“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jan.18, 1896, Scientific American magazine
Training for a long-distance bicycle ride can be a pain in the behind, literally and figuratively. Riding the same training routes day after day can be tedious and boring. On some days, as during this week in Texas, you welcome rain as an excuse not to train. And there are days when a BarcaLounger and a book simply might win out over a bicycle saddle.
But it’s absolutely essential to get in the miles. Unless you’re young and super fit, you can’t decide in May to start training for a ride like the Bicycle Tour of Colorado in June. You’d crap out on the high mountain passes, probably have a miserable week and never try such a ride again.
I’ve never been a “hammerhead,” one of those riders in color-coordinated Spandex who whiz by on the road, hunched low over the handlebars, eyes straight ahead, too focused to pass a word of greeting. They’re also the bicycle bores who, during downtime in the evening on multi-day rides, talk interminably of cadence and gear ratios, calorie intake and expenditure, heart rate, lactic acid buildup and other arcane workings of man and machine.
I view training as an essential, though not always pleasant, component to having a good time on the ride you’re training for. If you’re in such sorry shape that you can barely handle the task of getting from the day’s start to the camp site or motel at day’s end, you’re not likely to have enough energy to enjoy the rest of the evening. And that’s much of the fun on a long-distance ride – the camaraderie of shared experience, swapping stories with new best friends, the total relaxation that follows a day of pushing your body to its limits.
The Adventure Cycling Association sends out to those who sign up for one of its trips a booklet called “Before You Go: A Handbook for Adventure Cycling’s Self-Contained Tours.” It says: “For any tour, it is important to train prior to leaving; even with preparation, it is challenging to pedal a loaded bicycle day in and day out. Weather is unpredictable – you may find yourself riding through rainstorms, fighting headwinds, or cycling in oppressive heat. You may also be climbing passes or sharing the road with coal and/or logging trucks, depending on the tour your choose.”
So I train, like it or not. And sometimes, on a sparkling, windless day, when all the world seems to be bursting with life – like springtime in Texas – a training ride can be a glorious enterprise. It’s a way to recharge the batteries, clear the mind of worrisome thoughts and get right with the world – Transcendental Meditation on two wheels.
Albert Einstein is reported to have said of his theory of relativity: “I thought of that while riding my bike.” I’ve yet to have an Einsteinian brainstorm on a bicycle, but I have gotten an idea or two for this blog.