After seeing yet another street cut in half to make a lavish bike lane, I caved and bought a bicycle. My new trail guide, however, lists 30-plus-mile trails as "easy." Madness! I haven't been on a bike since I was a kid. How far is a real person's "easy" ride?
Upon receiving your letter, I decided (just for laughs, and certainly not because this is how I normally find the answers to readers' questions) to Google "tips for beginning cyclists." I have to say, I see what you're up against.
Bicycling magazine's "Advice for New Cyclists," for example, clearly doesn't define "new" the same way I do: "'Add an extra 10 miles to your longest ride once a week until you reach 80 miles,' says cycling coach Frank Overton!"
I think I speak for both of us, Curious, when I say that cycling coach Frank Overton and his fanny pack full of Clif Bars can fuck right off. He'll never understand the unique training challenges faced by folks like you and me, who have the muscle tone of a sherry trifle and can easily pull a hammy tearing open a packet of gummy bears.
How far can People of Walmart like us ride? Let's do the math.
As it turns out, casual walking and mellow, carefree, "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"-style cycling (in both cases, we're talking about a level of exertion that doesn't require putting out your cigarette) each burn about 170 calories per hour.
If you're like most Americans, you probably dawdle along at around 2 mph. (This is how we can still manage to get eaten by those old-school George Romero zombies, even though they can barely move and are always having to stop and pick up their intestines.)
Putting that same hung-over, zombie-level of effort into cycling will get you up to about 10 mph. So basically, you should be able to comfortably ride about five times as far as you can walk, or, in my case, roughly a mile and a quarter. Hand me my yellow jersey, and there better be a bar at the finish line.