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DougG 03-28-05 05:36 PM

Can I do this ride?
Ever since they started the "Michigander" cross-state ride 14 years ago, I've thought I'd like to do it some day, but I had other priorities and never gave it much serious consideration. But now that I've got more time & interest I just might tackle it this year, but want some opinions from the more experienced as to how well I can expect to do at it at age 58.

The ride is 6 days and 250+ miles across lower Michigan from Lake Michigan to Lake St. Clair in mid-July. Mileage is in the 45-50 range most days, and of course they transport your camping gear for you. It is mostly on rail-trails, so no steep grades, and that part of the state is mostly flat anyway.

I rode more last year than any in the last 15 or so, but I still did not do any distance riding and probably have never ridden more than 25 miles in one outing. In my favor, I have run three marathons in the last 6 years, and did a 10-mile event and two half-marathons last year. So it's not like I'm out of shape; I just never had a reason to ride a bicycle more than 25 miles. And I keep reminding myself that I have all day to do each segment -- it's not like it's a race or anything.

So has anyone here done something like this -- maybe even this specific event? My two other concerns are that it has been many years since I slept several nights in a tent (although I still have my camping gear stashed around here somewhere), and I am wondering what I'll do with all the free time that I'll probably have in the late afternoons and evenings (hope I have room to pack a few books!).

-- Doug

Velo Dog 03-28-05 06:05 PM

Think less and ride more, that's my advice.
I don't know this particular ride, but I'm about your age (just turned 60), and a couple of years ago I realized that while I'd been pretty proud of gaining "only" two or three pounds a year, I'd been doing it since the Reagan administration. I'd been a casual rider since I had to quit running (knees) about 10 years before, but the farthest I'd gone was a couple of rides around 40 miles. My average was closer to 10 or 12.
I started riding more regularly, then extended my mileage, and within three months I was knocking off 40-milers after work, really with very little strain--and I live in northern Nevada, where there are 7000-foot mountain passes all over.
Forty to 50 miles on the flat really isn't very hard to do on a bike if you're in even fair riding shape, and you have plenty of time to get there. Look online for a training schedule (try Googling "century training"), and base your riding on that. Start slow, with some easy 10-milers or whatever you can manage now, and don't add more than about 10 percent per week to your distance. Most century training schedules recommend doing one long ride a week (often 75-85 miles, late in the cycle) with a very easy day afterward. Since you'll be doing repeated efforts rather than one blowout, you might want to modify that to do, say, 50 miles on consecutive days rather than 75 and 15 or whatever. The first day's easy, and they get harder, but 40-50 miles a day isn't enough to hammer you if you do the work beforehand.
Pay attention to fit, saddle choice and your contact points with the bike, your butt, feet and hands. Get that all worked out WELL before July, so you don't have to change anything the day you leave. I use a Brooks B-17 (all-leather) saddle, and I love it, but that's a very individual thing.
I camped a lot as a kid (into my 40s, really) but don't do it much anymore. The secret to comfort at our age, I've found, is a GOOD mattress, like a thick ThermaRest. I use the sissy one, about 1 1/2 inch thick, and I sleep as well as I do at home. They're going to schlep it for you anyway, so who cares if it's heavy?
As for free time, you might be surprised. I'm always glad to have a couple of hours to read, and I'd carry a book with me on the bike, not in my sag baggage. You'll also be surrounded by people who share at least one interest with you, and there's a certain distinction in being the old guy who can keep up. Normally rides like this arrange some kind of entertainment, too (it's your chance to become knowledgeable about rap and hip-hop, unless I'm five years out of date again and rap and hip-hop are dead).
I'm sort of out of shape right now after a hard and mostly idle winter, but it sounds great to me. I don't think you'll ever be sorry if you do it, and you probably will be sorry if you don't.

jppe 03-28-05 06:11 PM

I've done similar events and enjoyed them very much. It's a terrific way to meet people that have similar interests and simply enjoy time in the saddle. We had the option of camping indoors (gyms), outdoors or using motels. I chose to camp outdoors and absolutely loved it but I enjoy that anyway. We even had a little rain every night but fortunately I was able to get the tent set up and dried out after unpacking it each afternoon.

With the gentle grades of the a rails/trails route I would not think the 45-50 miles each day would be too bad. Even if you only average 12 mph you're still getting there in less than 5 hours. Take your time and enjoy the scenery enjoy the ride!!

It sounds like you'd really like to do the trip so the motivation is definitely there. With your marathon experience you certainly have the stamina and the mental toughness that you might need. What works for me is setting up some "training" rides or events to help make sure I'm very prepared and not what it feels like to go beyond what you might have done before. Maybe doing something like that would remove any doubt that you're having in being able to do the ride.

I'd say to go for it!

jabike 03-28-05 06:14 PM

I rode across Georgia a few years back. We rode almost 400 miles in 6 days, carrying all of our own gear. I was 54 at the time. 50 miles a days isn't much. If it scares you at all, break it down into two rides each day. Get out early and don't fret the hammerheads that pass you. If you get out early, you can finish in early afternoon even if you only average 10 mph.

Marge 03-28-05 06:43 PM

baring some unforseen accident you will do this. You seem to be in good shape, you just need more saddle time. Cascade Bike Club in Seattle has a pretty good training chart, mileage for the STP. (Seattle to Portland by bicycle)

The STP is like 2 centuries back to back. You won't even be riding that long. The reason I think you need more saddle time is to make sure everything works. (you, gloves, bike, seat, etc.) build up your time between now and July so that you're comfortable riding 50-60 miles a day. (no chafing, saddle sores, etc.) good luck!

