Archive for September 7, 2008

What Makes A Section Of Road “Fast?”

September 7, 2008

Today’s ride was a recovery ride, or most of it was. Of the sixty miles, all but 10-15 was at a conversational pace: From the intersection of Old Mooringsport and 173, up to Mooringsport, and then back down 169 to Blanchard Furrh road, I don’t think we dropped below 25. At the store stop, everyone – whether they kept the pace up or had dropped off the back – complained about the high speed. (Well, everyone except the two or three guys for whom 25 is a recovery pace.) So why did we go that fast, if no one really wanted to? Someone said it was such a fast section of road, that we had to pick the pace up.

That got me wondering what makes a road fast. Thinking about the section we had just ridden, here’s my criteria.

First, and this is the sine qua non, I think, the miles to stops ratio is at least 5:1. That is, you have at least five miles between intersections, stop signs, red lights, sharp turns, or railroad crossings. This lets the group build a rhythm of speed.

Second, nice pavement. Pot holes, cracks, chip-and-seal: all that stuff drains energy. Probably not enough to make a significant difference, but enough to make a mental difference. High speed riding hurts enough when you’re gliding along nice, slick, new pavement. It kills you when in addition to the burn in your legs, it feels like your teeth are going to rattle loose.

Third, little to no traffic. Open roads mean you can concentrate on riding.

Fourth, trees on the side of the road. The shade is nice, and they also shield you from the wind.

Fifth, some rollers. Not big hills, because then it becomes a grind. No flat stuff either. That’s boring. Rollers bring some fun, and they can also kick a slower ride into high gear.

That’s my theory for this morning. The first four ingredients were present, and then we hit some rollers. Going down the first one increased everyone’s speed, and the second was low enough that the momentum from the first shot us over it. Then it was more speed down the second. After that, I was telling myself to just hold on until the store stop.