Gift Yourself The Birthday Ride

It’s what you love to do. Give it to yourself. You’re the only one who can.

I got in my birthday ride last week. And it was glorious.

Sadly, it was the first mid-week slot since two weeks before my anniversary when I wasn’t too busy or not around or dealing with rain to get it in.

The ride is awesome. The point is to ride basically all day. 116mi, over seven hours of saddle time, lots of climbing.

If you’re a cyclist, you probably try to make a point of riding on your birthday. Not only should you do so proudly, but you should make it the focus of the day. People already know about this crazy love you have and they probably give you cycling-related gifts all the time. But they can’t give you a bike ride.

So take it yourself.

Don’t shoehorn it into a weekend day when you’ve got other obligations and family plans. Take a personal day from work, so you can leave the day open for the ride.

My goal is to arise at a normal time, eat a decent breakfast, get dressed, and go. And go and go and go. And come home joyously depleted.

I’ve always ridden on my birthday, but a few friends helped me realize that I needed to better indulge myself as a personal tribute. One friend, with a winter birthday, wants a big group ride with big miles. So he sets a weekend date and a distance that means everyone who comes gets in at least a century. And then, unless it’s below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, or there’s snow and ice on the ground, the ride happens. Another friend, with a fall birthday, just goes out for hours.

My priority has been miles and good roads. I know the nearby roads really well, and ply them on a regular basis. But rides over five hours in length I rarely have time for. And, as a non-cyclist once pointed out, it’s better to ride six hours because what’s the point of five?

So I decided that the thing to do is a midweek ride of a huge loop, which gets me to roads, I no longer have time to reach on a regular basis. My ride of the past few years has grown. First it was 75, then 80, then it went from that to 112 and now up to 116. When it was shorter, around 80 miles, I’d ride out, stop at the train station in Peekskill and take the train home. Then I realized I was losing ride time by taking the train, and getting home from Peekskill is pretty easy, even if it isn’t always pretty.

I now take myself out to Skyline Drive, go over Skyline, ride through Ringwood to Sterling Forest to Harriman State Park. Through Harriman to Bear Mountain, over the Bear Mountain Bridge to the east bank of the Hudson River, and then home. While part of me would like to be a bit more adventurous, I see many of these roads only once a year, so while I’ve seen them before, I don’t need a map, or mostly don’t.

Thanks to bike computer technology, I tried a few new sectors this year. With the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, I can push partial routes to the computer, and then start the routes when I want. So I put in two variations of the route I know. One took me away from the county roads along the Wanaque Reservoir, and got me to the access roads in Ringwood State Park. The second helped me to from Peekskill to Croton without riding on Route 9, which is both boring and trafficky. Both detours were excellent.

While my friends with winter birthdays have to deal with the cold, I have to deal with the heat. A few years back, it was in the high 90s for most of the ride, and when I stopped to ask for ice at a bar, the patrons looked at me like I was from Mars when I told them my destination. This year, it was only in the low 90s, but it still necessitated five stops.

If there was any frustration, it was only that I didn’t feel like I had the legs to attack the biggest hills. But I got over them all and enjoyed the views when they could be had as well as the descents. When I’m feeling ok and still turning over the pedals after 100 miles, and the landmarks reminding me of how close to finishing I’m getting, the smile gets bigger, the pain fades, and the miles get easier.

Once home and showered, the rest of life started back on. But a day of riding was good great for the soul. Gotta figure out ways to do it more often.

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