In an email, a friend who has followed the exploits of Team MCSA asks:
Hey Chris, sometime if you have time, I would like to pick your brain. My best friend and I will be turning 60 next year. We were thinking of doing RAGBRAI. This gives me about 16 months to get in good enough shape that they don’t have to carry me off on a stretcher after the first 10 minutes. So, I need advice. How best to train, what sort of bike, etc.
Here is how I responded:
If you want to ride the entire RAGBRAI route in 2016, I would buy a bike as soon as you decide what you want and can afford and then I’d start riding THIS YEAR. Your goal could be to ride 2-3 days of RAGBRAI in 2015, continuing to ride for as long as possible this fall and then starting again next spring with the goal of riding the entire route in 2016.
The first year I rode on RAGBRAI was in 2008. I rode the last 3 days and was hooked. A lot of people only ride part of it the first time they do it.
As far as training, once it gets nice there will be a weekly Tuesday night ride in Muscatine for beginners. They don’t start out going very far or fast. It’s a really good way to get started.
As for a bike, a road bike is the best for this kind of bicycling. Many people mistakenly think sitting upright is the most comfortable, but it’s not. A road bike puts you in the best position to get the most out of the biggest muscles in your legs as you push and pull up on the pedals to climb a hill. The wheels on a road bike are a bit bigger and the tires are skinnier. This makes a huge difference in the ease of pedaling.
If there is something wrong with your wrists or shoulders, or there is some other reason that you absolutely can’t ride a road bike, you might try a recumbent road bike. I’ve never ridden one and I know absolutely nothing about them. But the people who like them REALLY like them.
But starting to ride this year and not waiting until next year is more important that the type of bike you ultimately decide you like most. And I know a group that would be honored to have you join it this summer even for just 2-3 days on RAGBRAI.
One more thing: If I were you, I’d buy the bike at the local bike shop. You can learn a lot about riding from the owners. Also, you’re going to need to have the bike fixed from time to time and it’s a lot easier to have them do it if they also sold you the bike.
I apologize if my friend didn’t want me to blog about this. Hers is a question I suspect many people might ask if they haven’t ridden a bike in a long time and are on the fence about giving it a try.
Also, the topic I had planned for today is going to require another day of germination and I’m going on about five hours of sleep. It’s author John Lecroart‘s fault. I couldn’t put his The Motive down until I finished it at 1:30 in the morning. Then, I couldn’t fall asleep.
But knowing my friend is even thinking about giving biking a try is pretty exciting. And we really would like to have her and her best friend both ride with Team MCSA.