Why I want to ride 100 miles (and maybe you do too) With the Trek 100 just a month away, here's why one man is riding his first century
“Hi. My name is Louis. I am a (recently furloughed) sports editor exploring other career paths.”
Over the course of six months in 2020, I wrote a modified version of those three sentences atop dozens of emails, each a cold call that often went unanswered. I’ve been the content creator and coordinator for the Trek Race Shop here at Trek for the last seven months, but the muscle memory hasn’t quite left my fingers. The words are still very easy to type.
More on that in a bit. More relevantly, I’m some doofus who wants to ride his bike 100 miles. And being someone who puts words on the internet for a living, I’ve decided to turn my journey into content.
I’m some doofus who wants to ride his bike 100 miles.
Usually, I write about the superhuman athletes who ride for Trek-sponsored teams, from the family-driven Elisa Longo Borghini, to the versatile and virtuosic Hattie Harnden, to the incomparably dedicated Kiran Kumar Raju, and dozens more. I — and I cannot stress this enough — am not a “super” in any sense. I am an exceedingly normal dude who can’t ride clipless pedals yet. Until recently, I’d never had a bike that wasn’t handed down or made to be beat up, and I’d never before considered riding more than 50 laborious miles, knowing well my body’s limits before requiring several sandwiches and a nap.
The plan is this:
Step 1: Train the next six weeks for the Trek 100 on Aug. 21. The Trek 100 is an annual charity bike ride that takes place around Trek’s headquarters in Waterloo, Wisc. To date it has raised more than $17.3 million for the MACC Fund, which is fighting to end childhood cancer and related blood disorders. It’s an amazing cause! Here is a link where you should throw all of your money.
Step 2: Write about the experience — every fudge and foible — in hopes it inspires you to give to a worthy cause (psst, here’s that link again) or try something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Along the way, I’d like to tell your stories of cycling misadventures and triumphs, too. Yes, this is a group project. I will not be the only person embarrassed in this experience.
Step 3: Achieve some small sense of catharsis.
The machine that took me everywhere.
Some more about that last step: I was living in New York City when I was furloughed from my last job in April 2020, and laid off permanently three months later. I’d been regularly commuting to work on my bike, and in the sudden absence of anywhere to go, started riding my bike as a way to burn off pent up energy and pandemic angst.
I racked up most of my miles riding around Prospect Park, NYC’s other giant Olmsted-designed park (and according to Olmsted, superior to Central Park). I climbed the hill along Prospect Park’s northeast edge approximately 140 times from March to October. The ascent was more speed bump than Mont Ventoux, but I attacked it with all due seriousness in lieu of any professional goals at the time.
I rode that loop over and over again, starting in the tendrils of late winter, through the first beautiful spring days, a sweltering bog-like summer, and finally a mercifully cool fall.
I dug in my legs, and flew as fast as I could in the third of three gears on my matte black hunk of steel.
In October, an art installation went up inside the Prospect Park bandshell displaying words in neon colors from the poem “won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton:
COME CELEBRATE WITH ME
THAT EVERYDAY SOMETHING HAS
TRIED TO KILL ME AND HAS FAILED
Those words were dedicated to a city that was wailing with the near constant sound of sirens, and protesting against racial injustice. Clifton wrote the poem in 1993 as a reminder of the way Black women struggle and persist daily.
For me, the words broke a trance, induced by little rhythms, like emails and pedal strokes, that sustained me day to day but also cloaked an accumulating mound of stress. They made me take outward stock of the world, at what life had been for seven months, and I teared up for how it had been forced to endure. I dug in my legs, and flew as fast as I could in the third of three gears on my matte black hunk of steel.
Why do I want to ride a bicycle a long distance? For me, it’s the culmination of a struggle. A way to confirm that I’m back, on my two feet, that my gait is lengthening and I’m hitting my stride. That I’m working towards something again, instead of simply occupying my days.
I want to bask in one of the few fleeting moments of closure that our ceaselessly caroming lives allow us. I want to put a period at the end of a sentence that has run too long. I want to smooth the ruts that this past year’s stresses bore into me, and start deprogramming the muscle memory of living moment to moment.
Riding a bike 100 miles probably won’t accomplish all of that, but along with several other small steps — like getting vaccinated, getting reacquainted with friends and contributing to good causes — it can make real progress towards a new, better normal.
So yeah. Follow along right here for more about my journey, and a lot of practical information about preparing for this difficult task from friends at Trek who know much more about this stuff than I do. Feel free to send me your stories. Oh, and click here. Please and thank you.
About the Author: Louis Bien
Louis Bien is the content creator and coordinator for the Trek Race Shop.