Jim’s Tech Talk
by Jim Langley
To prevent any unfortunate thoughts for anyone unfamiliar with the term in the title, I’ll start by explaining that a “cycling streaker” is someone who rides every day. The goal is to see how many consecutive days, weeks, months – or in my case now – years, you can keep the streak alive without taking a day off.
A few weeks back I celebrated eclipsing the 25-year mark of my cycling streak and wrote about it. You can read that story here. Afterward a roadie named Michael left this comment:
“Congrats, Jim!! Amazing!! What I think would be great to hear about is info on how you kept going, even through injuries, illness, etc. I am interested in these kind of logistics. You know, what you learned along the way on how to stay on the bike during the tough times and consequences/experiences of doing so during these times. Sometimes I hesitate to ride in such circumstances and feel it a bummer to be off the bike, so it would be good to know how to keep going.”
I thanked Mike for his kind words and told him he was asking excellent questions. In fact, lots of people who meet streak athletes (as far as I know, runners were streaking first), want to know these things. So, I’m going to give away some of my secrets and answer the questions.
How I keep going
I believe that if you choose the right goal, it will provide the motivation to keep at something until you achieve it. For me, first I set a five year streak goal and failed due to a bad crash. Once I recovered, I was more motivated and set a new goal of 10 years. And it was that goal that got me where I am today. I simply bumped it another five years three times.
Choosing goals is a personal thing. You have to know or figure out what drives you. Streaking has a strong motivation for me because it’s something I tried a few times in high school as a cross-country runner. I never made it for more than a few weeks back then. But, the taste of doing something everyday hooked me and the idea of doing it for years fascinated me enough to go for it with cycling. And, even all these years later, it still motivates me.
If you can find the right goal it makes it easier to get out there. A shared goal will make it even easier. And all it takes is one friend to join you. You’ll end up motivating each other. Or join a cycling club where you’ll meet similarly goal-minded folks to ride and get fired up with.
Objects in motion tend to stay in motion
One of the secrets that streakers know is that once you have a string of rides put together, it has a power of its own to help you get your rides in. Because you know that if you miss a day, you’ll have to start over again.
But, it’s more positive than that. You’re less likely to want to take a day off in the first place because you’re working on a goal that means a lot to you and you add to it every day.
You don’t have to ride every day for this to work. All you have to do is ride however much you need to to reach your goal. Before I was a streaker, I was into double centuries. For training I would work up from 100-mile to 300-mile weeks. My long days were always on the weekend. On weekdays I rode whatever I could manage with work. And, I always took recovery rest days back then.
Once I had the goal and I put the training plan in motion, it was easy for me to stick with the plan and keep making progress toward doing the double centuries throughout the season.
Own your riding passion
Riding regularly to achieve goals needs to become a fact of life, part of who you are, a high priority all the time to you. It’s important to share that point of view with family and friends, maybe your boss, too. Let everyone know that you need to ride to feel good and enjoy life. I think you’ll find that if you make it clear that it’s important to you, your loved ones won’t want you to give it up.
My experience has shown me that because I rode my bike every day, that my family realized that they should take time for what they love everyday, too. Everyone was always active, but my everyday routine rubbed off on them a little. They didn’t start streaking, but they did start exercising regularly and more often, making it a priority in their lives. In that way, I believe my streak helps the whole family.
Dealing with illness and injury
While I can’t prove that riding every day has anything to do with it, I do think I’ve remained healthy most of the time from being a streaker. But, I have gotten sick enough that there have been times when it was difficult.
What I’ve done to cope is set-up a nice indoor riding area. That’s where I kept riding after hernia surgery and through a couple of scary bouts with pneumonia. Besides providing the shelter of being inside, it helps my wife keep her eye on me when I’m sick, instead of worrying about me out on the road. And, should something bad happen, help is at hand.
One of the things I learned was the importance of going easy when you’re sick. I used to think I could train right through colds, but I’m convinced now that doing that only drives congestion deeper into the lungs and prolongs the suffering.
I ride easily when I’m sick and with serious injuries like that hernia, I follow the doctor’s orders. You might think that doctors won’t allow cycling so soon after surgery – and maybe they won’t for some issues.
However, I recommend telling them before your procedure that you hope to bounce back as a cyclist ASAP and they might surprise you with a recovery plan that includes trainer work straight away. Pedaling a trainer has recuperative value because the large leg muscles circulate a lot of blood, which helps healing.
When you really, really want to ride…
You can find time to ride. One of the things we streakers live by is the knowledge that there are 24 hours in every day to fit our rides in. This means that if you’re determined to ride, you can find the time. Maybe you’re going camping with the family and hitting the road at 5 a.m. to beat the traffic. Well, you just get up and ride from 3:30 – 4:30. Or you had to stay late at work and didn’t get home until 10 p.m. No problem, climb on and ride from 10:30 – 11:30. Guaranteed you’ll sleep better because of it.
A goofy idea that’s crossed my mind but I’ve never attempted is starting a ride before 11 p.m. and finishing after 1 a.m. That would add two day’s worth of rides to the streak with a single ride.
Shut off your mind
Even for me sometimes, though, one of the hardest parts of getting rides in is stopping whatever I’m doing and climbing on the bike. It seems like the mind sometimes doesn’t want to cooperate. And it’s easy to find good reasons NOT to ride, like work deadlines or household repairs or just feeling flat, tired, down.
To win these mind games you need to be stubborn and resolute and shut off the negative thoughts (anything preventing me from riding is a negative thought). The best course of action is to stop thinking and start moving. Once you’re putting on your gear, it’s unlikely you’ll decide not to ride.
A trick that can help to get you out on the bike is to focus on something fun on the ride, like an epic climb or tailwind section. Another one is to plan a stop somewhere you like, maybe for a coffee or to visit a friend. You can also think about that fact that you never get home and wish you hadn’t gone riding – or as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a bad bike ride..
Stay ready to ride
The other important excuse-buster is to not let your bike and equipment keep you from riding when you want. For example, it would be easy to not ride because you know you have a bald tire or balky shifting that needs fixing. Or maybe it’s a sudden cold snap and you can’t remember where you put your winter gear.
Instead, keep your regular ride tuned up and ready to go. And, keep your gear organized and easy to find so you can grab and go regardless of the conditions. I do this by organizing our mudroom shelves with large bins labeled, Arm/Leg Warmers, Gloves, Eyewear, Helmets and so on.
There are also bins for Spare Tubes and Accessories so that it’s quick and easy to prepare. That room is also right next to where the bikes hang. And, naturally, a pump is right there for topping off the tires.
I hope these tricks help you ride as much as you want. After all, in the words of some anonymous exercise junkie, “Everything worth doing is worth overdoing.” (“Overdoing” used in the best meaning of the word.)
Ride total: 9,198