Joys of Bicycling

In front of the "birth place" of my bicycle, Sioux River Cycles in Brookings.

In front of the “birth place” of my bicycle, Sioux River Cycles in Brookings.

It’s no secret that I enjoy bicycling.  After decades of doing little in the way of exercise, my weight skyrocketed and my health plummeted. For me, at age 50, bicycling was an ends to a means – either start moving or continue along this path to an early grave.  Now six years later, I’ve fallen in love with the sport.  It makes me feel great to bicycle.  In groups, I deepen friendships, and when riding alone I find quiet time and solitude to deepen my relationship with God.

Over the last few years I’ve developed a pattern of training on my bicycle inside during the winter months so I can better enjoy God’s glory riding outside during the summer months.

I’ve also begun participating in bicycle-vacations.  In a few weeks, I head for a bicycle tour to Yellowstone.  I’ve never been to the park, but like many people, I’ve seen the pictures.  To say the least, I’m excited!

Currently, I’m doing training rides to prepare.  Yesterday I did a long ride to Brookings and back.  After posting on Facebook, a few friends sent my private email with a few questions.  Since they asked, I though other friends might also be curious with similar questions.

Route Choice

One friend asked how I chose my route.  Choosing a route isn’t rocket science.  I like routes that are safe with low traffic, that are paved, and have periodic places to stop for a toilet break and to refill my water.  With this ride,  I wanted the distance to be somewhere around 116 miles because that’s the distance I’ll be riding on my longest day on my upcoming Yellowstone ride.  Until last weekend, I hadn’t put in many long, one-day trips, and one of my goals during the last few weeks before the trip is to prepare with longer training rides.

I thought I had discovered a new Spine Research Unit.

I thought I had discovered a new Spine Research Unit.

Looking at the route, leaving Watertown I initially followed Hwy 81 south.  Obviously, 81 isn’t a back-road, but given that the ride was Sunday, the traffic was pretty limited.  After some 40 miles on Hwy 81, the route swung east for 18 miles along Hwy 14 into Brookings.

Getting around Brookings was a bit of a challenge.  I didn’t know much of 6th Street was torn up, but the detour signs got me around.

In Brookings, I went north on Medary and cycled through the university.  Crossing campus, the chiropractor in me had a momentary thrill when from a distance I saw the university’s “Spine” Research Unit.”  (hmm, since when did SDSU start doing medical research???”).  I had a good laugh when I got closer.

route brookingsI took Medary north for 18 miles to Hwy 28.  I then hung a left at the intersection and went another 18 miles to hook up with Hwy 81 near Lake Ponsett.  From there is was pretty much smooth sailing straight north for 35 miles (but against the wind) to Watertown.

Rest Stops

Riding a long ride like this is as much of a mental game for me as it is a physical challenge.  I like to divide the route into smaller bite-size-pieces that mentally seem easier for me to manage. Usually my bite-size pieces go from rest stop to rest stop, so having the stops located at distances I know I can physically manage is important to me.

I often play little mental games during a long ride.  For example, I say to myself: There’s only X miles to the next rest stop.  I know I can do that — I’ve done that distance many times before.”

If you look at the map, you’ll see little numbers in boxes.  Those represent the miles for the route and should give you some idea for the locations of my rest stops:

#1 Lake Ponsett (mile 25)

#2 Arlington (mile 38)

#3 Brookings (mile 58)

#4 Estelline (mile 82)

#5 Lake Ponsett (mile 94)

Software Selection

One friend asked about the software I use to map my rides.  There are many options, but I like Ride with  As I mentioned in a prior post, I use a Garmin 800 to help me track my data and route.  Ride with GPS allows me to map my route online and then transfer the route to my Garmin.  Just like a car GPS, with the use of this software the device tells you in advance of a turn, give to distances to next turn, distance to destination, estimated time for both of the above, and many other tidbits that I find helpful when riding.  If you’re thinking about a mapping program for your rides, I give this one a thumbs-ups.

Training Goals

My main goals for the ride were to create a route with similar distance and effort to the longest ride I’ll experience during my upcoming Yellowstone ride.  Creating a ride with a similar distance — 116 miles — was the easy part.  The challenge was to create a ride that somewhat approached the riding intensity I would experience in Yellowstone.  Riding in the flat-lands of South Dakota isn’t the same as riding in the higher elevations of Yellowstone, with all its climbs and descents.  yellowstone day2

So here’s what I did to guess at an approximate riding intensity.  The elevation chart to the right shows the elevations from the 116 mile ride in Yellowstone. At the bottom of the chart you can see there’s 3360 feet of elevation gain during the ride.  Just eye-balling the chart, it looks like some one-third to one-half of the graph represent a climb, while the remainder is downhill.  So I reasoned if if could ride 1/3 to 1/2 of my training ride “with intensity,” I could somewhat (hopefully) come close to the intensity I would experience in Yellowstone.

How much intensity? Based on my experience with other mountain rides, I selected a low Tempo Zone intensity of around 80% of my threshold power.  I alternated between riding one hour with intensity and one hour without intensity.  For the hour block without intensity, I selected a relaxed level of 60% of threshold.  So that’s what I did during this training ride.  I road every other hour “on” at 80% and “off” at 60% for 116 miles.

Lord only knows if this ride will help me prepare, but I should be able to tell in a few weeks.

What’s next

I have about 10 more days of training scheduled — intervals of varying intensities and durations.  I then have a week of family time with no bicycling scheduled.  Then I head west!




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