Top 10 Days on a Bike -Part I

Sitting on the bike trainer over the last few weeks has given me a lot of time to look back on what Midge and I have accomplished over the last few years. We’ve done hundreds of short rides, dozens of long day rides, a few mini-tours, 1 major tour, and 3 randonneur rides, not to mention 2 RAGBRAI’s. “Why not make a list of my top 10 rides?”, I said to myself as sweat was dripping on the carpet, “God knows I’m not going outside today”. So, without further ado, I give you daveonabike’s Top 10 Days on a bike:

Honorable Mention Harold is Going to a RAGBRAI Party

July 27, 2010: ~100 miles from Cedar Rapids to Charles City, Ia

What Made it Great? Harold made it great. He was up for the challenge. Up for the long ride to get from home to the traveling party that is RAGBRAI. It was very humid. I sweat so much before breakfast that my blue headband’s blue dye bled out and stained my forehead and the back of my neck. But, like many bike rides, the unexpected happened. A few miles outside of Charles City we we’re flagged down by people setting up a stand alongside the road. They were from the local bar called Pete and Shorty’s. We yucked it up for a couple hours and had a few beers. That stop set the tone for the next few days on RAGBRAI.

10. My First 200k

April 16, 2010: 128 miles from Waterloo to Volga, Ia and back

What Made it Great? The challenge made it great! This was my first attempt at riding such a long distance in what I consider a short amount of time. It was hard. I rode with a strong head wind most of the trip. I learned to dig deep to get through it. I used most of the time allotted to me, but I made it. No pictures. I still haven’t been able to take pictures while on a randonneur ride. Stopping to take pictures would use up too much time.

9. Hannen Lake

June 12, 2011: 63 miles from Cedar Rapids to Hannen Lake, Ia and back.

What Made it Great? The weather was perfect and the destination was ideal. Matt and I were training for RAGBRAI and thought this trip had the right distance with the right number of hills. First time visiting Hannen Lake since my childhood. It was a bit more run-down than what I remembered, but it still brought me back to my childhood and camping out at Hannen Lake. It was a nice, peaceful day on a bike.

8. My First 300k

May 7, 2010: 93 miles (185 miles planned) from Waterloo to McGregor, Ia

What Made it Great? It was great because I found my physical limits. It was great because I pushed my limits enough that I couldn’t finish. It was great because I tried.  It was another randonneur trip without pictures, but an important ride none the less. I only made it half way through the ride. It was cold, wet and miserable. The wind was outrageous. The hills were huge. To this day, I still haven’t finish a 300km ride. This year for sure.

7. Lake Michigan Tour: Day 1 (June 6, 2009)

June 6, 2009: 104 miles from Cedar Rapids, Ia to Cassville, Wi

What Made it Great? It was one of the first times I rode in the rain all day long. But even in the cold rain, I got an unexpected boost from the small crowd watching me on the web. The words of encouragement on this blog, the text messages and the Tweets were all noticed and they helped me push through to get to the Cassville Ferry on time. The day was cold, wet and tiring. I discovered the power behind the “where is Dave” feature. I didn’t feel alone. I felt like everyone was watching and cheering me along. All that said, I learned a lesson too: going long distances loaded down with 100 lbs of gear looks easy on paper, but it’s very hard to pull off.

Any guesses what rides made it to the top 6? We’ll go through a few more next week, but until then I have to get back on my trainer.

My First Camp Site

Fourth of July, Tour de France and 1000 Miles

Summer is in full swing with temps in the 90’s and the Iowa humidity making your shirt wet as soon as you walk outside. Prime bike riding weather. This weekend marks 3 milestones that tell me we are in the middle of bike riding season:

  1. Fourth of July: My first bike tour with Midge was on a Fourth of July weekend. Although it was three years ago, I still remember it like it was yesterday. I only rode 50 miles a day, but it was grueling.  I pushed the limits of my ability, but wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
  2. Tour de France: The tour starts on July 2nd.  I have no aspirations to be a racer or to even ride fast, but boy watching that race is fun. The personalities, the teams, the drama, the scandals, the fights, the wipe-outs.  I wouldn’t miss watching it for anything.
  3. 1000 Miles: Usually, right around this time of year, I hit 1000 miles on my odometer.  It isn’t uncommon for me to slow down with my riding starting in July. So, I usually end up with only 1300-1500 miles total for the year. This year, it’ll probably be different with RAGBRAI coming up.  I’m hoping to get 2000 miles in by the end of the year.

