camping · cycling · fitness

Training for multi-day bike adventures

Here is me on my pink Brompton commuting bike.

As we’re getting ready to leave for the Toronto-Montreal bike ride in support of Toronto’s People With Aids Foundation, I’m getting more questions from readers about how to train for big bike journeys.

The obvious part of my training plan are the long weekend rides that get longer as the summer goes on.

The less obvious part that I find makes a huge difference is riding everyday. I start using my bike every day, riding the long way to work and doing all errands by bike, pretty much whatever the weather.

Because there are two things that are hard about multiday long riding adventures. The first are the big distances, but the second is the everyday-ness of it. It’s not just riding far, it’s getting up the next day and doing it again.

You can train for that even if the distances aren’t the same.

Here’s me on my everyday bike riding the long way to work:

What else do you do when you’re training for big bike adventures?


Fundraising and thank yous!

Thank you! Thank you! I’ve raised the fundraising minimum for the Friends for Life Bike Rally, which is good because we leave next Sunday.

Come say goodbye to us at the Allan Gardens.

For the 18th time, PWA’s Friends For Life Bike Rally will be departing Toronto for a 6-day, 600km bike ride to Montreal. Also this year for the first time, will be the departure of the 1-Day Ride from Toronto to Port Hope.

8:00 am Group Photos
8:30 am Speeches
8:45 am Group Stretch
9:00 am Departure

Friends, family, supporters and neighbours, come cheer on our dedicated and courageous Riders and Crew as they begin their incredible journey and continue to raise funds for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation.

That’s the good news.

The less good news is that fewer people are riding this year and so we’re all being asked to help just a little bit more.

Right now, the bike rally is looking at where we are on fundraising. Our goal is 1.2 million dollars. But we’ve just surpassed the $500 000 mark.  Looking honestly about what that means, it’s not great. The bike rally is the sustaining fundraiser for PWA. And if we don’t meet our goal, PWA isn’t sustained at its current level. That means cuts to critical programs and services that have a direct impact on people living with HIV/AIDS. It’s that simple.

So if you haven’t made a donation yet, and even if you have, pls consider giving just a little bit more. Buy me a fancy coffee in the form of a donation to the rally. Give to our team.

You could also still do the one day ride with us.

Please consider helping out anyway you can. Small donations make a difference!



Pride, Bike Rally training, and counting all the steps: My weekend in images


Here’s me. Full of energy and enthusiasm for Toronto Pride! I can’t stay overnight but I can take the super early bus to the big city. Leave at 330 am and get in at 630 am and stop at all the places along the way! Great idea, right? Never again. Yawn!


First thing that I’d planned but didn’t happen was the Pride Run. See Training for the Pride Run. Next year I go in the day before and get a good’s night sleep. Future self, I promise you, I will. But still I marched in the Dyke March and wandered around Pride and bought a hot pink kilt (photos to follow) and went to a party (hosted by one of my bike rally team members and her partner) and look at all these steps! (Not even complete since my phone died mid-afternoon.)


Here’s me, ready for Pride!


For no good reason, other than that he's so happy and I'm so proud, he's our Prime Minister marching at Toronto Pride. Susan and I wanted him to do the Pride Run. She even started a petition to persuade him but no luck.
For no good reason, other than that he’s so happy and I’m so proud, here’s our Prime Minister marching at Toronto Pride. Susan and I wanted him to do the Pride Run. She even started a petition to persuade him but no luck.

Lots of us were happy at how happy Justin Trudeau looked at Pride. But back to my weekend!

Sunday, I got a lot of steps but they were mostly on my bike. I rode 95 km all told. It was training ride for the bike rally for some of us and training ride for the RAGBRAI for others. Hi David!


You can look at our ride on Strava. The first 75 km at least. There was some QOM-battling going on! I got this one, that is until Sarah uploaded her file. Grrr.


I do know who you are Sarah! I will steal back my QOM.
I do know who you are Sarah! I will steal back my QOM.


Yes there were some hills and some wind but there was also LUNCH!
Yes there were some hills and some wind but there was also LUNCH!


Sunday night Cheddar and I went to the dog park. He frolicked and napped in the wood chips. I didn’t join him but I wish I could have! Night night.


