Four seasons of cycling. I’m fortunate to live in a place that has four distinct seasons of weather. Winter lingers the longest in our climate….as long as six months out of the year. That’s okay because winter is my favorite season. In 2016 I continued to ride bicycles through all four seasons, in all kinds of weather. However, the way I ride has been shifting for several years. With a job change and physical complications, I have moved away from using bicycles as transportation. I use them more for recreational pursuits these days.
Back in the years between 2005 and 2012 I wrote another blog. It had a good following. I won’t mention the name of the blog because it isn’t out “there” anymore. Although there are a few backdoor ways to see some of the posts. I didn’t have a particular theme when I started writing that blog, other than bicycles. It ended up chronicling my transformation from a three season bicycle commuter into a hard-core-ride-in-any-weather four season commuter. Also in 2006 I was one of the first people to buy into the concept of fat-tired bikes. My number of views on blog posts would multiply by 5 times when I wrote about fat-tire biking on snow back then. With that blog I became the guy who would ride to work in any weather no matter what, every day of the year. I once had a streak of riding to work every day that lasted 22 months. The streak only being broken by my wife’s serious illness that required me to drive to work several days while she was hospitalized.
2016 is the year I finally came to the realization I’m not that guy anymore. I’ve always have had a hard time recovering from hard efforts. This dates back to high school when I road raced in the summer and ran cross-country in Fall. I ended up quitting both due to my inability to recover. I recall being so burned out from three years of road racing I needed to take a break. I never went back to it. I quit the high school cross-country team in the middle of the season in Senior year because the coach had us running competitions twice a week and interval training on two other days. I couldn’t bounce back from the competitions, let alone the competitions plus intervals. I told the coach this. He didn’t listen. I quit.
In my mid-20’s I decided to run a marathon. I trained for a year. At the peak of my training I was running twice a day, 20 miles per day, six days per week. I was also working a 12-14 hour night shift for a trucking company as an Operations Supervisor. I got so burnt out that one night my body shut down. I overslept for 8 hours. In the process I turned off the snooze alarm every 9 minutes, in my sleep, for 8 hours. My work was so concerned when I didn’t show up for my shift they sent someone over to my apartment to check on me. I slept through their knocking on my front door and bedroom window. I slept a total of 16 hours.
I mention all these examples, there’s many more, because as soon as I say I have a hard time recovering, people instantly provide me with the name of the latest recovery drink that works for them. This includes my doctor who is a cyclist. I have this conversation with him once a year at my Annual Physical Exam. I’m sorry, but this isn’t solved by a recovery drink. I don’t have a clear reason why this happens. I have many theories that go through my head: it’s hereditary, it’s complications from years of un-diagnosed Celiac Disease, I’m not a natural athlete?? Who knows.
What I do know is that it gets progressively worse as I get older. Two years ago I started to discover I was having a hard time feeling fresh for my weekend recreational rides after five days of work commutes.
Not only was I not feeling like I had fresh legs, I was exhausted by the end of the week. At that time I decided to put more of a priority on my recreational riding. I haven’t owned a car since July of 2002. The use of our one car in our household wasn’t an option because my wife uses it. I decided I wanted a little more freedom then the local bus schedules allowed for without buying a car. In May of 2015 I bought a new bike that had a motor other then my own:
For the past two summers I’ve done a mix of commuting on this and my bicycles. It has changed the way I ride. For the first time in many years I felt I had fresh legs when I headed out for a leisurely ride on the weekends. I wasn’t riding my bicycles as often, but every ride I did was fun, rather then a slog.
A job change occurred that further changed the way I use bikes for commuting. After working the same job for 14 years and having a secure place to lock up my bike, and a place to change and keep my clothes, I now work somewhere without any of that. The only bike that works for this job situation is my folding Brompton. But even then I take a chance where I’m leaving it during the day.
