Once those precious few not-raining months come, the calendar explodes with ride opportunities, an annual cycle that’s simultaneously exciting and overwhelming.
So many rides, so little time! Why can’t summer be longer? With so many options, how do you decide? Here’s your handy guide to choosing your next ride.
WHAT’S THE DATE?
Not only are you free that day, but what are you doing the day before or after? The day before is when you’ll want to be resting and getting your gear ready. The day after, your legs just might be jelly.
If possible, choose rides that fall on dates that will work well for your friends, too. It’s way more fun to ride when you’ve got your favorite people along with you for the day.
WHERE IS THE RIDE?
Are you going to want to drive three hours to get there? Is it a destination location? If your drive is more than an hour, consider staying the night and making a weekend of it. Some rides, like Reach the Beach and Petal Pedal, happen in areas that make for wonderful vacation locations where there’s plenty to see and do while you’re there.
WHAT’S THE ROUTE? HOW MUCH CLIMBING IS THERE?
Is the ride heading out your normal commute or weekend ride route? That might not be so interesting to you. Well organized rides will have interactive maps on their websites so you can explore the route and check the elevation. Explore a new region, a part of the state you’ve never seen before or a route that takes you past areas that will be new and exciting.
Check the elevation. It may be too much or not enough for your tastes. Most rides keep the climbing low to moderate, but there are a select few that have course options with extreme climbing. This can be a rewarding challenge – one that you just might want to train up for.
Are there route options? Most well organized rides offer at least two route options and allow you to switch routes on the morning of the ride. This is a great feature so you can choose the distance that’s right for you. And, who knows, when The Big Day approaches, you may find you’re feeling stronger than ever and want to challenge yourself to a longer distance. Or maybe you’ve talked a friend (or yourself!) into a first-time distance ride, in which case the shorter routes are life savers. There’s no reason to take on a course that’s too much for you; enjoy the ride.
VIEW THE PHOTOS
Does it look like the ride was fun last year? Events like Petal Pedal, Portland Century and similar rides often showcase fun photos from the ride and from riders where you can see what happened along the way. Do the rest stops look yummy (those rides are known for awesome food)? Does the finish line party look fun (those rides also have beer gardens….)? Do riders look happy?
CAN YOU FIND THE INFO YOU NEED? WHAT’S THE SUPPORT?
A well organized, thorough website is quite often a reflection of how well organized the actual ride will be. If you’re paying to participate in a ride, you deserve to be treated to good support along the way.
At minimum, support should include frequent rest stops with snacks, water and helpful staff plus support vehicles and a ride hotline you can call for support from the course. Some rides also offer breakfast, lunch on course (Reach the Beach offers TWO lunches on course!), dinner at the end and a free beer garden. If the ride doesn’t cost much, it probably means the before and after meals are not available or could be an extra cost. If you prefer an all-inclusive experience, make sure you check the fine print.
WHAT’S THE CAUSE AND IS THERE A FUNDRAISING FEE?
There are so many wonderful rides in this state that raise money for impressive causes. Sometimes these rides have a fundraising minimum, and sometimes they don’t. Don’t let a fundraising minimum scare you away; it’s very easy to reach most fundraising minimums by sending an email to a handful of friends and contributions are tax-deductible. In fact, you should be able to find a calculator or two online. You can always self-fund your ride, too.
If there is a minimum fundraising fee, start early so it’s not stressful to reach your goal. Check out the incentives, you might want to go above and beyond that minimum to earn a sweet prize. Read our tips for easily fundraising for a ride.
If there isn’t a required fundraising fee but the ride is a benefit for a cause, consider making an additional donation. There are a ton of costs that go into putting on a ride and unless the attendance numbers are just so, most events don’t generate a ton of money for the non-profit beneficiary. If every rider gives even just $15 extra dollars, it makes a big difference.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIDING GOALS THIS SUMMER?
See a new area? Push yourself harder? Relax and explore? There is a ride out there that will meet your riding goals this summer. Take the time to seek out (at least) one ride to meet your goals and you’ll be a happy biker this summer.
WHAT HAVE YOU SIGNED UP FOR?
Tell us what rides you’re doing this summer, and which ones are your “must-do” favorites. What do you look for in a supported ride? Tell us below!