I was reading Jan Heine’s excellent blog, Off the Beaten Path, and a comment from Jan struck me:“We really are just a bunch of middle-aged guys enjoying ourselves. We do have excellent bikes, and we do some focused (and fun) training. Optimizing these factors, plus years of experience, allow us to do things that may seem exceptional. Vélocio said that rides like these are within reach for ordinary people, and I hope we are proving him right.”
I’m not in Jan’s league, but I’m closing in on middle age and I pull off “feats” of endurance every weekend—and sometimes twice weekly—that astonish my friends and my colleagues (my girlfriend is decidedly less impressed, I think she’s sick of hearing me talk about the XXX miles I ride each weekend). And let me tell you, my athletic ability is nothing special, or at least it started out as nothing special.
I get a lot of comments both here and via e-mail, about how “hard core” I am, riding reasonably long distances in all weather. Well, I don’t enjoy suffering the way some people do, and I have no goals on my bike except getting out of the house, into nature, exploring, and enjoying myself. I don’t do any special training. Although I ride three or four 20- to 40-mile rides during the week, all of my rides are for fun. They don’t include intervals, hill repeats, or power measurements. They are more than adequate as preparation for the 80- to 200-mile rides I prefer. Anyone who rides a lot will tell you that 100 miles isn’t a big deal…at all.
If I can do it, anyone can. The first step is to get a decent bike. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but don’t buy it on E-Bay or by mail order. Go to a good shop, explain your intended use, and get them to help you find the right bike. You’d be astonished by the difference it makes. You can also find great bikes on Craigslist; in fact, I found an awesome vintage Trek with high-end Suntour components for one of my assistants for only $300 (with a TA Pro Vis 5 crank and rings, no less, and you know how much those cost). Try a number of saddles and find one that works for you. Everyone is different. Get some appropriate riding clothes too, it makes a huge difference and enables you to ride in all weather. Everyone resists the jersey and padded shorts when they first start riding, and almost all of them eventually give in.
And that’s about all the advice I have!