2016 was the first year in as long as I can remember that I didn’t log my daily miles. I always had a goal in mind of the number of miles I wanted to do each year. This led to a lot of rides I would do just to keep my daily average up. Removing the pressure of a yearly goal also increased the “fun” factor of the riding I was doing. If I felt like going for a 10 or 15 mile ride instead of a 30 mile ride, that was fine. This was a whole new way of thinking for me. It really set me free in way. The reason I know that is because for the first time in a decade or more, I enjoyed my riding. Every ride became enjoyable. I tried new kinds of rides. With the huge expansion of mtb trails into my part of town, I was able to enjoy some dirt rides. A form of riding that would definitely cut into my yearly mileage goals in the past. I found a lot of pleasure being out in the woods on a bike.
In the end, these were huge changes. I honestly can say I miss my daily bike commute I did for 12 years. I long for it for like a lost love. But I’ve come to the realization my body is changing with age and I can’t do what I used to do. I can’t even do what other fit people my age can do. I made the conscious choice not to compare myself to what others can do and to what I used to be able to do. I focus on what I can do today. The important thing is, I still love my bicycles and I still love riding them. I’m looking forward to many more fun rides in 2017.
Happy New Year Doug. Pedaling is freedom, no matter the the distance. Rock on fellow biking friend. There’s a reason I’ve gravitated to step over bikes and i couldn’t be happier.
I’m finding the big miles of my youth aren’t possible anymore without consequences. I’m learning happiness is being able to get out and ride and has nothing to do with the distance covered.
Words to bike by: “Happiness is being able to get out and ride and has nothing to do with the distance covered”. I believe in this same philosophy.
Glad you found a way to continue commuting on two wheels! I added to my collection of fat-tired bikes with a TW 200 this fall. Lighter then my 84 R65 so hopefully better for daily commuting (and able to get into areas I would never take the other bike to).
Understanding your ability to recover and focusing on enjoying your rides is the key, isn’t it?
Enjoy the snow and great trails!
Those TW200’s are the fat tire bikes of the motorized world. When I took the Motorcycle Safety class at Lake Superior College they had one in their fleet of trainee motorcycles. I didn’t get to ride it, but I was strangely drawn to it.
I have been drawn to them for several years and finally took the plunge (helped that my husband picked up a dual sport as well this fall). I actually purchased one of the bikes that had been used for the LSC class (less then 200 miles – all low speed and a few dings so I won’t be upset at the first drop). Got one short ride in before tucking it away for the winter and was grinning the whole time, similar to getting out on my fat bike.
I wear down similarly. I’m still hoping I’ll find a way to beat it. The exhaustion and effort taxes me in every aspect of my life, but it’s not all “cycle stress.” I seem to keep moving forward, just putting one foot in front of the other, but I know some days I’m not doing my best work, cycling etc. I’m 4 years on “that guy” and I have been thinking about buying a car again this fall. I hope that will rejuvenate my 3 seasons commute and make my winter recreation rides that much better. Glad you found something that’s working for you. Cheers, Andy
Thanks for the comment Andy. It’s good to hear it’s not just me. We’re not all super-athletes with amazing recuperative powers.
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As long you still riding and enjoying it. I am spoiled as my new place will let me have a bike inside
I’ve enjoyed reading of, and identifying with, your experience, Doug. Many of “us” are sort of feeling the same stuff at this time. I’ve noticed with the colder weather we’ve had lately, my joints complain more after riding to and from work. I’ve, also, felt a similar low grade tiredness when I try to keep a daily bike commuting schedule. Then, I find I have to work up a lot more “gumption” to make myself take longer rides; though I’m glad when I do. Part of it revolves around my getting up a bit earlier to get ready for the commute. Yesterday, with colder temps, I decided to drive to work. I slept about 30 minutes longer and felt much more refreshed. Still, I missed the enjoyment of the ride. As far as distance goes, I’ve come to feel the amount of time spent out on the ride is just as satisfying as the distance. That’s probably why I enjoy coffee outside and touring (or as Pondero calls it: “lollygagging”). I’m not sure why some people recover from strenuous physical activity better than others. Certainly, there are multiple reasons; but sometimes I believe it probably has something to do with the the way, on a cellular level, an individual uses/replenishes energy and the effects on the body of metabolites from energy expenditure (without getting into the whole biochemistry/physiology thing). I’m glad to see you’re finding balance in all of it.