The Importance of Turtles
Why Roaming is Important to Cycling Success
Richard Fries is the Director of Cycling Experience for the Best Buddies Challenges. With more than 40 years experience, he has been a racer, commuter, tourist, promoter, advocate, journalist and commentator on the sport and lifestyle of cycling. Having raced at the professional level both in America and Europe, Fries is well known as a race announcer having called countless USA Cycling National Championships, World Cups, and UCI World Championships. But he is also a tireless advocate having recently served as the executive director of MassBike. You can follow him on Strava to learn more.
Ride More, Train Less
The locus of this blog will again be with the legendary cyclist Ted King and his interview with me on his Podcast King of the Ride. If you want to derive any of his wisdom on cycling, you can join us at our Best Buddies Breakaway Camp in Malibu from December 12-16th, where he will be our guest coach! What I like best about Ted is his alignment with my mantra: Ride More; Train Less.
Seeking a place to meet for the interview, I simply gave him an address on the Needham-Newton line. I did so with particular reason. Somewhat confused by the location he called me from the parking lot. “It says ‘Hemlock Gorge’. Am I in the right place?”
I confirmed and arrived in a few minutes.
“C’mon. Follow me,” I said, and traipsed down a path.
“So I was on a ride recently with a bunch of hard charging, Type A executives,” I explained as we parted some branches. “Three of the guys were from Needham. I told them that I had just discovered Hemlock Gorge and each of the three responded, ‘What’s that?’”
The path revealed a beautiful vestige worthy of a painting by John Winslow Homer. Perched about 60 feet above the Charles River, adjacent to a dam built to power a grist mill in the 1700s, the eye is pulled towards the Echo Bridge, the second largest masonry bridge in the United States.
Ted froze in rapture over the view. “This is amazing,” he blurted out.
This amazing place is encased by routes 128 and 9, expressways both less than a quarter mile away, where motorists stack up in frustration unaware of such beauty nearby. It is also bordered by the Charles River, the aqueduct for which the bridge was constructed, and a rail corridor.
“All those cyclists who LIVE here are so busy staring at their wattage meters and heart rates that they miss places like this,” I explained. Bicycles grant us access to such places near where we live, and where cars can’t reach.
While there is a time for training, far too few American cyclists spend time roaming on the bicycle. While coaches stress the adherence to data, any dialogue with pros such as Ted King will stress the need to roam- to turn rides into adventures.
This is hardly an isolated theory. Chris Froome, Cam Wurf, Christian Vande Velde, Freddy Rodriguez and just about every successful pro stress the need for long enjoyable rides at a talking pace. Froome in particular is known for rarely “training” two days in a row, but riding every day.
Anybody who has ridden with Tim Johnson, another New England legend, will talk about his unwritten mandate to always stop for turtles. His social media is packed with photos of turtles Tim has stopped to assist in crossing a roadway. I got to witness a particularly miraculous event when our group, led by Tim along an abandoned rail bed in Essex County, found a female turtle in the process of laying eggs.
Herons, coyotes, beavers, bobcats, bald eagles, hummingbirds, deer, a massive mountain lion, and countless other species were discovered on rides this year. Let’s not forget about the canals, rail beds, levees, gravel roads, Jeep tracks, Class 4 roads and single track trails we discovered. Architecture, cemeteries, monuments, battlefields, gardens and reservoirs are out there waiting for you to find them. And, remember to put down blue drinks and “energy” foods and stop to pick up espresso and ice cream, soup and bread, cheese and fruit found along the way.
Look up. Look around. Get your head out of your cycle computer.
As we turn the calendar to the autumn months, it is a perfect time to slow down and use the bike less for just exercise and more simply to explore. And, don’t forget- always stop for turtles.