Each year RAGBRAI has a big party in Des Moines, IA, where they announce the overnight towns that have been selected for the up comping summer route.  Last night that event occurred and I was able to watch it live on my computer via their website.  Not sure how many were in attendance in Des Moines, but from the counter on my screen there were over 2,500 viewers watching online.

Leading up to the announcement they interviewed several people who have either ridden on the ride in the past or are there representing towns that were wanting the ride to stay overnight or pass through.  Any participation in RAGBRAI can mean a real economic boost for these towns.

The towns were soon announced and I was trilled to see the route for this year.  The starting point is in Glenwood,  just a short distance from Omaha where I live.  From there they travel to Atlantic, Carroll, Boone, Altoona, Grinnell and Coralville before finishing the in Davenport.  The route has a total of 454 miles and 21,206 feet of climb.

The longest day ride, from Grinnell to Coraville is about 73 miles.  The shortest from Boone to Altoona is about 56 miles.  Average daily mileage is around 65 miles which is very reasonable in my opinion.  The true measure of the ride, though will be to see the elevation charts for each day.  Pass through towns are expected to be announced sometime in March, after which we can determine the true elevation each day (and the worst hills each day).

Time to get off the computer and back on my bike trainer.  I am just itching to get outside on the bike, but the ground is covered with snow and it is snowing again as I write.  Will this winter ever end???  It is starting to remind me of one of my favorite movie, Groundhogs Day, where Bill Murry lives the same day over and over.

I guess I just like to be different.  I was the only snowboarder in our ski club in the late 1990’s.  I drive two 39 year old VW’s and I prefer a recumbent to a regular bicycle any day of the week.  When I am riding my Burley recument, people on the trails are always asking about them, are they easier, are they more comfortable, etc, so I thought I’d start a series of blogs about them, explaining what I know and why they are popular.

I guess if one needs to find a place to start, the history of recumbents would be the place.  The earliest recumbents were created in the middle of the 19th century and although you see some around, they have never gained the prominance that normal bicycles do.  Frankly, they probably never will, but they do have a following and always will.

Riders ride in a reclined position, some nearly horizontal, and because of this are very aerodynamic.  In the early 1930’s recumbent bicyclists were beating world land speed records and races to such a point that they were banned from traditional bike races and have been pretty much to this day.  Now, I have to say they must not have been riding up hill as my experience shows these bikes are not fast climbers, but I can say I zip by everyone on the downhills (I’ve gotten up above 30 mph).  If recumbents were allowed in these races I’m sure there would be more interest in them and more available in bike shops.

Recumbent bikes have a lower center of gravity and distribute the bikers weight out over the bike more.  They are usually heavier than a traditional bike, but as stated above, they can go faster because of their aerodynamic design.

In my next blog on recumbents I’ll discuss the differences between them.  Future blogs will include:

How to select a recumbent Where to buy them Secrets to riding them Where to find parts and accessories Recumbent organizations

I’ve begun training for my first distance bike ride of the year, which is just five months away in early June.  BRAN, which stands for the Bike Ride Across Nebraska, is a seven day ride taking a different route across Nebraska by bicycle each year.  This years route looks more like a bell curve on a graph when you see it on the map.  Unlike last years ride, my first BRAN, which took nearly a straight line across our very long state, this one heads Northeast out of Brady, then near the top of the state heads Southeast to Waterloo which is just a few miles from my house.

BRAN last year, which was my first distance ride ever, was so exhausting I found it difficult to get back on my bike for two weeks afterwords.  I’m going to have to be in much better shape this year as I have another distance ride, Tour de Nebraska, just 10 days after BRAN.  Of course, my big setback last year was a serious sprained ankle in April.  Hopefully I don’t injury myself training this year as I have three big trips planned.  But injuries are always a possibility in this sport. And I’m discovering at my age these injuries kind of stay with you as my ankle has been bothering me since the weather turned colder.  But, hey, nothing stops a dedicated bicyclist.  It’s the wheels on the bike we worry about, not so much the technique or time it takes us to get to our destination.

If you are not familiar with these distant rides, most ask participants to vote on various factors for each of the host cities so they can try to return to these towns every few years.  This can be a real economic boom to these small towns and there is competition to be the best host towns.  This year’s route stops at one of last years host towns which was one of my favorites, Burwell.  And this time we get to ride along Lake Calamus, which we missed last year because of a different route through town.

