by Wayne Whitesides
I’m finally in the passenger seat, 4,247 miles into an epic Montana road trip, with nearly a third of the drive still ahead of me. It’s the conclusion of a family vacation born of a dad’s wish for one last father-daughter adventure before she heads off to the University of Georgia this fall.
These hours in the car have given me plenty of time to reflect on cycling, Spin the District, and this blog.
The Spin the District event series was created to highlight the greatness of the ATL Airport District through the lens of a cyclist. To be successful, we need to give every cyclist and cycling fan—from the seasoned to the newly initiated—a truly fantastic Spin experience. We can do a lot on the day, like providing flawless organization, great support, and an excellent neighborhood party, but for everyone to get the most out of the event, we also need to do a little preparation in advance: for cyclists, we can help keep you focused on training, discipline, and what to expect; for spectators, we need to provide a rudimentary education in the art of cycling and the rules of engagement. For new and aspiring riders, we can do a little of both.
So let’s not dilly-dally. Pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er.
Start at the beginning: get out and ride!
I love riding my bike, any bike; road, gravel, track, mountain, it doesn’t matter. I even have a bike just for beer runs, complete with a front rack to handily hold a case of my favorite frosty beverages from Beer Girl or Arches Brewing. Each outing is an adventure, and I love riding one mile just as much as I love riding hundreds.
I want you to experience that feeling, too. If you’re not sure how to make cycling part of your life or get back into it, your first step is to choose your bike (or dust off the one way back in the corner) and decide where to go.
Set your sights
Everyone needs goals. Without them, it’s hard to stay motivated, and excuses are more likely to take over.
The trip that I’m currently on has provided my family with months of motivation. We’d already ridden across Iowa a couple of times, and my daughter rode her first century (100-mile ride) on the back of our tandem when she was 11. So I knew we needed something big to motivate us both.
It started in the middle of last winter with a question. “Would you like to do one last epic thing with your old man before he loses control of your life?”
“Dad, that’ll never happen! I’ll always have time for you,” she replied, as I heard Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” over and over in my head.
Choked up, tears in my eyes, the research began. With COVID still devastating the country and all 2020 events canceled, we knew we’d need some backup options, and that choosing a super popular event might not be a great idea. That took a few bucket-list events like Vermont Overland or the Belgian Waffle Race in San Diego out of the running. After scouring the interwebs, we decided on the Gold Rush 110-mile gravel race in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the long months of training began.
Long story short, she crushed it, and more importantly, she’s still talking to me!
So choose your adventure—any adventure. Think about what excites you. For us, it was riding in a part of the country we’ve never been to, with enough mileage and elevation gain to make us work for it. But you know you best, and your ideal ride may be completely different.
If you’re new or getting back into cycling, keep your goals simple and attainable but worth the effort, like Spin the District’s 30-mile road ride in October. Or think big, like our 100-mile mixed surface ToughSkin Open.
Of course, while we’d love for you to choose any of our events, the important thing is just to choose something and make it happen. If time and resources are limited, find something local. Whatever it is, put it on your calendar, tell your family, friends and co-workers, and get going.
If you’re hell bent on going from the couch to a century ride, look for events at least six months out, if not more, to give yourself time to train. But we’d recommend keeping it real with a 10-mile ride first, or heading over to your local mountain bike course and finding the beginner loop. Then find a 30-miler or an intermediate trail and go for that. Keep leveling up until you’re unstoppable.
If you’re already in peak condition, raise your game. Go for a metric century (100 kilometers or 62 miles). Compete in your first (beginner) criterium race. If you’re lucky enough to have a velodrome in your area, take a beginner class and learn to ride a fixed gear. Or, better yet, plan your own road trip around an awesome event series, perhaps in the ATL Airport District.
This is just the start of a new series on this blog that will cover getting started, getting back into the saddle, training, nutrition, and day-of dos and don’ts. We’ll be back with some training tips next week, but for now, start scouring the web for the experience that gets you going. A great place to start is granfondoguide.com, which happens to be featuring our Union City Road and Gravel Fondo. Or register for a Spin event now and start training for your adventure.