Team rides are cool, but everybody's got to have a shop ride. If you don't have a good one, get one started. Seriously.
We had the Traditional Family Bike Shop Christmas Eve's Eve Night Ride last night with a good chunk of the usual shop ride crew. Normally this is a regular hooligan ride, fixed gears and cross bikes, riding down stairs, hill sprints, and drinking lots of Kentucky Antifreeze, Irish Fighting Fuel, or Mexican Soul Lubricant. Afterward, it's off to one of the local establishments providing fine comestibles for a seasonal repast and fine intoxicating beverages.
For a while it wasn't clear where we were going to ride. The roads were okay but our forays off road were a bit painful - the snow was deep and even where packed down it was very hard to ride, being packed down by foot traffic. This was bumpy and fragile, with the tires breaking through the crust and making riding impossible.
After a 600 yard hike-a-bike, we found the first of the sledding hills, and the night turned around. Kids had packed down the snow pretty well, so we were able to bomb down it, hit the little bumps, do long, lurid skids, and generally play around. After a bit, Klas challenged us to ride without headlights, which we did and which he exploited by immediately plowing into Jonathan at the bottom of the sledding hill. It may have been the first time Klas was ever unintentionally dangerous on a group ride.
After a while we decided to ride up Reidel Road, where we may or may not have ridden up and down the really big sledding hill on a local golf course. We may or may not have cheered for a bunch of 15-16 year old kids with their little brothers and sisters as they bombed down the same hill. There may or may not have been a really odd mix of guys in their late 30's and early 40's, and high school / junior high kids. We may or may not have bombed up and down it on our mountain bikes. And Klas may or may not have eaten shit big time on one of the jumps, doing a huge endo and failing to land a jump stylishly in Ryan's footsteps.
From there it was back to the shop, skidding down icy side roads, hopping snowy curbs, and single speeders spinning our guts out to keep up with the geared bikes on the roads. A quick change, then we hit Christopher's for some calamari, excellent burgers and craft brews. Much hilarity ensued, even more when half the group had left and we got the $300 bar tab.
It would be possible to view the ride as a skill builder. I spent a lot of it riding at the limits of my handling skills. But mainly it was about riding with my friends. I like riding with my friends.