Get Your Butt in the Saddle

OK, sadly, not all bike rides can be those memorable experiences, with beautiful sunrises, breathtaking scenery, wildlife sightings and stories that will be retold for years.

The more you ride though, the better chance you will have for ALL of these to happen.  Before it can ever happen, though, you have to get into what I call riding shape.  Without preparation, a ride that could actually entail ALL of these things above, will instead turn into a head, down, legs on fire, cuss ridden, death-march.  It might be memorable, and stories may be told for years (Remind me someday to tell the story of my wife’s climb with a friend up Mt St Helens, and the fact I had told her it was easy prior to the climb…) but they are NOT the stories we want to tell after a bike ride.

How to we avoid this ever happening?  Well I first need to tell you, that you won’t totally avoid it.  If you are anything like me, you will, without a doubt be cocky and think “Oh I can do THAT ride, no problem!”, or you will get caught out in the wrong weather with the wrong clothes, or someone will have built a HUGE mountain in the middle of your route!  Any of these have distinct “death march” potential.

We can, though, do a lot to keep these events to a minimum.  What is the secret you ask?  Ancient Chinese herbs?  Voodoo witch doctor chants?  Sacrificing a bottle of Diet Mtn Dew to the biking gods? (Well that one has potential, I might have to look into this!)  Nope, its simple, get your butt on the bike.  You need saddle time!  I don’t mean the half mile ride to the grocery store, or the kid’s school (though I encourage that as well!)  I mean heart pumping, pedal turning training rides.

It’s February, so here in the Seattle area, that means that the weather will start to get relatively nicer soon.  This means more outside riding!  (FINALLY, I am getting tired of the Rollers even if I am rewatching Game of Thrones season 1).  The more one rides, the more miles you get on your legs, the better rider you will be.  Also, the more training miles you rack up, the better chance you will have to be on rides I talked about at the beginning of this post.

So how long is a training ride?  Well now, that depends on the person.  For me, it all comes down to how much daylight I have!  This means I have multiple routes!  If I am low on daylight, I go for a “Quick 20!”  This means heading for the Burke Gilman bike path, and putting in 20 miles as fast as I can.  Racing the sundown!  I have 25, 30, 40, 70, and 100 mile routes as well.  So far this year, the 40 is tough enough for me, but come March, I will be looking for the longer rides.

Hey!  Wait!  Don’t go away, those are MY training rides.  I’ve been doing this for a LONG time.  Like a I said, yours are based on you!

Like any exercise, start easy.  Somewhere between 5 and 10 miles is good.  If you haven’t exercised much at all prior to this, make it as flat a route as possible.  Remember this is just a start….  I personally found great benefit in my early years finding a route that was 15 miles.  It was over an hour in the saddle, but I could sneak it in after work.  Now, there is one key point to these rides.  After you get to the point where you 15 miles regularly, you need hills!  Even my “quick 20” involves riding uphill from the trail to the house.  ALL my other routes have either one BIG hill, or series of easy to hard hills.

I can hear people asking, “Why the HELL do I want to find hills to ride up on purpose!  I hate hills!”

Well here’s the deal folks, unless you live somewhere flat as a pancake (I dunno Iowa, Ohio, somewhere in the great plains maybe…” You will never be able to go on a longer ride without hills.  I won’t lie, I am a GREAT hill climber (mountain experience you know!) and I have only ever met one hill that beat me, (even that was only until I ate a quick PB&J), but I do not look forward to climbing hills anymore than anyone else.

One of my "training hills" for the High Pass Challenge
One of my “training hills” for the High Pass Challenge

However, if you train on hills, they change from the reason for a death march, to simply an annoyance.  You will pass some of the people who are pushing their bikes and cussing.  Even better, once you hit the top of the hill, you MIGHT get rewarded with a good view, but there is an even better chance you get rewarded with the chance to go downhill!  If you ever were a fan of Firefly, the Sci Fi series.


The pilot, Wash, had a phrase when he was doing his best flying “I am a leaf on the wind!”  I am telling you, a good steep down hill run let’s me understand what he meant.  But before you can feel that way you gotta get to the top!

So get your butt in the saddle and start conquering some hills!

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