It has been a couple of years since I retired that I wrote about my desire to get back into biking. And last year, I wrote about my first bike ride in Amsterdam, a goal that I had set in that previous post. Since then, my biking has been sort of off-and-on but definitely off during the winter as I am not a cold weather outdoor exerciser and pedaling on a stationary bike at the gym just isn’t my cup of tea. My main form of exercise is running which I keep up year-round since there is a paved trail around the lake in our subdivision and a running track at my gym. But that all changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit the US and suddenly all gyms were closed.
I typically exercise early in the morning, a holdover from when I was working fulltime, and this was the only time that worked into my daily schedule. With the gyms closed and the weather still cold, I resorted to running right before lunch once the temperatures were finally above 60 F. But once the early morning temperatures were also reaching into the 60s, I decided to add back biking.
As, I have written before, my chief complaint about biking is getting saddle sore on long bike rides.
Last year I took the first step towards remedying that by replacing my stock saddle with what was described as “one of the most comfortable bicycle seats.”
And my first outing with the new seat was a big improvement until this happened—the seat tilted backwards due to inadequate installation torque on my part. After a few adjustments to get the right feel, I tightened it down and have had no problems with the seat since.
With warmer weather, I was able to begin to work up my distance and by the end of May was back up to about 12.5 miles in a little over an hour.
Two years ago, on a slightly different route of about 12.3 miles, I had achieved a speed of just under an hour.
It seemed this was a worthwhile goal to strive for and within a week, with the addition of cruising with Boston blaring on a portable speaker, I got within about a minute of that goal.
Thinking that one more change might help me, I tried to find online some padded biker’s pants. But with the pandemic raging, all sites were sold out. A few weeks later, I did run across some padded biker’s underwear and figuring this was the next best thing, ordered a pair.
The first time I wore them, I was extremely pleased with how comfortable they made my ride but even more amazed at how the tightness of the stretch fabric around my legs seemed to give me more energy. On a shorter 6.5-mile loop I had been biking every so often, I had been trying to break under 34 minutes. My first time with the new padded undershorts on this route, I beat that goal by over 2.5 minutes.
Unfortunately, the combination of increased running and biking took a toll on my senior citizen body and I began to have left leg and knee pain. A trip to the doctor and a regimen of NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) seemed to help particularly while laying off running for a couple of weeks (which I hated to do but felt necessary for my recovery).
Then I ran into a friend I had met over the winter at the gym but not seen since it closed. He suggested we go for a bike ride together. However, when he showed me his last bike ride of 14.9 miles in an hour and ten minutes, I was a little intimidated. But then I realized this would give me a new goal for which to strive.
On our first outing together, my friend cut me a little slack and we didn’t go his usual length. But according to my odometer, we came close…
…and I did it in an hour and seventeen minutes—not bad for my first time.
While on that ride, my friend told me about an app he used to track his bike ride. I got it for my phone and then over the weekend, rode the full length of his usual bike ride by myself to see if I could do it. According to my odometer, from my house this worked out to be about a 16.3-mile ride…
…but according to the app, it was about a 15.6-mile ride.
I pondered this difference for a while but in the end figured that a mapping device based on global positioning (GPS) in a $1,000 cellphone would be more accurate than a $15 odometer which relied on the number of times the wheel of a certain diameter rotated.
It was a week before I had the chance to bike again and so being a scientist, decided to see if I could repeat the first experiment. I did it within 20 seconds. But having been quite winded when I finished, knew I needed to get out and bike more frequently even if I didn’t ride the same distance each time.
Over the next several weeks, I biked more frequently and in one instance, biked 6 days in a row. I began to rely solely on my phone app rather than my odometer and just accepted that my former 12.3-mile loop that I was trying to beat an hour time in was actually 11.5 miles.
Then in the second week of August, I finally did it! Not only did I get my time under an hour, I clocked it in just a little over 58 minutes.
My next couple of attempts at repeating it put my time back at just over an hour but then less than a week later, I nailed it again beating my previous under one-hour time by about a minute and a half.
Throughout August and September, I tried to bike at least every other day although occasionally I would bike two or three days in a row. I was delighted to learn that unlike running, I really could get my exercise biking every day without suffering any deleterious effects on my legs. And I was able to consistently, except for a few instances, keep my time under one hour.
During this time, my friend and I were not able to bike together as he only had one day a week to ride, and the weather or other factors often interfered. But I knew whenever the day came that we biked together, I would continue to work toward the goal of biking to keep up with him at his pace.