Atlanta Biketober 2018
I am not a cyclist. But I got on my bike. It was one of those stupid fitness challenges for which I did not prepare, and in this particular case, one joins a group of coworkers to see how many days and miles they can ride their bikes during the month of October (additionally, how many people they can encourage to signup to do the same—or, as I like to call it, “the popularity contest”).
A team formed at work, and they wanted me on it because I had done well in the past with my mountain bike and thought I could do well again. I bought my 1987 Bianchi Sport SX road bike from a good friend of mine Soeren Loeffler last year and had been riding it recreationally, so I figured the bike would do. I named her ‘Inquieta’, Spanish for ‘the disquieter’ or ‘the unsettler’. She’s got a steel frame, flat pedals, eleven speeds, and even a leather saddle. It was time to put Inquieta to the test. The stage was set, and Atlanta Biketober 2018 began. Now fast-forward 31 days. Yesterday night after Trick or Treating with the kids, I finished October with a final bike ride. The final jaunt put me at over 400 miles for the final week and 1013 miles for the month, or roughly SEVENTY HOURS of riding total. How did I do it? Well, as I mentioned, it started as a “stupid challenge”, and it ended up being a full bore, month-long act of will.
Biketober Challenge 2018
GTRI’s endeavor to rise to the top of cycling and bike commuting in Atlanta.
It was suffering for the sake of competition with no reward save that which most benefits us more than money—pride.
It meant leaving work to start a ride at 7pm and finish in the chill of 1am. It meant being sent over the handlebars in the middle of the night, spraining my wrist, and acquiring a little road rash in the process. It meant dealing with rigid and sore muscles for the first ten miles of a ride before they finally loosen up enough to feel normal again. It meant limping around the office with Neosporin helping to heal my nether regions from the saddle sores only to re-chafe them later that evening. It meant withstanding all of the aggression and road rage motorists in Atlanta could muster. It meant riding no less than 3 hours a day the final week for 7 days straight. It meant blowing through 10 tubes, 8 spokes, 4 brake pads, 2 wheels, and over 10 gallons of water while riding. It was suffering for the sake of competition with no reward save that which most benefits us more than money—pride.
But the suffering was mixed in with the pleasure. It also meant riding towards jaw-dropping sunrises and gorgeous sunsets under canopies of bright, Autumn leaves. It meant being joined by Shanna Irving on weekly Wednesday night rides amidst the city lights (who in the process earned herself the #1 spot in the New Female Riders category for the month). It meant a first ever bike camping trip for her and me to Alabama and back, where we were joined by my colleague and prominent Atlanta cyclist Jett Marks. It meant long night rides with bike commuter Emily Jones and fellow mountaineer Jermaine Middleton, on a mission to become the first American-born black man to climb Mount Everest.
Earl Serafica at Peachtree Bikes was constantly shaking his head as I rolled Inquieta in the door seemingly every evening with the caveat that I needed her working again immediately so I could ride that night.
But beyond all the suffering and enjoyment, it was simply grinding out miles and making sure my bike did not fall apart in the process. My local bike shop had a critical roll in her being operational throughout the month. Earl Serafica at Peachtree Bikes was constantly shaking his head as I rolled Inquieta in the door seemingly every evening with the caveat that I needed her working again immediately so I could ride that night. The last three days of October, I needed to ride 200 more miles to break through 1000. This would test both my body and my bike. So I rode 80 miles Monday night and 90 more with Jermaine Tuesday night, where I double flatted and used my very last spare tube at 980 miles. I was fretting because I needed to ride 20 more miles at the Mash 2 Brash group ride the next morning but if I flatted again it would be game over. ONLY because Jermaine graciously gave me his last one did I could break through the 1000 mile barrier because at 990 miles I flatted again! But even that was not enough. After Trick or Treating with my kids (it was Halloween, after all) I had to squeeze in nine more miles before the stroke of midnight because the last three spots on the Top 10 Riders list had five people competing for them, and all of us were within twenty miles of one another.
When the dust settled,
I was the 1st rider on our team of 8 and ended up the 9th most miles out of nearly 1400 riders.
Our team (GTRI’s Thighs) won everything but the popularity contest portion of the Biketober challenge (that prize went to King’s Hawaiian, because Thanksgiving is coming up and who doesn’t like Hawaiian rolls?); I’m good with that.
Our team was the 1st team out of 275 teams on ride points (1 point per mile, 20 points per day you rode regardless of distance).
Our department, GTRI - Georgia Tech, was the 1st not just out of 500-1999 staff, but out of ALL 266 departments (even the 2000+ staff ones) on overall points.
Our organization, Georgia Tech, was 1st out of 25 organizations with 2000+ staff (and all others) on overall points.
Our city, Atlanta, scored higher than every other participating community (including the Bay Area, Boulder, Austin, and Philadelphia).
It was a good month.
So thanks and congratulations to the entire team GTRI’s Thighs:
Jett Marks (Team Captain)
p.s. You will not catch me eating any King’s Hawaiian rolls at Thanksgiving this year. Call me bitter that we were not more popular than them, I do not care.