BlazingPedals 03-28-05 06:50 PM

I've been on DALMAC 18 times, and this year will be one more. Last year I did the Quad Century route, which is 100 miles per day for 4 days. In addition, I've done Cycle North Carolina and Bike Ride Across Tennessee. Rides like this are definitely doable, although the rides with the longer miles per day might require a few more base miles. For Michigander, doing 25-30 mile training rides, 3 evenings per week would get you there in style. You've got all day to do the mileage, right? So all you do is take it easy and be sure to stop for ice cream whenever you get the chance. :)

DnvrFox 03-28-05 06:54 PM

I Bought my first "real" bike (a $300 mtn bike!) at age 58 in March. In June at age 58 I did the "Ride the Rockies" 350 miles over Colorado passes. Trained like crazy in April, May and early June. I was pretty out of shape at the time. My longest ride in the past 10 years had been 7 miles on an old garage sale bike ($25.00).

Sure you can do it.

But, I stayed in motels along the way, not tents and sleeping bags. I decided I didn't want to fight two battles - doing the ride and getting the sleep.

All the towns had afternoon and evening celebrations, and I was so tired I slept a lot in the afternoons.

I bought a road bike that year for the next RTR!

stapfam 03-29-05 12:43 AM


Originally Posted by Marge
baring some unforseen accident you will do this. You seem to be in good shape, you just need more saddle time.

I do a gruelling ride each year that is 100 miles offroad, a lot of short sharp hills,several long steep hills, and do it in around 12 hours saddle time. Main training for this is getting out on the bike for 4 hour rides, and a bit of extra Gym work.
I would hate to break this ride down into 2 days again,(I have done it in 2 many years ago) due to the pain of climbing back on the saddle on the 2nd. day. Make certain that the bike is set up for comfort. Raise the bars a bit or put on riser bars, shorten the stem if you are stretching at present, and look at a wider padded saddle. Other than that, 50 miles a day may be hard on the first day, harder on the 2nd. but by the 5th. -- no problems.

Cycler 03-29-05 10:21 PM

I am 59 years old, have an amputated left front of my foot, weigh far too much (95 kilo's odd)
and have just returned from riding 255 odd K's in three days on NOT flat roads here in New Zealand.
With one days rest our group then competed in our "Taranaki masters games" I also competed.
So if I can do 1st day 60 Ks, with one 800 metre grade one climb, 2nd day three climbs two
steep but shortish, one called Mt Messenger (that one was hard) 120 K's 3rd day 75 K's
flat and hard as (group going like demented fools) ave spd 36 KPH stupid I know BUT
if I can do it you can do it easy as. Enjoy the ride.


roscoe50 03-30-05 06:22 AM

45 miles in gentle riding is a piece of cake, if your running marathons you should handle that easy enough. Last year I rode 112 miles non-stop at elevations of 7000-11000 feet and it was a bear, the ride you describe sounds very user-friendly and besides there will be plenty of people to draft on.

PALux 04-06-05 01:45 PM

As Marge said "more saddle time". The muscles recover fast. The saddle is the worst culprit. Try several 30 to 40 mile back to back rides. It is hard to get on the bike that second day but saddle time will make it much better. Get good bicycle clothing. You may find Chamois butter or Bag Balm helps chafing.

If you have a local bicycle club you may be able to join them on weekend fun rides. Many will go 30 to 60 miles.

I gave myself the STP for my 60th birthday. 206 miles in 2 days the first year. This year will be my 4th STP ride. This year I intend to continue for another 400+ miles though I will be solo and credit card camping. I intend to take 14 days or less for the entire trip including a 3 day layover half way.

I train with a daily commute and weekend club rides. I have 12 scheduled club rides within 150 miles of me between now and the STP. Weekends without club rides I will ride a club fun ride or schedule my own ride of 60+ miles for the saddle time.

Just do it. You will enjoy and you may want to continue this as an annual event.


Mojo Slim 04-08-05 06:18 PM

I can't add much to what has been said. I'm 58 and getting ready for the 585 miles in 7 days AIDS/LifeCycle on June 5, San Francisco to Los Angeles. There will be hills. Camping. I've been riding seriously for a little less that three years. I've done some centuries and am doing 40 - 60 miles when it's not snowing (like today) here in Quincy CA. Go for it, you're ready.

Dchiefransom 04-08-05 09:31 PM

Since they are going to transport your camping gear for you, get an air mattress to sleep on that uses a rechargable pump. I have one that is six inches thick and twin size. If you adjust the amount of air, it's like sleeping on a feather bed. Let the others snicker, you'll sleep like a baby.

bikerbob1 04-09-05 09:30 AM

Go for it. You only come once. I dreamt of cycling across America for years and at age 63 I retired early to live my dream. I loved it and even two years later I still have great flashbacks of the trip and the people.
I agree with the writers who have talked about having a Thermarest or some other comfortable matress.
Since the grades will not be excessive your knees should not be bothered. I would recommend a trip to your LBS and have them check that bike is set to your body dimensions especially seat height. Tell them what you want to do. They may have suggestions for your gearing. I like a combination of 11-32 on the rear and granny gear of 24 but that is a personal preference. It just makes it easier on the knees, don't use big gears and remember to keep spinning.
If the the trail is gravel, I would suggest tire liners to prevent flats. Nothing takes the fun out of cycling more than repeated flat tires. I rode 44877 miles annd replaced the tires once but I never had a flat.
You sound like you are in great shape. Enjoy the scenery and especially the people

DnvrFox 04-09-05 10:02 AM


I rode 44877 miles
That is quite a ride, Bikerbob1.

bikerbob1 04-09-05 10:31 AM

Only in my dreams could I ever do that mileage, however after the 4877 miles I felt I could go forever.
New resolution: I must proof read better.

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