I survived the 2017 MS Finger Lakes Challenge

If you want to ride a century ride, do it right. Do not do it as I did. I have plenty of miles in the saddle this year. Lots of time on the bike. However, practically none of my rides really prepared me for this past weekend. I feel like I survived the 2017 National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Finger Lakes Challenge. It should be that I had a blast riding the Finger Lakes Challenge (I did!) but I should feel a whole lot better after I finished than I do. Short rides, no matter how many, are not sufficient for training for a century.

I ride about 17 miles each ride. When I commute, that is 34 miles a day. In the chart above, you can see that I am pretty consistent with my distances. There is a spike in June for the Tour de Cure and a spike in July for the Finger Lakes Challenge.

The Tour de Cure wasn’t bad; nice weather and a flat route. The Finger Lakes Challenge on the other hand… Well the weather was nice; nice and windy! That wind kicked my butt on Saturday. It was a stiff headwind most of the time and it was combined with some steep hill climbing. I saw signs for 10% and 14% gradient hills. Gradient is another name for slope. If you recall from high school math class, slope is determined by rise over run. That is, how many feet up divided by how many feet forward. (times 100 to get the percent). That means the 10% gradient hill was approximately ten feet up for every one hundred feet forward. The fourteen percent gradient was fourteen feet up for every one hundred feet forward. Those are steep hills to climb! They are equally steep to descend, too. One of these hills at least, was a winding, steep, gravel covered road that I had never been on before.

Steep Descents and Climbs

Fortunately, for me, there was no on-coming traffic when I was descending. I could not see any on-coming traffic due to the winding curves. Additionally, I didn’t know what was at the bottom of the hill. Squealing brakes all the way down…. What was at the bottom? A bridge and then a steep climb up the other side!

The weather was great. It had rained overnight but cleared by morning. However, when I got to rest area number two (the first one I stopped at) nobody was allowed to leave due to a thunder storm alert. I gained some notoriety because I didn’t get the message that we couldn’t leave and left. There was a lot of screaming and radio contact, but in the end they let me go and everyone else followed. We did not hit any bad weather. Clear skies and sunshine.

I was in the lead! It is not a race, but it is competitive, no matter what they say. After five or so miles I was overtaken and passed and in the number two position. A little later, there was another rest stop. I skipped this since it was so soon and I did not want to be stopped again. On this ride, you have to leave the lunch stop by 1:00 or they take you off the route. That happened to me last year and I did not want it to happen again this year. So I went past the rest stop and back into the number one position. I was in the lead, again.

I stopped at the next rest stop which again was not very far. Of course I was the first person to stop there – I was the lead person on the ride. Nobody else stopped at this rest stop. I never saw the leaders again. Good thing this is not a race and is non competitive.

The rest of the day I continued to fight the wind and climb the hills. I was being whupped! There was a little rain from miles 49 to 51 and then it cleared up again. Around mile 58 we had our lunch stop. When I left this rest stop I was riding with two other people, one of them an angel from Buffalo. She was one of the sweepers for the ride. She stayed with me until the end of the ride. By the end of the ride I was completely bushed. My butt felt like a baboon’s looks.

Although the general topology of the route was upwards for the first half of the ride and downwards for the second half, the wind was such that it felt like uphill 90% of the time. There were only a few times when a turn in the road really made it feel like a tail wind. I wish there were a way to see the wind pattern on a map at the same time as seeing the route (I mean aside from doing something manually) We did get to do the 10% and 14% gradient hills again as well. The second time was better than the first, even though I was exhausted. At least I knew what was at the bottom and the loose gravel was on the uphill side this time.

100 Mile Route Elevation Map

You can check out the actual route by going to https://ridewithgps.com/routes/19841814 . Sunday’s route was much flatter. You can see it at https://ridewithgps.com/routes/19690832 . The only real highlight of Sunday’s route will not show up on the map.

The Geneva police escorted us through Geneva at the beginning of the ride. We did not have to stop for any intersections. Plus, it was early in the morning so there really wasn’t much traffic. It was one of those times like from a movie when the sound of the bicycles was the loudest noise. Very cool!

You can also check the ride out on strava.com. Many riders have recorded their ride on this site, me included. My un-official time for Saturday were: 7:49:25, average speed was 12.5 MPH, and a maximum speed of 37.7 MPH. Sunday was 4:06:32, 13.6 MPH and 35 MPH.

Me Crossing the finish line after 50 miles on Sunday...
Crossing the finish line after 50 miles on Sunday…

If you have never done a Bike MS ride, you should really consider it. It is a tremendous amount of fun, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and really helps those who have MS. There are tons of volunteer opportunities as well. For instance, there were masseuses at one of the rest stops where you could get a five-minute chair massage. There was also a masseuse at the end of the ride. I took advantage of both.

You can still support my efforts financially until mid August. Just go to http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/Simmons and pledge some money.

My tent setup indoors
Roughing It In The Wild

As a little aside, I usually camp out at these events. Its cheaper (yes that is my main motivator) its fun, and I get to use my camping gear. This year we had to camp indoors! Talk about roughing it. But you know what? It was still cheap, fun, and I still used my camping gear.


