I never try to take riding my bike for granted. The fact that I get to own something so advanced as a modern mountain bike and all the accompanying gear is a small miracle. Having the time to ride is a second small miracle, especially with three young kids and a full-time job. A one-hour ride on the trail is a beautiful and necessary thing for my soul and body. But sometimes, I crave more. There are times when I want to wake up, get on my bike, and ride all day. This “All Day Ride” is a cure to many modern social ills, and I would argue, a central stabilizing force for my mountain biking and health.
I recently competed in and completed a long-distance running event called the Uwharrie Mountain Run, a 40-mile trail race in central North Carolina. Winter is my time for cross-training, and running is usually the most efficient (and warmest) alternative to riding my bike outside or inside. I knew this run would push me, but I didn’t realize how great it would be for my mental training space and my transition into biking as warmer months approached. It also reminded me of rides I used to do when I was younger, which saw me on my bike before the sun rose and still riding far past twilight. These rides were epic and transformational- cornerstones to my life as an endurance athlete.
The ideal circumstance for an “All Day Ride” involves a trail or web of trails that seems almost insane to push into a 12-hour(ish) span. Sure, you can take all day to ride your favorite 20-mile loop, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the spirit of the “All Day Ride” is more ambitious. When picking a route, think about the slowest average speed you’ve ever had on the mountain bike, subtract a mile an hour, and then calculate the total mileage. For instance, if you know that there are 12 hours of daylight and that the slowest you usually ever go on a bike is seven mph, then you should adjust down to 6mph, multiply by 12, and you’ll get your mileage. In this case, a 72-mile ride would be on your plate, which is no small task to fit into one day.
The following things you need to keep in mind are the type of terrain you will ride and how often you will be able to refuel. If you are doing gravel roads mostly, then plan a little longer ride. If you are doing sections with climbs that are heavy in “hike-a-bike” sections, then adjust down in mileage to allow for slower hiking. I usually refuel every hour on long rides and runs, stopping for 5-10 minutes to stretch. Remember by hour 5 or 6 that you will be really stiff and have all sorts of interesting chafing going on. So get off your bike, take care of yourself, but get on soon and keep riding.
The “All Day Ride” is not about half-hour picnics or leaving beers in creeks halfway through the ride. If you aren’t turning some heads on STRAVA, then you’ve done something wrong. Think about what you just saw a pro-mountain biker do on that platform and try to repeat it. Unless you are some prodigy, you’ll probably be out there all day suffering and wondering if your body will implode.
There is something sacred about seeing the sunrise from your mountain bike, slogging all day through an impossible trail, and watching the same sun go down as you limp back to the trailhead. Pace does not matter as much as pure movement. Clearing that technical feature is swept aside for balance and a pulsing mental mantra. The “All Day Ride” is not for the faint of heart, but it is for everybody. So pick a day (or a race!) and get out there. You’ll probably be fine, and if you aren’t fine, at least you’ll have a great story to tell other riders.
Matt Chisholm is a data analyst and freelance writer who studies the environmental history of the Southern Smoky Mountain region of North Carolina. He was a contributor to Lost in Transition: Removing, Resettling, and Renewing Appalachia and the 2016 edition of the Journal of East Tennessee History, for which he won the 2017 McClung Award. When not writing, Matt enjoys road and mountain biking, hiking, trail running, and drinking beer around Concord, NC where he lives with his wife, daughter, and twin boys.
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