Strawberries, Swans, and Soaking Mist – Cycling adventures in Scotland, Part 2 (Guest Post)

by Sarah

Sam at the Innocent Railway Tunnel entrance
Sam at the Innocent Railway Tunnel entrance

In her post about our cycling adventure, Sam makes me sound organized, but in reality all I managed to do before we left for Scotland was a little research on hiring (renting) bikes. I did learn some interesting things, though! For example, many of the cycle hire companies in Edinburgh don’t have a storefront, but will actually come to you in a van (or should I say lorry?) with your bike and fit you out on the spot.

Coincidentally, though this shouldn’t be entirely surprising in the city of festivals, our time in Edinburgh managed to overlap with their Festival of Cycling, which had many wonderful and exciting events, including talks, exhibitions, and rides. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fit any into our tight schedule, but we did manage to get out for a day on two wheels.

We ended up finding road bikes to hire the old fashioned way : one morning while Sam was busy at her conference, I wandered into a bicycle shop down the road from the hotel and asked if they hired bikes. They didn’t, but the friendly staff did send me on to the place they said they would go if they needed one. As it turned out, there was a wonderful shop just around the corner that just happened to have a pair of road bikes available on the same day we were – and so £50 later we were all set!

Bike store map
Bike store map

Besides festivals, Edinburgh is also known for its green spaces, and its network of cycle paths snakes its way along the edges of its many parks. Outside of the green spaces, though, the cycle “routes” are a bit of a mixed bag – sometimes they are fully separated bike lanes with separate signaled crossings, sometimes they are well signed shortcuts through residential streets (even housing estate parking lots!), and sometimes they dump you unceremoniously out onto a stretch of arterial road with no signage at all (yikes!). This last type took a fair bit of getting used to, and our Canadian cyclist instincts had us back-tracking a lot, wondering if we had missed a sign directing us onto another safe path. We eventually gave up looking for signs and leaned on our data plans by studying the map whenever we were on the dreaded dotted green (according to Google) stretches of cycle route, which appear to mean “yer on your own, lasses!”.


That said, we had a magnificent ride through the countryside on Cycle Route #1, the John Muir Way, to the seaside town of Musselburgh. We arrived in perfect time to enjoy a strawberry social at the church (yum!) and then adventured our way back, stopping to watch so many swans a’ swimming lazily down the river as the tide went out, and other local sights as we followed our noses home along the coast.

IMG_4686 IMG_5530

Once we got back into Edinburgh, though, I chose a special route home. After watching Sam admire the racing cyclists do hill repeats on the road around Arthur’s Seat, we rode through Holyrood Park. While without clipless pedals we couldn’t take the short sharp route up and over the shoulder of the crag, we instead took the long way round – which still ends with a long steady climb. It was a great workout to cap a lovely day of touring and the views of the old city were magnificent. Sam handily beat me to the roundabout at the top of the hill (I don’t even think she knew it was a race!) but I think we were both happily tired as neither one of us remembered to stop to take a photo of the scenic vista.


Sarah Hinchcliffe is an engineer who participates in many sports. She is renewing a life-long love of cycling to join the feminist bloggers on this year’s Friends for Life Bike Rally. Please consider sponsoring her! Friends might say she is a primarily bacon-fueled athlete but the truth is she doesn’t discriminate between delicious foods and did enjoy a full Scottish breakfast before setting out on this adventure.


Heat, hills, and happy birthday Susan!



Or why we decided to ride 80 km in a heat advisory!

Yesterday was Susan’s birthday and we celebrated on Sunday with a bike ride. Not just any bike ride. Nope. We celebrated with a plan for a 90 km bike ride up and down the escarpment on heat alert day. Why? We have our reasons.

Me, I’m just back from almost two weeks without my bike attending academic conferences in Sweden and Scotland. Great for walking, not so good for cycling. (Or running. But that’s another matter.) So I was anxious to get back on my bike and ride. I also like riding with these wonderful people: David, Natalie, Susan, Sarah, and Cate. And it’s a birthday bike ride. My favourite. So hot or not, hills or not, I was in.

How was it? Well, hard. Really hard. Our Sunday ride actually reminded me of the bike rally last year which didn’t have those hills but did have the heat alert days. (Read about that here.) But we did the worst of the hills in the morning, then we had a lovely lunch break (with french fries and a strawberry milkshake!) and noodled around on the flats for awhile. By the end, we were all pretty beat. We ran out of water a few times and it began to feel like it didn’t matter how much you drank, you were still hot and thirsty. I had dried salt on my face–despite a shower and washing my face–into the evening. Ending at Susan’s house we were treated like royalty by Susan’s partner Tim. There was an optional hose down with cold water, pitchers of gatorade, cold beer, and lots of snacks. Also, a hot tub with the temperature turned down and an ice cream cake.