I’m not sure how bad the elevation is on some of these days, but this route looks much better than last year and most days are only 60-70 miles each, much better than last year that had an 80 and 85 mile days, with hills!

Here is the complete route for 2011:

Sunday, June 5th, Brady to Callaway – 62 miles

Monday, June 6th, Callaway to Burwell – 71 miles

Tuesday, June 7th, Burwell to Bassett – 68 miles

Wednesday, June 8th, Bassett to O’Neill – 49 miles

Thursday, June 9th, O’Neill to Battle Creek – 68 miles

Friday, June 10th, Battle Creek to Oakland – 70 miles

Saturday, June 11th, Oakland to Waterloo – 49 miles

Total Mileage – 437 Miles!!!

Today I signed up for Tour de Nebraska, a well established group ride here in Nebraska that accepts just a little over 200 riders.  The ride is a circle ride starting and ending this year at Syracuse, Nebraska (see full route below).  This ride is between my two week long rides in June and July that are nearly 500 miles each and will be a nice change of pace from those long grueling days.  Also, I read in their brochure that one can sleep in the gym of the school we stay near, rain or shine.  That is quite tempting some nights as on the week long rides I do, it’s camping outside rain or shine, storm or blistering heat.  Breakfast and dinner is also provided in the price of the trip making this more and more like a cruise than a bike ride!!!  I love it!  Can’t wait to see new countryside, meet new friends and of course, journal about my trip here on my blog.  Lots more pictures this year, I promise!

I had been trying to find additional rides this year, but was getting discouraged as most had a starting point over 500 miles from home or were too close to my other two rides  This one starts less than 60 miles from my house and I can leave my vehicle there for the ride home.  Actually, my location is quite good for my two distance rides as well, as the buses for BRAN and my RAGBRAI charter (Lost and Found Adventures) are less than 10 miles from home.

Tour de Nebraska Route:

Wednesday (June 22) Syracuse-Brownville 60 miles Thursday (June 23) Brownville-Pawnee City 65 miles Friday (June 24) Pawnee City-Fairbury 70 miles Saturday (June 25) Fairbury-Wilber 51 miles Sunday (June 26) Wilber-Syracuse 60 miles ESTIMATED TOTAL: 306 MILES

Living in Omaha, expecting the unexpected when it comes to weather, I’ve been off the bike and any other form of exercise for two months now.  Life, work and weather kind of got in the way and to be honest, after training so hard, usually over a dozen hours a week, for over a year so I could do BRAN and RAGBRAI, I needed a break.  Plus my fitness center was threatening to go out of business so I had not renewed my membership.

January 1 – New year – New year resolutions

First mistake!  I got on the scales.  I knew my clothes were fitting tight, but TEN POUNDS????  Okay, diet started on January 1 and I have been doing pretty good so far, have lost one pound.

Time to buy a bike trainer!

Read reviews, tried out a few at the local bike store and finally settled on a CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer from Amazon (mainly there because I had a $200 in holiday gift money).  It arrived yesterday and those who reported the instructions were certainly lacking in parts descriptions were right.   I managed to figure it out.  Here is a nice video I found.  How to install a CycleOps Fluid 2 to your bike

Also helpful:  Quick video review on selecting a bike trainer

Trying out the trainer for the first time it Amazingly quiet!  So glad I spent the extra bucks for a quality fluid trainer.  My youngest son is helping me and indicates there is a little hum and he could feel a vibration on the wood floor.  I sent him downstairs to see if it can be heard in my daughters room and then pedal hard, trying to be a noisy as possible.  “Barely noticeable,” he yells.  All is well.  Or so I thought.  After two months off the bike, I was slightly winded.  Then, walking downstairs I had a muscle cramp!!!  OMG, I’ve lost everything I worked a year to gain!!!

Or so I thought.

This morning I donned the bike gear and hopped on the bike for ten minutes at moderate pace.  All well, no pain, felt good.  Tomorrow I’ll add another ten minutes and keep doing so until I’m up to an hour, which is my daily goal.  Then I’ll start varying my regime to build up strength and endurance.  More about that later.