4-3-05I've been on just about every back road in San Luis Obispo County. I love driving the back roads, blazing around corners though I live in fear of big patches of sand & gravel, and those big damn country trucks - the locals complain about outsider joyriders like me, but they're the ones who speed like crazy on the back roads and just go all over the road - stay in your damn lane, buddy! You've never really see the back roads until you've bicycled on them. The slower pace and the open air get you in touch with the road, and what's more, you can actually feel the road with your body - the bumps, the texture of the pavement, the smells in the air, the temperatures and microclimates, the up-hills that make your legs burn and the down-hills that whip the wind past your face. Recently I've been out Vineyard Canyon, from the dilapidated authentic mission in San Miguel (defaced with fences and boards) to the small ranch town of Parkfield on the San Andreas fault, which was once the center of U.S. seismic activity. Before that I was out on Parkhill and Huer Huero, where carpets of yellow flowers explode around each corner and you have to slow down to cross the river that flows over the roads.
When you're riding a loop, you may think it doesn't matter which direction you go on it, that it's the same ride either way. That's far from correct. Consider a simple loop ride with some elevation change. There are two inflection points - the lowest point and the highest point. You can ride it clockwise or counterclockwise. First of all there are differences of what side of the road you are on - the inside or the outside of the loop, and which scenery is on your left or right. Let's ignore those small details. Also, let's assume that the two inflection points are equidistant in either path, and that the slope is roughly the same either way, to remove those differences. So, you can either climb A and descend B, or climb B and descend A. These are drastically different rides because climbing and descending are totally different. In the A-B ride, you spend 90% of your time in the A section, because climbing is so much slower than descending. You will see more of the micro scenery in the A section. On one ride that I like, the Pozo-Las Pilitas ride, it's important to descend through Las Pilitas because it's full of loose dogs that will attack you; if you climb up Las Pilitas you're moving too slow and the dogs will get you (as Iain and I found out a while ago).
A lot of people confuse the feeling of exhausting their blood sugar with getting a good workout. If you do a hard ride and just drink water and don't eat at all, you will feel totally wasted by the end because you've burned all your easily available sugar (you get light headed, dizzy, can't think straight, can hardly walk). Most people think "whoa, great workout". Not so. If you do the same ride and drink a sugar solution and eat some snacks, you'll feel tired but functional at the end. That's a much better workout.