I love riding long distances; I always have. As a teen I would ride up to 50 miles in an evening after school; and on the weekends up to 100 miles.
I often did these rides on my own as friends my age were not keen to cover these distances. Later at age sixteen after I joined a club, I started riding with adults aged twenty years and older.
We would often go on weekend rides in excess of 100 miles. At age 17 I rode in the National Championship 12 Hour Time Trial, and covered 220 miles in the 12 hours.
In order to enjoy riding these distances it is necessary to be at a certain level of fitness, otherwise the rides become a great deal of suffering and less pleasure. I am just starting to reach that level once again; in the last six weeks I have been riding 200 miles per week.
I have been riding with a local club group on Saturdays; there are three groups at different levels. The elite group is a little too fast for me riding at 20 to 25 mph; but the intermediate group mostly made up of guys around fifty years of age, ride about 65 miles averaging around 17 or 18 mph.
During the week I mostly ride on a local bike path; I am glad that it is available to me, but at barely 7miles long, 14 miles out and back, by the time I have done this three times, (About 42 miles.) I am bored out of my skull, and that is about as far as I can manage.
Plus there is the added hassle of dealing with runners and walkers wearing I-pods, and assorted other slow bike riders, dog walkers, etc.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, sunny, 70F (21C.) with a 10mph breeze; I decided to take to the open road and actually go somewhere. I rode from Summerville to John’s Island, a round trip of 75 miles.
The map above shows the route I took marked in red dots. I left Summerville on Route 165, a favorite way out of town with local cyclists, traffic not too heavy. Turned off on County Line Road which is a rural road where I saw on average about one car per mile traveled.
Hwy. 17 is the main road from Charleston to Savannah and has heavy traffic; it is a divided highway with two lanes either side. However, it has a decent shoulder, and I was only on it for two miles before turning off on Main Road that took me over the Stono River to John's Island.
The Stono River Bridge is a tall bridge built to accommodate boats with tall masts that pass under. This makes it a steep little climb, and a good gauge of one’s level if fitness. Once over the bridge, I made a right onto Chisholm Road.
Another favorite with local riders, Chisholm is a quiet road that services farms and private homes; most of the road is shaded by old growth trees on either side. My turn around point was at John’s Island High School where Chisholm meets back up with Main Road again.
The ride took me just five hours, an average of 15mph; not bad for an old guy riding solo. I had a headwind on the homeward leg, and I took three separate 10 minute breaks, to eat and rest up a little.
I’m not sure why I like riding distances; I guess I just enjoy riding my bike, and a long ride gives me more time doing just that. There is a great sense of achievement, and satisfaction on completion of the ride, and the thought that I actually went somewhere, as opposed to riding up and down a bike path going nowhere.
I turned 75 on my last birthday earlier this year, and I realize I will not be able to keep up these long rides indefinitely. I am sure I will be riding for many years to come, but the question I ask myself is, can I maintain the fitness level required to ride the distances?
Just so you know I do practice what I preach, above is my bike. Note the handlebars are 2 ½ inches (63mm.) below my saddle. My reach is 1.5cm. shorter than when I used to race. I mostly ride on the hoods; I suffer no back or neck pain on these longer rides.