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Five Things I Learned in 2012

It’s been 16 years since I graduated from a kid who rode around on a bike to someone who cycled. In that time I’ve seen a lot and learned a lot. This year was no exception. Here are five things I learned — or learned again — in 2012.

1. How to eat while riding

Nutrition has always fallen low in my checklist for riding preparations, and I’ve always handled it poorly. I grew up mountain biking, where hydration and youth were typically enough to get me through the ride. I’ve never denied its importance, but simply rode through it. But now that I’ve matured and evolved into longer and longer rides, nutrition has become key to not bonking and being able to repeat day after day. It took conscious thought and the will to choke down a whole lot of sandwiches before I was adjusted to the correct habit and mindset. Now, nutrition is becoming second nature for me, like checking tire pressure before heading out.

2. Every mile adds up

About six months back I started dedicating myself to commuting: to and from work, nearly every work day. After work, when my schedule would allow, I’d take the long way home and put in 20-25 miles on average and sometimes 40. On the weekends, I’d also ride to the shop and meet up with people to head out for a ride, then commute back home afterwards. After several weeks, I realized that all those little commutes really started to add up. Five miles to work and a 25 mile ride after work meant a 30 mile day. It all adds up in the end. Even during the weeks when I couldn’t fit in a long ride, I had 50 miles just in commuting. Not too shabby if you ask me.

3. The best time to ride is today

There were a number of days that I either took off or found an excuse for not riding. In retrospect, I wish I had gone out and ridden on those days. Back in October, a few of my friends and I decided we were going to do a gravel road ride put on by a local shop up on the roads that I had grown up riding. The day of the ride came and it was a wet, sloppy mess — cool, wet, and dreary with no signs of drying out or warming up. All three of us showed up and pushed through the 65 miles of mud. In fact, so few people had come out for the event that they decided not to mark part of the 65 mile loop — they didn’t expect many to ride it. Instead they simply handed out maps. Sure, cleaning the bike was a chore, but it was one of the best rides of the season.

4. Night riding is a blast

I’ve done plenty of night rides, but it was always with borrowed lights. Inevitably, someone would always forget to charge theirs. It always left me feeling that it was more trouble than it was worth. This season, I invested in some good lighting and as the summer drew to a close and we welcomed fall, I was able to extend my rides well into the night. There’s something to be said for cruising on a gravel road at 11pm when it’s 65 degrees. This year night riding has helped me keep up the miles without daylight.

5. When it’s cold, hitting the ground hurts that much more (relearned… again and again)

This winter I’ve taken two tumbles, both due to a certain lack of attention or goofing. Either way, I seem to remember the ground and snow being a lot softer when I was young child sledding down hills and playing football in the snow with friends. Big piles of fluffy snow deceive. I have a feeling that this is going to be one of those lessons I relearn every time I hit the deck.

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