“Into this house we’re born, into this world we’re thrown”…. Riders on the Storm indeed. On July 18, 2017, Orlando Riders and Runners presented number two in the Central Florida Time Trial bicycle racing series under tempestuous turbulence and seething stratocumulous squalls.
These events draw an incredibly diverse pool of participants of all abilities, all ages with the common goal of just riding a bike as hard as they can and having fun doing it…. it reflects the uproarious local cyclocross crowd in many regards… minus the flammable handups.
The divisions are: 18-49 age group, bike type (Eddy Merckx, Fixie and open), Female, Masters 50+, Junior, and Pararider.
The Eddy Merckx Division is, simply, a regular bike and non-pointy helmet (full rules are here ). “If you have to ask it probably isn’t allowed”. Alternatively, Open Division can use sleek, slippery, wind warrior, pedaling projectiles rivaling the Stealth Bomber (as seen in the top video of Mike Griffin) and any assortment of aerodynamic accoutrement.
The local time trial race crew is a genuinely super-cool bunch. Extremely welcoming, very competitive yet honorably sporting at the same time. At the awards presentation (soggy clipboard under a rather porous tent with a growler of local microbrew goodness) a rider conceded the winning spot to another, simply on their word (the official timing equipment was not designed to be submersible and succumbed to the tireless torrent in the final moments of the brilliantly ballistic Open Division).
With a generous, clean and darn smooth shoulder of a surprisingly traffic-free roadway, the well-marked, out-and-back course felt incredibly safe with no worry of distracted vehicular altercations, one could simply focus on the Sisyphean task of pedaling WFO for what seems like the longest 7 miles ever.
The route can be considerably and unpredictably windy as wafting whirlwinds waltz unimpeded from one of Orlando International Airport’s runways. “Stash your matches, son”, as the Old Man used to say.
Why do you race, promote and organize Time Trials?
“In 2011 one of the local clubs (Eastside Cycling) decided to try putting on a monthly time trial using the (what was then) remote roads of Innovation Way, and Aerospace Parkway in East Orlando.
I was brand new to advanced cycling. I had done triathlons in the 80s, but never any organized group rides.
I showed up in my aluminum frame road bike, wearing sneakers, a t-shirt, cheapo helmet and no gloves. Of course, I finished DF last. However, as I was going home, I said the same thing to myself that I say after every single time trial I’ve done since then, “You know, I could go faster.”
The challenge of improving against my own previous performance is probably what drives me the most. Oh I got heavily in to it for a bit, buying a fancy TT bike, deep dish wheels, skin suits, shoe covers, expensive aero helmets and special low wind resistance gloves. However, I realized that although I was going faster, it wasn’t ME that was going faster, it was all that equipment.
Now I start out each season with a certain bike configuration and try to maintain that throughout the year. But I digress …
So that’s one reason why I race in time trials. The other reason has to be social. I get to see all my teammates, rivals, contemporaries etc at one place. There are always great photo ops too, so social media is always active after a time trial.”
Why do you promote and organize?
“There weren’t enough of them locally for my liking. I tend to dive in to things and I wanted a weekly test. Looking back, once a month is probably enough, at least for the shorter distance.
I started holding informal time trials on Aerospace Parkway every Sunday morning. I met many people that way. They would hear about it through social media, word of mouth, or I would talk to them as they rode by. “Hey want to try a time trial?” I still ride with several people today that I met that way.
As our club grew we began to get concerned about liability and professionalism, so we joined USA Cycling to get their format and (very important) liability insurance. Although time trials are very safe, they still involve riding on open roads.”
Has it been worth it?
“For the most part, yes, it’s been worth it. The financials don’t always work out. In fact, we lose money on some of our events, but overall, we generally break even. However, the satisfaction of seeing people enjoy themselves, get excited and improve themselves is worth it. There is no better feeling than when a rider comes up and asks for their time, and then says “Wow that’s a PR!” (PR = Personal Record)”
What does the future hold?
“We have some challenges ahead. Both of our courses are in danger of becoming too busy with vehicular traffic. Heintzelman Blvd is being used more and more as the airport expands. Deer Park Road used to be “the middle of nowhere” but houses are starting to spring up there, and we see more cars and trucks each time we go out there.
We’re playing it by ear. We will schedule the airport TT for next year but if the traffic gets too heavy don’t be surprised if we cancel it. Safety first, after all”.
Much respect to John for putting forth considerable effort to these awesome events. We’ll see you at the third event of the series, August 15th at 7pm, (3rd Tuesday of each month), a welcome reward after a typical tough workday.
With a super laid-back atmosphere, safe course and stellar organization, I encourage you to break the yawn-inducing normality of suburban servitude and instead ride your bike with one of the coolest groups around. It’s 20 minutes from anywhere and the rest of the work week will be that much easier. Stay up to date on the Orlando Riders and Runners page. Ride the Storm.