Category Archives: Increase your annual mileage

Year 2014….. 21,236 kms/13,196 miles

Did I begin on January 1st 2014 with a long term goal? The answer is no. Do I have a tendency to chase more immediate, short term goals……..and I have to confess, that is nearly always at the back of my mind. The psychology of shooting for targets is a very interesting and complex one.

Some people can’t imagine labouring to become an achiever without there being some kind of public20140514_104634_Android 1 accolade. In the world of cycling, that is manifest in the huge growth in time trialling, amateur racing and sportives, where entrants are given numbers, prescribed routes, feeding stations, timing chips and much more, so as to satisfy the need to finish with a placement, time and certificate, all of which seem to satisfy some deep need for recognition.

Conversely, in another neck of the cycling woods, you will meet a lot of almost faceless individuals who are much more independent in their thinking, make little fuss about what they are doing, often achieve startling feats in total anonymity, and do it for little more than their own personal satisfaction. Numbered among these 20140516_064706_Androidare the long-distance endurance cyclists, and people who favour audax events over sportives. They are usually self sufficient characters who require little or no support, are happy to ride solo and carry their own stuff, who expect to have to do their own route finding, and will usually ride in all weathers.

I’d like to count myself amongst the latter, though I frequently find myself drawn towards the former because, who can deny that being part of a crowd, a group, a peloton can add to the excitement of team-work and camaraderie?

On the last day of the year, finishing with a 45 mile ride as the frost was thawing in the late morning, I finished with my best annual total of 21,236 kms/13,196 miles. This roughly represents 3x my average annual driving mileage which, of course, is hardly surprising……..the simple equation is: more time on the bike = less time behind the steering wheel.

Breaking this down into bite-size trivia, it has meant the following:

Monthly average: 1770 kms/1100 miles

Days ridden: 269………average per ride: 79 kms/49 miles

Theoretical number of calories burned over the year: 662,563

…….the equivalent of 2,208 cheeseburgers, or 4,416 café lattes, or 2,650 fruit scones with butter and jam (my favoured mid-ride snack). If I had wanted to lose weight (which I don’t) and had continued to eat only the recommended daily total of 2,500 calories, I would either have ended up a frazzled heap on the ground, or I would have disappeared completely. So I can only assume that the calories I’ve burned have been replaced by a similar number consumed. Which, seen in terms of an eating equation, means either my year has been 265 days longer than the average, or I have consumed the equivalent of an extra 780Bike and Istanbul fish ‘n chip suppers. Interesting thought……

Drink: if I have kept to recommended rehydration advice, I should have drunk at least 603 litres of extra fluids during my rides (that’s not counting the extra drinks I have mid- and post-rides). Now those figures may seem conservative, but they are in addition to what average men should drink in a normal day (2 litres). If I were a Ford Focus or Astra, I would have to fill up my tank (50 litres) with fluids every 9 days. But I’m not, so I get to sit in nice country cafés and tearooms instead.

And now the big question is this………… a target to be improved on next year? I know my wife would love to know the answer to this……..and the answer is…………wait for it………………………………………………………NO!

Why not (you might ask)? Well there’s a danger that it might just become another full time job. And who needs a job? Much better to ease back to something like 10,000 miles per annum, take a few more photos, do a few more tandem rides and, of course, eat fewer fruit scones! 😦

Steve AbrahamP.S. But, if you really want to follow someone who is going to make cycling a full-time job (with loads of overtime) over the coming year, tune in to the record Steve Abraham wants to break over the next 12 months. His intention, starting on January 1st, is to break Tommy Godwin’s annual record of over 75,000 miles set in 1939. This means he will have to average more than 205 miles every day of the year. Now try to work out his calorific and hydration needs over that period (not to mention the myriad other needs). It is mind boggling.

20140713_144715_Android

Increase your annual mileage: lap 6

Be a Billy-no-mates

The phone rings. You answer it. “Hey Bob” (if your name is Bob) “that ride we were going to do tomorrow…….sorry, I can’t make it now. The wife’s booked me in to go visiting family. Can we leave it till next week?”.

You put down the phone. You feel a bit deflated. You’ve been looking forward to this ride all week. And tomorrow is going to be a fine day……..It would have been a perfect day for a 70-80 miler, with a stop for lunch, in the company of your best cycling buddy. It won’t be the same without him. Yep, better to leave it till next week. Let’s hope the weather is as good……

Is this a familiar scenario? Does it happen to you from time to time? How much does riding your bike depend on other people going out with you? Do you ever envisage yourself going out on long solo rides? Have you ever tried it?

