Bicycling (South Africa)

How to string the Perfect Roads into the PERFECT ROUTE


For 25 years, my job has granted me the privilege of joining and learning about lunch rides and shop rides all around the world, and it is with this context that I claim to have created in my time at Bicycling more iconic, local go-to routes than anyone in history (a claim that admittedly has never been substantia­ted or challenged). I know what works.

Great roads do not guarantee great local routes. A great route is a story. Sometimes it can be a song, but then you have to think about a chorus and how to return to it, and almost always there must be a bridge.

A story is simpler: there is a start. Tension rises (the opening climb, the first sprint, the anticipati­on of a blissful sweeping downhill turn). There is a partial resolution, then tension rebuilds. This cycle repeats to the denouement – a crux, the signature feature of the route. Then the end must be satisfying on its own dramatic merits, not simply a stoppage. Sometimes the end needs to be the longest part of the ride.

There is so much more. Great local rides:

1. Allow the best rider to have fun and the weakest rider, if the soul is turned inside out, to finish or at least achieve a semblance of keeping up. 2. Are not something like seven of your hardest hills mashed together. That is as tacky and wasteful as a 24k-gold toilet. It is the interstiti­als and intangible­s that create beauty and elevate suffering to sublimity. 3. Inspire a staggering range of emotions, but evoke one overarchin­g mood. 4. Must kiss other great local routes without embracing them. 5. Just might be better going the other way. 6. Are never named after their creators. I mean, good god. Anyway, no route is yours. When someone finds a better twist, incorporat­e it. Don’t be weird about ownership.

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