How to prepare for a 550-mile group bike ride

Here’s some thoughts from Ed as he prepares for Tim Johnson’s Ride on Chicago


I am planning on riding a bicycle from Kansas City to Chicago at the end of the month. An adventure like this requires takes a lot of preparation, so I thought I would compose a handful of weekly updates for you all as the ride on May 29 approaches. If anyone would like out, email me. However, I figure that many of you will have to face me during some upcoming holiday, a bike ride, or social setting. Some of you have donated to my fundraising efforts in the past, so in my own way, this is an attempt to repay that good will. For others, I’m simply bugging you until you agree to see me when I visit Tulsa, and KC and Chicago at the end of the month. I promise to share fitness, training and nutrition tips from people who are far better at this than myself. So, on to the first update …

… Tim Johnson’s Ride on Chicago is no ordinary bike ride. Many of you may have received the information I sent you about the basic reason for this ride’s existence: to raise money to make cycling safer. Essentially, it’s a charity ride. But I sorta glossed over the nature of this journey. Suffice to say, it will be very hard. In fact, it may be the hardest charity ride in America.

This year’s ride will cover 550 miles through the Midwest, starting in Kansas City and ending on June 2 in Chicago. We will cross most of this distance in four days, and though this is one of the friendliest of groups, we will not be going slow. Last year’s Ride on Washington averaged 17.5 mph while ascending nearly 24,000 feet. These cyclists are unbelievably fast. Similar to last year’s group, this year’s crew includes three national champions (Tim has won six), a world champion, a Giro d’Italia veteran, a world-renown sports sports physiologist, a former pro who raced in Europe alongside legends during the 1980’s Lemond/Indurain era, and many other assorted speedsters, artists, all of them.

I am NOT fast (though I dream fast). And that’s why this ride requires a sincere effort and a lot of preparation for a regular guy like me. I shudder to think of what these amazing athletes can do together on the open roads of the rolling plains. I am seriously considering taping over my speedometer on this ride; it’s probably for the best if I just don’t know.

Aside from the speed, the distance can also be intimidating. Each day we will ride about 120 miles. This feels like competing in four-and-a-half marathons, back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Waking up at 6 a.m. to prepare for a century ride when your legs feel exhausted takes a different kind of training. In fact, 6 a.m. is a better figure to keep in mind when training for what amounts to a crash course in stage racing.

Preparing for a big bike ride begins at the end of the previous day’s ride. Throughout the week I commute about 15 miles to work each way. This adds up to about 100 miles by FridayOn Friday night, I come home, get off the bike, and immediately eat something. This ensures that whatever caloric debt I racked up in my legs is paid in full. A few hours later, I eat again, a regular dinner. Two dinners! This is Ride on Chicago is starting to pretty delicious. I use a foam roller to get any lactic acid out of my muscles. I hate lactic acid; it makes my legs feel dead the next day, so I’ll try anything legal to get rid of it. I also try to get as much sleep as possible, but this is a weakness of mine. The next morning AT 6 A.M. I eat a substantial (lumberjack) breakfast, and dress in the clothes I laid out the night before. All this happens BEFORE the ride even begins.

These Saturday and Sunday rides build in length and intensity until a few weeks before the event. Similar to a marathoner, each long ride builds in length and duration. At this point of my training, I am nearly riding 100 miles back-to-back on weekends, and building to 300-400 miles for my final training week. And the longer the ride, the more important the routine off the bike becomes, because 6 a.m. doesn’t wait for anybody. To wake up at 6 a.m. ready for a Sunday century ride with nearly 250-plus miles already in your legs is to be ready to ride in one of Tim Johnson’s epic fundraisers. Six AM requires that you trust that your body is strong, your mind is tough, and your spirit will summon you to continue even when you are wiped-out. This is why 6 A.M. is the better training mark, for this cyclist at least.

This weekend I’ll continue to add miles with a trip to New Hampshire along with a good crew of local Boston cyclists. To quote ride leader Henry van den Broek “On Saturday we’ll do a 118 mile ride. We’ll climb and descend Kinsman, Franconia Notch, Bear Notch and to top it off the Kancamangus Highway for a total of almost 9,000 feet of climbing.”

Whoa … 9,000 feet! Wait, there’s more …

On Sunday we’ll do a shorter 67 mile loop with 7,000 feet of climbing … Along the way we’ll stop for coffee and food at various spots. Both routes have shorter options available.”

If I know my friends well, the “shorter options” will probably not be options.

It should be a beautiful ride, and it will probably rain again. But hey, at least there’s gonna be coffee.

Look forward to an update, my friends and family, and we’ll see if I pass the final exam.

Ed Medina

A view of Ed from the back of Carolyn Johnson’s (Firefly) bike during Ride Studio Cafe’s 2014 “Diverged” trail ride

A view of Ed from the back of Carolyn Johnson’s (Firefly) bike during Ride Studio Cafe’s 2014 “Diverged” trail ride

Shop ride is cancelled for Saturday 9/30/2023! Stay tuned for more Shop Rides in the Spring of 2024!

More rain, such is New England...

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