Tales from the Tarmac: ‘Operation Soul Ride’

Tales from the Tarmac is the weekly home of the stories, insights, opinions and occasional rants of Art’s Cyclery Web Content Editor, Kevin Rouse. Read at your own risk, and please don’t ever take him seriously—it might just go to his head.

Ladies and gentleman, I have a confession to make. I recently fell out of love with riding my bike. No passion for it whatsoever, no drive, no emotional connection. And let’s get this straight, that’s not like me. No longer did I feel the pangs of desire when my gaze fell upon my faithful steed. Thoughts of meandering country roads free of traffic left my legs free of longing.

Instead, the couch had engulfed my motivation in an iron grip. Making matters worse, my grip on the can of Pringles was even tighter. My waistline was attacking the elastic band of my sweatpants, gaining ground faster than a Panzer division rolling through the Sudetenland, declaring victory over any claim I had once had on labeling myself an athlete. And, I was surprisingly okay with it.

Eventually, however, my complacency was met with alarm, as the offseason can be a dangerous foe if left unchecked. This year, for me, it was proving to be especially so. Evasive action was required, and a counter-offensive was clearly needed. It was time to dust off Operation Soul Ride.

A particularly aggressive tactic, the Soul Ride can take on many forms. In my case, it would involve plenty of dirt, good company, and a liberal sprinkling of liquid suspension. Invariably though, a proper Soul Ride takes on such epic proportions and becomes a ride so entirely wondrous that it has the power to kickstart even the most jaded cyclist’s motivation to ride.

Road bikes and singletrack may not be the most orthodox combination, but the standard playbook goes out the window when the Soul Ride audible is called.

Not to take it lightly, my planning was carried out over several days. The route: roughly 65 miles of the best dirt riding in the area, connected via sections of pristine pavement in northern San Luis Obispo County, complete with a few strategic watering hole stops for good measure. A trip to the top of the last climb the morning before the ride to set up an impromptu aid station consisting the essentials—scotch and doughnuts—and the preparation was complete.

What followed was one of the most truly satisfying riding experiences I’ve ever had—the kind where any superlative-like adjective still falls short of adequately describing it.

Pristine views as far as the eye can see and perfect weather didn't exactly detract from the ride experience...

A broken derailleur cable that left me riding a two-speed up pitches reaching well over 15-percent, and an eventual race against daylight only served to make the day that much more memorable.

A broken rear derailleur cable only served to strengthen the effectiveness of Operation Soul Ride.

And so, let me just leave you with this: The offseason can pose a serious threat to even the most motivated of riders, and sometimes it takes a bit of soul-searching to re-ignite the desire to get out and ride. So when you begin to feel the motivation flagging and the sweatpants beckoning, you’d be well advised to start introducing some soul food into your training diet to remind yourself what riding a bike is all about.

Kevin Rouse may have been a bit late to the bike-riding party, but he’s certainly making up for lost miles. Having discovered cycling while studying journalism at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, he enjoys long days in the saddle whenever—and however—he can get them. You can usually find him on two wheels, but if not, you’d be well served to check the nearest coffee shop.