Plans were made, tickets bought and bags were packed. Right before we left, I called my friend, Julia, to see if there were any last minute requests, special things we should bring. It was all standard fare. Then, before she hung up, she said, “Oh, yeah, bring your pedals.”
Bring your pedals means bring your bike pedals – and then of course your shoes, helmet, and bike shorts. It’s all actually pretty easy to throw in, compared to bringing your bike, which I used to travel with all the time. That is back when it cost 50 bucks to bring your bike on an airplane and it was free on international flights. Today, with most carriers like United, the cost to bring a bike is gouging–$175 each way. So, for long vacations, I actually ship my bike, but this was Hawaii and it was relatively short. I was thinking flip-flops, swimsuit, Mai Tais and surfboards. My mind wasn’t on riding.
Bringing your pedals, though, is the perfect solution if you want to ride on vacation, but refuse to pay $350 round trip to bring your bike. You can rent a bike from a local bike shop, then put on your own pedals to ensure that you can clip in. As long as the bike shop has good demo bikes, you’re in.
I’ll be honest. On this particular trip, I almost intentionally did not bring my pedals. It’s not that I didn’t want to ride in Oahu — what better way to see the island and jump start the summer biking season? But, I wanted to ease into my bike season. If I brought my pedals to Oahu, I would be riding with Julia Violich Mecklenberg, which meant, it would hurt.
Julia is the cycling Queen of Marin County, which is the unofficial cycling capital of America as far as I can tell. She has been the master’s mountain biking cross country national champion three of the past five years and silver medalist in the master’s 2008 cross country world championships. I could go on, but you get the picture. She can crush me (and probably you, depending on who you are) and pretty much any amateur, and at times pro, with whom she rides. In Marin, she rides probably 10 months a year.
Yet, for some absurd reason, after doing literally no endurance training since January (I skate skied in January, then it started snowing), I hollered to my husband, “Honey, will you get my pedals off my bike?” I figured I’d dragged enough people up Palmyra whom I knew it would be really hard for, but could do it. Biking with Julia in Hawaii would be like that. But I would be taking the beating instead of giving it.
To add to my fortune, or misfortune, depending on your outlook, Julia’s other friend, who she invited to Hawaii, was Jenna App. Jenna is currently a CAT 3 road bike racer and about to move up to CAT 2. Her goal is to make it as professional rider in the next few years. If you don’t know anything about road biking, suffice to say she’s a hammer.
My goal was to hang on their back tires — or to use the technical bike term – suck tire.
Each morning, the women woke up and rode. As the racers (Jenna and Julia) fueled up and checked tire pressure, I tried to scrounge up a few water bottles. I ‘m definitely not a total amateur and I ride quite a bit; I’ve even dabbled in racing for fun — which is a little oxymoronic when it comes to bike racing. But, as I would learn, there is a huge difference between riding and training. I ride; they train.
They train in zones that are defined by BPMs (heart rate or beats per minute) and dictated by a coach. One day it was zone 2, another zone 3. One day, it was zone 2 with zone 3 intervals. (My favorite zone turns out to be zone 1 and my favorite ride was what they termed a coffee shop ride – basically an easy spin that ends at the coffee shop).
But, through listening, and focusing really hard on staying on their back tires, I learned a lot about bike racing. Some of it I may even apply to my own riding. I might even stop “riding” and start “training” (as long as I don’t have to give up red wine).
But, more than anything, through riding with the chics, I was reminded that the best way to explore a new place is on a bike. We rode from Kailua Beach south, along the rocky, jagged coast. We climbed out of the valley, wedged between wet cliffs anchoring the road to the island and rocky drops to the ocean, before descending toward Waikiki. Then we rode north, along pristine beaches and through small towns, intermittently entering and exiting the rainforest. Lush trees shaded the road and knotted vines dangled from their branches. Jurassic Park Mountains ran parallel to us on one side and the turquoise ocean on the other.
For the most part, I kept up – when they let me. But, in the afternoons, when I was surfing or hanging on the beach, I never regretted the morning ride. On future trips, I won’t need to be reminded to bring my pedals.
They’ll already be packed.
Snow Sunday is a weekly column by Jesse James McTigue and sponsored by Jagged Edge intended to deliver tips, news, musings and stories about the people, places, events and experiences that make the Telluride winter an epic adventure. It’s extending to the rest of the seasons and will need a new name!