Sunday, May 24, 2009

My first Donut

I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but yesterday I did my first Donut Ride in Toronto. What is the Donut Ride you ask? Good question. Before Friday, I had no idea either. In fact, I had never even heard of it before. It was only brought to my attention by one of my newest followers on Twitter, who is also a roadie from Toronto.

Through our tweets back and forth, I got the basics of it and looked it up online for a few more details, which I found on Wikipedia. To make a long story short, the Donut is an informal ride held every Saturday and Sunday morning (and Holidays) that attracts well over 100 cyclists for rides ranging from about 85-125 km depending on the route taken. Its actually been a bit of a cycling tradition in Toronto, dating back about 35 years now. The reason it's called the Donut ride is that it starts in the parking lot of a donut shop, or at least it did in the early days. Apparently, the donut shop is now a bagel shop.

Anyway, you don't have to be at the start to join the ride. A lot of riders join in as the peleton progresses north, which is exactly what I did. Turns out the route runs relatively close to my house, so I joined in at roughly the 10k mark. There was a pretty large group and being somewhat unfamiliar, I chose to jump on to the tail end and see how it went. I have to say that it was very cool being at the back of a peloton of what was easily over 100 riders, and maybe closer to 150. It reminded me a lot of watching a shot of the Tour peloton taken from a motorcycle at the back. All I could see ahead was a sea of helmets. I did notice though that a lot of riders were wearing local team kits, so it was apparent that this wasn't going to be any kind of leisure cruise. These were real cyclists. I was feeling pretty confident that I could at least hang on to the back though as I have been thinking that I'm in pretty good riding shape. As a matter of fact, after 600k in a little over a month, I'd say I'm probably in the best cycling shape of my life.

This is where my story starts to tred the fine line between a good thing and a bad thing though. Once out of the city and onto the clearer roads to the north, the peloton picked up the pace significantly. I wish this was an exaggeration, but I was dumbfounded at the speed at which it took off. Like I said, I'm in the best cycling shape I've ever been in, and these guys dropped me like a bad habit on New Year's Eve. I was riding literally at about 112% and could not even come close to staying in touch. Sure there were a few stragglers that were in the same boat as me, but even staying with those guys was a monumental task. Here I was at maximum capacity and these guys made it look effortless.

The Donut Ride group just after our pit stop
The Donut Ride group just after our pit stop. The full peloton had well over 100 riders.
Afterwards, I discovered that the main peloton took off at about 50kmh, while I was lucky to be doing 30, which is pretty much my current max for a steady cadence ride. Sure I can go 50, maybe 55 in short bursts and with a little downhill help, but over a long distance, forget it. I can't even chalk it up to being 43 years old, because there were guys there a lot older than me who seemed to be doing OK. I chatted with one guy who is 61 who I finally caught up to, but that was well after I got dropped by the pack.

Fortunately there's a coffee break at the halfway point and a lot of the group came back together. It was shortly after the remount that I managed to snap my picture and I was happy that I managed to stay with this group for some time. Eventually though, I got dropped again and was once again left with a handfull of stragglers that it took all of my concentrated efforts to stay with. Before long, I was alone and heading home.

Now I'm not quite sure how to look at this. A couple weeks back I talked about wanting to maybe race again. That's pretty much out the window. Finishing last is one thing. Getting destroyed doing it is something different entirely. On the other hand, I did do 86.5km in 3h07 for an avg of 27.75kmh, which is faster than my usual. So it was either a very good personal ride, or a very discouraging group ride. I'm leaning to the former as I'm actually not that discouraged. I sure would like a nice new carbon-fibre road bike though. Yeah..that's right. I can always blame it on the bike.

Oh, and as a footnote, the guy who tipped me off to this ride apparently has over 7000k in this year, compared to my now 696k. Maybe the distance and training is the secret, but even if I could do 7000k, I just don't see it improving my performance much more than its current state. Hell...I'd have to quit my job to have the time to do half that anyway. Hmmmm... (to be continued).


  1. I think you did very well. You are doing the right thing by looking at this as a 'faster than usual' vs. being discouraged.
    Many of these riders (yes, the team jersey boys) train extremely hard and race on a regular basis. Their solo base pace is likely to be a full 1/3 faster than your best time, throw them into a large group, make them aerodynamic and 'varooommmmm' - you are in the dust.
    In regards to age (I am 52): I recently rode a very challenging route with some seniors to me (10+ years), who did not necessarily climb like goats and fly up the mountain, but man, were they able to keep up a consistent and ball busting cadence over long climbs.
    Only you know how good/fast you want to be. My advice, find a smaller group which included some riders who are slightly better, stay with them until the playing field is level, move to the next group when you are ready until you reach the goal (and then, maybe raise it). BTW, really enjoyed reading your story.

