666 Consecutive Cycling Days: The Devil Is in the Details

Well, that just happened. Riding my bike for 666 days in a row is a benchmark I figured would eventually pass if I just kept going. As for those who think the number has some special significance, or to the members of the Church of Satan, who are skeptical atheists who do NOT worship Satan or believe the devil is a real entity but rather “…as an archetype of pride, individualism, and enlightenment”: no offense. I just like the symmetry of the number. That should be evident from my biking 6,666.66 miles in 2020. I called it the Double Devil, because of Coronavirus and POTUS #45. Read all about that at this link.) That’s a lot of days in a row to do anything. In my case, bicycling for almost two years is a fairly decent accomplishment.

A real bike shop in New Haven, CT

I haven’t seen scientific proof of a deity or afterlife aka heaven or hell, save for those which we humans create on Planet Earth. I’m still a non-believer in an invisible space ghost myself, which you can read about in In Bike I Trust. But I do believe in bicycling. However, I can say for certain that riding a bike can have spiritual aspects to it, from elements of pain and pleasure to punishments and prizes. Something about being out on the road, especially if in a natural setting, on a sunny summer day, or a crisp one with autumn leaves falling, is awesome. I’m reminded of a Bob Dylan lyric that seems to apply:

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music
Source: A band called LS Demon

In my case, sometimes it seems like whom I’m serving may be Strava, the fitness app. (Feel free to follow me there if you dare.) As I approach two years of daily riding, I wonder if it will continue, and for how long. With the slow pace and low mileage I do compared to many (most?) people, and to myself a few years ago, I’m in no danger of winning any races or Olympic medals in this body or lifetime. Strava does have some challenges and virtual badges that one earns, plus kudos from bike friends around the world. A participatory ribbon and maybe a slap on the back would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. I am overweight, therefore I bike. Not that it’s done a lick of good.

Speaking of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, they are winding down. I haven’t seen much but for the men’s cycling road race which I wrote about here and here. One sport I have watched a bit over the years is springboard and platform diving. The power, poetry and pain of that sport are a sight to behold. It’s very dramatic, as are probably many of the competitions, I suppose. Every one of the athletes has a story, of which the audience only witnesses a tiny sliver.

I thought it was really interesting to hear one of the announcers use the words sports psychology. This is a topic I’ve touched on many times and use it as one of the tag words. The analyst was describing how crucial mental toughness and resilience are for the divers. Because if they mess up their first dive, they only have four more in each round to make up ground (or should I say water). And that can be the difference from moving on from the preliminaries to the semi finals then to the finals and onto the podium, or going home or just making it into the final dozen.

One of the women divers who was expected to perform well had the highest degree of difficulty dive in the whole competition. In the first round, she did it without much problem. But in the final, as she approached the end of the board, she paused and ended up just jumping feet first into the pool. That effectively ended her Olympic dreams. Later she posted a video saying she was human and made a mistake, but she was going to keep diving. To me, that’s inspirational. It’s the sort of courage and resilience that all amateur exercisers can learn from.

This concept has received a lot of attention since high profile athlete Simone Biles pulled out of her events due to the incredible strain and pressure she was under. Of course there’s no comparison between what these professional or at least full-time athletes do and I as a fathlete. Ultimately, it’s up to each person to listen to their body — and their mind — and do what is best for their own health. Sometimes it’s not clear what that is. What motivates me to keep going is that despite the challenges, stopping and all that goes with it — weight gain, less cardiovascular exercise, lower Vitamin D levels, less fresh air, driving more and wasting gas, decreased social aspects, etc. — seem much worse.

© This Strava activity chart shows biking and walking by week for the last year.

What are those details that helped me bike 66 days in a row? Well, here are a few:

  • safety first — good lights, following the law, no headphones or cell phones (see my recent safety article here)
  • keep oneself hydrated and with nutrition on board to preventing bonking
  • sleep is good, too (nice work if you can get it, if you can get it, tell me how)
  • make sure your bike is in working order and have a back-up bike
  • pay attention to the weather — hourly or minutecast forecasts are useful but may still be wrong; be prepared
  • think about your route in relation to how you feel — avoid hills when you’re tired (my mantra every day)
  • some days you have good legs, and some days you don’t, so be able to tell the difference
  • riding with a friend or groups when safe and legal are good ways to avoid boredom
  • having fun and working toward a goal are important parts of health, too
Uber fan Didi Senft next to the yellow jersey in Le Tour de France

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