When I think of my bicycle-related highlights of 2019 three rides stand out. They include a snowy ride through Lincoln’s Wilderness Park, The Bohemian Sto Mil, and Gravel Worlds.
In January I experienced a rare commingling of conditions in Wilderness Park which resulted in a quiet ride through about 4 inches of snow the day after it had fallen. The weather was sunny, calm and not too cold. I was bringing up the rear of a small group of five or six hardy souls all riding fat bikes. Their tracks created a narrow, packed, singletrack that was just wide enough to navigate on my three-inch tires. Without those guys packing a trail for me, I would have missed out on this beautiful opportunity.
I signed up for Bohemian Sto Mil as a preparatory step toward Gravel Worlds. At this event, my normal riding buddies were unavailable so I rode solo with the exception of a few miles conversing with some kind folks on their way to a faster finish than I would ultimately achieve. As such, I did a poor job of pacing myself. At mile 45, less than halfway to the finish, my quads and hamstrings began to cramp. Hard. The only relief was to keep pedaling slow and to get off and walk up the steepest of the hills. Fortunately, although registration for this ride is free, the three (officially two) checkpoints on this ride were staffed with wonderfully encouraging, jolly folks offering pickles, hydration mix and other mental and physical sustenance that I desperately needed! I finished this ride in a bit of pain, but I’m so glad I did it. It’s on my list for 2020.
Sto Mil was the first race I participated in but Gravel Worlds was the first I signed up for. I’ve never signed up for races prior to this because I thought: what’s the difference between signing up and paying money to do something that I can just go do at my leisure? Luckily the folks at Gravel Worlds showed me that there is a big difference. Along with a choice route featuring checkpoints and optional stop-offs staffed with friendly, excited volunteers providing sustenance in the form of food, water, and enthusiastic encouragement, they had a finish line with cheering spectators and volunteers even when Sam and I rolled across at 9 pm. They had several hundred rad, like-minded participants who said nice things about my bike and they were folks who had bikes worthy of compliment and ogling. Sam and I are signed up for the pirate-themed voyage on the gravel seas again in 2020 with an eye on significant improvement.
2019 was also a year that I focused on gratitude for the bikes that I own. In 2018 I frequently experienced bike-envy which drove me to try many different bikes, build variations and component upgrades. I reached a practical point of satisfaction when my Wolverine, Karate Monkey and Straggler came together and met all of my most common bicycle needs. I acknowledged that I could do anything from bike camping, gravel riding and loaded commuting on the Wolverine. My Karate Monkey could slay any Nebraska singletrack or off-road bike camping adventure. And my singlespeed Straggler with fenders filled in the gaps of light commuting and quick transportation. I love my bikes and each of them is capable of all of the adventures I can imagine myself having in the foreseeable future.
For 2020, I plan to choose bicycling more often. Although I’ve never regretted a ride, choosing to get on the bike is not always easy. Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid distractions and exert the effort necessary to allocate time for riding along with other important things in life. Once I’ve started a ride, I enjoy every bit, even the cramping, occasional dehydration, and mechanical failures. Not only does cycling have positive effects on my physical fitness and mental well-being, something about cycling makes me feel confident and sure of myself.
More cycling is part of a larger goal for 2020 to maximize the use of my time. As such, in addition to my daily commute, I intend to complete a 20-mile ride every week starting in March, after the coldest of days have passed. If Sam invites me, I’ll do my best to accompany him on as many of his 75-mile rides as our often divergent schedules allow. By riding more, I hope to ride faster and farther more comfortably. Ideally, the end result is improved physical fitness and enhanced mental well being. Here’s to being grateful, happy and healthy in 2020 and beyond!
Bottom Photo by Ron Orman from The Rewards of Roaming