So I went on my first 100+ km group ride two Saturdays back.
I admit I was quite unprepared for the ride. Before that, the longest ride I’d been on was about 80 km with only one cycling companion, F. Since our Mentougou ride, F and I have been tossing around the idea of going on a longer ride to Pinggu. So when F spotted a cycling event to Pinggu organised by a local cycling club, he signed up and asked me to come along. It took me all of five minutes to forego indoor rock-climbing for a 140 km cycling trip happening two days later.
I prepared for my first 100+ km ride by buying a pro cycling top with pockets sewed in the back and a pair of cycling gloves. For some reason, I assumed I could get away with 5 hours’ sleep before the ride, and so woke up at 4 am to watch a World Cup match (probably the knock-out stage). That was the first of a number of misjudgments I made.
Waking up at 4 am, I was naturally hungry by 5 am and had breakfast by 5:30 am. It did occur to me that the air quality index was high (read: quite polluted) and humidity was over 50%, which was not ideal cycling weather. But my pride and sense of honour won out in the end, and I joined the other cyclists at 7am at the designated meeting spot.
Over 30 people turned up for the ride, and out of these there were about seven women, including myself. I’d expected to be in the slow group, but after about two hours of cycling, I was not just in the slowest group, I was literally the last rider in the group. The other riders did all hey could to help me ride faster. They oiled my chains, pumped my tires full of air and eventually told me to ride a brand new bike another girl was riding because she ran out of energy and had to be chauffered in the back-up car to the restaurant.
In the end, it wasn’t my bike or the new bike that held me back. It was my hunger and thirst. My stomach began grinding in hunger 3 hours into the ride. I was perspiring profusely but was fearful of finishing off my water supply without a means of replenishing it anywhere along the way. By the time we got to a convenience store and I downed a sports drinks and a Snickers bar, these things no longer had an effect on me. My energy had been completely depleted. I cycled for another 5 km to catch up with the back-up car and rode the remaining 10 km to the restaurant.
I managed to ride all the way from Pinggu back to Beijing after a proper rest and stuffing my face at lunch. I properly did close to 130 km that day, which was the longest distance I’ve ever cycled in one day, and I should’ve been proud of my achievement.
Instead, all I remember on the return leg of the ride was feeling like puking most of the way back, because of all the polluted air I’d breathed all day, and cycling while my legs were cramping, trying not to fall over. When I got home at 8 pm that night, I managed to shower and order some pizza before collapsing on my bed, physically and mentally exhausted. If it wasn’t for my hunger pangs, I probably would’ve slept through the pizza delivery man’s knock on the door.
I remembered thinking, I’m never doing this again.
I recovered from the ride in less than 48 hours and began scouring the local cycling club’s website for the next long distance ride. And sure enough, I went on a 90 km ride to Huairou reservoir on the following Saturday. This time round, the air quality was excellent, and the sky was blue with some cloud cover. I wished I could say I cycled faster this time, but it didn’t matter. What’s more important was that I enjoyed this ride so much, I’d finally acquired a taste for long distance cycling.
Anyone interested in cycling along the border between DPRK and China for five days? 😉