I like to test myself…and then you feel real good about what you’ve done. Biking is my thing, and most people on a bike have a smile on their face.

My wife passed away after 27 years together. So one of my philosophies is to Do It Today, because tomorrow you may not be able to. That’s carried over to my biking—when the weather is great, I ride with my friends.

Gary Gianni during his first Century (100 miles) ride—

Gary Gianni during his first Century (100 miles) ride—


Everyone rides a bike, when they’re a kid. I also messed around with bikes in my 20’s. But I played in a band part-time for 15-20 years after that, and I had no time to ride. I got tired of that. Then a friend offered me his mountain bike in 1988, when I was 35. (I’m 56 now.) So I quit playing and started riding, just five or 10 miles. There were trails near our house that I’d go on with my neighbor, who was 10 years younger. I met more people who rode, and it just became a passion.

Next it became a bit competitive. My two boys started riding with us. It makes me smile and feels good. It’s a great means of seeing things—more than hiking in the woods and trails. It’s so much fun.

Then a lady gave me a road bike, just left it at my house one night. I started riding on the road, which is safer and better for your cardiovascular system. You can go a lot faster and keep up your heart rate. Mountain biking is more up and down, while road biking is more steady. Once you get into a zone, you can really fly. It takes over your body physically.

Hill on the RAGBRAI out of St. Olaf, Iowa—

Hill on the RAGBRAI out of St. Olaf, Iowa—


Once I did the RAGBRAI [the Register’s (a local newspaper) Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa]. It’s a seven-day ride, 450-500 miles, a different route each year. There are 10,000 riders! Such an experience. You camp out each night after a set number of miles. So when I hit the 60-mile mark one day, there are 23 miles to go. I got into the zone, going 23 miles per hour, and I decide I’ll just go this fast as far as I feel good. I was in such a mental zone. I made it the whole way. That’s a pretty good clip.

The fastest rider I know does 21-22mph for 50 miles. You just feel good about it. You just have to do it. My girl friend Susan (see her story posted on 10/25/09) flew by me one time and went for five miles in the zone. The endorphins and adrenaline are flowing, everything seems to be right. You’re shifting nice, and you just go with it.

Susan and Gary at Pennwood, CT, New Year's Day, 2006

Susan and Gary at Pennwood, CT, New Year's Day, 2006


Then there are those times when you just bonk, and you can’t get out of your own way. Nutrition, eating well, and hydrating plays such a big part of it. You’re just tired, and your legs feel like lead, but it will pass. You’ll get your energy back. Younger riders are lighter, and they fly by you. Though there are a lot who can’t keep up with me. Physical conditioning is very important. There are even a lot of guys in their 20’s and 30’s I mountain bike with who can’t keep up with me.

In the summer, I go out 3-4 times a week. Two weekdays and Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes it’s 2-3 days in a row. It’s good to recover and back off a bit. You get a pain here and there, and you have to listen to your body and take it easy a little. Road riding takes up a good part of the day.

When we ride on roads, we usually won’t go less than 35 miles. We try for a 50-75 mile ride. If I’m going with friends who are fast riders, we travel at 17-18 mph. We live near a lot of hills, so when we go with older, slower riders, we go 13, 14, maybe 15 mph.

I once did 140 miles in a day. Four of us rode to Lake George, New York from Winsted, CT. It was 10 hours in the saddle. That’s a decent pace. Some fast guys can average 20 mph, but we were doing it for the enjoyment, just to have a good time.

A 66-year-old friend rode cross country, from Virginia to Oregon. Ten to 12 riders for 12 weeks. There were cars that hauled your supplies, sponsored riders and helped with breakdowns.

He and I also did the Border Raiders ride, named after Quantrill’s Raiders, back when there were border wars with slave states before the Civil War in the 1860’s. It’s 500 miles over eight days across four states (Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri). You go 160 miles in 100 degrees, from convenience store to convenience store. Grueling. You just keep filling up.

I’m talking with friends about doing a double century ride—200 miles—in one day. It’s kind of nice to push yourself a little bit. Read the rest of this entry »

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