55 Mile Bike Ride – Northern Virginia

Today was our first legitimate bike ride. We’ve ridden our bikes on indoor trainers for the last 3 months, but the weather was good so there were no excuses. It was time to hit the pavement.

You should first know that I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a kid. On top of that, this was our first time riding with the fancy shoes that clip into your pedals (a.k.a. shoes of death). Now you’re starting to see how exciting this was going to get…

Distance: 55 miles

Trail: W&OD Trail from Sterling, VA to Purcellville, VA

Those are the brakes, right?

In retrospect, it was rather ambitious to ride 55 miles on our first trip outdoors. In summary, it was:

  • Frustrating
  • Awesome
  • Painful
  • Awesome
  • Embarrassing, but most of all…
  • Awesome

Mile 0: Fall #1. I expected to tip over at some point while I learned to clip and unclip my shoes from the pedals. I’ve been told it’s a right of passage for new riders. I didn’t make it out of the parking lot before I tipped over and splattered onto the asphalt.

Miles 1-4: Feeling a bit unsteady, but I’m starting to get the hang of this. I truly believe that I’m going to become an expert within the next few hours.

Miles 5-10: A steady stream of expletives are going through my mind as I pump my legs as hard as I can, feeling like I’m going nowhere. Why is this so hard? Tyler will later share with me that this is what “gears” are for.

Mile 11: A kind policeman stops at an intersection to let me and Tyler cross the road. I return the favor by taking fall #2 right in front of his car. I think it was very selfless for me to sacrifice my ego for the sake of his entertainment.

At this point I tell Tyler to stop trying to fix my handlebars after each fall, because we both know it’s going to happen again.

Miles 12-19: We’re starting to hit our stride, and so far we haven’t run over any pedestrians (an unexpected accomplishment given our skill level).

Mile 20: Fall #3. This one is epic: Arms and legs spread across the road, my bike on top of me, and a record number of witnesses.

I’ve had enough. We decide to make this our turnaround point and head back. First, we do a few laps around a parking lot nearby and I practice clipping and unclipping, clipping and unclipping.

Did I mention Tyler hasn’t fallen even once?! He could at least take a sympathy fall for my sake.

Miles 20-39: Could this really be happening? This is starting to feel good. We cruise back to our starting point at a respectable pace of 18 mph. No falls, no epic mistakes, and still no pedestrians injured. Maybe this biking thing will work out after all.

Completely confident that I won’t fall again before I get to the car. Little did I know…

Mile 40: The last hour has been amazing, and I’m brimming with newfound confidence as I pull up to the car and…fall over. Yes, that’s fall #4. I’m starting to suspect that the gravitational pull in that parking lot is unusually strong.

You might be asking yourself, “Isn’t this supposed to be a 55 mile bike ride? That was only 40 miles.” You’re correct. However, after eating dirt (road, really) for 2.5 hours, I needed a mental break. The last 15 miles were covered in the comfort of my own home, on my trusty trainer.

“Riding on your trainer? That’s not very adventurous,” you might think. I agree. But sometimes pushing yourself too hard, too fast, is a good way to take all the fun out of a new sport or hobby. We’re in this for the long haul, and despite the 4 falls I’m psyched to get back out on the road again!

Lessons Learned:

  1. Have reasonable expectations when you’re starting a new hobby. Those people you admire who are experts at their craft? They got to that point through a lot of hard work. Chances are, you’ll need to work hard to get good at this, too.
  2. If you’re going to bike with clip-in shoes for the first time, consider riding with a friend. Without Tyler by my side, I would have been mentally (and potentially physically) crushed after all of those falls.
  3. Another tip if you’re riding with clip-in shoes for the first time: Wear long pants and long sleeves. It won’t prevent bruises, but it will minimize bloodshed!
Sporting some bumps and bruises, but psyched to have completed our first real bike ride

What did you think? Feeling inspired?