Cyclocross is a great entreé into the world of bike racing.
Editor’s Note: Freewheeling is the ongoing column of features editor Jason Sumner. From time to time, he uses this space to prattle on about all things cycling, be them interesting, innovative, inane or in this case, inspiring. If you have a comment or question, or just want to sound off, drop a note in the comments section below.
Obviously the idea that there is a finite list of activities that can make your life as a cyclist complete is foolish. What one rider sees as monumental achievement (say, riding a 100 miles) will be a normal Saturday for another. Indeed, a bucket list is a wholly personal accounting of what one wants to get out of their lifetime on a bike. No right answers. No wrongs answers. Just your list.
At the same time, inspirational ideas are never a bad thing. That’s especially true when discussing a world as wide open as cycling, with its multiple disciplines and near limitless destinations.
To stoke the coals of your imagination, here’s a starter pack of Bucket List ideas, plus some tips on how to get started. Have a look and then start dreaming about — and planning — your next cycling adventure.
Organized century rides provide the extra motivation needed to complete your first 100-miler.
1. Ride a Century: Whether you sign up for one of the countless Century Ride events that happen in the U.S. every year, or simply head out on your own, riding 100 miles in a day is a big deal. Breaking the century barrier is a huge accomplishment mentally and physically — and it’ll provide confidence and motivation for greater achievement down the road.
How to get it done: If you are starting from scratch, you’ll need to train for the big day. Begin your preparation at least 10 weeks out, and gradually increase mileage to the point where you can comfortably complete a 65-mile training ride during a week where you log about 150 miles total. Then taper down for the next 4-5 days before going for your 100 miler. Having an event as the setting for your big day can be extremely motivating, so search around the Internet for organized century rides in your area — or some other place you’d like to ride.
France’s famed Col du Galibier is one of Europe’s greatest cycling attractions.
2. Ride in Europe: Whether on or off-road, every cyclist should pack up their trusted steed and head to the land where cycling is truly king. Steeped in history and rich in adventure, there’s nothing like pedaling over famous Italian passes or blasting down high alpine singletrack in the Alps.
How to get it done: Options are nearly limitless. Sign up with a tour company (there are hundreds), compete in an organized event (like riding the Tour of Flanders route or a stage of the Tour de France), or simply build cycling into a European vacation.
3. Sign up for a race (extra credit if it’s a stage race): Don’t be intimidated by the shaved-leg racer types you see every weekend at your local coffee shop. These guys may be ultra serious, but you don’t have to be. Amateur bike racing runs the gamut from hard core to casual affairs that are akin to beer league softball for bike dorks.
How to get it done: Start by perusing USA Cycling’s on-line race calendar. Cycling’s national governing body breaks down events by region, so you can see what’s going on in your area. Whether you opt for road, mountain, or cyclocross, there are beginner categories to help you get started. If you love the competition, consider a stage race, which can provide both a massive physical challenge, and serve as conduit for exploring new cycling territory. Great international events include the BC Bike Race (MTB stage race in British Columbia), Haute Route (multi-day gran fondo in Switzerland and France), and Trans Pyr (both road and MTB in Spain’s Pyrenees).
Leave the big repairs to the pros, but master some of the basics.
4. Learn how to fix your bike: This is no knock against your local bike shop. Those folks do great work and should be utilized for most major repairs. But bikes require a fair bit of periodic maintenance, and there’s no reason you can’t take care of some of it yourself. Greasing a chain, fixing a flat tire, and making minor drivetrain adjustments are all within the realm of capability for most people. Besides, if you cant change a flat, you risk getting stuck on the side of the road every time you ride.
How to get it done: Buy a bike maintenance book, take a class, and/or search the Internet for instructional tips or videos. There are lots of great resources out there (including RoadBikeReview.com’s How To section). Once you find a source that speaks to your learning style, practice. It really does make perfect.
Pass on your love for cycling to the next generation.
5. Teach your kid to ride: Watching your child progress on a bike from an indoor wood-framed four-wheeler, to gliding down the street on a push bike, to confidently pedaling singletrack is like nothing else.
How to get it done: There’s no exact right way, but some important keys include making sure the bike is the right type and size for your child’s current age and ability level, and always keeping it fun. Don’t drag your kid around on adult rides when they’re not ready for it. It’ll just turn them off. Instead, make it about them, asking how far they want to ride and where they want to go. When enthusiasm wanes, head home.
Tell us what’s on you cycling bucket list in the comments section below.