The campus and facilities of Hobart William Smith college are really nice. It was another great place to host the Finger Lakes Challenge. Other places it has been held are Keuka College, New York Chiropractic College, Swain Ski Resort, and Keuka State Park.

Do you think you would like to ride a hundred miles on a bike? Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Don’t forget, you can support me financially at no cost to yourself by clicking through www.bicyclingiswork.com/blog/amazon. If you make a purchase after clicking through, I will receive a tiny referral fee – again, at no additional cost to you. Please do it. Please do it often, and please tell your friends too.

DIY Bicycle Repairs Can Save You A Heap Of Money

I just dropped a small fortune into my bicycle for repairs. I thought I was only replacing the chain, but

Five Dollar Bills
Five Dollar Bills

the mechanic showed me that I needed new chain rings and a cog set as well! The estimate came in at about $200. A week later, I dropped off my bike at the shop. When the “official” work order was written up, it was revealed that the original estimate did not include any labor; it was just parts. Tack on another $100!

I am not disappointed with the work, nor the quality of the work. Just the cost of the work. Nor do I doubt the value of the work. The mechanic surely did earn his keep. I just don’t like to lay out that kind of money. If you find yourself in the same boat, you should consider learning to do your own repairs. To be honest, bicycle repair is not rocket science. Probably anyone can do it. However, it is a skill and it needs to be developed. Anyone can learn it but it takes time and practice.

You can get a real education by clicking here and ordering the DIY Bike Repair Videos. The only reason I didn’t do my own repairs was due to time. I waited too long to get started. I needed my bike for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Finger Lakes Challenge ride and I did not have time to do my own repairs this time around. As it was, I picked up my bike from the shop on Friday for the ride on Saturday.

I wrote about replacing my drive train http://www.bicyclingiswork.com/blog/replace-bike-chain-early-save-money/ in another post. I could have done this work myself except that I didn’t plan far enough ahead and give myself time to do it. But, that repair would have saved me $100 in labor charges.

Just like learning to use a compass freed sailing ships from having to stay in view of the coastline, every bike rider should learn how to change a flat tire. This knowledge is what frees you up to enjoy riding long distances. No worries about what if I have a flat, because eventually, you will have a flat tire. Changing flats quickly and efficiently is taught in this course.

Adjusting brakes is another basic skill that all riders should be familiar with. This too, is taught in the this class. These are two of the most basic repair/maintenance skills that every bike rider should know. They are both taught in the DIY Bike Repair Videos course. These are. Of course, very basic skills that all riders should know. But the course is chock full of advanced skills as well. I just had the opportunity to use the vide on adjusting caliper brakes. It only took me about ten minutes and saved me easily $20 I would have had to pay a t the shop (not to mention the time to get  there and wait for the repair!)

Building and truing your own wheels is something that very few bikers actually do for themselves. The skill is taught in the course. Being able to build and true wheels is an invaluable skill if you do any touring on your bicycle. That is because those skills will also teach you how to replace broken spokes. Touring with fully laden panniers eventually leads to broken spokes. Being able to repair your wheel on the road will give you tremendous self-confidence as well as save you money.

Every bicyclist should learn the basics of bicycle repair. If you enjoy it or find that you are really good at it, these DIY Bike Repair Videos could be your ticket to a new career or side hustle. Just a couple of simple repairs or tweaks will pay for the cost of the course and then you are on your way to profitability. You should know that if you purchase the course through any of the links in this blog I will get a small referral fee. That does not change my belief in bicyclists knowing how to do their own repairs.


7 Steps To Riding A Century

It is not hard to join the elite group of riders that can say that they have ridden a century. It will take time, dedication, and work. But, anybody that can ride a bike can ride a bike for one hundred miles. Training for it. That is what it is all about. In general, I would say that the average rider can ride almost twice as far as their longest training ride. That is, if you can ride fifty miles comfortably you will be able to push on for one hundred. Comfort will be greater if you train more but you could do it.

Almost anyone can ride ten miles an hour. Ten miles an hour is actually pretty slow. Ten hours at ten miles per hour is one hundred miles. Realistically, your butt might be killing you if you rode for ten hours straight at ten miles per hour. But, what if you rode for three hours, took a break, rode for three hours, took a break and rode again for three hours. That is ninety miles done. Trust me when I say you cannot ride ten miles per hour for ten hours. It’s to slow! You will easily be riding fifteen miles per hour for a lot of that time. Fifteen miles per hour is a good speed. Racers will scoff at this speed. Recreational riders will be doing pretty well to maintain this speed for hours.

Preparation is key. The bike is important, but not nearly as important as the motor, that is you! You are the motor. You provide the power. The bike becomes more important when you become more competitive. Racers. The bike makes a difference to racers. Riders… not so much. You can do a cross-country tour on a single speed bike with a banana seat and sissy bar, if you want to. The key is to get yourself in shape to go. Here are seven steps to take in order to prepare yourself for a century ride.

