This week I went over the 8000 mile mark for the year on the bicycles. It seems like a lot but it did not really seem that hard when you go out and chip away at it for a year. It is by far the most mileage for me and it was done in everything from 5 degrees F in the middle of winter to 100 degrees F in the depths of summer. Wind, Rain, Ice and snow I saw all of it at one point or another. The way I figure it, I rode somewhere between 500 and 600 hours. These are some of the things I learned in all that time.
Equipment: Buy the absolute best equipment you can afford and then go a little bit farther. I had a total of 5 flats this year and that was all of the equipment trouble I had. Keep the bikes clean and well maintained so you will catch problems early. Also a clean bike is safer in traffic because you never know when the glint of sunlight off a bit of chrome or polished aluminum will catch the attention of some distracted driver who may not have seen you otherwise.
As far as cycling specific clothing goes, I am absolutely sold on the products made by Pearl Izumi. From shorts, gloves, base layers, jackets, shoes, to balaclavas I never had a problem and nothing wore out in heavy day after day use. I can not say enough about the quality of their products.
Safety Equipment:I have two helmets by Giro that I rotated from day to day. When I was finished with my ride for the day I would rinse the helmet in the shower and let it dry for a day. Both held up very well with little wear and tear.
I am also sold on Oakley sunglasses. I wore them every day on every ride and they protected my eyes from Sun, UV, dirt and road debris several times deflecting small rocks.
I always ride with a Road ID bracelet on. If I get in a bad crash or hit by a car and I cant talk, all of my information is on it so emergency services can know who I am and who to call.
Always ride with a mirror when you are road riding and keep an eye on it. Don't let cars and trucks coming up from behind surprise you. It is better to go for the side of the road or the ditch if it looks like someone may hit you. RIDE DEFENSIVELY! and assume that they don't see you.
Get a set of lights and run them in flasher mode even in the daytime. Trust me, DRLs or daytime running lights can save your life. I have noticed that most of the time, drivers give you more room when passing when you are riding with lights on. I use a set of Blackburn Fleas that are incredibly small and light but VERY bright. On several occasions I had oncoming drivers stop and tell me how great the lights were because they could see me for a very long way out.
Always take your cell phone with you. You never know when you migh really need help out in the middle of nowhere.
Goals: At the beginning of your riding season set some goals. Make them difficult enough that you will have to get out of your comfort zone to achieve them. I started out the year with the goals of 5000 miles and two century rides. I upped it to 6000 later when it was clear I was going to make it way early. I did both century rides and the last one I did in 5hr49m. Big goals make you get out there and work at them every day and they give you a big feeling of accomplishment when you achieve one.
Once you set your goals you can figure out what the very minimum amount of mileage you will have to average every day to get there. Then go out and figure out some different routes to ride that will cover that mileage. I never know from one day to the next where I will ride. I wait until it is time to go then see what direction the wind is coming from and how strong it is. If it is not very strong then I will head out into the wind to the halfway point then turn around and enjoy a little assist on the way home. If the wind is really strong I prefer to ride in a cross wind but that is just my preference. The point is to have lots of safe routes so you can ride something different every day without wearing yourself out fighting the wind too much.
Fuel: If you are going to ride lots of miles you are going to burn a ton of calories. You need to learn what you have to eat to get through a ride and then what to eat to recover so you can ride again the next day without doing damage to your body. Everybody is different but with research teamed with trial and error you will find what works for you. There are many books, magazines and web sites to help.
The same goes for hydration. Drink your fluids and pay close attention to how your body is feeling from day to day. I find that I have to force myself to drink enough in the winter when it is really cold and I am not sweating very much and I don't feel thirsty.
I will cover some more lessons that I have learned this year later on. I hope to see you out on the road!