Prepare at least a little bit for your long ride

On Saturday, my wife Pat and I were out in rural Texas, volunteering at the first Mamma Jamma ride for breast cancer research. The ride featured routes of 10, 27, 46, 70 and 100 miles. I was part of the route safety crew for the 46-mile route. I teamed up with another volunteer and sat at two intersections, directing riders to the correct route, and warning of any safety hazards up ahead.

So I was able to get a good look at a large number of riders. About an hour went by from the time the first group passed us until the last rider showed up. And I was once again perplexed that otherwise intelligent people seem to think they can ride a challenging distance like 46 miles without putting in the training miles beforehand.

Our first post was at 17 miles. As might be expected, those passing us for the first half hour or so looked almost fresh. The day was overcast, the temperature was stuck at 54 degrees, and there was almost no wind. But the forecast called for a high of around 70, and many of the riders were underdressed.

The fresh riders made the turn, and accelerated toward a nice downhill. But then, some slower riders started coming by. They labored up the slight rise to our location. Most were relieved to hear that the next rest stop was only six miles away. A few stopped, took a drink from their water bottles, or chewed on an energy bar.

Many of these slower riders were on hybrid or mountain bikes. They were pushing more weight than the road bike riders, which tired them faster. Some were on the chunky side. It was clear most of them didn’t realize what they were getting into when they signed up for the 46 miles.

I thought of an email from a reader that I received on Friday. She had signed up for a metric century, but had just learned through a Google search that she would be riding 62 miles.

“I am now officially nervous as I am not a regular rider,” she wrote.  “When I have ridden I think the most I have gone is like 10 miles.  I am not in cycle shape.  My bike is 18 years old.  I maybe get on the thing once every six months or so.”

Back at the Mamma Jamma, the last rider struggled up to our post. He rode an old non-suspended mountain bike, and several layers of cotton shirts. He was done. A SAG vehicle just happened to pull up at the same time. He asked for a ride back to the start. They told him they could take him to the next rest stop, but because he was less than halfway through the route, they couldn’t take him all the way back.

SAGRider tries to convince a SAG truck to take him back, just 17 miles into a 46-mile ride.

“We have to keep moving forward,” the driver said. “We could call for medical. They could bring you back.”

He wound up riding with them to the next rest stop, and called medical for a ride back from there.

Entered in the 46-miler, but unable to finish half that. What’s missing here? And my email correspondent? It turned out that her ride was Saturday, too — and she hadn’t prepared for it at all. I don’t know whether she finished — or even rode.

Evidently, biking just don’t get no respect. We all rode when we were kids; we know it’s a simple thing to pedal a bike along a road. Forty-six miles might be a more challenging distance than we have done in the past, but heck, just keep turning the pedals and you’ll be done in no time.

Folks, for any kind of physical challenge, you have to put in the time. I wonder how many of those ill-prepared riders won’t be back, because they’ve decided that biking is too tough. The rest of us know that they’ll be missing out on a fun and rewarding activity.


  1. says

    17 miles in and gives up? My 7-year old daughter gutted out 10 miles on her 20″ wheeled bike in 90F temps. My very first backpacking trip, I was miserably out of shape and ignorant, yet I carried 40 lbs. to the South Rim of the Chisos Basin, ascending 2000 ft. over 6 miles. Once I was on my way, there was no giving up.

    Most of us aren’t superathletes, but we know that completing a long ride is not just a question of training, but a question of focus and dedication.

  2. says

    I agree with your observations. At some of the rides I go on the unprepared bikers stick out. On a ride many years ago there a teenage boy riding a Kmart bicycle without any water bottles out in the middle of no-where. There was a brutal headwind coming off Galveston Bay. He was having a lot of trouble. Unfortunately this was a lightly supported ride and the SAG vehicle was non-existent. I am not sure what happened.

    On the MS150 rides in the late 80’s I was amazed at the bikes and riders that were on the ride. No preparation to ride anywhere near the mileage.

  3. says

    Unfortunately there always will be individuals who either don’t have the capacity to judge their strength and/or wildly overestimate their abilities.
    I agree with you that preparation is essential and applaud you for volunteering on this ride!

  4. says

    Nothing surprises me (much) anymore. I tend to be just the opposite and have passed on several charity rides because I didn’t feel road-worthy enough to do even the 20 mile loop (though I regularly ride 30-40 miles several times a week). Okay, that, and the fact that I’m a total slacker and can’t possibly be expected to be out of bed and at the starting line by 8am.

    Yes, there does seem to be a never ending supply of people who really don’t think those sort of things through. Recently on a tour of one of the local caves I saw a woman wearing high heels and another couple pushing a baby stroller, trudging along even after being warned that the cave floor was wet, muddy, and uneven. Oh well.. who ya gonna call?

  5. Jeremy Mazur says

    This is an interesting topic. I’ve done a number of rides where some participants had no idea of what they were getting into. The most notorious in my mind was the Shiner BASH, where some braved a 90+ mile ride on a street Schwinn wearing sweats, tennis shoes, and even sandals. I think that the offer of free beers at the end of the ride was too alluring to some. More recently, at the Waco Wild West Century, I remember passing what seemed to be a troop of Cub Scouts on the 40 mile route. They seemed somewhat dispirited. There really ought to be a disclaimer to these rides — like what they’ve posted for the Hugel in November — that the bite to these things is much worse than the bark.

    Fun topic, thanks for sharing!


  6. says

    You have to be careful about how far you push yourself though. Recently I rode around Lake Tahoe (70 miles unsupported). I made it, but bonked with 10 miles to go. I ended up getting pretty sick because my body was so worn down from the ride.

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