I was born in December and this Saturday I celebrate my birthday. The forecast is for rain with temperatures in the 50s. So, unlike many so-called “serious” cyclists, I doubt I will be out riding my age. That said, I do see myself as a serious cyclist because I love the sport and can’t imagine my life without it.
Bicycling gives me back as much as I put into it: fitness, good health, adventure, etc. I love it and it’s lots of fun. But it’s hard to explain those points to people who aren’t bicyclists. When I tell them about my exploits on the bike, they think I’m “hardcore” because I can ride 40+ miles in a three-hour outing. Maybe so, but I admit I rarely ride outside in the winter nor if it is raining unless I’m already out and the skies start to downpour.
That is why I think that using cycling to celebrate life milestones, personal challenges, or other reasons doesn’t mean much to me. For me, bicycling should be fun and a way to keep fit and not an obligation.
Personal Birthday Challenge
The other day I read an article on TripSavvy called “I Biked Hundreds of Miles Alone on My Birthday—and I Can’t Wait to Do It Again.” This writer talks about how in his mid-twenties he began the tradition of celebrating his birthday by doing some epic event. For his 30th birthday, he decided to ride 1,000 miles from British Columbia to Berkeley, CA. –alone!! In other words, he elected to ride a multi-day trip with camping involved.
For one, I would never do a multi-day bike trip. And it is for this main reason: I’m just not a camper. I’ve never enjoyed it, even when the conditions were more controlled like a weekend trip.
Secondly, bikes (even ones that are in top condition) can’t withstand constant riding without a mishap. In other words, imagine having major mechanical issues while out in the middle of nowhere. Take this as words of warning from someone who has built and maintained bikes for 30 years on my own.
That’s in addition to whatever weather conditions one might also encounter. That’s why the focus of this blog is on long-distance day trips and not cross-country riding (or, as it is known in some circles, bike tourism or bikepacking).
The last reason seems pretty simple: I would never do a 1,000 mile cycling trip by myself, which has nothing to do with my capability as a cyclist. Okay, I’m just going to say it –it’s nuts bordering on stupid. But if that is really your thing, go for it. I would just say to make sure you are prepared as possible.
From Birthday Challenge to Birthday Disaster
The guy in this article was deep into his trip and riding through Oregon when disaster struck. A coastal storm blew in and wiped out a piece of his route, his clothing was soaked and not drying, etc. Consequently, he canceled the rest of his trip. But he was six days out, so it wasn’t like he could ride 50 or 100 miles even and be back at a hotel.
Later in the article, the writer mentions that preparation and planning are essential. However, the fact is, he did plan and prepare for this trip. He stocked up on the gear he would need months ahead of time, planned his route, and took several trips to his LBS to prepare his bike. The truth is no matter how much you plan, things can (and most likely will) go wrong.
The act of doing something eventful to celebrate one’s birthday can be a fun thing to do. As I mentioned above, if long, multi-day bike trips are your raison d’etre, you should definitely do them. My suggestion is to be reasonable about your choice. And as the writer also mentions in his article, truly know the reason why you want to do such a trip.
Do you have to ride your age on your birthday? No, I don’t think that is necessary, and it doesn’t make you any less of a bicyclist if you don’t. However, if the weather is good and the distance is something you feel you can accomplish, then do it.
Truth is if the weather is good, I might ride on my birthday, but no regrets if I can’t. The important thing to remember is cycling should mostly be about fun.
That’s not to say you won’t suffer on a hard climb or sprint. Cycling should have components of challenge where you have to push yourself to achieve a good heart rate, etc. But on the other hand, sometimes a birthday is just another day and sometimes it isn’t. There’ll be another one next year.