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January 18, 2013 13 comments
Grant Petersen - "Short Rides Beat Long Rides".Friends Monthly highlights
Grant Petersen has some timely things to say about competitive riding. (Photo Reno Rambler) The 2013 Brooks Bugle will soon be ready for dispatch. It promises to contain a breadth and scope of material unattained by any of our previous Bugles. And that's saying something, we're sure you'll agree. Of the several excellent contributions we received from various luminaries of the world of cycling, we were perhaps most excited to have something for this year's Bugle from Rivendell's Grant Petersen. The renowned designer of lugged steel classics such as the Bridgestone XO-1, and the Rivendell Hunqapillar has been kind enough to relate in our coming Bugle the story behind his new book "Just Ride", but not before he sketched out some other possible topics for us. One of which we are pleased to reproduce for our readers below... The most underrated ride in all of cycling is the shortie, the opposite-of-epic neighbourhood ride that beats walking but doesn’t make you sweat or hurt. The kind of ride kids and non-cyclists do out of need; the kind of ride you gave up when you got serious and came under the influence of racing. The shortie gets ignored at best and dissed at worst because it doesn’t require the expensive bike or specialty clothing, shoes, and safety gear you’ve already invested in. You don’t get to dress like a warrior for it. And most of all, it’s not painful or even uncomfortable, so it must not count. We are so under the influence of pro racing that the further from racing a ride is, the less respect we tend to accord it. The physiological myth behind this disrespect is that hard, grueling, long and painful rides are good for you; that when you recover from them, your heart is stronger, your arteries clearer, your overall physiology supercharged, rebuilt, and ready for another even harder effort. Bullshit. Hard rides to nowhere and back (HRNB) build mental toughness for more HRNB's. They hone your body into a degree of efficiency that can’t be achieved on short rides, but those “benefits” are of little use outside of competition, and come at great cost. Is it healthy to ride that long and hard? This isn’t a scientific paper, but let me make a few observations worth chewing on: The famous Rivendell Sam Hillborne with a Brooks B17 on top. Sustained, high-effort aerobics are unheard of among wild animals, which are rarely fat, and common among humans who do them to avoid fat. (Often in vain.) The best-looking bodies in any Olympics are the sprinters, gymnasts, and other athletes in high-intensity/short duration events. Not the marathoners, or cyclists. HRNB's, like endurance swims, don’t shed poundage. They burn calories, but you eat them back on. Nobody can operate in a caloric deficit for long. HRNB's turn riding your bike into a job, a chore, a way to maintain your reputation or your standing in a peer group of other HRNB fans. If you are in love with HRNB's, ignore this. But if you’re trapped in a cycle of HRNB and are looking for escape, then wear some normal clothing and go on a two-to-five miler around the neighbourhood. Marvel at the efficiency of rolling wheels, imagine how hard it would be to run that fast for that long, and pay attention to things other than your speed and mileage and the wheel in front of yours.