This morning’s post, about letting a summer go by without a 100 km bike ride, got me wondering about when it was that I started doing century bike rides. Surely it was after I got my first road bike?
My first road bike was a 2005 red Cannondale, an aluminum bike with some carbon bits. It’s the only road bike that I’ve bought new from a bike shop. It was a bike shop in London’s east end that sold bikes in the summer and snow sport equipment in the winter. Remember the name? Was it All Seasons? I think I bought it in 2006. And I rode my first century in 2007.
For the age curious reader that would put me in my early 40s.
Here’s the bike:
I bought the bike when I decided to train for a triathlon. I had been running for a few years and bike commuting to work. I’ve always been a recreational swimmer. My colleagues included a number of serious cyclists and once I started running, in addition to bike commuting, there was some joking that it was time for me to buy a real bike.
I went to the bike shop and choose the bike above.
I liked that the local bike shop I bought the bike from had group rides for new riders a couple of times a week. They taught me to shift and to clip and unclip. I think that’s a terrific thing that more bike shops ought to do. It teaches you to use the shiny new thing you’ve bought and helps get you started at building community. Of course, it also bonds you to the shop and when you need a new thing, like gloves, you’re more likely to buy it from the shop after a ride, than from the internet. (I’m not sure I was buying things from the internet back then.)
Next I joined the triathlon training group at the Running Room and went out on their training rides. It was love at first pedal. Right away I could tell that I was a better cyclist than I was a runner. I passed a lot of people and I was riding with people I couldn’t run with. Hi Martin!
I think my first ride with them was about 40 km. I remember that we drove to the edge of town and parked our cars in a strip mall parking lot on the north edge of London.
From there I started to ride with more experienced cyclists who took me out in the evenings and taught me to draft, how to get through intersections without losing the group, how to drink water and put the bottle back without stopping pedaling, how to slow down without braking, etc. I also rode a lot with my friend the triathlete and German mathematician, Martin, who I met on that first triathlon training ride.
Okay, I accidentally dropped him–he said he was stopping for a nature call beside the road and would catch up to me. It never occurred to either of us that he wouldn’t be able to catch up. 😃
Once I acquired some skills necessary for group riding, my serious cyclist friends suggested I join a local cycling club, the London Centennial Wheelers, which I did. The first club ride I did was 80 km but after that, the weekly rides ramped up to 100 or more. The longest ride I’ve ever done was with LCW, in year two or year three of riding. It was supposed to be an imperial century, 100 miles or 160 km, but we got lost on our way home (pre-cell phones with maps!) and ended up riding 176 km instead of 160. There were some grumpy people at the end of the ride.
There’s no record of these early efforts because for me it was pre-Garmin and pre-Strava.
I did a lot of group riding in those years, a little bit of racing, and even started riding at the velodrome over the winter. I started to feel like I had 100 km rides in the bank. Like, I could start out the year riding 100 km and it wouldn’t kill me.
After a time I upgraded to a fully carbon red Cannondale and took that bike to Australia on sabbatical in 2012. Here’s the fancier red bike. I bought that bike second hand, over the internet, from a woman who raced.
The years between now and then and have involved many 100 km plus rides. There’s been Gran Fondos and MS Bike Tours in which we did the full distance in one day rather than spreading it out over two days. There were also Friends for Life Bike Rallies and Newfoundland cycling trips.
I’m happy to be getting back to it. I’m also hoping that when 100 km gets to be too much, if not now then later, that I’m okay with that too.
I recently enjoyed reading this piece, How to Grow Old Gracefully As a Cyclist.
“Above all, the most important thing you can do for yourself right now is to diversify your riding. Accept that not every ride has to be epic, and that shorter rides can even be more enjoyable than longer ones. Wardrobe often informs your mindset, so if you’re riding in Lycra all the time try dressing down every once in awhile, or even riding in jeans. Explore the wide world of bikes beyond what the mainstream companies market: steel frames, upright bars, singlespeeds, vintage bikes. Build a cycling portfolio that allows you to enjoy yourself on a bicycle even if you’re no longer able to hold onto the wheel in front of you, ride on technical terrain, or maintain an aggressive position.”