For the past few years, I’ve been riding long distances—really, really long distances.
I can’t help it: I am insatiably curious, and I crave miles. When I look at a map, which I do often, I get inspired; I want to see everything it contains firsthand. And not only do I want to see it, but I also want to propel myself through that landscape. I want to be there. I want to trace my wheels over the topo lines.
While many big adventures are fun when undertaken with a friend, my personality is suited to going it alone: I can be fiercely independent. I am not always patient. I am not willing to wait for a partner to ride with. In fact, sometimes I don’t want a partner. I love people and I love parties and I have a huge well of energy and if I stay in one place for too long I get anxious. Plus, the days are unpredictable: The bicycle is the constant, but everything else changes.
Setting out on a long solo ride is a release. I want to be alone with my thoughts, moving through the world to get somewhere real—and on long solo rides, I have miles and miles to sort out my thoughts and to be present in so many new places.
Extremely long rides sound impossible—even to me sometimes— but I love the challenge. I love to push myself physically and mentally. And when I am alone, I am only responsible for myself. I make all of the decisions. I have to trust and rely on myself. And I get to see what is possible. (Meet your wildest cycling goals with help from Maximum Overload, a game-changing new interval- and strength-training program from Bicycling!)
But doing really long rides by myself—especially as a woman—puts me in the minority of riders, and it doesn’t come without hardship, or danger. But what I’ve learned about myself and others as a result of taking these journeys makes them more than worthwhile.
The scariest road I’ve ever ridden was “The Highway of Tears.” I unwittingly…