A "Reliability Ride” was historically a type of ride run in the early spring when bikes and other equipment were much less reliable, roads were rougher, and GPS didn't exist as a means of navigation. They were a test of a riders ability to maintain their kit and navigate their way around a route within a time they specified at HQ.
Recently though, reliability rides have evolved into the opportunity for cyclists from all clubs across a region to come together and test themselves in a high tempo training ride over about 100km (60 miles). Given the invention of GPS and the constantly improving technology of bikes there is no longer a need to test the gear and more of a desire to test the rider and see just how well training has gone. Typically, the riders set off in groups of similar ability for maximum benefit. All of this of course is undertaken within the rules of the road. There are bragging rights to be had from getting around in a solid time, but everyone respects the need to be sensible.
These rides are a great test of early season fitness and an opportunity to see just how well you're riding. Over the last few years I have climbed further and further up the groups but also found the rides to be getting harder and harder. Yorkshire isn't a place for being soft; being home to the World Junior CX champ, a host of world tour pros and the Brownlee brothers, you're guaranteed a hard time from at least one pro rider during the reliabilities. Even if they're not there then there are still some seriously strong riders in the mix.
It's great to be pushed harder each year by the ever improving talents across Yorkshire but it's not going to be too long before the younger generation are tearing away from the rest of us for good. The reliabilities have so far taught me that even if you look like a twig with barely enough muscle to open a jam jar you'll probably be the one pushing the pace on the front. Yorkshire has some seriously strong junior riders to put you in the pain cave.
I've learnt a lot about my own riding from the reliability rides this year. I can push myself into some pretty dark places in the name of not being dropped but I still don't have the kick I need to sprint back into a bunch. I can however push over a hill with some considerable strength in order to bridge back to a group so I guess I need a hilly course rather than something flat in order to excel. Equally, I seem to have a good energy reserve on the most part to allow me to just keep on pushing even when my legs give in, although that was put to the test in the latest of the reliabilities. Overall I'm in a similar position to last year. A few things to work on, but otherwise riding strong.
There are now just two reliabilities left this year before everyone disappears back to their clubs for the year again and the race season gets fully under way. Two more Sundays in the pain cave before a little bit of rest and then we head into the spring and I shout about what we have in store then.