  1. Set a schedule. Get out and ride regularly. Start with a couple of miles. Add to it. Double it. Triple it… The more you ride the easier it gets. You will build strength in your legs. You will get stronger in your lungs and respiratory system. Your butt will not be as sore as it was previously following a ride. Push yourself and very soon you will be enjoying yourself on these rides. Moreover, the rides will get longer and more enjoyable.
  2. Mix up your rides. Do some hills. Do some flat rides. Do some short rides every once in a while, too. Take a day or two off each week. You don’t want this to become a chore or a drudgery. The more you can enjoy it the better the training will go. Get a friend to ride with you. Ride alone. Mix it up. You need an accountability partner to keep you going. They don’t have to ride. They have to make sure you ride. Maybe they are just doing sit-ups or something but you can still keep each other motivated. Ride to work. Ride home from work. Do both directions in one day or split it up over two days.
  3. Eat right. You will be burning calories. When you are riding a lot you will burn a lot of calories. The nice thing about this is that you don’t have to worry as much about what you are eating; you will burn it off. Still, better eating will continue to be better for you even with a lot of exercise. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Eat healthy. But don’t forget to enjoy what you eat. Riding is supposed to be fun. Don’t take all the fun out of it by making a nasty menu. Enjoy ice cream! Bike to the ice cream parlor (or a salad bar).
  4. Stay hydrated. You will be sweating. Drink lots of water. Try Gatorade or another thirst-quenching drink. Bicycling is work and therefore you will sweat. Keep replenishing your fluids and you will be fine. Stay away from sodas and beer. Save those for enjoying after the ride. During the ride drink water and/or Gatorade like drinks.
  5. Reward yourself when you reach milestones. Maybe you want one of those previously mentioned sodas or a beer. Maybe for you its ice cream. Maybe it is a new cycling jersey. Maybe it’s a night out. Celebrate your successes and that will help to keep them fun. Fun for you and your friends and family.
  6. Remember to reward your family and friends too. If you can get them on your side they will help to motivate you. If they are not supporting you they will be major de-motivators; intentionally or not. Include them in your celebrations and they will in turn encourage you to greater successes.
  7. Get a training plan like this one from Century Training. With this product, or one like it, you will learn many training tips, gain advice on nutrition, learn mental “hacks” that will give you a competitive advantage, and advice on which equipment to buy for best results. Keep in mind that this is all just advice. You can modify to fit your needs. They lay out a plan for you but you can work the plan at your own pace. Like everything, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.

Follow these seven steps and you will soon be biking long distances that not too long ago sounded impossible. Soon you will bike that coveted century ride. You will be a more confident person. You will enjoy better health. Your friends and family will like the new you even more than they like the old you. You will make the world a better place. Bicycling does that.

Dream big: Ride A Century

Do you plan to ride a century in the near future? Respond in the comments section and let me know how you are progressing towards your riding goals.

Just as a disclaimer, if you do follow the links in this blog I may get a referral reward at no additional cost to you. Please visit my web page, www.bicyclingiswork.com/blog to see other things I have written.

Ready For The Finger Lakes Challenge

Holy cow! This weekend is the MS Finger Lakes Challenge! Has it really been a month since I rode the Tour de Cure? By the way, you can still sponsor me for either ride if you would like to: http://main.diabetes.org/goto/ksimmons, and/or http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/Simmons.

Its not too late to join the team or volunteer for the MS Ride.

The Tour de Cure was a very flat ride. The MS ride looks to be much hillier. I am ready. I am in good shape and ready to go. Except, my bike is  still in the shop getting repairs done. The worst case scenario is that I get out my old faithful Panasonic PT 3500. This is the bike that I ride in my basement on the trainer. I commuted on it for many years, too. It is also the bike that I rode all the way to

My Panasonic PT3500

Florida. It can handle the MS ride. I rode it for many years on many MS rides in the past. I’d say it has at least fifteen MS rides on it. I took it out for a test ride. It feels good. The brakes need to be tuned up and I will tighten the bearings of the front tire, too.

It is incredible, though, how different the Panasonic feels on the road than on the trainer and compared to the Surly. I feel much taller on the Panasonic; much higher. I don’t think I am but it sure feels like it. On the trainer there is no steering because the front wheel is removed and the bike is locked onto the trainer. On the road, this bike feels much more responsive than the Surly. I am pretty certain that my feelings were completely the opposite when I bought the Surly. At any rate, the Panasonic felt good. If I need it, I can depend on it.

My wife has a Surly Long Haul Trucker that matches mine. There is a one centimeter difference in the frame sizes. I guess a worse case scenario would have me riding my wife’s Surly Long Haul Trucker. Why would this be worse? Because she is supposed to be riding it! At this point, I do not really think that she will be riding. She hasn’t even been on the bike this year. If I am lucky, she will choose to do the metric century or a shorter route, and then the fifty on Sunday. She can do it. She is not out of shape. She just hasn’t been on the bike.

The gist of this post is just to say that I think I am ready and I hope my bike is ready. It looks like the forecast is saying to expect good weather, too. I don’t put much stock in weather forecasts, but I hope they are right this time!

PLEASE SUPPORT ME IF YOU CAN. http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/Simmons