Rides We Like: The Solstice Distance Challenge
Cover photo courtesy of Mike Maney Photography. Be sure to check out his work; he is a fellow cyclist in the Bucks County cycling community with multiple KOMs to his name.
According to the local almanac the summer solstice – which happens to be June 21st this year – arrives at 11:54am Eastern Daylight Time. In our region the sun will rise at 5:30 and set at 8:34. Factoring residual light in both the front portion of the sunrise and the afterglow of sunset, it is possible to have illumination for sixteen hours on Friday. Our focus, though, should be on the realistic Saturday, where one minute of expected daylight is razed. That is hardly a deal-breaker.
Playing the numbers game, if a cyclist woke up to depart at first light and averaged a sensible sixteen miles per hour, the distance of 250 miles is possible. Obviously the rider will need breaks for food and stretching. Two hundred fifty miles might be ambitious, but the fact remains it is possible. That would make sense considering years ago Mike and I laterally circumnavigated the Catskills for eight hours, covering nearly 140 miles. The summer solstice would allow for a second lap, though most likely with desperation to finish before dark.
Every year we try to record an impressive effort for the digital log. Every year it gets put to the back burner of priorities. In real life, a full day of riding affects the rider as well as the support staff. That is, someone has to mow the lawn; someone has to food shop for the ravenous peloton steaming toward the pantry with empty stomachs. Usually our Solstice Ride looks something hardly recognizable to the plan. The snooze button is overwhelmed; the groggy rider is still slurping a stained coffee mug prior to climbing aboard the bike (hours late mind-you), and the route conspicuously winds its way to a confectioner’s establishment where it then points home. Out of a possible 250 miles, perhaps one-tenth is accomplished.
But still, it is worth throwing it out to the masses each year to plant the seed of potential. From our location we could theoretically cross into New Jersey to access New York and turn around at the home of Washington Irving in Tarrytown, NY. The route could lunch in the writer’s hamlet and return home, chasing the racing sunlight, as the elongating shadows become our stopwatch. From the county of Pearl S. Buck and James Michener, we could pedal to Irving Manor two states away, all by way of bicycle.
We would love to hear stories of those who set a goal to ride as long as the sun was in the northern hemisphere sky. It’s one of the few days of the year a ride could legitimately return home without lights at 9pm. How curious it would be to roll into the garage at dusk just in time for a shower and bed. We may not ride the full distance this Saturday but one thing is for sure: if we do take it the full distance, a Sunday ride is certainly out of the question.