Wheel World Adventures

At 9:55 on a spring Sunday morning, Rockford Coffee at the corner of Main and Rouse is about to see a flurry of activity. One after another, riders descend on the spot from all corners of town on an array of sleek racing bikes, each sporting snazzy blue team uniform. The reason: the Rockford-Clif Bar cycling team’s weekly 10am group ride.

This particular ride is a road-biking loop around the Gallatin Valley—from Bozeman out to Churchill, over to Manhattan, through Belgrade, and back to Bozeman. This loop is a main go-to route because of the smooth pavement, majestic views of the Tobacco Roots, and regrouping and early-turnaround points along the way.

As the group grows in size, a couple riders grab a quick espresso (to help them look cool and “Euro”) while others talk about their families, careers, or their shiny new team bikes from the team’s sponsor, Owenhouse Ace. For many cyclists, the weekly group ride is as much social outing as athletic endeavor.

Before departing, everyone double-checks to make sure that each has the proper gear and clothing for the ride. The success and enjoyment of the group depends on everyone being prepared. Since this is a spring ride, wearing clothing that can adapt to potentially changing weather is key. In addition to cycling shorts and jerseys, windproof jackets, knee warmers, and windproof gloves are in abundance. Wind and rain can quickly sap a fast-moving rider of body heat, so knowing the weather forecast and bringing the right clothes can save a lot of shivers. Clif Bars and the odd peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich also peek out of riders’ jersey pockets to fuel their efforts.

Over the course of the three-hour ride, the group largely sticks together, not just to take advantage of the camaraderie, but also to save energy. Drafting behind another rider can save up to half the energy, which is why you see Tour de France riders forming a massive group or “peloton.” When the pace is on in a race or fast group ride, the riders string out in a single-file line until there is a lull in the race or it’s time to regroup.

Spring rides are generally done at a conversational pace. On road bikes, this is still quite fast—20 miles per hour or so—but easy enough to carry on a conversation with the rider next to you. There are two reasons for this: talking makes the training time fly by, and conversation acts a speed limit. It just so happens that building a big aerobic engine for the races later in the summer requires lots of long, steady riding. These low-intensity efforts teach the body to use oxygen and burn fat (the best energy source) more efficiently.

The ride often ends back at Rockford or some team member’s kitchen for cake or other “recovery food.” Eating some easy-to-digest carbs and a little protein within the first 30 minutes after a long ride helps replenish the muscle’s stored energy—and eating cake is awesome, too.

To ride with Team Rockford, visit the team’s website at rockfordcycling.com, or swing by Owenhouse and Rockford in downtown Bozeman. For more info about cycling, training, and racing, check out DerekLoudermilk.com/blog.

Photo Courtesy Team Rockford