Glorious sunshine streamed through Beacon Hill Park, setting blossoms alight as the sun sank into the west… and our intrepid clinic participants were back for another round. And round, and round, and round, for tonight was Drafting and Pacelines on the one-mile oval at the south end of the park. Circle Drive follows the path of an old horse race track in the park (the Friends of Beacon Hill Park would have an aneurysm if something so very … commercial … (shudder) were to take place today) and is perfect training grounds, as it’s a series of right hand turns that make it easy to slip alongside traffic.
In the interests of keeping the clinic upbeat and emphasizing the fun parts of cycling, we didn’t really mention that this loop is also used for the biweekly Deadly Serious World Championship Race for the Third Crosswalk (that one in front of the petting zoo) that leaves otherwise sane, mature adults dragging their tongues on the ground the whole way to coffee.
The learning sequence for this session follows a binary progression that really pleases a geek like me. We broke into groups of about ten solo cyclists and talked through the mechanics and safety aspects of drafting. I was getting a lot of polite skepticism when I said riding in a bunch is one of the best things ever, but they’re all Canadians, so they humoured me kindly.
The bike handling and proximity drills from last week paid right off, as they help address so many concerns: getting too close, bumping into people, touching someone’s wheel – all survivable. This week, we taught people how to look out for each other: pointing out holes, cars, and other hazards. Although I bet we are one of the only cycling communities out there that routinely have to yell, “Peacock!”
(Cue Danny Kaye)
One and One are Two: So we took solo riders and paired them up and sent ’em around and around. Then, to reinforce teamwork and cooperation in the groups, we put water bottles full of Sport Beans on the line declared a Contest: sending pairs off about 50m apart, the first pair had to try not to get caught by the second pair. And partners had to finish together.
Two and Two are Four: now, we started up single pacelines and sent the groups around again – and I could see the penny start to drop: “I have never in my life gone so fast on a bicycle!” And nervous smiles were relaxing.
Four and Four are Eight: double pacelines, the choreographed rotation, the smooth whirr of wheels and drivetrains, and excitement as it started to lock together.
Eight and Eight and Eight and A Bunch of Others are Thirty Six Even Though it Doesn’t Scan With the Song: At the final, crowning moment for the evening, all three bunches came together on Dallas Road and stretched around the circle, absolutely flying. I was the caboose for the final group and looked back: A kind and patient driver was grinning as he waited behind and escorted us along. The whole group was alive and giddy and oh, what a simply beautiful evening. What a gift.