Image: lyricsdog-eu

Image: lyricsdog-eu

In my own case, solo-riding is my ‘default’ option. I’ve lived in a small village for nearly 35 years. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve joined up with local clubs and groups, but the nearest is over 20 miles away. Even so, more than 90% of my riding is still solo. I often ride out to cafés to meet up with buddies but, because we all come from widely different directions, we don’t always get to ride together.

But, the objective of meeting up at the café has been the greatest incentive to get out on the bike. It provides a purpose to the ride, and you spend an hour in the company of like-minded buddies, chewing the fat. For me, some of the cafés have been as much as 40-45 miles away, which has often meant an 80-90 mile ride for a cup of tea! But then, applying the principle of “value-added miles”, I would inevitably round up the mileage to 100 before getting home.

The point I’m making is this: unless you are prepared to be a “Billy-no-mates” from time to time (or even often), you will not be maximizing your chances of increasing your annual mileage. And I could write volumes on the pleasures of riding solo…..but not now (phew!).

Increase your annual mileage: lap 5

Whether the weather be hot, whether the weather be cold

We’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather

Whether we like it or not

A couple of years ago, I joined some of my clubmates on a spring training camp in Majorca. The island’s roads were heaving with thousands of cyclists from the northern countries, all getting themselves fit and trim for the coming racing season. My own personal training objectives were the next café stop and piece of chocolate cake and (incidentally) adding some distance to my total annual mileage.

Of course, the reasons for going to Majorca were twofold: plenty of mountains and good weather. One day, however, the skies

Image: Cycling Weekly

Image: Cycling Weekly

clouded over and the rains came down. The forecast was very bleak for the rest of the day. It was then that I realized that I occupied a different cycling hemisphere to my clubmates. In their droves, they decided to hang up their cycling shoes for the day and head off to the local bars and cafés. So, I set off on my own, battled through a very wet morning, waving at other solitary souls as we passed each other (but very few), eventually cycled into an improving afternoon, and arrived back at the hotel in sunshine, having completed over 60 miles (100kms), only to find dozens of my riding pals moping around the hotel grounds, kicking tin cans, wishing they hadn’t wasted a whole day.

Now I ask: is this an unfair image of the racing confraternity? Do they all wimp out at the least sign of inclement weather? Are some a bit touchy about getting their ‘pride and joy’ (ie. bike) wet and dirty? At the first signs of cold wet weather at home, I know a lot of them retreat into their caves, and spend days and weeks in the virtual world of turbo-training, peering at their iPAD animations through sweat-blurred eyes, huge fans whirring or A/C blasting away to keep them from melting into a little pool on the floor.

Sorry to say this, guys & gals, but adding serious distance to your annual mileages means going out in some inclement weather from time to time. Unless you live in Canada, northern USA, central Europe or similar, if you want to make the most of your opportunities, you’ll just have to grin and bear it. Get both yourself and your bike properly kitted out, and just go for it. Hail, rain or shine…………. and don’t forget to smile  ;0)

Increase your annual mileage: lap 4

When you deal with the nitty-gritty of any subject, you will inevitably tread on a few toes. But it can be done with good humour. The following observations may seem to carry a few digs at one or two cycling friends…..but honestly guys, no malice intended! It’s all good banter for the coffee stops.

How many bikes are enough?

Image: andy-matthew.co.uk

Image: andy-matthew.co.uk

Ah, good question. The ever popular answer to this little conundrum is N+1, where N= the number bikes you already have, plus the next one. Now, I love the humour behind this but………some cycling guys (and it’s always the men) take this literally. I mean, not only are they compulsive bike-buyers, but they can’t bear to get rid of the unused steeds in their stables.

I once visited a friend who took me to see his collection of bikes. I expected to go out into the garage, but no, he took me upstairs, opened a bedroom door and there, to my astonishment, was a collection of some one dozen bikes, filling the available space. The curious thing was that, whenever I saw him on a bike, it was invariably on his much-loved old fixed wheel…..his favourite and the one he habitually rode. The rest seemed to be just part of a collection……including an expensive titanium model.

So (you might ask) what has this got to do with increasing your annual mileage? Well, I read a number of cycling blogs, authored by fellow roadies around the world, and many of them take great pride in their collections. They are smitten with some kind of deep affection for their varied machines, and each machine will have a specific use. For them, there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’….in other words, one bike (or even two) will never be enough.

The minutiae of different riding conditions, of different weather patterns, if it’s hot or cold, if it’s wet or dry, if it’s icy or snowy…..every circumstance should have its nominated bike, which is equipped specifically for a clearly-defined job. Now, of course, I don’t buy into any of that. Because the question that really should be asked is: how many bikes are too many? And the answer is: N = >.

