By Dr. Larry Preble
February, 2010

Some years ago, I had a fellow call me about joining one of my group rides out of Westport. He was in his early 70s and interested in knowing if a certain attractive older gal also was planning to ride. (I don't need to name names here. Most of you know her.) Apparently, the man had just introduced himself to her the previous week at one of the local BMW dealerships, but I digress.

I let him know there was a good chance his new friend might show up at the ride, but we were about to do one of the hilliest 55 mile routes I offer; so, I asked him about his riding experience. He said, "Oh, no problem, I've done a 100."

I asked, "Recently?"

He told me it had been in the past couple of weeks. I was relieved, but then I got to thinking, "Which Century Ride was that?" I asked.

"What's a Century Ride?"

Ah oh, "You know, a hundred mile ride."

"Oh, I didn't mean that I had ridden one of those, I just started riding a couple of weeks ago and have put in about a hundred miles." Yes, that's right, he had 100 lifetime miles! It turns out this gentleman's longest ride had been a flat 23 miler at Heine Brothers.

"Let me make a suggestion: I also have a shorter 30 mile ride leaving at the same time and following much the same route as the 55 miler. It's hilly too, but would still be a better step up for you rather than jumping right to the 55."

The fellow wanted to know if that certain lady would be doing the shorter ride.

"No, she will probably do the 55," I conceded. I couldn't talk the poor bloke out of it. Fixation on a classy woman can do that do a man.

The next morning, he did show up and made a good try, but 
the object of his interest quickly disappeared over the hills; his face was a sad sight indeed. No matter, he was determined to soldier on, and I was determined to help him finish.

I'm a patient Ride Captain by nature. My concern was not how long he would take to finish, but more whether he could finish at all. It was a hot July day. Before long, my neophyte rider was beginning to show signs of exhaustion. Then we came across another member of the group who had been nipped by a dog. Fortunately, the bite was not too serious. I applied first aid to the cyclist's wound and waited for Animal Control to arrive. This gave the new fellow time to rest, and he did look better after his respite.

Unfortunately, we had a long climb from Wises Landing up to Bedford. My overly enthusiastic protégé began to weave back and forth, lost balance, and almost fell. His face was pale. I got in front of him and made him stop. We walked the rest of the way up the hill and sat down in a shady place. I told him I would send for pickup. He steadfastly refused! After a few minutes of rest, and half a bottle of fluids, he brightened up and looked like he might live.

Still skeptical, I agreed to watch after him but warned him that if he felt ill again, I would not continue with him on the ride and would insist on a pickup.

We made it all the way down into Sulphur before he nearly fell over at the railroad tracks. I guided him to the only air conditioned place in town, the Post Office. It was only a double wide trailer, but the Post Office was cool and had water. He had completed 34 miles.

My lovely bride Margaret showed up a half hour later with a trailer and a nice cool car. I continued on and finished the ride while Margaret took him home.

Sadly, we never saw this gentleman on a club ride again. Too bad, he could have become a good rider if he had given it time. He certainly had the enthusiasm for it, but personal zeal in a new rider cannot make up for lack of conditioning.

A new rider with ambition, or a cyclist returning to riding after a long pause, would do well to begin with a well-designed progressive series of rides, such as my WINGS program, beginning in March.