The jokes are better at the back. That’s what I’ve learned. There’s time to look around. There’s time to tell silly stories and laugh at one another’s jokes, even when they’re stupid. Especially when they’re stupid.
I used to ride at the front. I used to surf my way through the field, slipping through the gaps between riders until I found just the perfect wheel. Following the right wheel will cover any number of fitness sins. I’d put my chin on the stem and just go.
And there’s sweet satisfaction in making a bike go fast. The pavement blurs beneath your wheels. You can hear the guy next to you breathing and the thunk of the gears as the pace ratchets up. You come home thrashed and glowing.
But you also miss a lot along the way, because going hard on a bike is the same no matter where you are. You pedal hard. The world streaks by in abstract lines. There isn’t much time to look around, and there’s certainly no time for jokes. The other riders are just riders, a wheel to follow or an obstacle to pass. They aren’t people, really, just riders.
Last week with a fast group ride looming, I decided it was a good day for a grupetto. The route promised great scenery and beautiful roads. But in truth, this was a decision driven by necessity. All the group ride savvy in the world was not going to cover for three weeks of surfing and no biking.
So I set to work rounding up a group of likely suspects. This is a key step in forming the grupetto. The perfect grupetto riders say they’ll ride slow and actually mean it. When the group starts to go hard, they can sit up and let it go. This is suprisingly difficult, actually. Our cavepeople brains don’t like to be left alone. There’s bears out there, you know. The perfect grupetto riders also know a lot of good jokes.