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  1. #1
    Senior Member Virus610's Avatar
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    Tired of marginal increases to my challenges, I decided to push myself to my limit!

    Being fairly new to biking any significant distance (Usually going no more than 5km in one sitting), I decided to start testing my limits.

    One day I rode out to a park and back home, went 6.7km.

    I figured I could do 10, so I mapped out a route and tried to bike it. I ended up having to take a detour and the whole trip was done at 11.3km. My butt was really sore by the end of it, but my legs were fine.

    Then I decided to bike several cities over to a friend's house. I had no intention of riding back, since the trip there alone is 53.1km. I was almost certain that I wouldn't be able to make it the whole way, but I wanted to see how far I could go before giving up.

    Now, I'm a pretty stubborn guy, but what trumps my stubbornness is my appreciation of being alive. I wasn't going to ride until I collapsed, because on a busy road, that's pretty much suicide.

    Admittedly, I made a number of bad decisions:
    • I was wearing my halloween costume, which includes a longcoat that quite liked to catch every little bit of wind.
    • Riding a mountain bike.
    • Wearing a backpack.


    Nevertheless, I set out on my quest to ride there or reach an unbearable amount of pain trying. My route was fortunately worst at the start:


    But that downhill looking part is very deceptive looking. Such is the result of cramming 50+km into a few hundred pixels. Despite having to shift into granny gear for a few hills, apparently not one of them was even a category 5.

    As for the result of the trip, my butt was incredibly sore after like 30 or 40 minutes of riding. My wrists and neck started to hurt about an hour in, and then my shoulders really started feeling the backpack after about 1:20.

    Oddly enough, even though my shoulders were the last thing to start being uncomfortable, they were the ultimate cause of giving up. I was able to stand on my pedals (And blessed by the occasional red light) to take my butt off the saddle for a few seconds and give it a bit of relief. My neck was more of a strain from being a little hunched forward and tilting my head back just to see forward. Wrists, probably just bad form or something. Shoulders though... That was constant pain once it started. When I called it quits, I quite literally couldn't hold onto my handlebars for more than a moment without the pain coming back.

    By the end of it, I'd made it 39.6km/53.1km. Just under 75%, and the ride went for 2:29:33. I slowed down considerably near the end due to pain from every angle.
    I'm pretty sad about not making it the whole way, but I still went about 3.5x further than my longest distance ride prior to that. That's definitely a nice accomplishment, so despite my failure I'm still proud of myself for trying.

    tl;dr - Tried to bike 53.1km, only made it 39.6. Hurt a lot.
    Last edited by Virus610; 10-31-11 at 12:41 PM.

  2. #2
    Goodbye Leeroy Jenkins tagaproject6's Avatar
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    Keep riding, you'll get there
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    Cool! I still remember my first 25 miler!

    Now here's some suggestions that I learned the hard way this year:

    * Don't try jumping such a large amount like that. Generally people recommend only jumping about 10% in distance until you hit a metric century (100km). Once you hit that the sky is the limit.
    * Get a bike fit done at your local bike shop. You wouldn't imagine how much pain a properly fitted bike can eliminate. My first 100km ride was incredibly painful and I almost didn't make it home. After I got fitted I was able to go 160 kilometers (100 miles) with no pain whatsoever. Twice!
    * Look into bike shorts and gloves. These make a lot of difference for long rides.
    * Look into getting a rack and a trunk bag, instead of carrying a backpack. Much easier on your back.


    Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do long distance on a mountain bike though. I have a MTB with no suspension and slick tires, and I've gone on 2 imperial centuries (160km), 4 metric centuries (100km), and 6 half-centuries (80km) this year. It may be easier on a road bike (I'm getting one next month, so we'll see how true that is), but it's perfectly doable on a mountain bike or hybrid.

  4. #4
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    Not bad! Try doing a few 10-15k days before pushing it again, and consider paniers instead of a backpack. I hate backpacks for more than a 15-20 minute ride.
    "There are many causes worth dying for. There are none worth killing for." Albert Camus

  5. #5
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    You know, there's no shame in stopping along to way to rest whenever you need to. You don't have to rely on the traffic lights for respite.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Virus610's Avatar
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    I felt like taking a break longer than a few seconds would be cheating. My goal, after all, was to see how far I could go in one sitting. I wasn't really sure where to draw the line. Biking to go to dinner with friends and sitting around for 1-2 hours before biking back home definitely seems like it'd be 2 bike rides, but then biking to the store to pick something up, walking around for 5-10 minutes finding the things that I need and then biking back also seems like it's 2 separate rides.

