Mar 292013
Riding More, Riding More Often

Cyclometer close-up showing 22.02 milesCoincidentally I started making a point of riding every day as a lead-in to 30 Days of Biking at a time when I also started racking up significantly more miles than I had in previous weeks and months.

I’ve noted before that living amazingly close to work, while convenient, is bad for my daily bicycle mileage. Most days it’s simply awesome to be 5 minutes away from work. On a day when I need to ride farther, however, for a meeting or some other purpose, I can feel the lack of mileage in my legs.

Biking is a remarkably easy exercise habit. My friend Betsy uses the term “organic exercise” to describe this effect: exercise that comes about naturally as a part of your day without planning or payment. You don’t even have to sweat if much of your running around consists of a trip of 10-15 minutes to go 1-2 miles, yet if you do that 3-4 times a day you’re racking up the American Heart Association’s recommended 50-60 minutes of daily activity.

It doesn’t take that much of this type of riding to build up a basic level of conditioning that will sustain you through longer distances. When I lived in Spokane my base mileage if I did nothing but ride to work and back was 25 miles/week, with a trip home that consisted of almost 100% climbing.

This made me feel strong–a feeling I’ve noticeably been lacking the past few months if I tried to go for a much longer ride with my sweetheart. Sure, back then I could feel the difference in effort if I set off for a longer, sustained ride, but it felt good anyway and my ability to deal with a longer ride pretty easily made me much more apt to do another one. This kind of reinforcement with a positive feedback loop is awesome for maintaining basic strength.

And now that basic strength is building back up. I have no scientific measures, no functional threshold power test like what a racer uses to measure capacity over time, no VO2 max or fast-twitch/slow-twitch muscle fiber comparisons. I measure it just as I measured my returning strength after a bout of flu last year: by the way it feels to ride my bike.

March 17-28 I’ve ridden 12 days in a row and a total of 73.53 miles (using Google Maps for now to plot mileage, as I don’t yet have a cyclometer on my Mary Poppins bike).

Yesterday’s ride to Bellevue and back for a total of over 21 miles was the longest day and I was tired at the end of it. Heck, I was tired in the middle!

But just the same, maybe 4 miles out as I climbed toward the bike tunnel under I-90 on the Mountains to Sound Greenway, and again on the way home at about the 17-mile mark as I climbed toward it from the other direction, I experienced that joyous sensation of knowing that the climbs are getting easier. I used to run and it’s similar to that feeling a few miles into the run when you’re flying along and feel as if you could simply run forever. The hill looks steep but I’m warmed up, I’m already climbing, and it’s okay.

In fact, it’s better than okay. It’s awesome.

Related Reading

Daily Ride Report–Holding Myself Accountable in Public

March 17: 12.5 miles–grocery store run

March 18: 1 mile–typical ride to work and back

March 19: 5.3 miles

March 20: 15 miles–evening event on bike travel at Swift Industries with Adventure Cycling Association and Bicycle Alliance of Washington

March 12: 4.8 miles

March 22: 1 mile

March 23: 2.5 miles

March 24: 4.2 miles

March 25: 1 mile

March 26: 1 mile

March 27: 21.43 miles–from Seattle to Bellevue and back

March 28: 3.8 miles

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