  2. If you figure out how to quit your job to make more time for riding, let me know. It sounds good.:)

  3. Hello, this is Trent ( guy that introduced you to donut). Please dont blame the bike. I usually ride my 18lbs aluminium training GT during the donut and still stay with the "Big Boys", while averaging 35kph+. Carbon is the way to go if you want a more forgiving ride with a shorter shelf life. Remember, not all carbon is the same. You get what you pay for. The cheaper the carbon frame/bike, the more it shall flex. Forcing you to loss power. I would suggest either higher end aluminium or Ti. Ti shall not flex, rust and last far longer then carbon or aluminium.

    You dont need lots of training hours to get stronger. just have to use what time you have better. Like doing hill repeats to gain power. Intervals to gain speed, etc..

    We all choose whats important in our life. Some of us, like myself, chose to work less to train better. Whats the point in having an expense car, house, clothing, etc. If the true goal is to become a better, stronger cyclist. Its the decision of all cyclists to determine whats truly important or the level they want to become.

    I would strongly suggest not racing yet. You are no where near the level needed to show a good result. Unless your goals are to aim low. I know many men your age that would destroy you. Just some advice from a cyclist in the know.


  4. Thanks for the info Trent. I don't really have any solid plans on a new bike. Just tongue-in-cheek wishful thinking. Besides, I love my current bike. And I have no real designs on doing any racing. Just thought it would be fun. Now that I've seen the competition, I think I'll stick to pleasure riding and my current goals, meager as they may be, as I am pretty much at the level where I want to be.

  5. Congratulations on just doing it! My first time doing the donut, I was dropped within seconds. I kept going back and even though I kept getting dropped it took them longer to do so.
    I still do the donut a few times each season and each time I hang on just a little longer. It's all about the ride.
    Enjoy the ride wherever it is, and with whoever.

  6. I enjoyed your write-up, thanks for doing it.

    Hang in there. Ive been doing Donut Rides 1/wk (no winter rides) for almost a year and it does take some settling into.

    I agree with the above poster that you need to use your time wisely. I can only get on my bike once a week, and sometimes that is even a challenge. Ive come to realize that the best training is often not the Donut. HILL REPEATS. DO THEM.

    Once you're able to hang in the peleton, you will find that, generally speaking, there are not too many parts of the ride that are done at the speeds you describe. Yes, parts are fast and painful, but if you can hold on for those, they'll be over before you know it and you'll be resting in the peleton in good shape for the next burst of lunacy. They are very predictable as they always happen at the same spots.

    So Id continue doing Donuts, but I would focus on training that will keep you at pace for those bursts of pain. Doing the Donut will probably only give you half a dozen or so repeats. You probably need more of them with less rest between.

    PLEASE be careful on the ride home down Leslie. It sounds like you may be newish to peletons. Its easier to hang on the way home because you often have a bit of a tailwind, and the route is generally downhill. These can make it VERY FAST. Think 70 kph fast, elbow to elbow. If you find that your fitness moves ahead faster than your experience in the peleton and that you're able to stick with the main group down Leslie, I would consider sitting off the back of the peleton more than you may think you should. It is very easy to make a tiny mistake at speed on Leslie and end up taking down 20+ riders as a result. Ive seen it. Its ugly. Be safe out there.

    I actually prefer the ride down Kennedy than Leslie. May or may not work for you.

  7. Thanks for the comment and tips. I'm definitely new to big peleton riding like the Donut and am more than happy to stay at the back... if of course I could hang on to the back that is. No worries about me tangling up the group heading down Leslie. I was long gone by then.

    I enjoyed the Donut. It's a great ride and I will likely try it again, but with no aspirations of staying in touch. High-end riding via high-end training (ie: intervals, hills repeats, etc.) isn't really my goal for cycling. Maybe 20 years ago, but now I'm just happy to be out there on the road.

    PS..I actually prefer the roads to the east as well... Warden, Kennedy etc... over Leslie/Bayview.

  8. Well then keep riding the Donut and if you end up riding alone, just know that you're getting a longer workout than the rest of us! Riding in the vaccuum isnt the best workout and there is a lot to be said for using your time wisely and pushing wind.

  9. And your spelling was correct (peloton)!

  10. Trent, your comments make you out to be a f*&king moron, and the reason why more people are intimidated by riders who do the donut. I know many riders half your age who could destroy you with their intelligence.

  11. Whoa folks! Let's keep it friendly! I appreciate that you're all reading my drivel and appreciate all comments to which you're all entitled too. As such I don't screen comments and hopefully won't have to go that route. Cheers!

