Inspiration, Lifestyle, MTB, Training

Cycle every day, for a month? How hard can it be?

On this day 5 years ago I was finishing the final ride of a month of cycling that was not at all straightforward…

Reviewing my Garmin Connect calendar on 6 January 13 I noticed that I had cycled every day of 2013 to that point.  Absent a training goal for the New Year (see more about setting goals here), this got me thinking how long could I keep that 100% record going?  The rest of the month seemed a reasonable target.  But what constituted a ride?  I figured at least 2 miles (largely because this was slightly less than my shortest ride at that point) but, to keep me honest, I decided I should aim for an average of over 20 miles per day.  And thus, in my mind the challenge was born, and I honestly didn’t think it would be all that difficult to complete…

Friday 11 Jan 13 – Well, this isn’t so bad.  Fairly mild weather and careful integration of a daily ride into my schedule and I am making great progress.  Well ahead of my mileage target and generally enjoying the riding.  Will it be this easy for the rest of the month?

Sun 13 Jan 13 – No, is the clear answer to my last question.  The requirement to ride meets other sporting commitments and I find myself sat on the turbo trainer after 11pm just trying to fit a ride in after a full day whitewater paddling trip.  Add to that a turn in the weather creating icy conditions and this challenge is looking less straightforward.

Thu 17 Jan 13 – Four rides this week in freezing conditions have taken their toll on my morale.  Investing in some winter gloves has made the last two rides more bearable but hitting the tarmac on icy back roads knocks your confidence and make you question what you are doing.  It is also becoming apparent that as much as I enjoy the MTB rides, it is the hardest way to try and accumulate the miles I need to meet my targets.  Hard going right now.

Fri 20 Jan 13 – A fun high to a disappointing low in just two days.  Big snowfall yesterday breathed life back into my challenge as I climbed back on the MTB and, ignoring the mileage accumulation issues, just had a really fun blast in the snow.  Yet then it all fell apart.  We visited the London Bike Show on Saturday where I had hoped to fit a ride into the day in the form of a demo but the opportunity just didn’t materialize.  Then we returned late and went out for dinner where a glass of wine with the meal turned into popping into a bar afterwards and then, before I realized what had happened, midnight.  I had missed a day.  What to do now?

Thu 24 Jan 13 – The show must go on!  Just because I had missed one day and conditions were awful I wasn’t giving up.  So the Turbo Trainer came to the rescue to keep the riding program going until the roads became less perilous and I could get back outdoors.  The following rides were bitterly cold but I pushed myself out the door and mounted up the miles, although I was slowly falling behind my mileage target.  I just kept going in the hope that the cold spell would end and the cycling become more enjoyable again…

Sat 26 Jan 13 – Finally the breakthrough I needed!  A softening of the winter conditions coinciding with a trip to the New Forest resulted in 93 miles over two days riding.  The first 25 mile ride was still against freezing winds through gritted teeth but the second ride, a glorious 68 miler, was the first time the sun had been out for days and the timing could not have been better.  Mileage target now back on track, I am now sure that I am going to finish this month of riding.

Thu 31 Jan 13 – The remaining five rides have been fairly uneventful, apart from being saved by another late night turbo session after another full day whitewater paddling trip the rides have been quite enjoyable again.  That said, there was a definite sense of relief when I passed through the 650mile mark earlier today and knew the challenge was over.

A ride (red block) in every day but 19 Jan…

So technically, I did not complete my challenge, as despite completing 32 rides over the 31 days, I didn’t ride on 19 Jan.  However, I am pleased with what I did achieve in January and feel I captured the spirit of the challenge; 32 rides covering 653 miles using 3 bikes across road and trails through ice, wind, rain and snow is not bad!

And what have I learnt over those rides?

  •  it is not physically impossible to ride every day but some days it can prove really difficult to find time if you have conflicting plans and priorities.
  • always dress for the conditions, bearing in mind that if you’re out solo, miles from home, it is better to be too warm than too cold.
  • cold hands sap morale faster than riding up a gradual incline towards a distant horizon into a strong headwind!
  • if mileage is your target then stick to the road as much as possible, but if you simply want training affect, the MTB makes every mile harder (this is a factor highlighted in my goal setting blog post).
  • a sturdy, flexible bike is your best friend at this time of year.  Most of my miles were accumulated on my Cotic X (this model now called the Cotic Escapade); a cross bike turned mudguard wearing do it all bike with tough tyres for multiple terrain and a real ‘can do’ attitude.
  • if you want to try a similar challenge I recommend that you do not pick the month of January!!!

So, what now?  Well tomorrow I WILL NOT RIDE A BICYCLE!!  But the weekend will probably involve a couple of rides…

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