Just Keep Pedaling

This is the seventh and final in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

In less than five months, Ashley and I have moved from thinking that our 10 mile training ride was quite an impressive feat to considering 25 miles a leisurely jaunt. It’s amazing how quickly your perspective can change! Continue reading

Enjoy the Ride

This is the sixth in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

You’re probably riding your bicycle because you enjoy it. Whether you are seeking the thrill of a victorious race, trying to beat your personal best time, or simply pedaling because you like the feel of the wind in your face – it’s fun. Continue reading

Hills Are In Your Head

This is the fifth in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

Pedaling up a hill is hard, even if knowing that the other side provides an enjoyable downhill respite. The absolute hardest part of a hill, though, is the mountain that grows in your head.

Continue reading

Eat Today, Ride Tomorrow

This is the fourth in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

It simply amazes me how much of a difference food and water make on a bike ride.

You can be struggling along, with barely the energy to push the pedal one more time, fighting against the wind and barely beating gravity on the hills. Then you stop for water and maybe a snack. Suddenly the pedals seem to push themselves, the wind is merely refreshing and you realize that the mountain you were fighting was merely a molehill. Continue reading

Proper Equipment Is Important

This is the third in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

Without equipment (like, say, a bicycle) you won’t get very far. Without proper equipment, you will get there but you might not enjoy the ride.

Road bikes are made for the road. Their skinny tires and longer wheelbases provide less rolling resistance and more stability. With no suspension they’re not designed to be cushy rides, but since they live on (theoretically) smooth blacktop they don’t need a lot of springs to take up huge bumps and holes.

Mountain bikes are made for off-road. Their wide, knobby tires are made to provide grip. Lower gears mean they won’t win any speed trials but they will allow you to get up those hills and over any obstacle you encounter. Modern suspension systems help smooth out the rocks, roots, logs and holes you’ll inevitably encounter.

They Make A Bike Just For You

No matter what type of riding, in what type of setting, you want to do, there is probably a bicycle made for it. Road touring, mountain, BMX tricks, sprint racing, recumbent, and even one-wheeled unicycles! Don’t sell yourself short by just buying the cheapest set of wheels you can find. Research, talk to knowledgeable people at local bicycle shops, try out a variety of bike styles and sizes, and learn what will best fit you and do what you want to do. Then get the best bike.

Yes, this might mean that you need more than one bicycle. Personally, I have two – a mountain bike for off-road and a touring bike for on-road. Both have their places and are appreciated when I use them. They are not interchangeable – I have ridden the mountain bike long distances and was exhausted the next day. Likewise I have tried to ride the road bike through sand trails, without any luck.

It’s Not All About The Bike

There are hundreds of bicycle accessories. And all of them have thousands of varieties. Once you start riding, if you’re anything like me, you will feel downright out-of-place when you don’t have all of the gear. So many other riders look like professionals in their clothes and with their accessories – you’ll feel like you stick out like a sore thumb.

After 1,170+ miles, I still don’t have a jersey, spandex shorts, or bicycle gloves. While I can’t tell you what you do and don’t need, I can share what I find invaluable from the gear that I have.

If you saw me ride past, you might notice that I’m wearing a wicking short-sleeved sport shirt from WalMart. Or spot the running shorts that I’ve had for years. Maybe you’d notice that I have on ye-olde running shoes sitting flat on my stock pedals – no fancy clipless pedals for this guy.

Some Things You Just Have to Have

You would see that I have on a helmet, at all times. Likewise, I hate riding without my clip-on rear-view mirror (due to my handlebar configuration the only place for me to put a mirror is on either my helmet or glasses.) Unseen would be the padded bicycle shorts that are underneath my shorts – these things make world of difference and were less than $20 on Amazon.

The water bottles in my two bottle holders are the same 23.7 oz SmartWaters that I picked up on a road trip months ago. They fit well in the holder and have an easily accessible flip-top lid that I can use while riding. Refill after each ride and I’m ready to go.

Maybe They Make A Difference

I hear good things about riding gloves. And everyone seems to be wearing a jersey. What kind of a cave-man doesn’t use clipless pedals?

Maybe there are benefits to all of the other accessories that I am simply unaware of. One day, I’m sure that I will test them out. Until that time, I am a biker because I pedal.

Start with the bicycle and helmet, have fun, and build from there!

Pedal Smart, Not Hard

This is the first in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa.

This piece of advice distills what might be the most importance information that I have learned along the road. It is what made it possible for Ashley and I to ride 75 miles in a day and feel confident that we could do more (and, indeed, we plan on doing a “century ride” a week or two after the RAGBRAI – riding 100 miles in a single day).