    I don't really feel that I've biked 10k if I spend 10 minutes meandering around a store before getting back on my bike. Do people who ride centuries and stuff take breaks? Or should I just be going way easier on myself?

    As for the 15k suggestion, I actually was meaning to ride to a friend's place who is out of town, just about 15km away. I'll do that a few times, heh.

  7. #7
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    I do longer rides quite a bit. Usually, we'll stop every 20-30 miles for food, drink, restroom, whatever. It's just like driving in your car. You can drive 500 miles in a day, but nobody tries to do that without getting out of the car, either. You should stop whenever you feel like it.

    If the bike hurts on short trips, you need to solve that before you do longer trips. Normally, people anticipate doing rougher riding on a mountain bike, and for that, you need the seat lower. For efficient riding, though, you need it higher. Some seats are more comfortable than others; if yours is uncomfortable, try to round up one that is better. (Note: Cushier and wider are not always better, as you might expect, and many long-distance cyclists use fairly narrow & hard saddles to do it.) The first bike I bought was a cheap mountain bike, and the seat on it was about like sitting on a 2x4. I put a wider cruiser saddle on it, and that problem was solved. Later, i learned the saddle didn't need to be wide, just needed to shaped better.

    With the backpack, figure "lesson learned". I have found with a Camelbak, I get a little discomfort if I haven't worn it in a while, but it quickly goes away. But if you need to carry a bunch of junk, find some way to put it on the bike, not on you.

    Lots of us ride longer distances, but we're not out there enduring grief and pain to do it, we're out having fun, and you need the bike to be working with you for that to happen.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  8. #8
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virus610 View Post
    Do people who ride centuries and stuff take breaks?
    Absolutely. Otherwise the people who make the cookies and hand them out at the rest stops would be pissed off.
    Craig in Indy

  9. #9
    Senior Member Virus610's Avatar
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    Hahaha, I see. I actually intend to keep on biking through the winter (Weather permitting. Not sure how effective my brakes will be on a plane of ice.) in hopes of seeing some really solid improvement for next spring/summer. I have an issue with motivation, however. Only a couple of my friends even own a bike, let alone ride it anywhere (Due to owning a car), and the only thing that really drives me to get better at something is competition.

    I can continue to compete with myself while I remain a newbie, but eventually I'll get jaded and need to find competition elsewhere. Naturally, the logical solution would be to sign up for local races and such. Would I have absolutely no place in a race, being on a mountain bike? I mean sure I'd mostly be doing it just to have fun and see how I measure up, but I'd not have a chance at winning.

    Ideally, I'll have a little more money by the time racing becomes a thing again. Maybe I'd be able to get my hands on a road bike by then.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    It's wearing the Halloween costume that caught my attention! You'd be surprised how much a difference aerodynamics can make.

    I've always been able to ride longer when I have a specific destination. Looks like a respectable ride all factors considered. I agree, backpacks sucketh. Got me luggage racks on my touring and bar-hopping bike.

    Don't worry, your brakes will work fine on the ice. However, your tires will slip and throw you down.

  11. #11
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mithrandir View Post
    * Don't try jumping such a large amount like that. Generally people recommend only jumping about 10% in distance until you hit a metric century (100km). Once you hit that the sky is the limit.
    * Get a bike fit done at your local bike shop. You wouldn't imagine how much pain a properly fitted bike can eliminate. My first 100km ride was incredibly painful and I almost didn't make it home. After I got fitted I was able to go 160 kilometers (100 miles) with no pain whatsoever. Twice!
    * Look into bike shorts and gloves. These make a lot of difference for long rides.
    * Look into getting a rack and a trunk bag, instead of carrying a backpack. Much easier on your back.
    +1

    Quote Originally Posted by Virus610 View Post
    I felt like taking a break longer than a few seconds would be cheating. My goal, after all, was to see how far I could go in one sitting.
    Do people who ride centuries and stuff take breaks? Or should I just be going way easier on myself?
    Yes, most of us take breaks. A few really fast century riders will ride 100 miles non-stop, and it is a goal for some to attempt to do at least one century that way, but the vast majority of century and longer rides cyclists will take breaks.

