Country of the Week: France / Peloton
And they’re off!
After a week of indulgences (macarons, quiche, madeleines, baguettes, and steak frites) we decided to end our imaginary journey to France with a very real bike ride around the neighborhood. Our own little Tour de France.
And since this Country of the Week business is meant to keep our brains busy as well as our stomachs, Tim took the opportunity to teach us about the peloton.
The peloton, which literally means little ball or platoon in French, is the main group of riders in a road bicycle race. Apparently the riders save energy by reducing drag (up to 40 percent!) by riding insanely close to each other.
Michael Barry, a cyclist and author of Inside the Postal Bus: My Ride With Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Cycling Team, describes life in the peloton for the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt:
The peloton flows with the roads, and we, the cyclists, blindly hope that the flow is not broken. A wall of wheels and bodies means we can never see too far in front, so we trust that the peloton flows around any obstacle in the road like fish in a current.
When in the group, we follow the wheels, looking a few yards ahead, watching other riders to gauge our braking, accelerations and how we maneuver our bikes. Over time, cycling in a peloton becomes instinctual, and our bicycles become extensions of our bodies. When that flow is broken, reaction time is limited and we often crash.
Did you read the entire article? Can you believe that Barry continued to ride with a broken femur? Crazy.
Needless to say, I encouraged my family to think of our peloton in more spread-out terms.
The cheering crowd.
And since we’re on the subject of bicycling, I have a confession to make: Lily is almost eight and she doesn’t know how to ride a bike! The thing is, she’s perfectly happy on the tagalong, or whatever you call the thing you hook up to the parent’s bike. The other kids have either been ready and willing to learn to ride their own bikes or have been forced to graduate from the tagalong when the next sibling came along. But Miss Lily, being the youngest, hasn’t shown any interest in biking on her own and no one has forced her from her comfy spot behind me.
So I hereby pledge to teach Lily to ride a bike on her own this summer. I’ll miss my little co-rider, but I think the time has come. Wish us luck!