2014 In Review

Got in a nice 15-mile ride Monday afternoon with my biking friend Maggie. We figured the weather forecast for the next few days doesn’t look good, and we needed to ride while we had the chance.

The ride was nothing special, but it was very special at the same time. That’s because it was a ride. It doesn’t matter whether the ride is short or long, covers new ground or cruises familiar streets. Just being out on the bike is what matters.

And that’s where I find myself regarding cycling as 2014 ends. I’m not going to set any speed records, or even distance records anymore. I just want to get out there on a regular basis.

The possibility of biking boredom was thwarted this year, when I took up mountain biking. I did it just for a change of pace. And it worked out better than I could have imagined.

One thing mountain biking led to, that I’ve referred to in the past, is that my mileage is down quite a bit. It was only by cramming in a few extra road rides toward the end of the year that I passed the 3,000 mile mark for the year. I wrapped up with 3,023.3 miles, down about 300 miles from last year. But my exertion level was as high, or higher, than in previous years. I spent 240 hours in the saddle, both road and mountain, compared to 217 hours last year.

Mountain biking has revitalized my riding, because it takes more effort. Getting up hills is a whole different ballgame from hill climbing on a road bike. Bouncing over rocks and tree roots, powering through gravel and sand, works different muscles. I feel exhilarated after a tough ride on the mountain bike.

I think I’ll get some clipless pedals for it in the new year. Again, I’ll try to get out to new areas. I did some of that on the road bike, and several times on the mountain bike. Maybe I’ll renew my recurring effort to shed a few pounds, too.

Regardless, I’ll keep pedaling. I’m having too much fun at it to do anything else.

Happy New Year!

I had to get one last ride in during 2013, and finally got some free time today to go. I was out for a little over an hour, just 16 miles in the neighborhood. The temperature started falling, and I wasn’t as comfortable as I was when I started out.

When I got home, I added the day’s mileage to my spreadsheet, and discovered that I ended the year with 3,391 miles. That’s the lowest annual total since 2009.

So it’s time to do some reflecting on the past year, and where my biking has come. Perhaps, where it’s going.

One reason for the low mileage is that I haven’t been riding very far this year. As I look back over my stats, I see that my longest ride was a whopping 48 miles. When you ride only three days a week, as I generally do, the miles don’t mount up. I have always relied on longer weekend rides to keep my totals higher. For some reason, I’ve found it easy this year to ride 20 miles instead of 25, 15 instead of 20, and 25 instead of 30. Heck, in 2011, I was contemplating riding a metric a month. It worked for about three months, then stopped.

I know I’m something of a weather wimp. I don’t ride when it’s below 40 degrees (4C), but over the summer when I got home in the afternoon, I found it easy to skip rides when the temperature was past 100 (38C). I don’t ride in the rain, if I can at all help it. So, all that cuts into ride possibilities.

Then there are some health-related things. I wrote about my gout in September. Thought it had been handled, and I’m now on medicine to lower the uric acid levels in my blood. But I got another gout attack over the weekend. I rode, except for Monday. The attack has subsided, and I feel fine now. But I’m going to have to be more aggressive at combating this, because gout attacks are no fun.

One way to combat it is to lose weight. I was a bad boy during both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Lived high. Gained weight. Not good.

So, looking ahead to the coming year, what are my resolutions? I don’t make resolutions. But I am going to set some goals. One is to peel off the pounds (I won’t say how much, but I have a specific course of action I’ll be taking). One is to ride more, and farther, than I have this year. I’ll target some specific rides, which I haven’t done this year, in the hopes that preparing for them will help me reach those two other goals.

I’m looking at 2013 as something of a setback. I won’t lose my drive, however. Like a football team that has a bad year, I’ll just rebuild in the coming one. I hope the new year sees you reach your goals, too.

October Washout

Well, here we are at the end of October, and I have this feeling that my biking efforts are falling short.

October ends in just a few days. I probably won’t get in another ride before the end of the month, so I’ll wind up with a total of 184 miles for the month.

Pitiful.

To be fair, there are reasons for my woeful performance this month. First, we’ve had a lot of rain. In fact, we had quite a thunderstorm in the early morning hours today, and I wound up canceling my participation in our club ride. In fact, the whole club ride was canceled, with several people getting in rides as the day wore on and the roads dried out. I went out about 2:30 this afternoon and did a 17-mile ride just on area streets.

The rain has been welcome. It’s eased our drought somewhat, although a PR type for the local water authority reminded everyone this week that a green lawn does not equate to an end to the drought. I’ll take as much rain as we can get, even if it does interfere with my cycling.