    A nice comfortable way to ride a century is to ride about 25 miles (40 km) and then stop for a short toilet, snack, and bottle refill break. Then ride another 25 miles (40 km) and stop for a nice sit-down lunch. Then ride another 25 miles (40 km) for another short toilet, snack, and bottle refill break. And then the final 25 miles (40 km) to the finish.

  12. #12
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CraigB View Post
    Absolutely. Otherwise the people who make the cookies and hand them out at the rest stops would be pissed off.




  13. #13
    Senior Member Virus610's Avatar
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    Oh wow, so I made it as far as century riders make it before taking a break. Except instead of taking a break and doing it again 3 times, I stopped for the day and had sore knees/shoulders for a couple days to follow.

    I guess I can't expect to ride 160km after biking 5 months. 40 is a nice milestone. Maybe after the long, Canadian winter I'm about to endure, I can pull off 80!

    I'd like to say that I really appreciate all the supportive responses. This certainly is a really helpful community.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virus610 View Post
    Oh wow, so I made it as far as century riders make it before taking a break. Except instead of taking a break and doing it again 3 times, I stopped for the day and had sore knees/shoulders for a couple days to follow.

    I guess I can't expect to ride 160km after biking 5 months. 40 is a nice milestone. Maybe after the long, Canadian winter I'm about to endure, I can pull off 80!

    I'd like to say that I really appreciate all the supportive responses. This certainly is a really helpful community.
    In my first season of cycling I was living in northern Alberta. I started cycling at the end of April (April 29, 1990), and by mid-August I had done my first 50 mile (80 km) ride reasonably comfortably.

    I continued doing about that distance as my long distance until 1994 when I rode my first imperial century.

    If you've been cycling for 5 months, you really could be pushing yourself a lot more than you are ... especially if, after 5 months, 11.3 km was your long ride before this past weekend's 39.6 km ride.

    Get out there and start riding ... 15 km this coming weekend, 20 km the next, 25 km the next, 30 km the next, etc. etc.

  15. #15
    Mixte Power! Arrowana's Avatar
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    How the backpack is designed also can factor in if it will be uncomfortable. I've been sort of dating someone, and the only way we can really see each other is if I bike to him. That's 12 Miles (19.3km) each way, always with a backpack, and today was the only time it's been a bit uncomfortable, as I brought my laptop along. I have a backpack that I think was designed for hiking, that has ventilation, and is somewhat rigid. When I was using a messenger bag though, I found it to be uncomfortable on most longer rides, and added a milk crate to the bike that I could just throw the bag in.

    I agree that making the bike comfortable for you should be your first priority. First, play around with saddle height and position and see if you can get something you can be happy with. If that doesn't work, then I'd start looking at a new saddle. I've only bought used ones, so I don't really have much advice to give, but many people (Myself included) love Brooks saddles for long distances. I've also been very happy with Velo Webspring saddles, if you don't want to spend as much and think a big cushy saddle will work.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Virus610's Avatar
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    Yeah, for the first 4 months I didn't push myself at all. I simply went to where I needed to go, which was never very far. Then again, I was also using my gears very wrongly, which was resulting in being totally exhausted after 2.5km on light hills. I thought I was just really that weak until I learned about how gears really should be used, and that was the day I started to push myself.

    As for saddles, is it really possible to get one that doesn't hurt? I've got a pretty boney butt, and sitting on anything for over 30 minutes tends to result in quite a bit of soreness.

  17. #17
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virus610 View Post
    As for saddles, is it really possible to get one that doesn't hurt? I've got a pretty boney butt, and sitting on anything for over 30 minutes tends to result in quite a bit of soreness.
    Well ... I have ridden four 1200K randonnees (plus a whole heap of other riding) and my butt was the least of my worries. So yes, I'd have to say it is possible to get a saddle that doesn't hurt.

    Step 1 ... make sure your bicycle fits you properly and is set up properly. Yes, that is the first step to saddle comfort.

