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Old 10-26-06, 08:23 AM   #1
Tom Bombadil
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Not all miles are equal

As I written before, I'm just getting back into biking in a more serious way for the first time in 30+ years. A story I've seen many times in this forum's archives.

10 years ago I did a few 2-4 mile rides, two years ago I did a few 1-2 "rides." In September I decided to try it out again and really enjoyed the exercise from a couple of 3 mile rides. So I've been working my way up to 5, then 6, and then 2 days ago to 8.

However all of these recent rides were on unfinished trail beds that were a little soft. So on Tuesday I went onto a real rail trail to see what that was like. Tried out the Sugar River Trail out of New Glarus, Wisconsin --- a wonderful little town with good food, a great bakery, and two ice cream shops. And they have a great old train depot that serves as the visitors center and trailhead.

There were no cars parked at the trailhead parking lot, not unexpected on a weekday morning in late October. And I think they knew something that I didn't. For it had showed two nights before and was just melting off. I thought that wouldn't make a lot of difference on a "limestoned" trail. I was very wrong.

I rode for 3 miles and was dying. The trail bed was soft, very soft. My tires were cutting a rut about 1/4" deep in the trail, at times a 1/2" deep. The tires became caked with sand to the point where they were now "smooth" with no visible tread. It was like pedaling uphill the whole way, with 20 pound tires.

I turned and came back, riding 6 miles in all and was completely exhausted. Had to stop twice. I was very disappointed in my conditioning as I thought I had progressed to the point of where a 6 mile ride on flat terrain should be much easier.

So as I got back to town, huffing and puffing, I got on the town's paved trail. I had to try it out to see how much of a difference the trail surface made. To my delight, riding on the pavement, even after the 6 tough miles, was a breeze. I put in a couple of miles at a relatlvely good pace and renewed some confidence that my conditioning was improving.

So I found out, what I knew but guess I needed to have re-inforced, that not all miles are equal. I think the 6 miles on the soft trail were probably equal to 15 to 20 (or more) on pavement.
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Old 10-26-06, 08:26 AM   #2
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I started by riding around a couple of blocks in the neighborhood. Then increased it to 4 miles, then ten. Today I'll be doing 50 and Saturday another 75 mile ride.

It took ten years and for the first couple of years I didn't think that I would EVER be able to do what I do now.

Hang in there and you'll surprise yourself as well, I'm sure.
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Old 10-26-06, 08:31 AM   #3
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You are absolutely correct, the condition of the trail makes a huge difference. I ride on rock, mud and sand almost my entire trip of about 10 kilometers now (each way) to my office. If it is dry, it is a breeze, but during a rainstorm... it is like double.

One the way back, the best is when it rained earlier and has dried out some, but not completely, things are still backed, but not loose. The worse going up hill is very dry, gravel spraying everywhere.

After a mud ride - make sure to hose off the bike and check to make sure the tires still spend freely. If you think riding on soft is bad - having something rubbing is worse.
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Old 10-26-06, 08:32 AM   #4
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Yep. You got that right. Not all miles are the same. I ride several pretty fixed routes during the course of a typical week, and right now they're getting harder. With the wind picking up and the temps falling, the miles take more out of me than they did before. However, I learned a long time ago that fitness and enjoyment aren't always the same. Sometimes yes, but not always. When I was a lad of 22 I had a martial arts instructor who used to make us put a fellow student on our back and hop the length of a football field. That hundred yards seemed like 20 miles, and everyone was exhausted when we completed it. There was no fun in that distance at all. However, later we would do kicking and punching exercises across the same distance, and 100 yards was nothing. Maybe this experienced damaged me in some fundamental way, but I still like an occassional challenge that takes every last bit of what I have to be able to accomplish it. Please note the key word here is "occassional". I know that from here on my conditioning will continue to slip away from me regardless of how much I train. The harder I train, the slower it will slip away, but slip away it will. So, I've converted my thinking to how much effort did it take, and did I rise to the challenge? I'm happy when I can answer, "A great effort, and I did rise to the challenge."
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Old 10-26-06, 08:56 AM   #5
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One of my regular rides is the Westside Greenway in NYC. A paved mostly off street path that runs from Battery Park to Inwood, and runs right along the Hudson River for the most part. On this ride wind can really make a big difference. If the wind is primarly north or south than the ride in one direction can be a lot easier than the other, but a heavy crosswind can make it slow going both ways. It is rare when there is no breeze at all along the river.
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Old 10-26-06, 09:31 AM   #6
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Three years ago I was doing my annual ride of the North Central Trail from Baltimore, MD to York, PA and back.
The Maryland part was a good, solid, hardpack gravel. Fast and easy riding.
In Pennsylvania, the trail had been dressed with a fine crushed stone two days earlier. It was like riding on beach sand. Took me as long to go 5 miles as it had to go the first 20, with a lot more effort. Gave up, turned around early and was almost too worn out to make it back.
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Old 10-26-06, 10:02 AM   #7
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No, not all smiles are the same!