Then, there’s a tendency to ride fewer miles than usual. Last week, I was on my own instead of riding with the club, so I cobbled together a nice ride, but it was only 24 miles — well short of the 30 miles plus I expect to do on Sundays.

I notice, looking back at my riding log, that I have ridden 30 miles or more just once this month — and that was the first ride of the month. And that was for exactly 30 miles.

I also find myself riding only on weekends. I got in a Tuesday ride just once. Otherwise, it’s Friday, Saturday, Sunday — and one week, I didn’t even get in a Friday ride. Mileage is generally down — not just on my Sunday rides. Instead of rides in the 20-plus range, I’ve contented myself on a couple of occasions with rides of only 12 or 13 miles.

It’s easy to blame the weather. As I mentioned in my last post, our remodeling project has cut into riding time, too. But I think the main reason I’m riding less is that my body is telling me it wants a rest.

I’m not the greatest a pacing my rides. I typically don’t follow a fast workout with an easy neighborhood ride, or a long ride with a short one. The pace on most of my rides is roughly the same. That can wear down a fella.

So, I guess I’ll chalk October up as a rest month. Next weekend, I’ll try to build in some more miles to my schedule, depending upon how crowded my schedule is. Then we’ll see if it’s been the weather to blame — or myself.

A Million Miles?

Over the last couple of days, messages have been flying back and forth on our bike club’s Yahoo group concerning miles ridden. One member posted an item that a 92-year-old from the Baltimore area has ridden his bike about 150,000 in his lifetime. He wondered if any of our members would ever even come close.

Immediately, he got his answer. Steve said he was near that mark, at 176,475 miles since 1994. And he has actually been riding since 1985, but didn’t want to dig out his spiral notebooks to look up his mileage totals from ’85-’94. Steve’s advantage is that he’s 28 years younger than the guy from Baltimore, so he figures he’s got plenty more miles to come under his pedals.

Mike B. said he averaged about 8,000 miles per year between 1983-2007. Since moving from California to Texas, his annual mileage is down to about 5,000 per year — but that still brings his to about 217,000.

David, our bike club mechanic, noted that he’s been riding since 1989, and over the last decade has averaged about 6,500 miles per year. He thinks his total to date is about 142,000 miles. But David is still in his ’30s. “I didn’t wait to get old before I began riding,” he said.

Let’s see…I started biking in mid-2007. My mileage to date is a whopping 20,105. Looks like it’s a long shot for me to even make 100,000 in my lifetime.

How about you and your riding friends? Anybody with ridiculous mileage totals?

Here’s the story about the guy from Baltimore. You’ll have to sit through a commercial before the video runs.

Oh, and it turns out 150,000 miles is not such a big deal anyway. It appears the guy with the most lifetime bike miles is a fellow named Freddie Hoffman. He’s had over a million miles under his belt — for years. Here’s his story.

By the way, riding long doesn’t necessarily mean riding better. Mike B. from my club observed, “I tell people that my bike riding is like my pool playing — for the amount of time I spend doing it, I should be a lot better than I am.”

Mileage

Our club president distributed a friendly email blast to club members the other day. He wanted to report how he’s doing, mileage-wise, for the first quarter of the year.

“March racked up 859.3 miles and 40,991′ of climbing,” he wrote. “2,381 miles ridden year to date: That is 57 road rides, 12 gym ‘rides’ and a few swims and some weight lifting. Some day soon the benefits of all that exercise should start to pay off!”

Yipes! I know I don’t have anywhere near that many miles. In fact, a quick check shows I’m right. I’ve done a whopping 847 miles in the first three months of 2013.

Well, Joe is a special case. He works from his house, so he gets in a lot of weekday rides. An easy ride for him is about 25 miles. His weekend rides usually go over 50 miles, on both Saturday and Sunday. Of course, he’s going to rack up lots of miles.

It’s fun to find out what kind of totals my friends are achieving, even if I know I have no chance to approaching them. I don’t consider my cycling a competitive event. In fact, I know Joe doesn’t, either. He puts a lot of miles on the board because he rides a lot, not because he’s trying to out-ride everyone else in the club. But still, I can’t help but feel that I have to try harder when I look at numbers like those.

Actually, I feel that my mileage is down, because it’s only well below last year’s mark at this time. And that was because we had a mild January in 2012 and I rode over 400 miles in a month where I’m usually lucky to do 200. When I look back to 2011, I see I had done only 704 miles in the first quarter. 2010 was even less, with 681, and in 2009, I hadn’t even reached the 600 mile mark by the end of March.

So, I guess I’m doing okay, even if it feels like I’m not up to snuff yet. I’ll keep turning the pedals, but I won’t make an extra effort to turn a 19-mile ride into 20 miles, and so forth. If anything, I’ll build on the mileage I’ve already put down and try to improve my hill work and overall speed. I’m pretty content with where my biking is right now, for a guy of 62.

