First Big Ride of the Season

I guess big rides are relative. On January 1st, I rode 123.23 km. Yesterday, I pedaled 153.05 km in 5 hours and 15 minutes.

After a winter spent regularly riding on a bicycle trainer, yesterday’s long haul was more enjoyable than anything else. I hedged my bets with a new experiment: eating coffee beans for energy.

I set out for the ride at 6:15 a.m. Chewed a coffee bean just before rolling down the driveway. Although it’s mid-April, it was quite cold outside. Clad in my base layer and riding jacket, balaclava and gloves, I was ready.

Took the traditional route to Emeryville: up Front Road, left on Malden, across River Canard Bridge, then onto County Road 8, over to Concession 5.

From there I made my way into the city. There was more light in the sky than I would have guessed, and I wished that I had set out even earlier. Riding in the dark on a quiet Sunday morning is a serene experience, and there is nothing like watching the sun rise as I ride.

My decision about chewing coffee beans centered on my desire to steer clear of sugar as much as I can in my daily intake. On a ride where I burn in excess of 3,000 calories, I’m not worried about a 180 calorie energy drink — yet, I am.

Chewing a single bean at various points along the ride ensured there was no spike in energy, and thus no crash. The energy provided, however, had a strange effect on my sense of time during the ride. Often, no matter my speed — always in the 30 kph range — I’ll have moments where the spell breaks, I ponder how far I am from home, and even feel a little lonely for home. It always takes me by surprise. A few hours away from the house is good for everyone. I leave so early, my family is asleep at least half the time I am away. Still, I’ll get a twinge. Then it passes, and I’m back in the spell, and the ride is the ride.

Yesterday, however, I could not believe the time I made. There were no gaps where I pondered my proximity on the map. I encountered wind, craggy roads, my left leg even threatened to cramp for a span of time. None of it bothered me. When my leg acted up, I stood on the pedals and stretched it out for a few minutes.

Emeryville is my weekly destination. From there, I ordinarily take a rural route home. Since the day was so pleasant, and I felt so good in the saddle, I thought about extending the ride home.

The number 150 km came to mind.

Ate another two halves of a coffee bean in Emeryville and then headed south.

A route slowly formed in my mind. I had the wind with me on the way to Emeryville and encountered side- and head-on wind on the second leg. I hate letting the wind dictate my route, but when it’s powerful enough, I have learned the hard way that there is no point in fighting it.

I headed for Colchester, piecing together a route from previous rides where I attempted to ride 100 km without venturing to Emeryville. Last July, month of my birthday, I had the idea of hitting 10,000 by the 22nd. Doing that meant riding 100 km a day, minimum. In order to do that, I contrived a route encompassing Amherstburg, Colchester and Harrow. It allowed for variety because riding that much day after day can quickly become monotonous.

At every step of the ride, I was amazed by my progress. When the wind was with me, I managed 40 kph for a short stretch. Otherwise, I fluctuated between 33 kph and 25 kph when the wind hit me.

In Colchester, I stopped to get more water. I felt good, though I did wonder if an energy crash waited for me around the next corner. I ate two more halves of a coffee bean and set out on the final leg of the ride.

The only wrinkle in the ride was County Road 50. It’s an utter abomination. The pavement is some strange, seemingly experimental blacktop that is cracked as peanut brittle. It’s horribly bumpy, and though there appeared to be an effort last year to upgrade the road last year, I saw no evidence that it had been touched. That left me wondering what the months-long road block had been all about the year before.

The rest of the ride was equally pleasant — after leaving the insanity of County Road 50. In the last 15 km, I began to hit the wall, but not in any serious way. I just ride appropriately, gearing up or down as needed.

By the time I arrived home, more than five hours after leaving, I have to say that I was sore, but the day was not ruined. My yoga throughout the winter served me well, and by this morning, I felt reasonably normal. Very pleased to find that the coffee beans turned out to be as helpful as I hoped.

Stories, observations and opinions from a committed amateur cyclist

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Matthew St. Amand

Matthew St. Amand

Husband, father, amateur ghost hunter, online-ordained minister and writer. Learn more (but not much more) at

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