As of my ride on Tuesday of this week (April 3rd, 2018), my 90 day cycling challenge is complete! I was able to successfully ride every day since January first of 2018. I know to some of you it may not seem like much, especially commuters and pro/semi-pro riders, but for an average guy juggling work, family and other commitments, at times it was a bit tough to find the time to ride, but it was worth it every single time I did.
Other than being forced to take a week off due to illness I would have rode everyday since November of last year, but I decided to up the ante and start completely over. I really wanted a single, uninterrupted streak of 90 days.
Over the course of the challenge I learned a lot. As noted above, my first attempt ended in sickness. I tried to ride through it at first, which I think only made the overall recovery period longer. I read on the inter webs (so it must be true, right?) that if you're sick above the neck (your head, basically), continue to train. If you're sick below the neck (chest/lungs), then let your body rest. Whatever I had started in my head, but though the course of some hard rides in cold weather quietly worked its way down to my lungs and made things quite miserable. Next time, if I start to cough my plan is to sleep, a lot, until I feel at least 80% before attempting to ride at any pace faster than soft pedaling. I also started taking EmergenC and sleeping as much as possible, I know, common sense, right (the sleep part, not the vitamin B supplements relying on placebo effect)?
A few other things that I learned, which many of you may chalk up to common sense, are noted below. Most of what I learned was focused on the weather. When you ride through a northern US winter, you will face all types of conditions, from unusually warm in February...
To typical cold and snowy days with temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit...
And who could forget those wonderful cold and rainy rides!...
A few thoughts on riding through the winter, or just poor riding weather in general:
- Learn how to dress for the conditions - A good rule of thumb is to be a little chilly at the start of the ride, once you get moving it becomes comfortable.
- Wool, buy lots of wool. Wool shirts, wool socks, wool hats, wool long underwear, wool, yep, I've really learned to love the magical insulation properties of wool.
- Cold, rain, wind, hail, etc. are no reason to not enjoy a bike ride (unless you are unwell or already tired of course, then sleep instead). I no longer look out the window to determine if I'm going on a bike ride, I look out the window (and the weather channel app) to see what I should wear for my bike ride.
- Lots of Warm Gear - Spend the money on the winter gear that counts, coats, pants, gloves, really warm shoes, toe warmers, wool socks (can't have too many pairs), etcetera. It doesn't matter how fancy your bike is, cold and miserable is cold and miserable. A 3 hour ride through a winter wonderland on a Huffy is better than a freezing, cold, approaching hypothermia type of bike ride on the latest carbon fat bike.
- I now Prefer Flat Pedals in the Snow - It is much easier to react in the deep stuff and get a foot down, you can use those super huge, and warm Sorel winter boots with them and the heat in your feet isn't channeled away though the cleats of your clipless pedals.
- Again, buy lots of warm gear, maybe a flask and your favorite booze too, but focus on things that help keep you comfortable (warm and dry) so you'll want to ride longer.
- Take care of your gear - No, you don't need the most bling or lightest gear, but buy reliable, name brand stuff from your local bike shop. It is not fun walking your bike 10 miles out of the woods because you bought a cheap chain, tube, or derailleur, especially in the cold, at night, up hill both ways...
- Spend money on some decent, reliable lighting (with backup lighting just in case). Night riding, especially on single track, is awesome. I think it is even more awesome in some fresh powder with friends. Spend money wisely here and don't necessarily go with the most lumens (cheap eBay lights make lots of promises). Try to go with a solid name brand choice for your handlebars and helmet. If you're going to be far off the beaten path, it might not be a bad idea to bring a backup headlamp as well. Of course, like with all gear, charge it and check it before you ride. It will be no fun navigating through trees and thorn bushes when the sun goes down.
- Enjoy the Seasons - Each season has its own charm. Figure out what you like about each season and look forward to the unique aspects of each one. It isn't always just about the ride itself. In the winter, for example, it's great to sit around a nice warm campfire after a good ride or day of skiing while sipping your favorite adult beverage telling stories of the fun that was had earlier in the day.
- Rest days are important - One thing I did not expect was to be sore for most of the 90 day challenge. At least one rest day every week does a body good. I have very much enjoyed the two rest days this week after completing the challenge, but now I've got the I haven't ridden in two day shakes, so I better get a ride in today.
I know, nothing earth shattering here, but I'm glad I did it just the same. The challenge has helped me to become a stronger rider and less of a fair weather rider and that alone makes it a success to me. After a couple of days off its back on the bike for me to continue training for the upcoming gravel races and of course the Make A Wish 300 Wish A Mile ride in July.
Have an idea for a challenge? I'd love to hear it. I hope you're having a great 2018 so far. Please stay safe out there and keep riding!