Oh, there’s only one thing: Joe is 62 as well.

A Look Back at 2012

My wife and I decided a ride today was a must. She wanted the exercise, since she hadn’t been out for several days. I wanted to get in one last ride this year, since the forecast for the 31st calls for rain, and the combination of chilly and wet doesn’t appeal to me. So off we went.

It was only 40 degrees (4C) when we left home. That’s about the coldest temperature I care to ride in. What’s that old line — “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothes” — when it gets chilly around here, we don’t have much in the way of really warm cycling gear.

So we bundled up as best we could, and did some laps at the Veloway. It was nice to run into our friends, Rick and Penny, who were also cramming in one last ride. Rick figured 30 miles would bring him up to the same mileage he rode last year. After 15 miles today, I just wanted to go home and sit in front of the fire, but decided to do one more lap with the two of them, while Pat said she’d had enough, and headed for home alone.

I’m glad I got out today, even though I’m still cold as I write this. The ride gave me a chance to mull over the past year — what I accomplished, and where I came up short. On last year’s last post, I indicated some things I’d try to do this year, although I was careful not to consider them full-blown goals.

First, riding longer. I had mostly short rides in 2011, with just a few over 40 miles. I decided to correct that this year, and go for more long rides. One way to do that: train for centuries. I wanted to do at least two centuries this year. I did one, and concluded that rides of that length are no longer appealing to me.

Likewise, randonneuring. I thought about trying a brevet this year, but since I won’t be doing centuries, I certainly won’t be doing rides even longer than that.

I wanted to try out some new routes, since my riding had gotten predictable. I’m afraid it’s still predictable.

I also wanted to do more organized rides, simply because I like the atmosphere, and it’s one way to treat oneself to new routes. Didn’t happen. I did three organized rides this year.

Then there’s the weight thing. Luckily, I didn’t pledge to lose more weight this year, although I intended to see if I could maybe get it down a little (waffling enough?). I did finish this year at my lowest weight since I started riding. However, since I’m on of those guys who gains weight during winter, I’m still heavier than I am in mid-summer. Lots of room for improvement there.

One area where I did show marked improvement over previous years — total miles ridden. I finished the year with 4,519 miles — almost 500 more than my previous best. I probably won’t ride on the 31st, because of the afore-mentioned rain, so that’s my final total for the year. It’s also 2,000 miles more than my first full year of “serious” riding, back in 2008.

What does the coming year hold? I have no idea. If more miles come, they come — I won’t try to improve on this year. I’m going to try once again to ride more and different routes, just to add some spice to cycling. I’ll have to give some thought to organized rides — which ones to shoot for, what distances to ride. But I’m going to keep riding for the sheer enjoyment of it. See you on the road.

Looking Forward to Riding More

I got an email this week from some PR lady up north suggesting I do a post on how to keep riding my bike through the winter. She had some groundbreaking ideas, such as: layer your clothes, keep your fingers and toes warm, and if there’s snow on the ground, skip the ride.

I was sorely tempted. But then I remembered — I live in Central Texas, where we get measurable snow maybe once every five years. So I really can’t relate to winter bike riding.

What I can relate to is putting on the miles during mild weather months — like December. Today, for instance, the temp when I drove in to work was about 54 degrees (12C), and it got up to 72 (22C) on my way home. Tomorrow being Friday, I’ll be getting home early, and I intend to hop on the bike and ride!

In fact, today was a big day on my personal calendar. It was the last day of classes for fall semester at the university. I’m still waiting for final projects to roll in, and I’ve given my class most of next week to do that. But my hours can be as flexible as I want them to be from here on out, and that means I’ll be able to fit in rides during the week — rides that I haven’t been able to do because of my work schedule.

I’m looking forward to it. After my October blahs, I rebounded a bit in November and put on more miles, but I’m still not where I think I should be. The next two weeks should take care of that. And then in January, I’ll have another two weeks off (I’ll be preparing classes for spring semester during that time, but once again, my time is flexible), so I can rack up some more time in the saddle. In fact, in January of this year, I had my fourth-highest mileage month of the year. If the weather holds, I can do that again.

I’m not going to ride for the sake of piling on the miles — I’ve already ridden farther this year than ever before — but I do want to work on endurance, which has suffered this year. I’m going to be riding long, I hope, but easy. I’ll wait until late February before I start thinking about whatever riding goals I might have in mind for 2013.

I lived my first 50 years in the north, and I can honestly say, I enjoyed those winters. But I’ve lived here for 12 years now, and I must also say, I don’t miss them. December — in my book, that’s bike riding time!