I love it when some wanker on a $6,000 bike and electronic drivetrain who’s wearing a $1k kit/shoe/helmet combo bitches about the entry fee for Phil’s Fondo, a gravel ride, or the BWR.
My next favorite whine is when someone poutily disses an organized ride with “Why would I pay to ride roads I can ride on for free?”
Let me help you out.
First of all, quit pretending it’s the money. If $150 were a dealbreaker for you, you’d never have bought the power meter, the Training Peaks, the Zwift subscription, Strava premium, or the Rapha merino wool armwarmers at $120 a pop. Right? It’s not the money.
Second of all, quit pretending that you’d normally ride these roads if they weren’t part of a gran fondo. No, you wouldn’t do Las Posas/Yerba Buena/Encinal on a single ride as in Phil’s Fondo, and no, you wouldn’t do Lemontwistenberg/Lake Hodges/Black Canyon/Questhaven/Double Peak as in the BWR.
You just wouldn’t.
So now that we’ve gotten these two issues out of the way, let’s look at why you absolutely should be participating in at least a couple of fondo-esque rides every single year.
- They get massive numbers of cyclists on the road, and that impacts motorists and rider safety. It’s one thing for cagers to see dribs and drabs of riders throughout the week, it’s another thing entirely to see thousands of them strung out over a course for the entire day. The inescapable message is that cyclists matter, they exist in numbers, and please watch out for them.
- Just because you’re such a badass #profamateur that you don’t need sag, a route, rest stops, mechanical help, or encouragement doesn’t mean everyone else is like you. In fact most fondos have a large contingent of riders for whom this is their first “big” ride, or it’s their first organized ride, or it’s their target ride for the entire year. When you support a fondo, you are supporting grass roots riding. Plus, as an expert #profamateur badass doing a fondo, you can actually help people who are less pro than you.
- In the case of Los Angeles, a cycling hotbed home to 15 million+ people, there are about five major gran fondos: Phil’s Fondo, Circle of Doom, Malibu GF, the Nosco Ride, and the LA River Ride. Los Angeles is a notoriously expensive place to organize bike events, and of course it’s exactly the place where such events are needed most. When you support these events, you are ensuring that they stay, and that they continue to provide local riders with the opportunity to participate without leaving home.
- Fondos are a great way for clubs to build ridership and provide participation in events without the club having to organize the event. It always pains me to see local fondos not supported with local club turnout; these are precisely the kind of event that clubs can turn into intramural competitions, training rides, or opportunities to mentor new riders … to say nothing of having a great time. Major Taylor Cycling and Cali Riderz regularly target the Palm Springs Century as a major club event on their calendar.
- USAC replacement. Many racers and ex-racers are no longer so thrilled with the state of USAC racing. Fondos offer you the opportunity to actually race in somewhat less formal circumstances, often with better competition, better routes, and a better vibe. And if you’re a masters doper, there’s hardly ever any testing!!
So take a look around and sign up for a fondo. My local pick is Phil’s Fondo, but my wife and daughter did the LA River Ride this year and loved it. Nosco is unique because it’s donation only (deadbeats can even pay zero!), and Circle of Doom is shorter than some of the others but bitterly hard. Outside LA, in my opinion the BWR wins hands down, but there are great options in Mammoth, Tehachapi, Big Bear, and Solvang, to name just a very few.
These rides are worth supporting, even if it means you have to wait until 2020 to get those ceramic bearings. Really.
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