Springwater Trail
Springwater Trail, Oregon

When I [re-]started bicycling in late April, 2020, the best I could do was a 12-mile there-and-back ride on the Springwater Trail from Boring to Gresham and back. I averaged maybe 12 mph and had to stop numerous times, especially on the way back to Boring (it’s uphill, about 300 feet of elevation gain).

Writing this, it sounds pathetic. 12 miles? 300 feet of elevation gain? Those stats barely comprise a simple warm-up for most cyclists. But for someone like me who hadn’t exercised in any formal capacity for years, and who’s occupation involves sitting on my ass 9+ hours a day, it took some getting used to.

As I write this, it’s the first week of October. I’ve ridden close to 400 miles since then (still, a paltry number) and have seen some encouraging gains. I can now ride that same route there and back without stopping and average 14 mph. It’s not much of an improvement, but to me, that little bit of gain is encouraging and empowering.

Recently, I attempted my first Quarter Century ride. This is 25 miles in a single outing. I accomplished this goal, which was significant for me as it’s the longest I’ve ever ridden in one shot, even compared to when I rode back in my mid-20s.

My route started at Gresham Main City Park. I rode the Springwater Trail east to Boring so that I got the uphill portion of the trip out of the way first. I paced myself so that I wasn’t pushing it, wearing myself out too early. I have a bad habit of riding too fast too soon and using up my energy too quickly, not having enough in the tank to finish the overall ride. This time I made sure I maintained a moderate pace with the longer distance in mind.

This ride was on a 2020 Giant Escape 3 Disc.

Giant Escape 3 Disc
Giant Escape 3 Disc

After a brief break in Boring, I headed back to Gresham. Once back at my starting point, I ate a 100 calorie granola bar and then headed west toward Portland. I mention the granola bar because I’ve been learning the value of fueling and hydration on rides longer than 30-60 minutes. The idea of eating during exercise is new to me, but I’m trusting the wisdom and knowledge of countless cyclists who came before me and have learned what works and what doesn’t.

The ride from Gresham west to 111th avenue (Beggars-Tick Wildlife Refuge) is almost completely flat with no elevation change at all. I sipped water frequently as I rode and by the time I got to 111th street, I was ready for my second granola bar.

At this point I was feeling confident I could complete the ride. My butt hurt (more on that in a minute) but my legs were doing fine. My average heart rate so far on the ride had been 155-160 bpm. Not bad for a guy in his early 50s. Another thing I’ve learned is not to stop too long, so after wolfing down my granola bar and drinking some more water, I backtracked east for the final leg of my ride.

By the time I got back to Gresham Main City Park, my trip computer said I had ridden 23.4 miles. I wanted to hit 25 miles officially, but I knew that my legs could have gone another 5 miles without too much complaint. I was out of water, though, having taken only one bottle (a lesson learned), and my butt was very sore.

The ride took 1 hour 47 minutes, I averaged 14.1 mph, over the 23.4 miles distance.

I had ridden my first unofficial (23.4 miles) Quarter Century ride and I felt very proud. I was also very happy at the relative ease for which I’d done it. Although it was difficult, it wasn’t as difficult as I’d anticipated. Having done it, I’m confident I can ride 30 miles, maybe slightly more, if I take enough water and snacks.

Now, I’d like to address the butt soreness I mentioned. I’ve been wearing cycling shorts that I bought back in the early 90s. They have a chamois and are still in good shape, but I realized that the chamois inside doesn’t actually have any padding.

Oops!

Reading reviews and watching educational videos on YouTube, I realized that today’s cycling shorts and bibs have some decent padding in the crotch, not just chafing resistance material.

I recently ordered two pairs of black cycling bibs from The Black Bibs ($40 a pair, awesome!) They didn’t arrive until two days after my long ride, and when I inspected the padding in the crotch, I realized I’ve basically been riding without any padding at all with my 25-year old shorts. Dumb!

Based on this, and considering that the dominant limiting factor of my quarter century ride was butt comfort, I feel like 30+ miles is very doable for me. That, and taking along enough water.

I will likely post a review of my black bibs after I’ve had a chance to ride with them a time or two. Stay tuned.