If you look into bicycling you will notice that there are frequent mentions of pedaling cadence. Basically, the rate in which you are pedaling, measured in revolutions per minute (RPM) of the pedal. Generally speaking, 90 RPM is recommended as an average optimum speed to maximize speed while minimizing leg fatigue, and some racers aim for closer to 110 RPM. A beginner biker is commonly guessed to pedal at 70 RPM.


The way to learn your bicycling cadence is by using a cadence monitor (which is yet another piece of equipment that I have yet to feel the need for) so I have no idea what my pedaling speed is.

Pedal with your lungs

The theory is that when you use higher gears (harder to pedal) and pedal slower you are primarily using your leg muscles. While that might help you go faster or power up a hill quickly it also tires your muscles and, in the long term, slows you down.


By using lower gears (making it easier to pedal) your leg muscles don’t have to work as hard. In fact, your heart and lungs will be the limiting factor, so long as you have energy to pedal.

Pedal Fast, Not Hard

Keeping this concept in mind I experimented with different gears and discovered that, though I have no idea how fast I am pedaling, I am able to keep up my speed yet finish my ride with energy reserves by pedaling fast, not hard. 

Without a cadence monitor, my guideline is to stay in the lowest gear (easiest to pedal) that allows me to pedal without my body bouncing with each revolution.

This keeps me pedaling quickly without exhausting my legs, allowing me to maintain speed while reserving energy. This works uphill, downhill, and on flat ground. It can mean shifting more than I would like to as I stay in my ideal range, especially on slightly rolling hills.

Matthew tested, Matthew approved

This is by no means scientificly researched. Prior to learning about pedaling cadence I primarily used 3 gears of the 21 availble on my bicycle. I could ride 10 miles on my lunch break but was exhausted with wobbly legs afterward. Learning to use the entire range of gears on my bicycle allowed me to ride 10 miles on my lunch break but be energetic and ready for more at the end.

Pedal fast and use your gears, even if it means shifting more frequently than you might prefer. Your legs will thank you!

7 Lessons Learned While Riding 1,171 Miles

Since March 16, Ashley and I have ridden at least 1,170.96 miles in training for the RAGBRAI, a 7-day cross-state touring ride across Iowa that starts this Sunday (July 19th). A year and a half ago we weren’t really bike riders. I enjoyed riding casually, for fun and Ashley didn’t care for it at all.

A little more than a year ago she borrowed a mountain bike from my mom and realized she greatly enjoyed it. While planning our round-the-country RV trip we realized that there was neither a National Park nor a National Forest in Iowa and remembered a link that Mom had sent about a cross-state bicycle ride. After researching further, Ashley decided that she wanted to do it.

So we began riding with a purpose and purchased road bikes. I tracked mileage ridden on my new-to-me bicycle. Along the way, we learned a few things. Some from others, some from reading, and some the hard way.

In honor of our ride across Iowa, here are some of the lessons we’ve learned, which will be posted one per day during our ride:

  • Pedal Smart, Not Hard
  • Always Have A Spare
  • Proper Equipment Is Important
  • Eat Today, Ride Tomorrow
  • Hills Are In Your Head
  • Enjoy the Ride
  • Just Keep Pedaling

It’s not all puppies, rainbows, and butterflies

Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.

Have you noticed how fabulous some people’s lives look? You check Facebook, Instagram, etc to see what friends are up to and their lives look amazing! Boating, grilling out with friends, playing with their beautiful children, and still finding time to whip up some amazing meals and creating beautiful crafts. How can you ever compare?

The answer, of course, is that you can’t. Without thinking, we only use social media, those tools of public projection, to show the highlights of our lives. The bad pictures, mistakes and boring sections are edited out. At a glance, it would appear that everyone’s life is perfect and amazing from these curated displays.

You might think that of my wife and I, if you are following along on our journey around the U.S. in our motorhome. It is an amazing adventure and we are having a wonderful time and know that we’re blessed to have the opportunity, but we still have boring, frustrating, and bad moments, that you won’t find captured on our Facebook stream.

Even looking at our journal entries, you only see the highlights. Yes, we have visited 5 states and seen a lot of neat things. But here are a few of the things that we don’t mention:

  • hours and hours and hours of driving
  • so many bugs that we don’t go outside except to leave and go somewhere else
  • the challenge and frustration of finding somewhere to park for the night
  • getting annoyed and tired as a day goes on too long
  • gas station stops and watching the meter spin as the fuel pump flows
  • the challenges of having a good time while budgeting
  • the pictures that don’t turn out so well

Life is pretty darn good. We really don’t have anything to complain about. But if you looked at it only through the filter of social media you might think that we do nothing more than relax between adventures.

Whenever you look at someone else’s life, whether in person or online, keep in mind that it has been curated only to show the best parts, the highlights. Everyone has lows to offset the highs, stretches of boredom punctuated by excitement, and adventures tucked in between the day-to-day routines.