N is the number of bikes you own and > represents the exponential increase in time spent maintaining, fixing, cleaning and preening, and re-equipping

N+!? Image: dailymail.co.uk

N+1?
Image: dailymail.co.uk

those bikes. Meaning that the greater number of hours you spend on looking after your growing collection, the fewer hours you have to actually ride them. And yes, I know of guys who spend hours in their workshops tinkering with bikes, and they say they haven’t had much time for riding because they’ve been sorting out their bikes for the coming season, upgrading their TT bike, swapping saddles and handlebars between bikes…….and the list goes on.

If you are really serious about increasing your annual mileage, you may have to consider thinning out the stable or, at least, putting some of your steeds into temporary/permanent retirement. If you are time-starved, you will simply have to ‘keep the main thing, the main thing’…..that is, focus the few hours you have on what you really want to achieve……. riding the bike.

QED.

 

 

Increase your annual mileage: lap 3

If you’ve bothered to follow the ‘drift’ this far, you’re probably serious about increasing your annual mileage……or merely curious. But one thing you will gather from these musings is that, essentially, you’re not learning anything new. The ingredients of the recipe are well known and well documented, but the quality of the end result can vary enormously, depending on the end-user.

Cycling as a mode of transport

You all have neighbours, friends or work colleagues who can’t go anywhere without jumping into the car. Even if it’s just a few

Image:http://hkcyclingalliance.org/

Image: hkcyclingalliance.org/

hundred metres down the road, to buy a newspaper or get a coffee. The irony is that walking or cycling could be as quick, or even quicker, and certainly better for the environment and for their health.

Now, don’t get me wrong…..I am not ‘anti-car’. I am both a cyclist and car driver but, over the years, I have come to regard the car as a last resort for doing shorter journeys. This has included both my short commute to work (many of my pupils thought I didn’t own a car) and longer journeys to outlying towns to do errands……even towns as far as 30 miles away.

The astonishing thing I’ve found is this: taking the car does not save you a huge amount of time, or even any time at all (as you might expect). Let me give you an example.

If I have a few errands to do in Cambridge (30 miles away), I can leave home at 9am (after the rush hour), spend an hour or so doing the errands in Cambridge, and be back home by 2-3pm. Having the bike in Cambridge allows me to get around quickly, I have no parking issues, I don’t get held up in traffic, and my route there and back is along quiet country lanes.

cut-the-mustardFor more local towns, the time-saving can be even greater. When you drive, never underestimate the time spent in traffic queues, at traffic lights, parking up and then walking to all the places you need to get to. Park & Ride is even more time-consuming, when you add in the time spent waiting for buses at both ends, and the laborious journey through the town’s suburbs.

For many roadies, riding the bike is no more than a sport, unfortunately. Something they do at weekends with their club mates, or at the mid-week time trial or ‘chain-gang’ or, even more sporadically, at racing venues or mass events like sportives or audaxes. The annual mileage seeker must go beyond that…..they must see their bikes as an essential form of transport.

When you are doing more bike-miles than car-miles in the year, you are just beginning to ‘cut the mustard’.

 

Increase your annual mileage: lap 2

So, you’re still with us, eh? Intrigued to find out more…….?

Nothing of what I say is rocket science……..in fact, not even science. I seldom dwell on statistics, and certainly not on the so-called finer statistics covering cadence, heart rate, wattage output, route contours……all of that, for me, is an unnecessary distraction. My focus will simply be on increasing your mileage, and changing some habits and self-beliefs in the process.

When I had a full time job, my goal for several years was to ride 100 miles per week, every week of the year. Now, I knew that was not going to happen without a huge degree of flexibility on my part (bearing in mind that my commute to work was only 1 mile each way). There were going to be days, and even weeks, when I couldn’t get out on the bike regularly…..but I had made a commitment to myself. Committing to yourself (and to no-one else) can be the weakest link in this whole process. There is no accountability to anyone else, no questions to be addressed if you fail. But I had decided on January 1st to ride 100 miles per week, over 5000 miles per annum. If  there were to be some 20-25 weeks of the year when I couldn’t get much riding in, then I had to ‘up the ante’ in the remaining weeks, and increase my mileage. And this often required imagination and creativity.

Cartoon credit: http://www.fotolibra.com

Cartoon credit: http://www.fotolibra.com

Value-added miles

Most roadies would never admit to this, but they do it. I do it. You probably do it from time to time. You get back home from a ride and notice that you’ve covered some 46 miles ……wouldn’t it be nice to round it up to 50? So, you either go ’round the block’ a few times, or you head past your street and do an extra loop.

Other times you head off to a café to meet up with some cycling cronies, and notice your outward ride was 30 miles. Do you go back the same route? Perhaps not. You could find an alternative route that adds 5-10 miles. So, instead of riding 60 miles, you’ve possibly covered 70, that took you an extra 30-45 minutes.

