April 16, 2015

ticks for distance bicycle riding

the robot's wife is going to do her first "longer" bicycle ride this weekend.  i wrote her an email about it and decided there's enough crap here that doesn't ever really get talked about, or looked at from my warped perspective, that i decided to modify what i sent her and bring it over here.

***

i've done a lot of distance riding including:
* the "big ride" across the US (having only ridden 4 "training" rides beforehand)
* ride the rockies three times (that's a week at high altitude with a fair amount of climbing
)
* RAGBRAI twice (week long ride across
IA
, tends to be rolling, humid and hot)
* park-to-park pedal two or three times (
100 miles through four NV state parks
)

over the years
 i've coached many people on riding distance, ages 8 to 75 ... everyone i've ever helped has finished
whatever they were trying to do
.  

everything here is merely suggestion ... pick and choose to your liking, but know that i do everything i'm suggesting here.

* your biggest danger is other cyclists.  you're going to be riding with people of widely varying experience levels, a large minority of which will not be paying attention to you.  call out all your actions on your bicycle in addition to signalling.  it feels comical, if not stupid.  "riding" when you start.  "stopping" when you stop.  "turning" when you turn.  "on your left" (or right) if passing.  (don't be afraid to say, "hi," "thanks,"  "whatta great day" or somesuch to people who speak as they pass you.)  if there's an object in the road that you're avoiding, call it out by name and point at it.  "hole!"  "bike pump!"  my repeated observations have been that the more (but not "most") experienced riders are the most dangerous. (the very experienced riders know what they're doing, the novices are too afraid to try anything
well outside their comfort zone
.)  

i've got a million anecdotes on this topic, but here's one ... i'm on
a
RAGBRAI
a few years ago
, first day.  at this point
in my life
i've ridden,
something like 
10
,000 miles in
organized rides in
my life.  no accidents.  the
streaming
group hasn't even made the first rest stop.  there's a doctor servicing people on the ride whom i kn
e
w from the year before
.  
i'm going to pull over at his medicine
tent
 for a quick hello.  i signal right
with my arm
. "i'm stopping."  i gesture wagging my hand.  "i'm pulling over right here."  i'm pointing now.  "stopping."  i stop on the pavement because you never, ever want to stop on the gravel around pack.  WHAM!  i'm immediately hit from behind by another rider.  

i haven't gone ten miles of a 400 mile ride.  he's fully kitted out and (probably) an experienced rider.  i said, to him, "uh, 'stopping,' means i'm stopping.
 so does when i signal stopping with my arm.
 pointing means, 'i'm going to stop there.'"  i'm not sure why he hit me, i think he simply wasn't paying attention, but he might have been trying to pass me on the right.  if you're paying attention, i absolutely, positively, guarantee you'll see two riders collide next weekend ... the biggest danger spots are rest stops and the start/finish.


* i believe (and so does my brother) that the largest physical enemy you have is raw exposure to the out-of-doors. the majority of your body's effort goes to combating the temperature and UV.  the more you can reduce your exposure, the less you'll have to fight it.  i strongly suggest buying a long sleeve sun shirt or jersey.  on the big ride i knew several (strong) women who wore unbuttoned men's dress shirts over cycling jerseys.  looks kinda strange, but works well enough that probably 250 women were riding like that after 3200 miles.  (don't forget to sunscreen any parts of your scalp that are exposed through the holes in your helmet and SPF your lips.)
 yankees, candos and euros are the only people on earth who strip down when they're in the sun ... everyone else swaddles themselves
 {note that my brother's brother in law is a hardcore hammerhead fast-cyclist who rode across the US a couple years ago ... he poo-pooed our recommendation of covering from exposure ... he also was forced to take a couple days off from exhaustion ... i'm certain some of it was from raw exposure ... he'll
probably
deny
that was a possibility
to this very day.}  i have worn tights for my legs when i've cycled and
i'm
ambivalent about them ... i like not having to wear sunscreen, everywhere, but they can be a little hot and they aren't as easy to "quickly cool," the same way a zipper on a jersey is.  40 miles/four hours on your saddle might not sound like the kind of exposure where you'd have to worry about this, but i think of that as being the minimum window where you have to start being concerned.  i'd wear a long sleeve shirt on that ride, for sure.  almost no one else will.
 you'll stand out if you do so and may not appreciate that fact.

