Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Crits Vs. Rallies: Which one has more bang for the buck?

Criteriums Vs. Bicycle Rallies

Being an active cyclist, it's only natural to want to take the next step in proving one's fitness level and ability. Many new cyclists enter their first criterium race unprepared or unfit for the demands of competitive cycling. I thought I was a good cyclist until I raced my first criterium. I was lapped twice by guys averaging 21 miles an hour in a pack. I didn't know the principles of drafting and I wasn't expecting the sudden attacks and unpredictable nature of the riders participating. Being the new guy in the group didn't help either. I didn't receive any favors from the pack and the veteran riders made fun of me. After that first experience I nearly stopped riding my bike altogether, thinking I had no natural ability to be pursuing cycling. Then I remembered why I started riding in the first place, because I enjoyed it. I didn't buy my first bike thinking that I would end up riding around in circles like a NASCAR race for bicycles. I bought it because I wanted a long term fitness plan to keep me active through my 20's and beyond. 

This outlook has kept me riding for the last four years since my first criterium, however it wasn't enough to keep me satisfied with riding bikes long term. I needed fitness goals, milestones that I could reach and say that I did something meaningful as a cyclist, even though I never won a race. So this year I started participating in bicycle rallies, events that are usually non-competitive in nature that have varied participation and are usually 60 to 100 miles. My first bicycle rally was the Collin Classic in June of this year. I was over 10 pounds heavier than I am now when I participated, however I was able to complete 69 miles averaging over 17 miles an hour. Unlike criteriums where someone doesn't even get mentioned if they don't finish in the top ten, every rider at a bicycle rally gets some sort of recognition. I wasn't expecting a medal for finishing the hundred mile Hotter N' Hell this year, however a crowd of volunteers was waiting for me at the finish line to take off my helmet and put a medal around my neck. In addition the riders received a tracking chip that tracked their progress and overall time from start to finish. You could compare how well you rode against other riders in your age group, and also see your overall ranking. Bicycle rallies give away tee shirts, water bottles and coupons for restaurants for the same cost of entry as a criterium race. In a criterium race, you pay $35 to get whooped by a bunch guys with disposable income, most of them riding $10k carbon fiber bikes and most of them able to show up every week and pay the same fee to race. 

Are all the participants fat, slow, frumpy old guys on hybrids that do these bicycle rallies? Absolutely not. Furthermore a lot of older guys in their 60's and older participate in these rides, and can overtake guys half their age through the course of 50 to 60 miles. A lot of participants that do bicycle rallies are seasoned distance riders, with amazing fitness and endurance. There are also riders of all ages and all abilities that come to these events. There are even shorter routes for families to do, and you will see moms and dads pulling their kids behind them on bicycle trailers. 

All I can say is that I can't wait to do my next bicycle rally in October. I don't know if I'll do another criterium ride in the future, however I'm 100% sure that I would like to keep doing bicycle rallies. 

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