Just about 8 weeks ago, I made what felt like one of the most irrational decisions of my life. A friend of mine talked about his desire to get out on the open road and take on a new challenge. He was talking about the legendary TOSRV bike ride; a 56-year old conquest of the Scioto River Valley. 105 miles in a single day. I didn’t know a lot about cycling but I knew all about taking on new challenges and testing my limits both physically and mentally. It’d been awhile since I’d done something of this capacity, and I felt the urge to take it on come upon me.
Coincidentally, I met up with some of the team over at roll: that very week. We discussed distance rides, and my lack of knowledge regarding the training, gear, and necessities to take on a Century Ride. Within seconds, they’d assured me that I had it in me to finish the ride and have fun doing it. I owned a basic hybrid bike, and my only add-on was a small front and back light. It felt like I was stepping onto the stage at a performance hall in my undergarments. “We’ll help you get you everything you need to succeed”, was the statement of confidence I needed to submit my registration. I signed up for TOSRV.
I got a late start according to most training plans, so I dove in right away. Part of the experience for me was learning more about bikes, as I was less than a novice. A friend sat with me on a patio and talked about how fascinating it was that most people still didn’t understand the science of how a bike stays up. Beyond that, I didn’t know how to change a tire, adjust a chain, or carb load appropriately. Classic newbie. I walked through the online fitting experience with roll and ordered the roll: S:1Sport Bike, drawn in by the perfect fit approach and the silver matte with matte components style. This bike was beautiful and had no flashy marketing or stickers attached. When it arrived at my door in the flat pack box, I felt like a kid receiving his first Nintendo on Christmas day. I expected a box of parts and accessories, but was blown away by how little needed to happen to get started. I watched the Assembly video, grabbed the included tool and got to work. Within an hour I was on the Scioto Mile on my first training ride.
As the weeks passed by, the miles increased. I was only riding 2-3 times per week but I found myself falling in love with the Columbus bike trails. I ran into some of the same people day after day and felt myself becoming a part of a community of people that similarly loved the outdoors. With just three weeks to go until ride day, I hadn’t rode more than 35 miles. I was getting nervous and began doubting my capability. But once again, Stuart and the roll team gave me some of the best insight imaginable.
“Training is hard work. Riding a bike is fun. Don’t forget to just get out there and ride your bike.”
As I walked out of their offices, my nerves calmed and a light bulb flipped on. Rather than treating this thing like a competition, I had to remember how to find joy in the ride. My perspective on the entire experience changed that moment. When the weekend of TOSRV came, my two friends and I indulged in a carb-loading spaghetti meal at my favorite Italian restaurant. We woke early on Saturday and started our trip around 6:30AM, riding through the fog. As the day carried on, I found myself in random conversations with people of all ages that were riding at our pace; one older man in his early 60’s who had rode for over 18 years. “Don’t forget to enjoy your ride,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
As we rode into a cool mist of the morning, I noticed the trend in the narrative of my first Century Ride.
5 miles became 25 miles. Then we hit 40. A quick stop to refill our water bottles was enough time for my legs to tell me to keep going rather than stop. I was getting into the groove and I couldn’t let lactic acid in my muscles knock me out. We hit the rolling hills and I faced moments of immense internal swearing. But 70 turned to 85 and Portsmouth was just ahead. We rode into town over an hour and a half earlier than we had anticipated when we did our 50 mile training ride. At this point, I felt like my body knew exactly what to do and my brain went searching for anything my soul had to express. In our last 20 miles, I remembered the advice back at mile 12 from the older man, then Stuart’s words about the fun of riding a bike. I looked around me at the quaint towns surrounded by beautiful mountains. I had spent over 6 hours with two of my best friends, doing something that very few people even attempt. And I was having a blast doing it.
We arrived in Portsmouth with just over 107 miles recorded and a Metallica cover band greeting us. We raised a pint with one another, grabbed our first group photo of the day, and eagerly asked around for directions to the best cheeseburger in town.
My final parting words for those that are considering a Century Ride themselves:
- Do it. Sign up and commit to it, and get your friends or family to do it with you.
- Put in the miles. From trails to roads. And don’t forget to find some hills ahead of time. Your lungs and quads will thank you.
- Take the time to enjoy the experience. There will always be someone faster than you, but likely always be someone behind you. Ride it, don’t race it.
- Invest in the right equipment. My friends suggested a variety of important bike gear, from the cushioned bike shorts to the Shimano clipless pedals and cleats. I can say with great confidence that these add-ons made a world of a difference. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get what you need. But do your research (or ask people that have).
- Trust your friends at roll:. The customer service goes beyond products and gets into mental preparation, encouragement, and life wisdom. I can say with great sincerity that I couldn’t have conquered this ride without them.
Enjoy the ride.