Lessons Learned From Sitting On A Bicycle Seat For 61 Hours 12 Minutes

50 day cycling challenge
1669 km in 2013!

I mentioned not long ago about doing a 50 day cycling challenge. I got this idea from Matt’s 50 day running streak.

I had an unofficial goal this year of riding my bike 1,610 km / 1,000 miles, tracked via the endomondo app. 51 days ago I was barely over the 600 kilometer mark. That meant I had almost 1,000 kilometers to go to with the cold season already beginning here in Poland. There was no way I would reach that goal without a good challenge.

So it was. 50 days of cycling. If I averaged 20km/day I’d reach my goal. I set my daily goal at 10km though (psychology!). I actually hit the 1,610 km mark for the year on Day 48. After that my last goals were to ride 1,000km in 50 days and actually complete the 50 days.

I’m happy to say I reached all these goals. (The most interesting stat is I spent 2.55 days on a bike during this challenge. Wow!)

My Endomondo.com One Man Challenge! Prize: SELF RESPECT
My Endomondo.com One Man Challenge! Prize: SELF RESPECT

It wasn’t always fun or easy, but I’m glad I did it. To some of you professional cyclists out there 1,006.19km in 50 days is nothing. (My friend Darren probably does 1,000km in his sleep.) But that’s OK. Challenges are not about comparing yourself to others, but about comparing yourself to yourself.

1) Bad weather can be tamed mentally.

OK, rain and cold is annoying. But the worst part of riding in the rain is initially getting wet. After that I felt like I was 10 years old again. I had at least 5 rain days, including Days 49 and 50. For most of the 50 days the weather was about 13C / 55F, not particularly pleasant. (I usually wore shorts because I didn’t want to ruin my one pair of jeans.)

A note on feeling 10 years old: This is generally why I enjoy riding my bike over most other physical activities. Nothing else makes me feel like a child, no cares in the world.

2) Travel is no excuse to not get shit done.

I spent 2 days of the 50 in Prague for MicroConf. I didn’t have a bike at my disposal so I woke up early every day and was at the gym when it opened at 8am. 10km on the stationary bike isn’t quite as good as 10km on a real bike, but sometimes you have to make do with what you have. Which brings me to …

3) Make do with what you have.

I don’t have a “sport” bike. I bought my bike used at an open air market. It’s a kind of hybrid, not a road bike nor a mountain bike. I also don’t have biking gear, or any real sports gear in general. I wore the same shorts every day and I wore my only pair of jeans for 3 of the 50 days when it was just too cold. I also wore my No Meat Athlete shirt until it was as nasty as it could be. Instead of biking gloves, I wore my one pair of winter gloves.

Whatever. Not having the perfect gear to accomplish what you want to accomplish is no excuse.

4) Having a cold is not a good excuse for doing nothing.

In the past if I was ill I used to lay around all day doing absolutely nothing. I caught a bad cold while in Prague and I had a sinus/chest infection for about a week afterwards. I didn’t want to ride, but I did anyway. I went easy – usually sticking to 10km per ride – and it felt good.

The cold went away – as they are want to do – and I got more done than I’d usually get done while sick.

5) It doesn’t matter how fast you get there as long as you arrive.

Some days I was tired and it felt like my legs were dipped in lead. So I went slower than normal. And I got there.

6) It’s OK to trick yourself or play mental games.

If I absolutely didn’t want to ride I’d tell myself, “Fine, just go down the street and come back.” I’d always end up riding for over an hour. One day I delayed this until about 10:00pm (“Go! It’s now or never.”), but otherwise I stuck to a morning schedule.

7) Pain is a personal experience.

We all have different thresholds for pain, but I think we’re also too easy on ourselves.

A few weeks into the daily rides my left knee started to hurt. I thought, “Oh great, the streak is over.” But it wasn’t like I couldn’t move my knee. Sure it might have been a little overused, but is that really something to worry about? I decided that if the pain increased or didn’t go away during the day I’d stop the streak. But it usually only hurt while riding, so I chalked it up to, “my bike’s too small.” (Which it definitely is. I’m 6’5″ so most bikes are too small.)

Also, butt pains are inevitable. I have no tips on how to make your butt feel better if you’re going to sit on a bicycle seat for 61 hours 12 minutes. Just grin and bear it! (There’s a joke in there somewhere. Have at it.)

Truth is, there are more lessons than just these, but I these were most useful to me.

I Hate Running, Let’s Run!

My next challenge will be to do some run training, going from 0k to 5k, starting next Monday (Nov 11). I really don’t enjoy running. And Winter is fast approaching. I don’t have running shoes or Winter running gear. Whatever. If you want to join me, here’s the Facebook group.

Note: We’ll use Matt’s 10 week 5k training program if everybody who joins me has (or buys) his book. Otherwise we’ll use the 9 week Couch to 5k.


If you missed it, I posted a new feature called Reads of Note on Saturday, including a new email list of my curated list of good reads.

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