Musings from the back of the pack
By Tibor Tamas, RUSA# 9902 Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For me, getting dropped is an unquestionable conclusion, but it never keeps me from trying. There were many brevets & permanents where I was the last one riding, long after the rest of the group left. Why am I ‘confessing’ to this? I am admitting this because through this short article I’d like to encourage other slower riders to not give up. So how is the view from the back of the pack you may ask? Why am I still doing it? How do I enjoy randonneuring if I’m alone?
Even before taking up randonneuring, I was the one the local cycling club would wait on. That lasted about four months, until I understood what needed to be done. Finishing with the group is much better than arriving to an empty parking lot; however, not everyone can finish with the group. I was doing lots of T-shirt centuries at this point, and was looking for something more permanent and year round. Google didn’t disappoint and I found the local chapter of RUSA. Response to my e-mail was quick and in August 2014 did my first brevet with LSR (LONE STAR Randonneurs). They were super nice and I finished last by only a few minutes (OK, maybe 45 minutes). Since then, I have been riding with them regularly. There have been good days with good rides and then there have been rides that could have been better.
So what’s it like to be the last and ride alone? It is not as bad or lonely as some would think. It has multiple benefits, such as not having to hurry and keep up, having to rush through controls, or having to conform to faster riders. Furthermore, solo rides soothe the soul. It allows you to be alone with your thoughts and clear your head. You can enjoy the ride, air, and freedom more when you are alone. The ride is more peaceful so I can actually think about something. When I go alone, I feel like I own the whole place. On a solo ride, you can ease up or push hard whenever you feel like it. Plus, solo riding allows you to ride at your own pace, to stop when you want, take pictures, talk to locals (or cows, as they seem to listen better than horses) and others who are on the road. I have met more than a few others who were stopped by the side of the road, including the Harley rider with whom I had the most interesting conversation. Thus, riding alone not only makes you a better, mentally stronger rider, but also allows you to meet new people and experience the ride as you wish.
I am still riding because I really enjoy the company for the first few miles and the occasional brave soul who decides to slow down and ride with me. There is not much that beats an overnight ride in the middle of summer. I love it because it takes me to places I would not otherwise visit. It allows me to test and to push myself to still finish and make the controls time. And yes, I will continue randonneuring even if I will do so by myself. I would encourage other slower than average riders (you know who you are) to not give up, to come out and ride, to enjoy and find other slow(er) riders! Don’t let your speed hold you back from what you love to do.