Recovery Riding


By Joe Kurmaskie — There’s nothing like a bike ride, and the longer the better. But what happens when illness or injury gets between you and your true love? I went decades not having to find out. Sure I took spills that kept me off the bike for a few days but nothing more than a few days. Then, last fall I was taken to the mat with an illness that kept me off the bike for weeks. But the bike and the next ride was never far from my thoughts. Or physically, since the bike was only yards away from my bed.

Joe Kurmaskie on a recovery ride. Photo by Matteo Kurmaskie

Many would say why torture yourself? Instead, I saw it as motivation, a talisman of the next ride. A ride I planned to take. The weeks went by, my strength began to return…. slowly. Enough that I could do short circuits in the neighborhood. I cherished these even as they frustrated me. It was a broken hallelujah to be back in the saddle for any length of time. I thought about attaching clothespins and playing cards to my spokes, that’s how much it felt like a new beginning, the first time all over again relationship with the bike. Hills were out of the question, then they weren’t. I added one short climb and did it daily. Rain or shine, I plugged along. I’d add a little more distance every few days. And while I plugged and chugged and made my little circles, I thought about the next actual tour. I thought about a cross country tour over the summer. I thought about a weekend tour to the coast. I thought about the EuroVelo 6 – which is a bike path/low road combo that crosses through ten European countries. There are seventeen of these Eurovelo routes. I was fortunate to ride parts of two of them in France/Italy several years ago – the Eurovelo 5 and Eurovelo 7. I found them delightful and want to go back and ride them all, but since the Eurovelo 6 covers ten countries, most of which I haven’t visited, this seemed like a good goal.

As I made my training rides each day I’d use one day to dream and scheme about Europe treks and the next to think domestic. I’ve covered a lot of miles in America but it’s a big place nonetheless. There’s still rubber that hasn’t met the pavement right here in the USA for me. The routes that come to mind for a decent size self supported or hotel tour include a 321 mile treacle filled jaunt in Nebraska dubbed the cowboy trail.

This northern Nebraska ride follows the old Chicago & Northwestern rail route. The railroad called it the “Cowboy Line” so it makes sense that the bike world stayed with that theme, going with the cowboy trail. Yes, it’s through some rural, hard pan country, but with more trees than one thinks they would encounter in Nebraska – due in part because the rails hugged the waterways across the state.

Then there’s one closer to home, the Trail of the Couer d’ Alenes from Mullan to Plummer, Idaho. It’s only 73 miles but the country is gorgeous and the riding is one of a kind. I was on the verge of doing this two summers back but ran out of time on a family vacation.

This mixed asphalt and gravel packed trail cuts across the shortest length of the state from near Washington to Montana border through the historic Silver Valley. The trail provide views of the valley and Coeur d’Alene Lake. It’s a partnership between the Coeur d’Alene tribe and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. There’s some excellent hotels that specifically cater to folks doing the ride with discounts and shuttles to and from trailheads and bike rentals.

And finally, my recovery riding dreams turn to one of my favorite places to ride on earth, Utah. And this is where my mind fires on too many cylinders for all the good riding, some of which I’ve done, some I haven’t and some I just must do again. Boulder to Escalante, Mammoth Lake Loop, Liberty Loop… but I remind myself that no matter what riding I do in Utah I must hit the 8 miles through Capitol Reef National Park. You can make many stops like in Fruita — a historic community founded in the 1800s by Mormon settlers — and to take in the views — such as the 240-million-year-old Moenkopi rock formation — and possibly for hikes along the Great Wash and Capitol Gorge trails (off-road biking is prohibited in the park). Capitol Reef National Park marks the end of Stage 2 of the Tour of Utah, just outside of Torrey.


Bike Touring Around Capitol Reef National Park

My recovery is not to a point where I can take on the idea of climbing the 40 miles up to Bryce Canyon, but maybe after a few more rides and a bit more distance added each day I’ll let my mind wander there.

No matter what your dream tour is, scheming about the next tour while in the saddle is a good way to get your mind firing and your body out the door each day for recovery training. In no time, you’ll be headed towards health and the open road.

Joe Kurmaskie is a journalist, syndicated columnist, and contributor to numerous magazines including Outside, Bicycling Magazine, Men’s Journal and Parenting. He’s a bike advocate, activist, found of Cadence Press, and a Random House author of seven books including Metal Cowboy, Mud, Sweat and Gears and A Guide To Falling Down In Public.

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