The Fourth of July

Who wouldn’t love to go camping on the Fourth of July?  As the picture shows, I really did have a good time.  Of course the Aurora, Ia Kwicky Mart only sold Busch Lite and it was hard to find just a 12 pack instead of the usual 30 pack, but it was some of the best tasting beer I’ve ever had.  Something about having a few beers after a long ride makes them taste better than anything else in the world.

The trip taught me a few things about all my new camping gear.  First and foremost: most cheaper tents are NOT waterproof out of the box.  Let me repeat that for anyone who might not have heard it the first time. Tents need to be waterproofed after you get them!  There were thunderstorms on my last overnight on the way back from Guttenberg. Rain poured into the tent. I had to scramble to get under the pavilion after spending hours sitting on my feet in the tent, just so I could keep most of me dry.

Second: Water is king. The whole trip I was short of water. It’s never easy to get good, clean water at the campground and you can never count on your local town’s convenience store to carry anything but beer. After this trip, I learned to carry many liters of water and to never count on anyone sharing the water they have.

Third: You can’t just jump on your bike and ride with a bunch of camping gear on it without a little bit of training. I was unfit and it showed. If I did that same trip today, I believe it would be a lot easier. That all said, it will never be the same as the first time.

Tour de France

I only have a few things to say about this year’s TdF. We want Andy Schleck to win. We want Alberto Contador to lose. Preferably, Alberto Contador will lose in a close race to Andy Schleck. We want to see the heartbreak in Contador’s eyes. I’ll also accept a Schleck brother 1-2 finish.

Besides the constant parade of doping scandals from professional bike riders (yes, I’m talking about you Alberto!), watching the tour is a blast. I’ve never seen a group of guys who can withstand so much pain. They give it all in the mountains, they push it on the flats. You also get to see a lot of strategy inside the teams. True team efforts, where some riders will sacrifice a stage win for the good of the team and the good of their strongest rider.

And kudo’s to Versus for their great TV coverage. For a “minor” sport, they put a lot of production effort into the broadcast. Let’s hope that NBC’s buyout of the Versus Network doesn’t degrade their coverage. And remember, smart money is on Andy Schleck to win!

1000 Miles

I get this great feeling when I turn over 1000 for the year. Don’t know how to explain it. Seems to be a milestone most people don’t reach, even people who ride on a regular basis. I know it isn’t all about the numbers, but it is a great visual sign that I’m getting out and riding, not sitting around thinking about it. I can see that I’m serious about some day being able to ride a 300k or a 400k or even a 600k Brevet. It’s a reminder that I will have to get to this mark much faster next year if I want to be a serious Randonneur. I also like seeing 4 digits when I look at the bike computer. Something about that big number makes me feel good. Shouldn’t that be enough?

My goal this year is to finish with over 2000 miles on the odometer. That would mark my best year ever. I think it’ll give me a good base to work with for next year. Next year my main goal it to finish the Super Randonneur Series. I’ll need those miles this year to help me get a jump start next year.

So bring on the rest of the summer. There’s lots of good riding ahead of me. Stay tuned for further developments…



CarrievilleGot to thinking the other day, most of you probably don’t know Midge. Midge has been with me on every ride for the last three and a half years. Without her, I wouldn’t enjoy riding nearly as much as I do. She has never let me down, not once. She has put up with me giving up on rides when it wasn’t her fault. She’s put up with me not always giving her the attention she deserves. The least I can do is introduce her to you.

Midge came to me from WebCyclery in Bend, Oregon. I talked to Mean Todd for weeks so Midge and I would be a perfect match. Most people would recognize her Long Haul Trucker frame and a lot of the usual stuff that comes with it, but Midge is definitely one of a kind. First of all, she is the tallest of all the Surly’s at 62cm. There isn’t a lot of those out there. Her wheels are built strong, built for heavy riding, heavy loads and a heavy rider. Over 4000 miles and no broken spokes. Her wheels have stayed true without any help. Her Brooks B12 is perfectly formed to fit my rear like a…well…a glove, I guess. Her flared Randonneur style handlebars help her drops match my wide shoulders. She’s proven she can carry over 300 lbs without a complaint. But don’t let that make you think she can’t ride fast. When she isn’t loaded down, she can be quick, as long as I’m in good enough shape to help her out. Most of the time when she’s out of the house, she’s at work with me. It’s just a 16 mile ride there and back, but I look forward to every ride. Day in/day out she doesn’t care about the rain, heat, cold or even snow. She’s a hard worker and doesn’t gripe about it. She is the perfect bike.

The Surly Long Haul Trucker

When the Utility Blue Long Haul Trucker came out in the summer of 2007, they were about impossible to find. Continue reading