This is the report from my brother, John, who is not on the uni-newsgroup.
The night before a long ride is like a night before a
big exam; you know you are supposed to get as much
sleep as possible, but your mind and your nerves play
crazy tricks on you. Your head fills up with all kinds
of useless worries and anticipations for every
eventuality that might arise the following day, and
every way you will meet these imagined challenges.
In other words, the night before the Century Ride that
took place yesterday, I hardly got any sleep at all.
The start time for 100-mile hopefuls was 6AM. I awoke
(though I hardly could say I ever slept deeply) around
4:45 and started amassing my things, making
sandwiches, filling the Camelback, etc. My brother was
shocked that I was even awake, since I was planning on
more sleep, and at 5:45 we took off together, riding
to the start in Central Park.
We took an alternate route to avoid the masses of
bicylists, thereby adding some distance, but avoiding
the congestion and stops and starts of the set route.
It was a lovely ride, practically alone, the entire 5
miles down the Hudon River bike path.
I had decided a few days before the ride that I would
be better off on my 110 crank Sem 28" with a tire that
makes it a 29", rather than the Coker. Reasons: I
hadn’t been riding the Coker, but always ride my Sem,
so my muscles were better trained for the Sem. Second,
I was concerned about the bridges with low guard
rails, the large down hills that headed into traffic,
and the crowds of bicyclists… I figured I could stop
much quicker if necessary on the smaller wheel. Still,
I was planning on doing the 100 mile route (among
other choices of 75, 55, and 35), and I knew this
would be a challenge on the smaller wheel.
I didn’t realize how big a challenge this would be,
nor how crazy it was to try for 100 miles on a 29"
wheel with little training before hand. It was
somewhere around mile 35 or so that my knees started
to feel the strain: the many hills and bridges were
beginning to take their toll. The encouragement and
amazement from hundreds of bikers certainly spurred me
on, and I cheerfully answered that I was going all the
way. I believed I could accomplish the 100 in 10 hours
of riding with 2 hours of breaks distibuted however I
wanted in the 10 hours.
I was averaging 11 mph for much of the ride, with long
stretches of 12+ mph. To keep up those speeds on that
wheel means quite a fast cadence; I was close to my
target plan when I reached 50 miles at 12:30, only
half an hour later than in my previous night’s
reckonings. Indispensible to this achievement were my
extension and air seat that I had taken off my Coker.
That’s when all my plans went out the window. From the
half way mark, the route became extremely hilly, with
some very long and steep uphills, and even more
punishingly, the long steep descents. My knees were
killing and my very sore lower back felt dangerously
weak. More and longer breaks were necessary, and now I
was imagining a finish at 7PM. At some point, I
finally scrapped the 100 mile goal (people were saying
the Bronx, in which the final 25 miles take place, was
even more hilly, and not terribly aesthetic), and I
set my sights for 75. Actually, the “75” turned out to
be 79, and with my added distance, I figured I would
be going 83 miles. The sun was punishing by the
afternoon, and I started to feel nauseated (I think a
combo of lack of sleep, ridiculous endurance, and the
sun/humidity). I did drink a huge amount on the whole
ride, but it never seemed to be enough, and I fried my
Camelback twice during long scenic stretches far from
The last 10 miles to the finish were brutal: the hills
were tearing at my knees and I figured I was doing
permanent damage to them with every revolution. My
other choice: walk 10 miles through a sprawl of empty
industrial grounds, bridges, and parks. Of course I
chose to ride.
By the finish, I really could not bend my legs to sit,
and if I did accomplish this, I had greater trouble
getting back up. My brother rode the full distance (a
final read of 102 miles), but not without his
own drawbacks, chiefly fatigue and, as he put it, Tabasco ass. I was
spared chafing and other seat discomfort, though of
course many times throughout the ride, I had to
dismount because of extraordinary build up of
pressure. By the end, this meant getting off at least
every 15 minutes, of not more frequently.
Highpoints: riding through the Long Island Sound,
Little Neck, and a park joining Queens and Brooklyn:
all these, particularly the first, were idyllic.
Orange slices at rest stops were also nice. And all
that ensouragement from cyclists.
Lowpoints: Obviously, the knee pain, nausea, and lower
back pain. After that, there was Randall’s Island in
which drivers rudely drove their cars down a narrow
path, heedless of stollers and unicyclists, and the
fact that someone stole my PowerBar water bottle
(filled with Gatorade) during a bathroom break I took
at my first rest stop.
Total distance: 84 miles on the dot.
Average speed: 9.7 mph
Riding time: 8 hours, 42 minutes
Riding time, including breaks: 12 hours, 30 minutes
Top speed: 14.5 mph
P.S. The next day: my knees are quite sore, but I can
actually bend them without intense pain. I iced them
(and my lower back) after the ride. Conclusions: Do
not do marathon-style rides without proper training. I
think the 29" wheel, with small cranks (110s) is
actually fine for a maximum 55 mile ride, as long as
you have trained on it with hills-- and have the
leisure to spread the riding throughout the day, EUT style.
If you wish to e-mail John privately: email@example.com