Greetings Fellow 50+ers,
I was riding last Sunday (05-03-2015)—solo as usual—and I had mentally plotted my intended course, a roughly 125 mile ride depending upon how I felt as I approached the 75-mile point. While I know I can easily ride 125 miles, I was riding my Trek 29er hardtail in my “light as possible” mode (no backpack hence no variety of tools, minimal lighting, no extra batteries, seatbag only—which had just one spare 700 x 28~32 inner tube, a patch kit, a universal tool with tire lever, and a single serving 28 gram box of raisins). Via my two bottle holders, I was carrying two 20 ounce bottles of water. My goal was to see how far I could ride on just the water and that single 28 gram box of raisins.
I started from Upper Darby, PA and by the time I made it to route 422 & route 662 (near Douglassville, PA) I was just 37.2 miles into the ride and I felt strong. It was at that point that I heard people passing over me as I exited one of two tunnels at that location. I previously thought both tunnels went under railroad tracks, but only the longer tunnel does so. I discovered that the shorter tunnel passes under the Thun bike trail! (Though I hadn’t yet discovered the name of the trail at that point.)
Well, being that I saw quite a few people pass by on bicycles, I had to give the trail a ride to see how far it traveled west as I was heading toward Birdsboro, PA to ride south on route 345 through French Creek (and a lot of climbing, but I knew that before hand).
I first pulled over and met David, who travels with his wife across the United States for business via an RV that they live out of. David indicated that he rarely rides the same trail twice while in a given area, as he tends to ride as many of the trails as he can before he moves on. That sounded kind of interesting and he was a friendly individual.
After we parted, I continued riding west (David was heading east toward Pottstown, PA). The trail was fine gravel and packed fairly well for riding on. I had just recently removed my large volume 29” x 2.1 street tires in favor of riding with considerably less rotating wheel mass via a set of Bontrager 700 x 32 H2 street tires, which really made it easy to cruise at faster speeds. Consequently, I was passing (cautiously and respectfully) all bicyclists that I encountered in the westward direction. David indicated that I’d eventually come to a steep descent which crosses route 724 and he was right, it was plenty steep (with barriers in the way, so fast descents to cross route 724 were virtually impossible without crashing into the barrier poles).
It was at that steep point in the trail that I met Tim who was taking a break. I had a 15.3 MPH average speed and was 40 miles into my ride at that point. On my long distance rides, I don’t fret average speeds as the point is to pace myself to be able to complete the distance while enjoying the ride and meeting people along the way is part of the fun for me. Tim was another friendly individual whom I spoke with for quite some time and I enjoyed the nature of our conversation. Not unlike David several miles earlier, Tim was also heading east on the trail and it was time for me to exit the trail to again ride route 724 west has I had done for many miles prior to discovering “Thun Trail.” I mentioned this forum to Tim just in case he wanted some place to visit, perhaps on a rainy day when he couldn’t ride, but could associate with other bicyclists. We bid each other farewell and a safe return home.
After several additional miles, I was making my turn onto route 345 south and my climbing began. As usual, I pedaled up all ascents though I took a mini water break at a couple places which gave my butt some relief from the saddle. When I reached a point that was 73 miles into the ride (and having already consumed the one serving 28 grams of raisins), I decided it would likely be best to take the 20 mile route back home rather than continue for the 125 miles as originally intended, as my conversations had delayed my progress (though no regrets, as I enjoyed speaking with David and Tim) and I prefer not to ride into darkness if I can help it especially since the route I was going to take was just freshly cindered and it had plenty of deep potholes (which aren’t easily seen at night). Being that I was now riding on little 700 x 32 tires (fast rolling comfortable rascals at that), deep potholes could be potential problems during fast descents. My highest descent speed that day was 44.4 MPH. And so, I opted to take the more direct 20-mile ride home.
By the time I reached a point that was 87 miles into the ride, the heat, lack of water (ran out of water 5 miles earlier), and a measly 28 grams of raisins to eat for that entire ride was all working against me. When I spotted a shaded sidewalk in front of a pizza place in Broomall, PA (still 6 miles from home), I pulled over and laid on their sidewalk as my back tried to suck up as much cool pavement as possible. I was feeling quite drained at that point (though I knew I’d be able to make it homeward) after I cooled down just a bit. I must have looked worse than I felt, as someone from the pizza shop came out and offered me a cool bottle of water and though I said I’d be grateful if they simply filled my empty water bottle with tap water, they insisted that I take the cooler bottled water (I suppose they feared I’d die on their pavement, perhaps slowing business until they scraped my carcass off their sidewalk - LOL). Well, my throat was so parched that as soon as I swallowed a big gulp of that satisfying cold water, my throat felt just as dry as a new sponge! Even so, that 16.9 ounces of cold water rejuvenated me and I was flying on the remaining 6-mile ride home.
And so, I managed to pedal 93.228 miles on just 28 grams of raisins, though I consumed 56.9 ounces of water. My overall average speed was 14.3 MPH, not bad for a 32 pound hardtail over that distance.
This “limited food & water” experiment was necessary while at distances that were closer to home, as my longest rides have extended into the 250 mile range in the mountains however, on those rides I was heavily loaded with provisions in my large backpack (initially weighing 25 to 30 pounds, which isn’t pleasant). I wanted to see how little I actually required food & water wise, so I could pack lighter for those longer rides and enjoy those longer rides even more while not so heavily loaded.
After the ride concluded, I didn’t experience any muscle cramping. I’d call my minimal food and water experiment a success though, via an actual long distance ride, I’d still pack slightly more than the minimal food and water requirement just to be on the safe side, but it would be much less than I’ve packed for previous long distance rides.