Even the ‘sad’ little trick of rounding up your total to the next whole mile when you get home, could have the impact of adding some 50-100 miles over the entire year. My wife has often seen me doing a little loop around the street, and knows exactly what I’m up to. But it all adds to the grand total. ‘Value-added miles’ that don’t have a heavy impact on your routine, and may not disturb the peace at home!

Why not try it. It could be an easy way of adding 10% to your weekly average.

 

Increase your annual mileage: lap 1

So you want to increase your annual mileage? Or even just to start riding your bike more? One thing is for certain, neither of these two objectives will happen by accident. Even if you come up with a personal pledge that you will ride your bike more, if you are

Cartoon from examiner.com

Cartoon from examiner.com

realistic, you know it’s not going to happen……unless, of course, you are S.M.A.R.T. about it. So, let’s get the pseudo-business, jargon-laden, bottom-line focused terminology out of the way……..and make it simple.

Be Specific about what you want to achieve, have a reliable way of Measuring it, Assign yourself (ie commit) to the task, make it Realistic, and put a Time limit on it. Does this sound like a fancy way of making a New Year’s resolution? Dead right……..the only difference being that you’re not going to ditch the project before the end of January (as most people do with their resolutions).

So, where do you start? What is a realistic and achievable goal? Well, only you can decide that. But here are a few markers to help you:

1. what kind of daily/weekly mileage are you doing already?

2. do you have time/energy  to increase those numbers? If so, by how much?

3. where will you find the extra time? Will you ride solo or with others?

4. can cycling enter into some of your weekly commuting arrangements?

You can now begin to make some tentative calculations. It is psychologically easier to think in terms of percentage increasescycling-fast-icon rather than specific mileage increases. In other words, on top of whatever you are achieving now, can you increase it by 10%? Or even 20%?

In the following posts, I will make some suggestions on how you can ‘steal time’ from a busy schedule, and how you can add those extra miles without too much impact on your timetable.

Some of my suggestions will be debatable, even contentious……so watch this space.

Increase your annual mileage

Cut your food shopping bills…….become a mile-eater! Or, perhaps more accurately, cut your fuel bills by driving less. Now, this is a dream that many have, but the reality is frequently out of reach. The fact is, we have all developed lifestyles that fundamentally depend on access to a car. But can we do anything to reverse that trend?

Over the last few years, my annual cycling mileage has increased significantly. Now most of that is down to an indisputable truth: I enjoy a privileged state of retirement, which means I don’t have a job and, therefore, have more time to pursue things like ‘annual mileages’. What (you may say) has that got to do with the average Joe, who invariably has a job or business, and may even have the responsibility of a family to boot? Good question……

Commuting to workWhen I did have a job, because I lived only 1 mile from my place of work, my commuting rides only added about 400 miles to my annual total. Now, I’m not complaining about proximity here, I’m just stating a fact of life. If my commute, on the other hand, had been 10 miles each way, this might have been 4000 miles. But then (and here I surmise) I may have been less tempted to add leisure miles at the weekend, which is where the bulk of my mileage came from during my own working years.

Now, I know a lot of roadies out there are always looking for ways to increase their annual mileages, sometimes just for the heck of it, sometimes as the base training for the racing season, or sometimes to challenge clubmates or even pit themselves against cycling heroes via the plethora of ‘Strava Annual Distance’ award schemes that exist.

But how do you increase your annual mileage? Is it simply a question of spending more hours on the bike (hours which are frequently in short supply)? Or are there a few tricks of the trade? Things that might be viewed as clever cycling ‘prestidigitation’ that can creep into

Image courtesy Endless Cycles

Image courtesy Endless Cycles

the routine almost by ‘sleight of hand’, and not starve the already time-poor?

I am no sports scientist, nor even an expert in the world of cycling. I class myself as a ‘keen enthusiast’ who has simply learned a thing or two during more than 36 years of spinning cranks ‘in anger’. And why not share some of my findings with the information-hungry masses……well, at least a tiny percentage of the few that stumble into these pages.

What I have to share will be a mixture of personal practice and, sometimes, amusing reflections on the antics of fellow-roadies that may stir some to make comment, for better or worse. Roadies are a diverse bunch of characters. We have our little foibles, our routines and our strongly held opinions. There are frequently no right answers to prevailing cycling issues, but we love to engage in debate (even argument) about which is the best bike, the best way to record rides, ideal tyre pressures, how many spares of anything you should carry…..in fact, the list is endless.

If you’ve read thus far, you may just be interested enough to stay tuned over the next several posts, none of which will require any level of reading stamina……….(did I hear you mutter “thank goodness for that…this post has already outlasted its welcome”!).

Amen, I say to that.

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