Beacon Hill Park car park on Monday night. There was a flock of women named some variant of Katherine, which is just fine with me, as the odds that I got someone’s name right yelling, “Awesome work, Kath!” were very high. I decided not to apply one of the first group riding lessons I got when I joined Tripleshot, which is, “Sorry, that name is taken. You’ll have to choose another one.” (The next John, David, or Steve to turn up at Pareto Logic at 0600 might just as well start with his middle name when he introduces himself. Those names are taken and so are all their variants.)
The evening’s drills were designed to build comfort on the bike and in close quarters. Some of our participants are just beginning to get comfortable clipping in and holding on with one hand. Others have been riding for a very long time. Everyone was some variety of nervous. Everyone (and I include the leaders) was stepping outside their comfort zones in one way or another and thinking, “Jeez, I hope I don’t make a total ass of myself.”
But the marvellous thing was – nobody did. Because the clinic very quickly established itself as a safe place to try something out that might or might not work. And the more seasoned riders gamely stepped up to be Lovely Assistants to the leadership team while the newer riders found lots of space to try new things.
The drills sound absurd, look odd when demonstrated, and in practice, are superb tools. You can hear the penny dropping as participants suddenly get the point of the exercise. The bottle-picking-upping drill helps riders weight their bikes and move independently from them. Emergency stopping just plain saves lives (and thank you again, Lister, or I would have been in a car sandwich at the Victoria Tri last year). And the contact series – bumping shoulders, guiding an interloping rider away with a gentle touch to the hip, supporting each other while looking backwards, and bumping wheels – developed astounding confidence.
I cannot get over how wonderful it was to hear people say, “Whoa! That was really cool! That wasn’t at all hard! I feel so much better about this!” I was also delighted by how quickly people relaxed and started laughing. What a great group of women.
Next week, we teach the real group riding magic, drafting and working in pacelines on the one-mile circle at Beacon Hill. I remember the first time I started drafting on someone and was totally unimpressed. I didn’t get at all what the fuss was about, except that the woman on the front seemed somehow to be slacking off, because I was keeping up with her with, like, no effort. Then she rolled back and the light dawned.
There’s something about the choreography of a well-tuned group rolling in a paceline that is elegant and magical and I can’t wait to share that with the group next week. Until then, smile, lube your chains, pick up some bottles from your driveway, and keep that rear fender on, because sure as shooting, if you take it off, it’ll rain on Monday