  12. Whoa, I was being friendly.

    Personal goals need to have a little perspective. By default, spinning 7000K to be a better Donut Rider makes you a f&#ing moron.

    Sure, you can justify it yourself that you're becoming a better cyclist. But the fact that the only manner in which demonstrate all your hard work and sacrifice is by keeping up with the peloton at the Donut makes you, simply, an idiot.

    Troy buddy, if your sense of accomplishment is won by dropping middle-aged fathers and the odd 50 year old cancer survivor at a weekly informal group ride, you need your fuc&king head examined.

    And if you happen to be a middle aged lawyer on a new Pinarello who gets off by dropping other middle aged fathers and the odd 50 year old cancer survivors you need to seek therapy too.

    Why no one points this out to buddy like Troy and many of the other clowns at the Donut is beyond me. Why it is allowed to perpetuate in sports like Cycling (and Hockey) is unbelievable.

    Anyone at the Donut quick enough to win a Canadian road racing title ? I didn't think so. Anyone see Christian Meier of Garmin get dropped like a stone during the team trial during this years Paris-Nice ?

    My point ?

    Being a professional road-racer is one thing.

    Acting professional road-racer is quite another. Especially when you are Soooooooo far off the professional grade - it makes you, frankly, an asshole living in fantasy land.

    So, congratulations, getting dropped at the Donut makes everything ok, actually.

  13. You certainly have an interesting perspective on the Donut. I wouldn't mind picking your brain a bit about your experience on the ride if you'd care to twitter me or email me at


  14. Doug,

    Sounds to me as though your expectations were a bit high in terms of being able to hang on your first donut. While there are lots of racer types, there are also lots of riders who don't race. For those riders (like me), we all got dropped the first time, or the first dozen times.

    There is no secret to being able to stay with the group. You come out ride after ride, you feel the pain, you get dropped ride after ride, and then, one day, you don't get dropped.

    Looking for answers in equipment, hill repeats, spinning classes, etc. will not help. If you want to ride fast, you have to ride with people who ride fast.

    By the way, its mostly about fitness, but not 100%. The more you ride in the pack, the more you'll learn about drafting, how to ration your effort, how to be smooth, when to jump out of the saddle, which gear to use, etc.

    Good luck!


  15. No question about it. My expectations have been thoroughly recalibrated. Cheers!

  16. Good start Doug, I'm not a racer (other than a brief stint in junior catergory 1987) but I've been riding the donut for five years. I also did the ride in the late 80's when its was a Scarboro club ride. Your interesting write up reminds me of how if first started back in 2004. It's true that you should continue to comeback and challange yourself a little longer every time. The best part of the donut is being outdoors and having a great workout.
    Trent did a good thing by introducing you to the ride but don't let his follow up comments about commitment dissuade you from coming back week after week. Some people don't have good things to say about him and really the "BIG BOYS" in the peloton might only account for 10% - the other 90% are guys (and girls) like us. A

  17. Hello there. I really enjoyed your blog. Could be my story. Every time I think I'm doing pretty good someone blows past me leaving me in the dust. I am 47 and started cycling to lose weight and get in shape. It's also the only form of excerise I really enjoy. I recently got an eliptical trainer for winter and off days. Not gungho about winter or rain rides. I noticed a big improvement in stamina on the bike after using the eliptical. There are some nice hills in my area of East York. The hill coming out of Serena Gundy park, Base of Woodbine from the Lakeshore, out of Sunnybrook park to the Hospital and coming out of the Don Valley at Stan Wadlow onto Cosburn. I also recently tried to stay with a couple of BCC members. I did OK til I had to turn off. Cheers Lisa

  18. So Doug, have you made it out for any more Donuts?

    If yes, how'd they go?

    If not, COME'ON OUT!

    We could use some more level headed people....

  19. No, I haven't been out for a donut least not the cycling kind...but I do plan on trying it again soon. Probably not this weekend though. I've been off the bike for a bit and a little solo ride to get back a some steam might be more in order.

    Thanks for asking though! And it's nice to know there's at least one person out there that thinks I'm level headed.

  20. Last year in o8 some Dork on a Red LeMond crashed into me on the Donut. Picked up his bike and rode off. Left me there on the road. I had destroyed my L5/S1 disc and needed surgery. That ride hosts a pile of dickheads as well as a few decent dudes.

  21. yikes ... I have mixed memories of the Donut ... most good. Hi-diddly-dee, this is the life for me ...

  22. Just tried Donut few times. I am newbie, but did marathon before. Donut looks ok to me. I know what to expect, and I am getting it.

  23. Hi-diddly-dee.....this is the life for me....Roger is that you?'s me, the Li'l Wankah from 25 years ago.