Maintaining the Base: Weekend Back-to-Backs

Crossing Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Crossing Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

As part of our preparation for an upcoming two weeks of summer bike touring in Colorado and to maintain the bicycling fitness we developed over the course of the brevets, Felkerino and I have spent the past two weekends doing back-to-back Saturday and Sunday rides.

This is not so difficult to do in June, where days have tended toward toasty but not scorching with pleasantly dry air.

View from the top of Harp Hill, in Maryland
View from the top of Harp Hill, in Maryland

Back-to-backs are the best way we have found to mimic bike touring while still working five days a week. I rationalize playing hooky from my household duties by labeling these rides as “training.” I need to do them so that I can make the most of my upcoming vacation.

As my weekday miles are low due to city riding’s high blah factor, weekends are particularly important for my conditioning. I bike commute daily, run regularly, and go to the gym, but these are no substitute for sustained time in the saddle.  Tandeming is also its own deal, or as Felkerino has been known to say, “a whole different level of effort.”

We select summer weekend routes partly based on distance, and we also seek out hilly terrain to keep the scenery interesting and build climbing strength.

Keeping it interesting. Dirt roads outside Haymarket
Keeping it interesting. Dirt roads and hills outside Haymarket

Two weeks ago we planned a bike overnight. We rode from D.C. out to Martinsburg, West Virginia (130 miles), overnighted (thus, the “bike overnight” label) and took a more direct route back home the next day (90 miles).

Our West Virginia bike overnight was a lovely once-in-a-while escape from the city that gave us a tasty sample of bike touring, including an encounter with this beautiful and rather large dog while stopped to figure out a wrong turn. It came out to say hello and then strategically squeezed its way through a hole in the fence to check us out more closely.

The nicest dog ever!
The nicest  country dog ever!

This weekend we took on some hilly dirt roads out of Haymarket, Virginia, and did a shake down of the lead sled for an event we are planning to do next weekend. It was a challenging 83-mile day, both for us and our bike, as we ended up with a broken chain (caught before it failed while riding), and three flats for the day.

Good thing we were with our friend Eric. Not only was he good company, but he also managed to help us out of a patch kit jam when we discovered that our glue had dried up.

Climbing Rock Hill Road, just before our flat tire and chain problems began.
Climbing Rock Hill Road, just before our flat tire and chain problems began.

Yesterday we launched from home and ambled out for 60 rolling miles along the ever-popular River Road. We rolled back in our front door around three in the afternoon.

Back-to-backs are wonderful, but it’s a balance to maintain fitness while still pretending to be a responsible grown-up. One remote start ride in a hilly area paired with one shorter-mileage day of gentler riding from home this past weekend one week after a challenging 220-mile bike overnight was close to ideal.

We gained the benefit of two consecutive weekends of back-to-back riding, and covered four different states (and the District) in the process. We did not go so far or so long that we destroyed ourselves, and we allowed time for some housework and other personal business on Sunday afternoon. Go team! Yay, back-to-backs!



  1. I would enjoy your writing more if you stayed with plain words, long ride, group ride and not used words like randonneurs and ….

    have fun.



  2. ” I rationalize playing hooky from my household duties by labeling these rides as “training.” I need to do them so that I can make the most of my upcoming vacation.”

    Y’know, most North American’s don’t need training for their vacations. 😉


  3. This sounds WONDERFUL. I have NO problem blowing off chores for training or just for fun, but my husband doesn’t share my love of cycling and household sloth, which makes the balance more tricky. That bike overnight sounds fantastic!


    • I like blowing off chores, but then I am prone to post-outing guilt complexes! So maybe good that you both have to maintain a balance. On the other hand, summer is such a great time for riding lots…


  4. How did you carry your mega-bike down the steps to the C&O from the train bridge at Harper’s Ferry? Those steps freak me out because you can see through them and I feel wobbly at first.


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