I got my bike in the mail, in a box. I took it to a bike shop and had it fitted to my size. I told my neighborhood bike store mechanic, Scott, I was riding across the country in a few months, mostly because I thought he might give me a discount. He was very kind when I asked him some very basic questions. I was too embarrassed to admit that the last I rode owned a bike was when I was 10. I didn’t know the names to any of the bike parts. He gave me tips for clipping in and out effortlessly. I managed to clip in and out on a stationary bike while he was fitting me and correcting my form.
I didn’t know how to maintain my bike. He taught me how to change a flat/punctured tube. He tried to hide his skepticism about my ability to finish this ride. He said, “some people train all their lives to complete a ride like that”. He gave me a discount nevertheless and said “send me a post card from the Pacific Northwest!”.
Youtube also went a long way in learning some basic bike jargon. I had a few triathlete friends who shared details about their favorite online bike stores and a list of basic bike paraphernalia I would need. We also got a nice short checklist of things we’d need from one of my teammates.
I started training in Feb 2013. I had around 3 full months to get comfortable on a bike. Really comfortable. Sitting on it for over 8 hours everyday and maybe being by yourself comfortable. I was petrified by the thought of getting off my bike in short notice. Clip-on shoes can be quite daunting for a newbie. I fell a few times. I learned quite late into my ride that clip-ons are your best friend when you are riding on a high gear and need all the momentum from your legs to transfer into your rotations.
I tried riding on roads a couple of times, but Georgia car drivers are not the friendliest. Drivers honked a few times. It didn’t help that I was new to all this and wasn’t very confident on the road.
So I found a great paved bike/run neighborhood trail that was 13 miles one way. It was a fairly flat trail. I used to ride this multiple times to get the distance I wanted. I probably rode a good 500 miles on this trail.
I encountered tiny turtles, tiny snakes, large snakes, lots of bikers and runners. It loved my time on this trail.
I fixed my first flat on one of these rides. After a few bad falls in the first month, I could get on and off the bike effortlessly. I was racking up miles. I completed a few 50 milers. I was quite fit during those months of training. My quads started to take on a fierce biker quad form. I could finish a set of 100 squats and 100 lunges back-to-back and not be panting. I felt tireless and strong. I thought I was training well.
I didn’t realize that there would be days on the actual ride when we would be climbing 5–10% grade hills for many miles at a stretch — well, of course, we would be. We were crossing the Appalachians in Pennsylvania, going across the great lakes, and crossing several state borders into the Rockies in Wyoming and Montana. All very obvious now.
(Tip for future cross-country riders — learn to climb some gnarly hills!)
In hindsight, I focused on distance and speed. I wasn’t focusing on intensity. My biggest lesson from this training was to train smart, not hard.
However, in May 2013, I thought I was ready and that’s all that mattered. Before I knew it, it was time to pack my bags.
I was ready to cycle from coast to coast.