If you want to start cycling long distances there are a multitude of educational resources. What to eat, how to plan your route, how to build endurance, how to rest, hundreds of webpages and thousands of articles help answer any question you might have as you prepare to ride for 100+ miles.
If you enjoy yourself on such adventures you may find yourself doing them with regularity. Maybe you’ll start a randonneuring series or a decide to do a 200k every weekend or if you’re really having fun you’ll devote your weekends to as much riding as you can physically stand. 9 hours on the bike both days with the wind in your hair and a smile on your face.
You might even knock out a 100+ mile ride every weekend for months on end. It just becomes part of your routine. The work week flows by and as Thursday and Friday roll around you’re spending hours on ridewithgps planning a good route maybe try for 150 miles this weekend? You’ve been at this since June, 4-5 hours during the week just to keep from getting bored and then blow out on Saturday all day on the bike. The summer flys by and you have dozens of adventures in far off places you’ve cycled to. You’ll be out on the road, burnt to a crisp from the summer sun, far from home and someone will ask where you came from. Your answer will leave them confused, they’ll smile a little confused smile and mumble something with a slight nod before walking off.
“Son you didn’t just say you rode here from Dunwoody, that’s gotta be damn near 70 miles away”
They won’t understand but that’s ok, the road is there and you’re on an adventure. At some point your work life, your relationships or even just burnout will slow you down. You’ll miss a weekend, maybe go out for a token 1-2 hours Saturday before laying around all day not doing much. Just enjoying a rest you tell yourself as you pop another truffle and fire up your favorite streaming service. There will be a nagging feeling in the back of your mind but you can ignore it. You got from 15 hours a week to 5 and that 5 is a hard, boring 5 as you stick to safe flat routes around your house. Just riding enough so you can eat junk food when you get home. Never seeing much and just feeling aggravated all the time. You get slow and heavy, your legs swell and you’re constantly sweating. Eventually you just stop riding for a few days. You’re exhausted all the time, work sucks and you can just imagine getting on the bike and the feeling of heavy legs and it takes so long to get anywhere and it’s so boring sometimes.
No one really talks about the come down. Riding a bike for 6,7,8 hours and more does things to your body. It gets you high and it lasts. You can get through huge chunks of time just riding an endorphin wave from weekend to weekend. Truly I’ve spent years doing just that. It comes so easy and no one ever mentions the cost that when it hits, it hits hard.
There is the danger, the withdrawal comes slowly. Masked by the happiness that too much good food brings and the release from a few days of rest. Eventually your work evens out and everything seems fine and *SMACK* there it is sitting in the corner showing you it’s teeth. You sleep too much and argue with your girlfriend, jut say you’re sick and people will leave you alone. You’ll open Strava and look back at your last long ride. A solid 8 hours a month ago. There’s a longing but also the heavy weight of depression crushing your motivation.
A few days of restless nights and overfull stomachs and you decide you’ve had enough of this. You force yourself on the bike and get in a good two hours. You think you’re ok but this is just the false flat before the last climb. Everything will crash down once more before you’re ok. It’s hard to be ready but just try to roll with it. You’ll prep for a good long ride, maybe even a ride you drive 2 hours to, but you’ll get there and either turn around without even cracking the door for reasons you can’t understand. Or you’ll determinedly suit up and start pedaling until you convince yourself you’re injured or tired or sick or blessings of the gods you have a mechanical and have to head back. You learn nothing and feel embarrassed coming home so early.
This is it, this is rock bottom. You’re not riding, you’re just wasting time. Driving for no reason, endlessly refreshing bikesforums or instagram or watching tv all the time. All expectations are done, you can rebuild in comfort. It’s going to be hard but this is the easiest time to do it. You start slow, just getting in a routine of riding every day. Fighting the small voices that tell you it’s going to be boring or hard and just getting on the bike. Set no goals, just ride and remember how much you love it. Sometimes you’ll feel so strong, sometimes you’ll feel bad but as long as you keep going you’ll ride back into the light and everything will be fine. Eventually thursday or friday will roll around you’ll see the bookmark for ridewithgps just sitting there on your browser’s tool bar. Maybe just a click to look for that route you were thinking of the other day. Then the floodgates open and it just happens so naturally you’ll wonder what took so long. Knock out 7 hours like it was nothing and have an adventure!
Sometimes the veil crushes you in the endless sunshine of summer days and sometimes it blows in on the back of harsh winter nights. Whenever it happens it’s important to realize as long as you work and as long as you fight it’s temporary and you will be back stronger and faster.