Short Rides

My wife has a favorite ride in the neighborhood. It’s only a nine-mile out and back route. It features a long, mild uphill on the way out and a fast fun descent — really a slight downhill incline — for much of the way back. It takes her anywhere from 40-45 minutes to finish it.

I ride it a lot with her. Sometimes, there’s a time crunch, and that’s about all I can fit in. Other times, I’d just as soon do a ride with her as go off on my own. I can’t call it a favorite ride of mine, because it’s not challenging, and in my mind, it’s too short.

But short or not, it’s a bike ride.

My friends over on Bike Forums were discussing this point earlier this week. It seems a lot of them have the same reaction I did: If the ride lasts less than an hour, it’s not a “real” ride. But one old-timer jumped in to point out that a ride is a ride, and regardless of length you will get some physical benefits from it — and the mental benefits might be better.

“Besides,” he added, “just by being out there puts you way above average for your age group.” (This post was on the 50-plus forum.)

We did the ride the other morning. It’s been really humid around here lately, but we’ll put up with that if an early start means we get to finish well before the 100-degree temps we’ve been having kick in.

The first mild incline takes us to the cross street where we turn right. I usually pull over and wait for Pat here, but this time, she was less than 100 feet back. I led her out to the dip into the dry creek bed, then the long incline coming out of it. I got to the end of the street over a mile farther on, and waited at the curb for her to catch me.

She led me around the corner onto a broad new street in a recently-build subdivision. The street ends at a T-intersection with a busy road. We make our turnaround there. We stopped so Pat could take a business call on her cell phone.

On the return leg, I kicked it into overdrive for the long downhill. It’s a fun part of the ride for me, and I don’t hold back. Pat trails me by quite a distance here, and I wait for her before we have to make a left turn at a stoplight.

We’ve got one more nice mild downhill and one longish mild uphill in the last two miles of the trip. When we got to the house, my computer showed that we’d done the nine-mile trip in 37 minutes, for an average speed of 13.8. You couldn’t tell by me. I was breathing harder than normal, and was drenched in sweat. I’d had a good workout.

When I get on my bike, I plan to ride at least an hour — preferably an hour and a half or more. But I don’t always do that. And that’s all right. Short rides are rides, too.


  1. says

    Hi Ray I enjoy your blog which I only discovered recently via Clive Chapman. I live in York England, but have had a life long love affair with the USA which I visit as often as possible. So enjoy how you write about things. I am am in the old fat cyclist group.

  2. Anthony Davis says

    I just started cycling last summer (at the age 53). My evening rides were a 6 mile loop. I’d go 3 miles out, stop, drink an entire bottle of water before the return leg. It was a killer. And it was a ‘long’ ride.

    This spring I really got into cycling and got a road bike. Now, my ‘regular’ evening route now is a 23 mile loop, with a few rollers & one steep hill of about ½ mile. I try to keep it under 90 minutes. When the temp is over 90, it can really be a killer. It’s a real good work out. The club I’ve joined usual does 50-65 miles on the weekends. I’m now averaging 125 miles a week.

    My point, what was a ‘long ride’ last year barely warms me up this year. I do agree, anything less than an hour doesn’t seem worth the effort to dress.
    BTW I’m riding in my first RAGBRAI next week. … can’t wait.

  3. says

    My ride to work and back is only 6 miles… so I get about 50 minutes a day when I ride to work. It’s not a huge distance… but it’s enough to give me a little workout and decrease the work-related tension on the way home.

  4. says

    Ah yes, the “It’s not real unless it’s up to our standards” gambit. Way to keep the noobs motivated, guys.

    I don’t usually get the time to ride for the distances I’d like. Several times a week, I’ll do a 8 or 9 mile loop around my house. Takes me 35 minutes first thing in the morning, then I’m off to work. I’d like to ride more during the week, but between work and family, I can’t squeeze it in.

    I’ll try to take a longer ride on the weekend, and I’m usually gone about 25 miles, but sometimes that’s not even possible. So, I’ll try to make up for it by cycling more shorter distances. For example, the other day I went to a picnic. It was 8 miles away, but I took a longer route that added a mile. I rode back, refusing several offers of a lift home, and that gave me a nice 18 miles of exercise for the day.

    Sometimes we can’t always get what we want, so we have to make do.

    Just found this blog – nice work.

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