    Step 2 ... make sure you've got a saddle that is wide enough for you, but not too wide. And you'll also have to determine if you need a saddle that curves up in the back or is flat. You may have to experiment with the shape of your saddle a bit. Fortunately, really good bicycle shops will let you try saddles for 6 months before you have to commit. Good bicycle shops will give you at least a month. Decent shops will give you a week or two. Don't settle for less time than that.

    Step 3 ... work on your core. The stronger your core is, the better you will sit on the saddle, and the more comfortable you'll be for longer distances.

  18. #18
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    +10 for getting your position on the bike checked over.

    If there isn't a bike shop that will do this, give your location on the forum and see if there is a long-distance rider near you.

    My daughter (15) suffered greatly with her neck and upper back on her first long ride (about 66miles). The next time we went on a long ride, I insisted on adjusting her bar position (rotating it and dropping it slightly). Those of you with teenagers will know how hard the 'insisting' had to be.

    She did a 112mile ride, with two stops, without any neck or back pain. Just a small change made a huge difference.

    Well done for going for it.

  19. #19
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    I like to tell the story of my first DALMAC. It's a 4-day, 329-mile tour.

    That February, a friend convinced me to do it with him. The ride would be at the end of August, so plenty of time, right? Long about May, I went to Toys-R-Us and bought a Kia 12-speed road bike. At the end of July, my friend became concerned that I hadn't ridden at all yet, so he took me on a 35-mile ride. We got rained on and I took a 2-hour nap afterwards. That year, I coached girls' HS diving, and practice started the week before DALMAC; so I rode to the pool twice - 7 miles each way. That went OK. Then I went on the tour. I was a bit sore after the first, 81-mile/1200ft day. I was really sore by the 4th morning, the day we did 101 miles and 4800 feet of climbing, about half of which was in the rain. The worst of it was my butt and inner thighs. I didn't have any bike-specific clothes, so I wore gym shorts and tees. BUT ... I made it! I've done 22 more of them since. I've found that it's a lot easier if I have more than 49 base miles.

    I've done non-stop centuries in the past, but prefer taking a stop for lunch and another break or two somewhere along the way.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Virus610's Avatar
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    Bike fit is definitely looking like the #1 suggestion, I'll see about getting that done today.

    How long do these centuries take you guys? My quarter century took me 2.5 hours, I don't know if I could handle biking 10 hours in one day.

  21. #21
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    I simply can't understand why anyone would take an activity that is supposed to be fun and turn it into an exercise in masochism and pain!

    WTF????????
    My preferred bicycle brand is.......WORKSMAN CYCLES
    I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

    Originally Posted by krazygluon
    Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
    Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?

  22. #22
    Senior Member Virus610's Avatar
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    It was kind of like a battle against 20+ years of a sedentary lifestyle. It was painful, but it was also exciting seeing myself go as far as I did.

  23. #23
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virus610 View Post
    Bike fit is definitely looking like the #1 suggestion, I'll see about getting that done today.

    How long do these centuries take you guys? My quarter century took me 2.5 hours, I don't know if I could handle biking 10 hours in one day.
    Everybody is different. I've done flat solo centuries in 5:45 ride time 6:15 total. Century with 10,000 ft of climbing in 7:10 ride time and 7:40 total.

    Plus I've done 40 mile rides in 2:20 ride time with 1.5 hours sitting at the beach chatting with buddies. Depends on what your goals are.

    10 hours wouldn't be unheard of at our local organized centuries of 8,000 riders (Tour De Palmsprings) and not hard to do withthe right fit, saddle, and shorts.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightshade View Post
    I simply can't understand why anyone would take an activity that is supposed to be fun and turn it into an exercise in masochism and pain!

    WTF????????
    It is fun to challenge yourself.

  25. #25
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virus610 View Post
    Bike fit is definitely looking like the #1 suggestion, I'll see about getting that done today.

    How long do these centuries take you guys? My quarter century took me 2.5 hours, I don't know if I could handle biking 10 hours in one day.
    Lots of my centuries have taken 10 hours.

    My centuries have taken anywhere from about 6 hours (a couple times in ideal conditions) to 15 hours in close to the worst conditions in which someone would want to ride a century.

    And then, I've also done a whole heap of randonneuring events which are longer.

    Right now, 10 hours might seem like a lot, but if you keep building up your saddle time it becomes quite manageable.

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