As I prepared for this ride over the past couple of years, I had been slowly building up my stamina and endurance for the miles that I’d need to cover and for the numerous continuous hours for which I’d need to be in the saddle. Some of that is physical but more and more of it becomes psychological. Gifts from supportive family members slowly built up my gear and supplies. My sister and her family gave me a very nice pair of cycling gloves, my wife and kids provided me with bags, maps, and other pieces of cycling and camping gear. Most of this I have used and will use on hikes, my annual Aikido training camp, and/or on other bike rides. A few years ago a friend and I took my son on a several day long bike/hike of the C&O Canal. For that trip I used a different bike and pulled a BOB trailer behind it filled with our camping gear. Going cross country, I decided, I would carry all of the gear on my bicycle. This means that the bicycle is heavy, more difficult to move, and full bags makes it harder to control in cross-winds. The trade of is a forced limitation to what baggage you take along for the ride: physical and psychological. It also means an increased width of the bike with bags and the luggage is visible to motor vehicles behind my bike; hopefully this results in an increase in safety.
My training for this epic ride involved multiple parts and events.
I had already been doing several different charity rides over the years and so I increased the rides for which I would volunteer to be the “sweeper” The meant that I would agree to be the last rider in on long rides and that I would assist anyone struggling to finish a ride. So I tended to select the longest possible organized charity rides; so called centuries (100 miles in length). These included the state’s MS Ride (100 miles each day for a weekend); the state’s Tour de Cure ride, the Raven Rock Ramble, and a few others. These rides raise funds for research for cures for MS, diabetes, and Kidney transplants respectively. So as a sweeper, I would be out riding for the 100 miles sometimes alone or sometimes with a partner and I would be the last one to cross a finish line. Sometimes this meant 10 plus hours on the bike and sometimes cycling alone for long sections. Often the greatest pleasure and honor came from assisting other cyclists in achieving their first century and seeing their achievement on their face. Some days I might assist one in and then ride out to help others do the same by telling stories, jokes, or even badly singing songs (I do a horrible version of the Village People’s YMCA complete with arm movements while pedaling). So I was able to log thousands of miles, hundreds of hours in the saddle, train, provide help, raise funds, and meet other cyclists at the same time doing community service. So even if you do not cycle, these fund raising rides that take place all over the country are alway in need of volunteers to assist in set up, beak down, or manage rest stops. Consider helping out one of them as a volunteer, you’d be amazed at how fun it can be.
Another way in which I prepared for this massive ride this year was to revisit the bike/hike on the C & O Canal Towpath. While AgAu was being in Seattle and right after working at the Washington, DC Tour de Fat, I took my hybrid bike with camping gear out for a solo week on a round trip ride from DC to Cumberland, MD and back. This trip allow me to experiment with gear, packing, cycling, and traveling solo via bike for a week. A great training week in which I did meet fellow cyclists, work out issues with some of my new gear, and select some clothing that worked the best for what I wished to do. An unexpected bonus of this trip was that I ended it with a concert in Rockville, MD by Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. So I got to ride up to a town in which I used to live, watch a great band, see old friends in the band, learn some of their new songs and dance moves (which would pay off months later when I had to interpret for them again), and end an amazing week.
In between the Tour de Fat festivals in Fort Collins and Denver, CO. I did my last shake down ride. First I would remiss if I did not give a plug for the amazing couple John and Talisa Yeast and their B Sweet I was able to stay there as I prepared for the ride sweet the two cities and they were great hosts full of advice of touring and local rides/routes. So for a week, I cycled and camped in Colorado on my new bike. I experimented with packing configurations and practiced setting up camp as quickly and easily as possible. I also learned about the thinness of the air up that high and the impact it had on my cycling skills with a full weight on a heavy touring bike while climbing hills. Phew! It got tough quickly. It was, however, incredible to be able to ride between cities (ok sometimes it honestly was between breweries in different cities) via various trails and greenways. In addition to camping outside in beautiful Colorado, I was able to train at and stay at the Boulder Aikikai I had previously taken a seminar with their sensei and he invited me to attend class, sleep in the dojo, and even took me out to dinner whilst I was in town. Cycling between Boulder and Denver was easily accomplished via the network of greenways, bike paths, and other pathways. It is incredible how much usage this infrastructure gets and it makes me wonder why more cities, states, and other locations do not invest more in safer infrastructure that promotes healthier lifestyles and active transportation.