Jim’s Tech Talk
RBR reader, David Stihler, who only lives a few miles away from me (we’ve never met), reached out last week asking about my cycling streak in relation to his riding. I have gotten lots of questions about my obsession over the years and it’s been some time since I’ve talked about it here.
So, I’ll reply to David this week. My answers are after his questions, which are mostly about his training. Feel free to chime in with your input in the comments.
“This question is for Jim Langley. I live in Scotts Valley, California [editor’s note: Jim lives in Santa Cruz, California], and am amazed at the fact you have ridden 8,000 consecutive days. My question is: If you have ridden mostly 10-15 miles on each of those days what would your fitness be like?”
Thanks for the email, David and it’s nice to hear that we’re neighbors! My cycling streak is now at 9,969 days, so a little longer than you thought. I’ve been lucky to keep it going this long! My secret is extreme pigheadedness.
I think my fitness is very good. I do have knee issues but have been doing better lately. Still, I ride on average about 18 miles a day and sometimes a lot longer.
I started riding longer distances when I was 10 years old and I followed that with running during my school years. Then I took up cycling more seriously. So, I’ve pretty much always been an athlete. That’s a big part of my ability to ride every day. Coach Hughes calls this “athletic maturity,” and he has covered it well in RBR.
Here’s some good reading – including a quiz to see how athletically mature you are: https://www.roadbikerider.com/fit-for-life-ii-how-athletically-mature-are-you-d3/.
“I ride most every day, approximately 12-14 miles gaining 600 to 800 feet at various intensities. Scotts Valley is mostly hilly so getting semi flat rides of any distance is not easy. Since I’m riding approximately 100 miles a week would you say I’m equivalent to someone who rides two days for 10 miles each and then a 65 mile third day with moderate climbing on the 65 miler (2,800 feet or so)?”
I know Scotts Valley well, David – beautiful little town. I lived there for about a month in 1980, in fact. I’ve ridden Mt Charlie and Glenwood and Bean Creek and La Madrona and Scotts Valley Drive and Granite Creek and all those awesome roads in your backyard hundreds of times.
You’re not kidding when you say that they’re aren’t any easy miles there. It’s either down or up with some epic climbs. So, I would say that it’s not just about the distance and the days you choose to ride, it’s also about the intensity of the rides.
If the rider who cranks out the 65-miler does some harder efforts on that ride, such as 20 minutes at their time trial pace (7/8ths effort), while you ride tempo (medium effort) on all your rides, then they will likely be fitter than you will be. Especially if they use the other riding days and the days they don’t ride to fully recover and then gradually increase the intensity on the long weekly ride.
“Is it possible to ride six 10-15 mile days, every day and still stay in the same shape as someone who does 2 days short and one day long? Occasionally I will ride up Mt Charlie or to the top of Glenwood (1,400′) but mostly poking around with the 10-15 milers climbing 600-800′.
I would find it hard to stay in the same shape as someone who had that long day to train if I was limited to 10-15 miles a day, David. The reason is that in order to put in some quality intensity to match that rider who does the 65-miler, I need more time than 10-15 miles allows.
First I need a good warmup of at least 30 minutes or else I can’t push myself hard enough. Then, the intensity has to be high enough to get the training effect. For me, with my bad knees, I need to do at least 5 minute efforts at intensity. And, I need to do at least 5 of them with a 5 minute rest in-between. So, right there you have over an hour of training and usually closer to 17 to 20 miles.
Now, that’s just me. You might be able to handle shorter and more intense efforts. And if you can, the workout can be shorter – maybe. The thing I would caution you about is injuring yourself from too short a warmup. You should also warm down. When you first start doing high intensity training, you need to listen to your body to avoid injury. It’s very easy to hurt your legs if you don’t do this.
Please see this article by Dr. Gabe Mirkin about this: https://www.roadbikerider.com/high-intensity-interval-training-can-increase-injuries/.
“Would you go on a 65 miler if you only rode your 10-15 miles even though you’ve done it for 8,000 consecutive days? Or, would you ride 15 miles and then your body would say. What the heck are you doing. I’m good for 10 miles.”
Again, the answer has to do with the type of riding on those 10-15 mile rides, David. My daily ride is more than 15 miles. Plus, I never “just ride.” I always think about what I need to do and choose a type of ride that provides the fitness training I’m seeking.
My basic training is to ride intensity on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The other days are for recovery, which for me is trying to stay below 150 watts. On the hard days, I adjust the intensity and the time at intensity based on how I feel.
Also, if I’m shooting for a cycling goal, I will be very specific and careful in what I do. If I don’t have any goal except to stay fit, then the intensity is a bit less and not as long usually.
In the past couple of months I’ve done one century and several metric centuries. so I wouldn’t have any trouble riding 65 miles. The intensity prepares you for that even if you haven’t ridden that many miles in training.
I hope my answers are helpful. Please search for articles here by RBR coaches Fred Matheny, John Hughes and Rick Shultz. They have penned lots of articles that will answer your questions more completely than I probably have here.
Streak athletes video
Ten years ago I was featured on a TV show about streak athletes. They chose me; Jim Covert, a runner; and Dale Webster, a surfer! I tried to tell them that I didn’t belong with those two guys, but they insisted and I’m the first person featured in the film.
The stats that Jim and Dale racked up before ending their streaks are incredible. Jim completed 45 consecutive years for 16,417 days. He averaged an amazing 9 miles a day. Dale kept it going for 14,641 days. For a day to count for Dale he had to surf three waves.
In case you’re wondering about the greatest streak athlete of all time, as far as I’ve been able to determine it’s British 1970 Boston Marathon champion Ron Hill. He made it 52-plus years:19,032 days. Just wow!
Ride total: 9,969
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.