If you live in Southern California and you’re looking for a cycling experience to start your year off right, you have to make you’re way over to the Orange County New Year’s Day Group Ride. You can find out the start time, location, and route by clicking on the link or on the photo above. The vibe is fun and non-aggressive, what you would expect the morning after an NYE celebration. Everyone’s just happy to be out on a bike. It also happens to be my favorite group ride, pictured in this post and on the banner at the top of this blog. I lived in the area for a long time and always used to pick up the pack at Starbucks in Corona del Mar. Riders jump in all along PCH and by the time the ride hits Dana Point the group’s usually grown to a few hundred strong.
The ride has 2 rest stops, one next to the Dana Point harbor and the other at a 7-11 in Lake Forest. Riders will jump in and peel off all along the way but if you ride from the beginning and back to Long Beach it’s a hundred miles. If you’re not used to that kind of mileage, don’t worry too much. The draft from a group that size will drag you along. One year, we made it back to Long Beach in 4hrs 15min. I thought something was wrong with my computer. I actually felt fresh, not like I just rode a hundo. Explanation, easy: my nose never hit the wind, I wheelsucked the whole way…so did 250 other riders so I didn’t feel to bad about not doing a share of the work.
One of the unique aspects of this ride is that many of the Pro riders who live in the area come out for it. It’s still the off-season and an easy way to get 4-6 hours in the legs. For a Pro who’s putting in 4-6 hours of daily base miles, I would imagine they view this ride as a great way to break up the long solo days.
Pro’s aren’t out to make the ride Pro-fast. But it is cool to watch the way they handle themselves in the pack. I remember one year rolling along next to Tony Cruz, one of Long Beach’s native sons who would always show up for a local race when he wasn’t in Europe. I forgot for a moment that he rode the Spring Classics the previous year, Paris-Roubaix, etc until the group pulled into the second rest stop at 7-11. There was a line of riders waiting to get into the parking lot and, rather than waiting, Tony bunny-hopped the rock-strewn median at speed like it was an easy cobbled section in Roubaix. It was a big curb with a sewer. If I tried that, I’d break my frame, wheels, legs, probably more. Pro bike handling is impressive even in a 7-11 parking lot. Pro’s look like regular people for a minute until they do something on the bike that regular people can’t do. It’s easy to forget that Pro’s have superpowers on the bike.
It’s New Year’s Day, so the roads are virtually empty. Most normal people are sleeping off the night before. No one ever accused cyclists of being normal so, if you’re in the area, drag yourself out of bed and jump in.