Happy Birthday Susan! That was a very hard thing with an amazing group of people.

Sarah’s story:

I rode first and foremost to celebrate the birthday of the awesome Susan. Also, after following Sam around Europe for two weeks of conferences, I definitely needed a long ride to get back in the groove before losing the next couple of weekends of Pride festivities.

But even more importantly, Susan’s birthday slog, I mean ride, I ended up learning some things!

First, I put a big fear to rest : I don’t do well in the hot weather. Heat alerts for me usually involve getting heat stroke while sitting in the shade. But riding in the heat is surprisingly okay. As long as you don’t stop (what red lights?) you make your own breeze. Reassuring for me as I was worried about surviving the six days of the rally at the end of July!

This was also a first ride for me to try wearing both sleeves and leggings for sun protection and cooling. I’m thrilled to report that they feel cooler than bare skin with sunscreen. Definitely a wise addition to my cycling wardrobe and best of all – no funny tan lines!

Because I have often ridden with Susan, Sunday’s ride was on familiar, tough terrain, so it was a pretty good yardstick for my progress on the bike. Even in the heat, I was able to just ride (in “granny gear” mind you, but still!) up hills that last year left me with burning thighs and gasping for breath. I was really happy to be able to ride with Nat and share every strategy I had learned to make those hellish hills less horrible (Answer? There is nothing you can do to make the second trip up the escarpment suck less.).

And because I’d completed the back-to-back 90km ride requirement at the end of May (fighting wind instead of heat!), I was perfectly happy to take a shortcut back to the garden hose, Gatorade, and beer waiting for us back on Susan and Tim’s lawn. Heavenly! Happy birthday, Susan!

Here’s some words from the birthday girl herself:

Last August, Sam introduced me to the idea of the birthday bike ride. I don’t know what is so much fun about doing REALLY HARD THINGS with good friends but I love it and I decided to copy her. . .again. My birthday bike ride was supposed to be a fun casual ride but given our training requirements and the heat, it was not very casual. It was a hard core experience with a bunch of invested people. From this vantage point, I romanticize it but when I wanted to throw up at Tremaine and Main Street, it was not romantic in the least. Hell is 6 lanes of fresh pavement, suburbia on one side and a corn field on the other, no trees at 33C. Luckily there was a man with a hose waiting for me at home. Think what you will of that. . .it was a great birthday.

Here’s Cate’s reasons for riding in a heat wave:

I was riding for a lot of reasons on Sunday. The “required” Bike Rally back-to-back 90km training rides, which Susan and I had planned weeks ago — I’m stubborn about that kind of goal. Celebrating Susan’s birthday. Celebrating life. And because the simplest way I know how to see the world is from the saddle of my bike. There was a terrible death in my family on Friday, and there was nothing I could do to be helpful until Monday. So I joined my gang and rode, feeling the hills in my every cell. The otherworldly light-headedness of riding in that kind of heat matched what was happening in my soul. I rode strong and hard. The heat cauterized some of the grief, the sadness that I wasn’t ready to let in. And being with alive, struggling, joyful people reminded me to be right where I was, be in my life.
Next, Nat chimes in:
I was going into Sunday mindful I was the slowest rider and least experienced. The day before I had done 120 km (my longest ride ever) with David & my partner Michel. I needed to get my back to back rides. I would get to ride with awesome humans. I needed some hills training. Sarah designated herself my sweeps pal and coached me along, preparing me for a coming hill or sharing gearing strategies. It was a very challenging ride for me. Being round I heat up quickly and because I’m not as skilled a rider it takes a lot for me to sustain even a modest 20 km/HR pace. I hit my first wall just before we stopped for lunch. My tired right calf started cramping as we passed Milton towards Campbellville. I started crying from the heat and fatigue. Sarah dosed me with some awesome maple syrup gel that calmed the cramps down. We ate lunch and I wondered if I had over committed. The wind was so hot it burned inside my nostrils. I took odd comfort when everyone admitted they were surprised how hard the ride was. After lunch we flew down the escarpment for what seemed days. It was glorious.
I hit the second wall around 70 km. I was feeling like I was crawling along and my glutes were on fire. The tears started again and I couldn’t stop. Everything hurt and I was just sick of the heat. I said I might need to end the ride and get picked up. After some chatting Sarah offered to take me a shorter route back to Susan’s and Sam came with us. We tootled back hitting about 80 km in total.
Afterwards we debriefed in the hot tub. I was pretty embarrassed about my snot bubble sobbing. I also knew that these were exactly the kind of humans I trusted not to mock or shame me. I felt safe to push past my limits and I’m glad I did. I got help all along the way. David updated me on my pace regularly, stressing how great I was doing for a back to back ride. Susan made sure the group waited for me to catch up at regular intervals. Cate has this amazing lightness about her when she’s on her bike as she calmly asserted it was ok for me to stop riding if I needed to. Sarah topped up my water, nodded emphatically when I muttered my self-soothing stuff out loud and affirmed that yes, these were cuss worthy hills. I’m so thankful to Sam for introducing me to this lovely group of people who are really into their physicality. It was an uphill ride through hellfire and it was awesome. I can’t wait to do it again.
Our lunch break!



