Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ride This, Not That

We all want more bang for the buck.

I have big plans for 2015 and that means big expenses. This will be the year that my house gets a long-overdue bathroom remodeling. I’m talking about thousands of dollars. And while most of that money is already in the bank, I can easily imagine a few scenarios that would bust the budget. Whatever may come, the job must get done this year.

As a cyclist, there are just two things I must do: host Cheesehead Roubaix and make an earnest attempt to reach 50,000 career miles. I must do those things because I told you I would. Cheesehead Roubaix is free. Riding a bunch of miles on bikes I already own is free. Even if I did nothing else, then 2015 would be a pretty good year. But there are many other possibilities competing for my attention … and my money. I want to travel this year: maybe a trip to Texas in March, maybe a trip to my native Pennsylvania in June, maybe a trip to Richmond VA in September for the UCI road race and time trial world championships. And there’s always stuff to buy, maybe even a new cyclocross bike before autumn.

Today’s headline is inspired by “Eat This Not That,” a book that teaches its readers to reduce calories and fat by making better food choices. We all know celery would be a better choice than a cheeseburger; choosing between polar opposites is not the point of the book. The lesson is that, in many instances, healthier options are just as appealing as unhealthy ones. Applying the underlying principle to my cycling plans, maybe I can have a full and rewarding year without wrecking my finances.

Here’s an example: springtime gravel grinders. Last year I went to DeKalb IL for the Gravel Metric. It was a great time and a great deal for my $20 donation. This year the Gravel Metric falls on the morning after the WEMS race at Suamico. I really want to do the WEMS race, and to do both events on the same weekend could be exhausting. Looking for an alternative to the Gravel Metric, I found the Rough Road 100 (kilometers) in Morris IL on April 11. Then I found the Grumpy Grind in Milledgeville IL on April 12. So: two choices, same weekend, same driving distance from home, roughly the same event distance. The difference is the cost. Pre-registration for the Rough Road 100 starts at $38.10 and gets more expensive after January 31. The Grumpy Grind is free and includes free post-ride food and drinks. Do I have to tell you which one is on my short list?

Then there’s the Ride Across Indiana, a gran fondo that has tempted me for years. It looks like a great event and I would welcome the chance to ride 160 miles in a single day. That would be my longest ride ever, breaking my current record of 114. But the logistics of the event are problematic. I would have to stay overnight near the starting line in Terre Haute, probably in a hotel. At the end of the ride I would need to pay for transportation back across the state. Registration starts at $40 and goes up to $60 as the event draws closer. Maybe the better option for me is one of the Great Lakes Randonneurs dates: April 18, May 2, May 16, May 30 or June 13. For just $15 ($5 annual GLR membership, plus $10 for the event itself), I could ride a 200km brevet out of Delavan. That would be about 125 miles—still a new single-day record for me—for a fraction of the cost of the Ride Across Indiana. RAIN gets in excess of 1,000 participants. It would be a bigger event than the GLR brevet, but does the difference justify the extra costs?

One of cycling’s great strengths is that it can be done as expensively or as inexpensively as you like. Usually you get more when you pay more, but often you can have the same experience—or, at least, one that is very similar—for little or no money.

No comments:

Post a Comment