The Madness

I’m a distant member of the Davis Bike Club. Although I live in Berkeley, I’ve joined this club 60 miles away because it sponsors all sorts of long-distance cycling events, like the qualifying brevets (that’s French for “long-ass bike ride) for Paris-Brest-Paris and other butt-numbing feats of cycling endurance. One of the things the club is known for is its annual “March Madness” frenzy. Members are encouraged to ride lots of miles. For every member mile recorded, the club donates a penny to buy bike helmets for kids.

It sounds like a mild-mannered, fun, civic-minded undertaking. But beneath bizarre, extreme behavior lurks just beneath that veneer of innocence and public-spiritedness. Every year, a handful of club members — people with lives it’s hard for me to imagine — put in 100 miles or more on the bike every day for the whole month. Here we are on the 12th of March, and there’s a real horse race among four riders: One, listed as “Howard Hughes,” has ridden 1,442.38 miles this month — an average of 120.2 a day. Howard’s followed by three guys bunched between 1,237 and 1,247 miles. (Fpr comparison’s sake, and for an idea of what saner people are doing — and this is one of the few times I’d ever advertise myself as “sane” — I’ve ridden 312 miles since the 1st; that happens to be about two miles below the overall average for the 142 people signed up.)

From what I remember, the record March Madness total is something like 4,130 miles. That’s more than 130 miles a day. There was controversy on the club email list that March over allegations that some riders were getting rides way up north in the Sacramento Valley so that they could take advantage of strong tailwinds to enhance their mileage totals. Wind or no wind, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to eat enough to ride all those miles, and I don’t want to contemplate what some of the physical wear and tear must be like.

[Addendum: Checking the mileage totals for last year, the top total was a shocking 4,486 miles, 144.7 miles a day. Still can’t imagine. Also, 11 riders topped 2,000 miles and 50 others topped 1,000.]

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