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All by yourself
Group rides build fitness, but solo rides soothe the soul
By Alex Stieda
There's a lot to be said for riding in A group--particularly about the camaraderie found in working toward a common goal. But sometimes it's a good idea to ride alone, especially if you're stressed.
Solo rides near Boulder, Colorado, where I lived for a time, will always hold a special place in my heart. The loops are big--after you're committed to a circuit, you have to finish it to get home. Often, there's a hailstorm to keep you honest. Andy Hampsten partly credits his ability to persevere through horrendous snow to win the 1988 Giro to his solo rides in the Rocky Mountains.
When riding alone, it's even more important to be prepared. Carry at least two spare tubes, extra CO 2 cartridges, a cell phone, cash, an I. D., two water bottles, food and, depending on the weather forecast, a rain jacket or wind vest. Let someone know where you'll be riding and approximately when you expect to return.
While you should have a rough idea of where you're headed, be flexible with the specifics of your route. Because you're alone, you can usually alter your course if the wind changes or the weather turns. If you're feeling good, tack on an extra loop--just be sure to call from the road to let someone know you'll be out longer.
You will feel stronger at some points and weaker at others. On a solo ride, you can ease up or push hard whenever you feel like it. Just remember to hold a bit back for the return trip, especially if you expect a headwind or hilly terrain on the way home.
Believe it or not, I've found myself talking through a problem out loud while riding alone--and I usually think of creative solutions to whatever is on my mind. When you finish your ride, you'll be relaxed and ready to tackle the next challenge in front of you.