Take a bite

Every city in America has a Saturday morning Donut Ride, where a handful of riders beats up on everyone else, and everyone else marks “success” in terms of how far they got before getting kicked out the back.

Jack from Illinois (not his real name), always despised the Donut Ride for being a “preenfest.” He wasn’t wrong. Local racers who get “coached” and who are on a “program,” tend to avoid the ‘Nut because it adds little to your fitness but can subtract lots. And of course there is a huge contingent of riders, thousands actually, who wouldn’t be caught dead on the DR because they hate group rides, they don’t like aggressive pelotons, they are in it for relaxation, or [ fill in your reason here ].

To those folks, I say, “No problem. You do your thing, I’ll do mine.”

But there is another group of riders out there who really should be on the Donut Ride. I was dropping down the hill this morning to the start of the ride, and I passed a guy riding a very nice bike, wearing a very nice kit, and looking pretty darned fit. “On your way to the Donut?” I asked.

“Ha,” he answered. “I wish.”

“What do you mean?”

“That ride is too fast for me.”

“Come on, man, give it a try. You look like you could handle it. It’s not hard anyway, especially if you sit in.”

“I’ve seen that pack come by,” he said enviously. “Too fast for me.”

“Okay,” I shrugged, and went on, but I could tell how badly he wanted to give it a try and I felt sorry for him because he was going to spend the rest of his riding days wondering about something that really wasn’t worth wondering about.

If you’re one of those people who wonders what the local Saturday beatdown ride is like, you owe it to yourself to give it a chance. Even if you hate it, you’ll at least have the satisfaction of having tried. More likely, especially if you’re a fairly hopeless wanker, you’ll get your head staved in sometime around the first or second acceleration, and the thrill you get from first riding with, and then getting ejected from, the middle of the surging, bucking pack will leave you happier and more elated than you’ve been since you first lied to your wife about the cost of your Giant TCR with electronic drivetrain.

Here, then, is a compendium of what you’ll find out if you take the plunge, swallow your pounding heart, gird your quivering loins, and toe the Saturday group ride starting line:

  1. You will get faster every week.
  2. The wankers you used to struggle to keep up with in your normal group will no longer be able to hold your wheel.
  3. Racer-type hammerheads aren’t all assholes.
  4. Some of the things that differentiate great riders from hackers can be learned through observation.
  5. Competition makes you better.
  6. Cars steer clear of big groups.
  7. There’s no dishonor in trying.
  8. Your wife will mostly believe whatever version of the ride you tell her.
  9. You won’t be the slowest rider the group.
  10. If you’re the slowest rider in the group, one day you won’t be.
  11. The ride’s not as hard as you thought it would be.
  12. You’ll surprise yourself — in a good way.

See you next week!



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10 thoughts on “Take a bite”

  1. Love this!…
    So inspiring…and so true!…
    Heck, I still feel most of those feelings whenever we turn up the heat in a group.
    Fun to read and acknowledge those feelings!
    You new people…come and get it!!!

  2. Some of those rides even start out “controlled”, do a nice long warmup, do an early stop for food, bathroom stop, clothing/etc. adjustment, dividing the group by distance, difficulty, and meet again the next week to do it all over again.
    These give the opportunity to ride with dudes/dudettes, observe, learn, have fun, go home with the laughing group, go explore terrain and ability with the “long and strong”. You don’t know until you try and it’s real good to show up early and ask questions about what’s on the menu. “No, they’re not all a-holes”. Some even pride themselves, collectively as well as by individual rider, at “bringing people along”.

    And if not..? NBD

  3. In my experience, coming out for a Donut or something like it the first time is a smaller deal than returning for the second ride, after having enjoyed one’s breakfast for the second and sometimes third time during the first ride.

  4. I remember my first donut after a looong hiatus off the bike. I got dropped like a hot potato on the first surge. These days I still get dropped but thats ok because it takes a lot longer for me to fry. I know lots of strong riders and I encourage them to give it a go. Yet somehow they dont think they can hang. I tell them thats not the point of doing the donut. Thanks for penning the truth!

    1. Good for you for encouraging them. You’re not really a baby seal until you’ve been skinned alive, repeatedly.

  5. This was my first Donut Ride:


    If you were the one person besides my mom that actually clicked on that link, you would see the route I covered that day and might justifiably say “dude, that is NOT the Donut Ride, you pathetic, weakling, miserable wanker.” And you would be correct, because I got dropped on the first warmup climb, before we even got to the fast right hander onto Paseo del Mar. Didn’t even make it out of Malaga Cove!

    Thankfully, I returned for more punishment a few weeks later and eventually managed to stay with the group. Nowadays, I can even stay in the same zip code as the front group. The only sure-fire way to not finish the Donut Ride (or any other group ride) is to not show up.

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