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Old 10-26-06, 11:21 AM   #8
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I mainly ride offroad and when I tell roadies that I only manage 30 miles or so on a Sunday- They look at me with pity. In Fact, now I have a road bike- milage means nothing to me. 50 miles on a road bike on tarmac gets very boring and normally has to have a couple of cafes in it to break the monotony.

Now the height of the summer offroad brings another peril to me and that is (over) confidence. All my major offs have been at high speed on a Rock Hard trail and I don't bounce as high as I used to. In the winter I still fall off but the biggest danger is 6" of mud down the neck.

There is a technique to offroading on Mud or loose soil and somehow I seem to have it. Just wish that the masochist in me didn't try to find the wettest puddles or the deepest mud about. Poor picture I am afraid but the rear wheel of the Tandem is in one of the ruts on our trail to the hills, wheras the front has just got out of it. Just shows what a little bit of rain will do on our local MUP's

As to miles being different- They are all the same- its just that some take longer to travel.

Link to my winter preparation to show you are not alone.

Winter Offroading-
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File Type: jpg mud.jpg (66.6 KB, 17 views)
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Old 10-26-06, 01:48 PM   #9
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I'm a roadie; I agree all miles are not equal. I live in the San Francisco bay Area (East Bay), there are unlimited hills to climb and lots of it in beautiful tree lined country roads most people that live around here don't even know exists. There's no excuse for a bordom riding around here. So a 30 - 40 mile ride is a good workout. I used to ride only flats and thought I was in shape, then I joined up with a local bike club. The first outing in the hills kicked my a$$. I was determined to if not master the hills at least improve my conditioning. Now I have dropped ~10 pounds, I'm no longer the last one up the hill and I haven't felt this good in years. Last Sunday was my 57th birthday and I rode over 50 miles on Saturday and 35 on Monday all in the hills, a lot up, and some pleasurable high speed (for me) down hill.

Riding is becoming almost a religious experience to me.

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Old 10-26-06, 02:11 PM   #10
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What is interesting to me is because our roads are pretty bad - LOTS of larger rock - speed is not an option unless you want to destroy yourself and the bike. I find 20 KPH is about all the abuse I want... So, the only option is to go hunting hills if I want to push it.

Thankfully, since Costa Rica is considered young land - boy do we have the hills!
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Old 10-26-06, 02:27 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwill911

Riding is becoming almost a religious experience to me.

jw

Almost!?!?
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Old 10-26-06, 03:40 PM   #12
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Hills are on the menu for sometime next year. Right now I'm working on conditioning ... for not only my legs but my hands and rear. Once I start knocking off 20 mile rides on flat trails, I'll think about hills. As I live in SW Wisconsin, almost on the edge of the glacial advance, I have my choice of either. Lots of rail trails and roads through corn fields around, and if I head west from my driveway, it is right up a glacial terminal morraine and then nothing but one hill after another for the next hundred miles.

There is a 300KM road race that is held a few miles to the west of me that has a total elevation climb of over 22,000', no single stretch over around 800', but dozens upon dozens of 300'-400' climbs. I'm not thinking of entering, but just passing this along as an illustration of what is available in the area.

So the opportunity will be there, if I get in shape to take it on.

For now, I guess I'll be sloughing through the soft, sandy rail trails and trying to think of them being training opportunities instead of cursing them.
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Old 10-26-06, 05:46 PM   #13
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That's the thing about screened limestone paved trails (I'm in La Crosse, and ride regularly on a few of them). Once it cools off and snows, things are pretty much over until Spring. For some reason summer rain is not normally much of a problem, but the cold/snow combination seems to loosen the limestone "paving" up until warm weather comes around again. I suppose a nice long Indian summer might revive them for a bit, but I wouldn't count on it.

We're still in pretty good shape on the western side of Wisconsin. I'm hoping to get at least a few more rails-to-trails rides in before winter.
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Old 10-26-06, 06:09 PM   #14
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Yah, I started last Feb. doing 5 milers aroung my neighborhood and am now up to 50 milers on the weekends some days.
I have serveral different routes I can take and each one has it's own challenges.
One is uphill for the first 8 miles or so, then goes back down, I don't need to tell you which one is the easier way on that.
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