So what does the typical Cycle of Hope day look like?
Getting 50 cyclists and 10 support people through a long cycling day safely is no small undertaking. It’s not quite a military maneuver, but it does take a great amount of organization. Fortunately for the people involved, there’s a great amount of history behind the Cycle of Hope. The first Cycle of Hope happened in 1993 and over the years, the organizers have had lots of time to tweak the process so that the days run very smoothly.
The Morning Routine
A typical day starts at 5:30 AM. This is certainly far earlier than I would ever get up if I was at home. For some reason, I don’t really mind this routine when I’m on the ride. We go to bed so early. Usually the lights are out at 10 o’clock and we are all so tired that we sleep like stones. After a solid seven hours of sleep, I feel refreshed (mostly) and ready to get going. I know that not everyone feels this way. Looking around the gymnasium in the morning, I can see that some people aren’t entirely at peace with the world.
We have about an hour and a half in the morning to get everything done and be on the road. The morning routine includes packing up our clothing and our beds and getting them into the luggage trailer.
Breakfast is simple: cereal and milk, fresh fruit, yogurt, some toast and peanut butter and jam or some bagels, and hard boiled eggs. When you’re burning as many calories as we are in a day, no one cares about eating too many carbs. The coffee pot is always brewing in the morning and it smells just a little bit more wonderful than it ever does at home.
Everyone pitches in to get the breakfast packed away and into the food van so that we can get on the road as early as possible. People will load the support vehicles with large jugs of water and snacks to hand out to the riders during the day.
Once everything is ready to roll, everyone gathers outside with their bikes and we have roll-call so no one gets left behind.
On a good day, we are ready to leave by 6:30. If people are feeling a little more sluggish, we might not make it out the door and onto the roads until 7:00. On really hot days, we’ll get up a half an hour or maybe an hour earlier so that we can avoid some of the heat of the day.
The Riding Routine
Pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal and then pedal some more. Every 20 or 30 km, riders will meet up with the support vehicles that are spaced out along our route. Even in moderate weather, it’s important to continually drink and eat. As the temperature and the humidity climb, it becomes even more important to stay hydrated and to replace some of the salt lost through perspiration. We sign in at each rest stop as a check to make sure that no one has become lost along the way.
Lunch – A Welcome Break in a Busy Day
Lunch will usually be two-thirds of the way through our daily distance. It’s encouraging to know that after lunch, we are more than half way through the day. The food support team finds a lovely shaded park for us to enjoy our lunch and escape the sun for an hour. It’s a great chance to take off one’s shoes and perhaps stretch some tired muscles a little bit after a long morning. Even though we have all been eating and drinking all morning long, by the time we arrive at lunch, we are starving again. Lunch usually is a sandwich with some kind of protein, salads, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and some little treat.
The Afternoon Routine
Pedal, pedal, pedal, and pedal some more. Sometime the pedaling just gets to be too much. There’s always a support van coming along behind referred to as the “sweep” which picks up riders that just don’t feel like pedaling anymore.
The End of the Riding Day
Depending on the length of the day and how fast one rides, people will arrive at the destination at various times. The group that arrives earliest helps unload the luggage and get things ready for the people who take longer to get in.
First order of business is staking out one’s territory in the gymnasium and the second order of business is a well-deserved shower. And then there’s the laundry to be done. We don’t have access to a washer and dryer most days so we usually will hand wash our riding gear and hang it outside to dry. Hopefully the weather is hot and dry and the laundry will be dry by the morning.
Some people catch a catnap. Others will make a call home. But there’s always work to be done as well. People help clean out the vans, washing out the water coolers and restocking the bins with road snacks for the next day. The lunch dishes have to be washed and then there’s prep for the next day’s lunches as well. Everyone pitches in. It’s a large task to keep 60 people feed when we are on the move every day.
Dinner and the Evening
We are usually hosted by a church or community group in the town where we are staying and they generously provide us with dinner. They have all been gently forewarned about how much food we likely will eat but, I think that they are all still amazed to see how much our group can plow through in a meal.
It seems that our days revolve around the food we eat. We are eating all through the day but, we always seem to be hungry. On average, a person would probably burn about 500 calories an hour bike riding so in a day we will burn thousands of additional calories to what a person would normally burn on a day without exercise.
Sometime through the course of the evening, there may be some minor repairs on the bikes to be done. Perhaps the chain will need to be cleaned. The air in the tires will certainly need to be topped up. For those of us that don’t really know anything about bike maintenance, (that would be me), there’s always someone to offer a hand.
After dinner, some of the group might find their way to the local bar. A cold beer or for me, a gin and tonic is a perfect end to a long, hot day. We might have an hour or maybe two to spare before its lights out at 10 o’clock, before it starts all over again.
Does that sound like fun or not?
The thing that is somewhat lost in this narrative is just how fun a day is. Some days are harder than others, depending on the distance we ride, the weather (the wind, the heat and humidity) and the terrain. The hills can be quite daunting. But on the flip side, we are treated to a never-ending stream of new and varied scenery. We get to talk all day long, with people who we may hardly know, but by the end of the day, feel we know quite well. The support and encouragement that everyone provides to one another makes me feel good about the world.
Details for today
Distance: 144 km / 1394 km. total
Route: Hastings to Monticello, MN