Thursday, April 17, 2008

They're just CALLED Centuries

Written in the mid-'90s, I suspect, probably for a regional bicycle newspaper: California Bicyclist or the Bicycle Paper. A decade and a half later, nothing much has changed. Still big fun...

They're just called centuries

I love riding centuries. I always intend to ride several each season and end up only doing a few. If you're a racer or knarly mountain bikin' dude, you may think centuries are for wimps or "poppy-watchers." That's your loss: centuries are fun.

If you've never ridden a century, here's what it's like. You travel (probably, sigh, by car) to a place, most likely scenic, where you do not normally go.

You park the car early on a weekend morning and stand in line a few minutes to register; costs a modest amount of money. Maybe you pay a little extra for the souvenir t-shirt, better looking this year than last, but not as neat as the one from '92.

Then you unload your trusty ol' Murray or Merlin ten-speed and ride it 30, 50, 65, 100 or 125 miles, whatever you feel like. They're just CALLED centuries - you don't have to ride 100 miles.

The nice folks at registration will give you a route map or you can simply obey the color-coded arrows painted on the road. No worries: hardly anyone gets lost. For long.

Remember, the routes you're riding are the finest the cyclists in that area (the scenic one to which you would not normally go) can find for your riding pleasure. They're proud of their area and their roads, and they'd like you to be impressed too.

Note: With your new-found knowledge you can, at your option, return to that area and ride those roads again, without benefit of registration, map or color-coded arrows. No one will mind but you will not receive a souvenir t-shirt.

As you ride the century, every so often you stop and snag food from tables heavy-laden with food. You get cold drinks from icy-cold coolers on tables nearby, equally heavy-laden with coolers. Sports drinks, lemonade, iced tea and water are typical choices.

If you ride 65 miles, my favorite distance, you may stop, oh, three times for food (newtons, maybe, bananas, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter/jelly sands, orange sections) and liquid.

If, say, you demand maximum effectiveness from your tough weekend morning workouts, you can ride right by all the roadside rest stops, featuring, as they do, that tasty food and those cold drinks. Suit yourself. Most people, honestly, do not ride right by. They stop, take off their helmets, eat and drink.

Sometimes, as they eat and drink, they sit on the grass under shade trees in informal sweaty groups. Some remove cycling shoes. They stretch out their legs on the grass and chat with one other about how good the food tastes and how cold the drinks are.

Perhaps you've just eaten as you read this. You have to imagine how good that food tastes and how pleasant it is to down about a gallon of icy-cold lemonade - after, oh, fifty 90-degree miles.

Any of this century stuff sound objectionable so far? No?

As I said, I like riding 100 kilometers, about 65 miles. Sixty-five miles seems like a real ride - but I can still stay awake later in the day when, feet up on the couch, frosty can of electrolyte replacement fluid in hand, I listen to my non-riding wife tell me how HER morning went.

Sure enough, riding the distance, enjoying the good roads, food and drink are important parts of the century experience. But here's (sound of trumpets) the best part. While you're out there on those roads, hundreds of other folks are out there too. Same roads, same morning. Hundreds of cycling persons you don't know.

You can talk to them.

It's easy if you use this proven technique.

First, pick a person; use any criteria you judge appropriate. Then - check behind you. When the road is free of traffic, simply adjust your gear selection and pedaling cadence until you and the person with whom you wish to speak are traveling the same speed.

Next - align your bicycle with that person's in the road, front wheel next to front wheel, rear wheel next to rear, either on the right side or the left, maybe two feet away.

Once you've done that, you'll find that you and that individual are side-by-side in the road, spaced apart a convenient distance for spoken communication.

Merely say hi. Smile, maybe. If that person responds, and you respond to their response, and they respond once again - you've got a conversation going. Actual human contact.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? Try it. It works nearly every time.

I love riding centuries.

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