We survived! After the ride, we relax

David said (on Facebook) “I realized in the middle of the night that we should have taken a photo of all of our bikes scattered across Susan‘s front lawn like we were 14 and hanging out.”

No bikes on the lawn photos but these capture the feeling





Also, if you want to encourage us you can of course sponsor our team in the bike rally.

And buy our t-shirt and mug, all proceeds to the rally!



Want to ride bikes with us for a day? You know you do….

Here’s your chance to ride with some of the Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers. We’re Switchin’ Gears. That’s our Friends for Life Bike Rally Team name. Susan and I are the team co-leads.

You can meet a bunch of the bloggers from Fit is a Feminist Issue. Not just Susan and me…

There’s also Nat and Cate and Catherine and Sarah…

We’re hoping to lure more of you–other guest bloggers, commentators, and readers–on to our team for the 1 day version of the rally. If you’ve never done a metric century before this could be a great summer distance goal. In terms of goal setting, it’s also at the end of July so that gives you lots of time to train. There’s a lovely lunch break, dinner, and a dip in the lake at the end. I loved the mass start and police escort out of Toronto.

As Susan put it on Facebook, “Do you want to participate but can’t commit to the whole enchilada? Try a sixth of an enchilada and do the one day ride (120 km and a whole lotta fun times) The fundraising minimum there is $650. That isn’t too bad.” (There’s a lot of help and advice with the fundraising.)

Here’s the official info:

Inaugural One-Day Ride
Sunday July 24, 2016

Participants will be invited to register for this amazing experience and get a taste of what the Bike Rally is all about. This fully supported event welcomes Participants of all ages and skill levels to share their passion for cycling while supporting their friends, family, and neighbours living with HIV/AIDS.

Registration for the One-Day Ride has begun and includes payment of a non-refundable fee of $40 until the Bike Rally Official Launch party (Jan/Feb – TBD) and $50 after that.


  • The opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS by raising critical funds for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation
  • Fully supported day of cycling (road support, return transportation, organized meal and snack breaks)
  • Training (bike skills and maintenance, fundraising, nutrition)
  • Return transportation from Port Hope
  • Regular social events year-round. It’s called the Friends For Life Bike Rally for a reason!


  • You will have transformative impact on the lives to people living with HIV/AIDS
  • Cycle in safety with your friends, new and old, and family while being cheered on by supporters along the way.
  • Learn all the nutritional and technical skills and tricks to cycle at peak performance…and it never hurts to know how to change a flat tire!
  • After an exhilarating day of cycling and an amazing arrival experience, we will bring you back to Toronto in the comfort of an air conditioned coach.
  • There is no doubt that you will make friends!
  • What else would you do with family and friends on a Sunday in July?

Upon registration:

  • Every Rider will make a commitment to fundraise a minimum of $650 by Departure Day.

  • Riders are encouraged to participate in scheduled training rides and workshops with supervision from our skilled training coaches and support team to help Riders achieve their goals.

Interested? It’ll be a super fun day.

Find out more here.

Join now and you’re in time for our second team social. Details on registration!

If you decide to join up, let us know in the comments…

If you’ve got any questions, ask away…