* nearly a side bar to the above, if you have to stop for something in the road (crashed riders, crawling baby, $10,000 in cash) ride past it, then walk back to it.  people develop target fixation on objects and will tunnel-vision out everything else.  as you're walking back, you have a full view of what's happening in front of you and can react accordingly.  if you have to bend over in front of the riders, face them butt first.  you can take a much harder
strike to
 
the
rump than
you can with
your head -- even
wearing a helmet
.

* king feddy gave me the greatest piece of cycling advice that i've ever had from anyone
,
at any time
,
relative to endurance acitivity.  i know it sounds ultra-simple, if not downright insulting, but "as long as you keep pedaling, you get there."  stopping is not your friend.  it's great to see the scenery, and to have a good time (believe me, i know what i'm talking about ... my brother and i were both back of the packers
, very often,
on the big ride), but every time you stop you have to endure starting again.  when you ride, you don't.  don't worry about speed.  just like real life, it's not a race, it's a ride.  just pedal, dammit.

* take an advil before you ride.  it acts as a prophylactic muscle relaxant and will take a touch of edge off your nerves when you start.  take it with a full glass of water
because dehydration + ibuprofen = liver trouble.  (if you're riding for multiple days, you can, and should, wean yourself off it.)

* drink (some) gatorade (or equivalent) as you ride and/or immediately after.  no diet drinks!  you need sugar.  it helps replace the glycogen in your body and you'll metabolize it almost immediately.  if gatorade seems too sweet (it might after you've been riding awhile), cut it in half with water.  don't drink gatorade exclusively, shunning water.  doing that can mess up your electrolytic
 balance.

* consider taking a bath/hot tub the night before you ride but even if you don't, take a bath/hot tub the night after you ride.  it'll help reduce swelling and pain in any body parts, but more importantly, it'll give you osmotic reinforcement for any water you've lost during your physical trauma.  i believe this trick is largely the reason i'm able to do crazy physical things that most people can't.

* wear bicycle gloves and shorts.  even if you haven't trained with them, you need them.  friction exposure -especially if you haven't ridden a lot- is a son of a bitch.  even if you have some groovy handlebars that are all foamy and feel like angels' asses, you still want gloves.  i guarantee that pavement won't feel like heavenly derriere
on the palms of your hands
if you go down.

* if things feel too tough, use a lower gear.  basic cycling theory is you always want to use the same cadence (technically, 60rpm+, but don't worry about that), whether you're going up or down hill.  it sounds weird, but your biggest problem, repeatedly
,
is going to be that you don't pedal fast enough.  faster is easier ... and it does not automatically mean you expend
significantly
more calories (calories are mostly determined by the distance you move your weight forward).  if you ever feel like you're struggling, shift down.  if you're in your lowest gear and you're struggling, stand up to pedal like you did when you raced your friends when you were a little girl.

* consider walking across cattle guards and railroad tracks.  
this is the only thing on this list that i usually don't do (in WY, i almost always do ... those are industrial strength cows),
 but if you haven't ridden a lot, it's
a good idea to do so
.  make sure to call out your stopping and walking.  if you do ride across railroad tracks, make sure you cross them perpendicular to your line of travel (and call it out).  when my brother rode the big ride, a very experienced guy went down lightning
-
fast on a crossing.  he wasn't hurt, but
that
was only by an absolute quirk of fate.

* take your gloves off when you eat and drink (except from your bike bottle).  and the corollary, don't eat any food that is exposed (think: pre-sliced oranges/watermelon in a bin).  many, many people go to the bathroom with their gloves on making their apparel damp, fuming, body temperature bacteria orgies.  and then they handle communal food with them!  exposure won't stop you from your 40 miles for the day, but it may well keep you out of work for a week.
 when i was on the big ride every single person get a stomach bug.  you ask me, this is almost certainly from cross-contaminated food.
 bring hand sanitizer with you.  use it every time you take off your gloves.

* pump up your tires, day of the ride.  high pressure tires (the inflation pressure is printed on the tire) lose pressure every day.  riding fully inflated lowers your
rolling
resistance and decreases your odds of going flat (either by pinching, or riding over an object).

enjoy the ride.

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