I sit here writing this on the first of December thinking; “I need a cycling challenge to prepare for. I don’t want to gain weight over the winter, I don’t want my conditioning to decline, I want to start the spring riding season in great shape. Oh sure, I could sit here and tell you that all you have to do is to commit to exercising on rollers or on an exercise bike or get out there and take spin classes or just go to a gym. I can tell you to watch your diet and don’t eat or drink too much over the holidays as if it were that easy. We know what to do, it’s just so hard to get our butts in gear and do it! I’ve always struggled with my weight, especially when it’s hard to get outside and exercise and my family seems to relish leaving high calorie snacks sitting on the kitchen counter and then telling me that I should have the will power to resist them. I admit it, I’m weak and I need to focus more on my weight, so how do I overcome my weaknesses?

For me, it’s about setting up a cycling challenge and making it difficult to back out of because I’ve got others involved. The last thing I want to do is to embarrass myself and let my friends down so I step up, put together a plan, and make it happen. I dropped over 40 pounds (see bicycling for weight loss – complete with scary before and after photos, note that growing facial hair and a buzz cut is not common).  when I setup a 360 mile Rail Trail ride from Pittsburgh to DC with some friends (find 6 videos from the ride here). I’ve had people on bike forums scoff at my mere 360 miles noting that a real tour is more than a thousand miles. We’ll, I still work for a living and have two kids in college so I really don’t have that much free time, maybe someday but not now. I figured out how to work from the road which freaked some people out at the hostels we stayed at but hey, you do what you have to do and if that means being on a laptop for an hour each night, so be it. Frankly, I’m a long way from being in the condition to handle a thousand miles and I probably don’t have all of the equipment I need yet but you have to start somewhere. I think what kept me focused in the month’s leading up to the ride, was the thought of my fat butt slowing everyone down and suffering for hours on end to get through the ride. Yes, that is one aspect of my personality, no matter how much I’m suffering, I’ll do every inch of the ride!

The goal worked but I find myself slipping backwards since the goal is no longer there. I know I need a new goal and it will need to be tougher than the last one. The Pittsburgh to DC ride didn’t have a lot of climbs in it and I know that the climbs are where the challenge really comes in after the years I spent riding the mountain passes of Colorado when I lived there. See secrets to cycling faster uphills for helpful tips. In Colorado one of my cycling challenges was a ride called The Triple Bypass. This ride definitely scared me. Three big mountain passes with 10,000 feet of elevation gain and a length of 120 miles with the potential for mountain storms near noon so you better ride fast, all done in one day. I signed up with three other people so there was no backing out. In the end, it wasn’t nearly as tough as my mind made it out to be but man did I prepare for it. Here we are at the top of Loveland Pass. I’m the guy in the red helmet and I was alot thinner then:

Loveland Pass, CO – 2nd Pass of Triple By Pass

This year my cycling challenge will need to have elevation gain in it, it will need to be longer than last year and I want to be more independent so I want to add camping to the mix (we stayed at hostels, cabins and one hotel on the rail trail ride). I found one that fits the bill and it does scare me a bit. My goal would be to ride the full 574 mile length (including Skyline Drive) of the Blue Ride Parkway through North Carolina and Virgina and here’s why it could be a good fit:

  1. It’s over 200 miles longer than my last ride.
  2. It’s has lots of elevation gain as it rolls along the blue ridge mountains. I’ve driven sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and you hardly experience a level stretch. I’m told that the tougher stuff is in North Carolina.
  3. The weather can be a challenge with fog, rain, and high winds.
  4. It’s fairly rural so services close to the road are limited. You typically have to drop off the spine of the mountain to find towns that are not visible from the road.
  5. I’ll have to include camping in the mix and carry that extra weight on the bike.
  6. There’s a higher level of planning involved in this ride.

Cool video on this site, you can order a travel planner and even get a phone app: http://www.blueridgeparkway.org/

Books on Cycling the Blue Ridge

I turn 50 this month and dropping 35 pounds would be good for me. Now I need to find some people to ride with so that I can’t back out? Anyone interested in joining me?

Be Self Propelled!




Published by Johnny P

Johnny P has been a bicycle lover since he was a child. He's a self propelled individual with a zest for living. His mother tells a story about finding young Johnny on his tricycle on the couch ready to do his best Evil Kenivel jump. He loves to build bikes as much as ride them. He lives in Denver, CO with his wife where he operates a sales and marketing company that he founded.

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  1. Hello Johnny, saw your post on BF, don’t know if I can help but I’m looking to do my first multiple day tour next year. For cycling what has really helped me is consistency, but it is hard when you have a busy life. Even though I work full time I have the time now that the kids are grown and my motivation is to dedicate every ride to my late wife. I do have a 9 day tour I’m seriously considering next year. I’d like to know more about your plans for next year once you start firming them up. Send me an email, otherwise good luck! I turn 60 next year so we’re never too old 🙂

    1. Thanks Richard. I’ve begun the process of mapping out potential overnight locations along the Blue Ridge Parkway to determine just how many days it will take. I’m trying to decide if I should have someone drop me off in North Carolina and ride towards home of go the oppositie direction. As the plans come together I’ll keep you up to date. I’m thinking May timing but I still need to look what times are best from a weather perspective. I rode in the rain and mud for 3 days on the Pittsburgh to DC trip this year which wasn’t terrible but it was getting old. I’ll do some shorter rides leading up to this one and focus more on climbing. Take care.

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