Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a rider who is new to the joys of the road, not only is it possible to complete the multi-day Empire State Ride next year, it is possible to have fun doing it!
You’ll have to put some miles in your legs, and the training will require some long days in the saddle, but if you look at that week in August as an adventure and as the culmination of all your hard work, you’ll be pleasantly surprised just how manageable preparation is.
The first thing to remember is that the Empire State Ride is not a race. It’s not the Tour, it’s not even a Gran Fondo, as are becoming increasingly popular stateside. The Empire State Ride is seven days of flat and hills and headwinds and tailwinds, but you have no obligation to be the first to the tents at the end of the day – the chow line is another issue!
Second, the ride is open to riders of all ability levels, and while I highly recommend that you have ridden enough to complete the ride, you do not have to be the fastest climber or be able to time trial the flats at 30 plus miles per hour. There will, in all likelihood, be someone at a similar ability to yourself so that you won’t go the whole distance alone. In fact, if you think about putting together a small local group to ride with in preparation for the ride, you’re bound to have fun even before you pedal out of New York City.
During the weeklong ride, you’ll meet new people, see the sights of New York State, eat, camp under the stars, and eat some more. And, the best part is all of your gear will be sagged for you! No heavy panniers or cargo bike bags are required.
Before you make the decision to join the Empire State Ride, however, there are a few things that you should think about and make note of:
- To be able to complete the ride, you’ll need to be able to recover from each day’s efforts. To do this effectively, for the next 7 months, you’ll need to be able to put time in the saddle. While I’ll discuss various options for indoor verses outdoor training in a few weeks, no matter what method you choose, you’ll need to get on your bike at least 4 days a week to begin and ramp up to 5 to 6 once the weather breaks in the spring. This means you need to find time in your day beyond family obligations.
- Dovetailing in with number 1 is the support that you’ll need from family and friends. Their initial reaction is sure to be, “You want to do what?” followed by “Why?” But once they see your determination to raise money for cancer research, and your resolve to challenge yourself, they should understand how important it is to you. In fact, explaining to them what the ride is about is the ideal opportunity to ask for a donation. You’ll need this support because life is busy enough without trying to fit in a daily bike ride, and being able to head out to ride without eliciting an argument from your significant other is paramount to relaxed, stress-free training.
- The ride is best completed on a road or touring style of bike. While you don’t need a top-of-the-line carbon steed, a heavy steel, lugged tire mountain bike or cruiser will prove extremely uncomfortable over the long haul. Most new road bikes also come with between 20 and 30 speeds. The additional speeds will ensure that you’ll climb every hill with relative ease. So, if your heart screams “do it” but your budget holds you back, you might want to consider one of the shorter one-day rides that will be offered by the Empire State Ride in 2016.
Joining the Empire State Ride isn’t just about finishing a multi-day ride. It’s about raising funds for cancer research, remembering loved ones who are ill or who have passed from cancer, and challenging yourself. It’s about the camaraderie and friendships formed during the ride that are sure to last beyond. And while there may be a little friendly competition in your training group, or during the ride, the only real competition is with yourself. Can you find the mental strength and positive self-talk to push your body through 500+ miles in a week?
For the next few months, I will be providing tips to get you ready for training through the winter, ramping up your riding in the spring, as well as myriad information including weight training, flexibility, bike repair, bike fit … virtually anything you need to know about prepping for your multi-day adventure. So, gear up and let’s ride!
Check out more Empire State RIde blog posts!
About the Author: Dena Eaton is a former cyclist and ironman triathlete. In a short 5 year span, (2003-2008) she raced over 60 triathlons including 12 Ironman. She was an All-American in 2004. Of the three disciplines, cycling is her specialty and in 2008, she switched gears to track cycling. She is a multi-time National Championship Medalist, and Five Time Masters World Champion. She has advanced coursework in physiology and has coached several athletes. She makes her home in San Diego where she write, photographs and is Faculty at Palomar College.