Up until now I have been an urban rider, mostly commuting. When I have time I stretch my commute to about 16km (10 miles) each way, but I am often late and my shortest route to work is only about 4.5 miles. Sometimes I'll take a "long" ride on the bike paths on the weekend, maxing out around 30km (almost 19 miles). On those rides I get home feeling great and only somewhat tired, so I began thinking about hitting the highway. Last Saturday I grabbed a cycling route (one of the shortest they had) from a local cycling club's web site and set out. I posted recently about wanting to build a geared tourer, but since that bike is still only represented by a tiny jingle in my piggy bank, I took my fixed gear commuter. Despite being a commuter, it has many highway-worthy qualities.
I was pretty excited and a little nervous since I had never done such a thing before. The route summary said it was 55km long, and I was riding to and from the start/end point, so I figured I was in for about 60km (37 miles). I was careful to put water and food in my panniers for a mid-way break, made sure all my tools and tire/tube repair stuff was present and accounted for, and checked that my cell phone was fully charged.
About one third of the way into the ride I looked down the highway ahead of me thought, "wow, this is far". Everything was going really well, and I was thoroughly enjoying the solitude and overall lack of cars and noise. My bike was running beautifully and as near to silent as it gets.
Long story short, I got a little lost twice, which added some distance, and was slowed by a not-too-bad-but-nagging headwind on the second half of the trip. There weren't any hills big enough to make me walk as I had feared, so that was good. I was left sore (not too too bad; I rode with very little pain Monday morning) and happy and kind of disappointed that it took me three and a half hours to go, in the end, 71km (44 miles). It felt like I was riding faster... I don't use a cycling computer and had to use an online route mapping tool when I got home to see how far I had actually travelled.
I always thought highway touring cyclists were pretty cool. Now I am in awe, especially of those fully-loaded people you see in some wild and remote areas. I can only aspire to that kind of hardcore-ness. That distance was about as far as I think I care to go on a fixed gear. Until I can get this other bike together, I will probably do more trips just like this one, because it pushed me pretty hard, but didn't kill me. I do know that I'm already scheming about how to do it again this Saturday... I knew I wasn't obsessing about enough things lately.