I don’t know how many years I’ve been riding. That may seem a little odd, considering that it’s my one and only form of recreation, but it’s true. The problem is, I didn’t realize when I started riding that it was going to become my thing. So I just started doing it.
And now, when people ask, “How long have you been riding?” I have to make up a number. For the past five or six years, that number has been “Fifteen years.” Though — by working from a recollection that I did my first Leadville 100 about two years after I started riding, I’d say that the actual number of years I’ve been riding currently stands at sixteen.
And that’s too bad. I should have kept track. And you know what? That’s not the only thing I wish I would have kept track of during the years I’ve been riding. If I could go back in time to when I started writing, I’d tell myself, “Hey, buy a blank book, label some pages with categories, and keep track of things you frequently do when biking!”
Why? Well, because those would be some startlingly cool (or, sometimes, depressing) statistics.
How many times have I done my “backyard” rides? When I first started riding, Frank was my backyard ride — the ride I did more often than any other, because I could do it right from my house. Now Corner Canyon and The Alpine Loop are my backyard rides. Ideally, it would be interesting to have stats for each of them (have I ridden Corner Canyon as many times as I’ve ridden Frank yet?), but the most interesting thing to know would be how many hundreds of times I’ve ridden an extremely familiar trail or road, without ever getting sick of it. I’ll bet I’ve done 3,000 backyard rides.
How many times have I done my favorite ride? Tibble Fork is my favorite ride in the world, but how many times have I been up there. Fifty maybe? Perhaps more, perhaps fewer. If it’s only 50, that doesn’t seem like enough. In fact 100 times isn’t enough.
How many times have I crashed? If I’m counting mountain bike rides, I would guess I’ve probably fallen 200 times. Now that I write that down, it seems like that’s a lot. Like only a klutz would fall that many times. Which is why I’m inclined to believe it’s probably a reasonably accurate guess. If I count road biking, that’s one number I can actually report, because it’s so small: just once (that I can remember right now, anyway).
How many times have I fallen badly enough to draw blood? This will, of course, be a subset of the previous statistic, though I’d guess it’s a pretty large subset — maybe 60% of my falls have drawn blood.
How many times have my falls resulted in a permanent mark? Well, my wedding ring finger turns up at the tip, there’s the scar going from my nose to my lip, and then there are my knees.
Yeah. About my knees. I think it’s safe to say that both my knees are nothing but scars now. As in, there is no original, non-scar skin on my knees. I’ll bet my knees and shins have fifty scars.
How many near-misses have I had? I’ll bet I’ve had 500 near-crashes. Which means, I think, that I almost crash 2.5 times as often as I actually crash. No, that number is too high. Let’s change it to 400. Of those, I’d say fifty are times where it was so close that I got an adrenaline rush and accompanying shakes.
How many energy gels / bars / chews / waffles have I consumed? There was a time when I used gels pretty much every ride. I think back on that now and wonder what I could have possibly been thinking. That said, I now look for excuses to eat Honey Stinger Waffles. But that’s different. I’ll bet, if all energy food products are lumped together (which, by the way, would be really gross-looking), I’ve eaten 2,000. I wince a little at this, but bet it’s reasonably accurate.
How much peanut butter have I consumed? If I consider only the peanut butter I have consumed either immediately before, during, or immediately after a ride, I’ll bet I’ve had had 7,000-sandwiches-worth of peanut butter. I’m not exactly sure how to express that in gallons.
How many tubes have I used? This is an interesting question, because while it would be easy to express in a total — probably eighty or so — if I were to express it as a graph, it would look something like this:
That sudden drop in the number of tubes I need to use coincides with when I started using tubeless tires on my mountain bikes. And it continued to drop when I went to tubeless tires on my road bike. I’m happy to say — and have just thrown salt over my shoulder so as to prevent the jinx — that this year I have not had a single flat on any of my bikes. Between many fewer flats and improved handling of both mountain and road bikes, tubeless tires have — more than almost any other advance — made biking so much better for me.
How many strokes of air have I put in tires with the floor pump? Would it be outrageous to guess a million? The thing is, if I were to diagram use of floor pump over time, it would go in the opposite direction of the “number of tubes” chart above. Because while tubeless is awesome, you do have to top off with air more often.
How many times have I listened to Renegades of Funk? I’ve explained before that of all power songs in the world, there is one that powers me like no other: Rage Against the Machine’s “Renegades of Funk.” It’s my secret weapon for climbing fast. I bet I have listened to that song two hundred times. It works every time.
How many jerseys have I owned? How many socks? How many bottles? I have quite a few jerseys right now. But I certainly haven’t kept all of them. And for every two jerseys, I probably a pair of socks. Which means, I guess, that I’ve owned the same number of socks and jerseys. I’ll bet 150 jerseys, and 75 pair of socks.
And the bottles. Don’t even start me on the bottles.
How many bad days have turned into good days? How many times have I been riding and taken what had been a cranky, miserable mood and turned it into an excellent mood? Or started a ride in outright despair and — over the course of a ride — brought myself back from the ledge? Combined, I’ll bet at least a hundred times.
How many insights have I had / problems solved? I’ll be out riding and suddenly a solution to what I thought was an unsolvable problem occurs to me. Somehow, turning circles with my legs over and over and over seems to trigger inspiration. I’ll be this has happened fifty times.
How many times have I bailed on a ride because I was lazy? There have been times when I’ve skipped riding. Not for a real reason, either. Just because I didn’t feel like it. Because I was lazy. I’ll bet that’s right around 75 rides I’ll never be able to recapture.
How many times have I bailed on work because I wanted to ride? None. Ever. My work ethic would never let me do that. (Hi current and former managers!)
How many times have I been to Moab? Thirty or so — generally a couple times per year. That’s like having a couple extra Christmases every year.
How many bikes have I owned? This, probably, needs to be the subject of a blog post of its own. I already know the first line for it: “I know, it’s time I admit I have a problem.”
How many miles have I ridden? This is, in fact, the question that triggered the idea for this whole post. In sixteen-ish years of obsessive cycling, how many years have I ridden? I wish I knew, but this is one number I couldn’t even take a realistic stab at.
How many hours have I ridden? On average, four days per week, times two hours per day, times forty weeks per year times sixteen years. Only 5,120 hours? Well, that doesn’t seem like a lot.
How many times have I smiled or laughed while riding? Enough to make all the other stats irrelevant.