Alone and some riders!
Friday morning I showed up at 6am and found no one. I showed up again at 7am. (My airbnb apartment was only a few minutes away). Again, no riders. I figured I might as well try the Hotel Road by myself. As I got closer to it, I realized I had been coming to the wrong park. One block further was a park with exercise stations, exactly the kind of place riders would congregate. I took a 5K run out on the hotel road sidewalk. There were curbs to cross. It has hard going, but better than being in the road. The hotel road traffic at 7am was murderous. At 5K I got up my nerve and road back in the actual road. I survived.
On the hotel road, I could get a little exercise (fast) ride. But I wanted to see what local non-Hotel Road riding was really like. I had done some poking around in the blocks near my apartment and had a little experience from riding the bike back from the rental pickup. I headed straight out, away from down town. I went about 30 minutes and then turned around and came back. It was just survival. The traffic was terrible. The traffic lights and speed bumps were constant. Pot holes were everywhere. I got totally drenched when a car rode past me as I was crossing a puddle.
I did get a little much needed experience with the bike. Stopping and starting. Getting in and out of the clips. Most road bikers "clip in" to the peddles with a clip on the bottom of a special set of shoes. The idea is that since you are attached to the peddle, you can pull up as well as push down. In the US, I do not clip in. I can. I have a bike that is set up that way. But I find that it is more dangerous and trouble than it is worth. I think I have a good enough peddling style that clipping in is not necessary. There is another alternative, It is called a cage. With a cage, each peddle, instead of connecting with a special shoe, has a plastic enclosure that the toe of your regular sneaker fits into. A cage often has a strap so you can lock your shoe into the cage. My Cancun rental came with cages. I took the straps off and just used the cage. In this first ride, I started to get used to getting in and out of the cages when I had to dismount for traffic lights. After the first days of riding, my feet had learned the little "moves" that allowed me to quickly flip the peddle and reenter the cage.
Start of day 2 and some riding success. I pulled up at the, correct this time, park. I did not look at the iphone but assume I was a little early, maybe 5:45. Three bikers are just leaving , two men and a women. I would say they are just 20 or maybe younger? I ask to join them, they do not speak english but I hop on the back, They have their own chase van!!!!!!! Yellow light flashing. Keeping cars from coming near us. He drives behind us and comes up to talk to them maybe 3 times. Their speed is fine, maybe even a little slow. I coast 50% of the time. Partly it is that the bike I am on is so much better than my normal. They are well trained and use hand signals and whistle to warn of hazards like speed bumps, water, pot holes etc. After 10? miles, the van and my three riding companions enter a pullout on the right. There is much conversation. I understand enough to see that they are trying to figure out which of them has enough english to talk to me. Finally one of the young men says: "now we run". Clearly they are training for a triathion, I make some hand singles suggesting I understand and maybe they will swim next. They put there bikes in the van, I have to ride back myself.
Hopefully the bike store opens today at 11 and I can buy/rent all kinds of flashing lights for the bike. As I rode back alone, I did see at least one small set of riders going the other way who may have been the actual 6am ride I was supposed to be on. There may have been more riders that I did not see. I had to focus on bike handling. But I do now have some confidence that I will be able to keep up.
It is hard for me to paint a clear picture of the hotel road at 6am. It is a good, well maintained, 2 lane road. There is a right side curb and a 15 foot grass median separating the north and south traffic. There are numerous pullouts where the buses and taxi go in to disgorge and collect passengers. Why a lot of traffic this early? The shifts are changing. There must be 50 hotels along the road and all of them need a new day shift and the night shift is on its way home. Not to mention all the restaurants and shops. The traffic does decrease as one gets further out on the 28 Kilomerter road but it is heaviest at the start though less dangerous in that there are no hotels and no pullouts. The pullouts and the occasional traffic lights and rumble strips are the killers. 18mph, our biking speed, may not seem that fast but we are not a car. Our breaks are not as good and, more importantly, we are independent entities. It is like having each of your 4 car tires entering emergency lockup and having them be independent so they can swerve in any direction. I'm not the best bike handler and I'm old so I always rode at the back. That gave me one more degree of freedom to avoid hitting another biker, There was no one on my left. I could swerve in that direction if I needed to.
This first day I was introduced to two other phenomena that I never would have guessed at. The bikers do not stop at red lights. They slow down, they have to be hyper aware of pedestrians, but they cruse on through on the inside of the traffic if there is room. Often there is a car in the right lane so the bikers have to stop. There are probably 6 traffic lights on the whole of the road. And, they whistle. There is a bird in Mexico that is not in New Hampshire and I never identified but it whistles, a single note like a cardinal, long and solid. The bikers make the same sound to signal danger and warn drivers of their presence. I honestly thought at first that I was hearing the birds. Then I thought they had an actual metal whistle in their mouths! But no, I was convinced over the 7 days of ridging that the bikers whistle. Bikers usually use hand signals to warn fellow bikers of pot holes, rumble strips, slowing. In an emergency stopping situation, it is better to keep both hands on the handlebars and use sound.