Picnic Lunches

My wife and I have been thoroughly enjoying picnics recently. Good food, great locations, fabulous company – what’s not to like?
This is not the first time I’ve mentioned going on picnics. So you can say that I’m a fan.

It’s easy to overlook a picnic as an enjoyable activity, however. Maybe the weather isn’t ideal, you think that you need a particular type of food, or it just doesn’t cross your mind.

We have been going on picnics during our travels out of convenience. Out on the road on the motorcycle for most of the day, we just don’t have the room to pack a lot of food. So we have been putting sausage, cheese, fresh vegetables, and our water bottles in the saddle bags. When we get hungry then it’s time to find a picnic table and stop for a bite.

Picnics don’t have to be fancy. We have been using lunch meat as the outside of a wrap, with cheese or avacado and slices of cucumber inside, plus fresh vegetables on the side. Or slices of summer sausage as a base to put the other ingredients on top of. We use the ziplock bags as a workstation and a couple of paper towels/napkins to clean up with. Quick, simple, compact – and we can slice everything with the pocket knife that I carry.

Of course, we also take the oportunity for something a bit fancer when the chance presents itself. We take along the grill or backpacking stove and grill some chicken to accompany a salad. It would be easy to throw these into the trunk of your car and head out in search of adventure!

We have discovered waterfalls, creeks, and rivers to eat beside. Beautiful scenery where we can enjoy our meals.


You don’t have to be on the road to enjoy the pleasures of a simple picnic.

If you slice everything before leaving, the only set-up is hand washing and opening of containers. It doesn’t take any time! You can meet up on a quick lunch break and enjoy company with a loved one to help break up a work day. Or you can take the opportunity to go and explore your neighborhood, seeking out those hidden treasures that are so easy to over-look.

Have you been on a picnic lately?

Not living up to expectations

Have you experienced this? You hear about some new thing and everyone seems to love it. It will make you smarter, faster, and richer, all while helping you lose weight.

Then you try it. And it just doesn’t suit you. For whatever reason you aren’t overwhelmed, even after trying it a few times. Finally, no matter how much you want to, you just decide not to keep this new thing in your life.

This has happened to me more than once. Most recently, with Bulletproof Coffee. High quality coffee with grass-fed unsalted butter and coconut oil blended in.

I first read about Bulletproof Coffee (BPC) a few years ago and was intrigued. Supposedly it will result in the “creamiest, most satisfying cup of coffee you’ve ever had.” And “it will keep you satisfied with level energy for 6 hours”. Every review I read was positive, talking about how much more energy they had and how much more mentally focused they find themselves. Those sound like good things to me! So I tried it.

I made some BPC before heading out to work one morning to replace breakfast. My first sip? Tasted oily/buttery. Maybe I just needed to give it more time. I drank the rest of my mug.

The rest of the morning I felt… almost queasy. And hungry. I normally ate breakfast every morning, and my stomach was waiting for it.

Perhaps I didn’t make it right. Maybe I used the wrong measurements, or didn’t pick out the best ingredients. I decided to wait until I could get one that was “professionally made” instead of making my own again.

I didn’t actively search out a coffee shop that made Bulletproof Coffee, so quite some time passed before I had another one. My interest remained on a warm simmer as I read about others whose lives had been changed by drinking BPC.


Finally, three years later I visited a new coffee shop where they offered BPC. I had already eaten breakfast before visiting so the coffee would not have to be a meal replacement. I’ve been drinking my coffee black for some time now and a “creamy, rich” coffee sounded good.

Order up!
Coffee in hand I tentatively took a sip. My wife could tell from the look on my face, I wasn’t convinced yet. She tried it, and I had few more swallows. I just don’t like it.

At lunch time, I was hungry again. It might have delayed my appetite but by no means did it make me want to skip my next meal. I don’t need its help to become a fat-burning machine, another of its claims, I have already lost 45 lbs over about 5 months.

Maybe I built it up too much in my mind and unless I have a coffee-flavored milk shake it just can’t live up to my imagination. Perhaps I’m too accustomed to drinking black coffee and would have to grow to like the milder flavor (other than a sip or two I don’t enjoy lattes because of the milkiness).

Whatever the reason, as much as I want to, I just don’t like Bulletproof Coffee.

But maybe you will. Buy or make some for yourself and see if it works for you.

  • Brew 1 cup of coffee.
  • In a blender, add in 1 tsp. of MCT Oil (or coconut oil)
  • and 1-2 Tbs. of grass-fed, unsalted butter or ghee.
  • Mix it all for 20-30 seconds until it is frothy like a foamy latte.
  • Bottoms up!