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Gear Prudence: I signed up for a 100-mile charity ride, and it’ll be the longest I’ve ever biked. I ride my bike to work every day, and I ride a lot on weekends, but never this far and never all at once. I bristle at the idea of “training,” but is that something I absolutely need to do if I actually hope to finish? —Do I Seriously Try Attempting Normalizing Century Efforts?
Dear DISTANCE: Ugh. Training. Who has the time what with all the Netflix and the laundry and the literally anything else? You already ride your bicycle to work, and you ride on the weekends, so you’re more or less familiar with the general mechanics of cycling—sit on it and spin—how much harder could it possibly be? In addition, you’ll be inspired not only by the pulsing adrenaline of the long ride, but by the self-righteousness of converting an enjoyable leisure activity into an exercise of meaningful munificence. Surely that will up your gumption.
But all of that said, riding 100 miles isn’t like your regular bike commute, and if you’ve never done it before—and if you’ve never ever come close to doing it—there are a few precautions you might want to take. Mary Gersema, who writes the blog Chasing Mailboxes, is a randonneur, a kind of long-distance cyclist who regularly covers hundreds of kilometres on her bike at a time. She suggests that you gradually build up on your weekly miles to gain additional belief in your abilities to eventually cover the distance needed. Additionally, seek out some practice routes that mirror the terrain of your century course so you’re not caught unawares. Building a base will allow you an opportunity to dial in your bike fit and to get a sense of how your body might respond to longer distances.
That’s one approach: Train and then you’ll succeed. And GP supposes that there’s some logic to that. But there’s also some logic to just Rosie Ruiz-ing it. Unless the funds you’ve raised are contingent on your actually finishing the event, there’s really no reason (other than pride or self-esteem or whatever) for busting your hump to ride some ungodly distance. “Oh, I’m sorry, we can’t cure [insert disease here] now because that guy didn’t bicycle far enough” is unlikely to be uttered if you shave off a few miles or take a seat in the SAG wagon. Ride as far as you want. Quit when you run out of steam. It’s the worthiness of the cause that matters, not your bicycling some arbitrary distance. —GP