Watch the Streak Show!
Something kind of amazing happened as a result of my story here about streak athletes: AT&T’s U-verse Sports television people saw it, and in May of 2011, contacted me, said they wanted to do a show on the subject, and voila, I’m on TV. Watch the show and then scroll to read about my and other streaks.
The show has three 10-minute episodes: one on me; one on Mark Covert, who has run every day since 1968 (Update: Mark ended his streak in July, 2013, after 45 years, or 16,436 consecutive days running!); and one on surfer Dale Webster, who has caught at least three waves every day since 1975 (think about that: his streak requires an ocean and surfable waves; he can't just hop on his bike or head out the door for a run).
A streak cyclist, or a streak athlete for that matter, is someone who rides (runs, swims, etc.) every day trying to string together as many consecutive days of riding as possible. And, even in cycling’s earliest days (photo) it wasn’t uncommon for riders to track their mileage trying to better their peers or top their previous year’s effort, witness Karl Kron’s book published in 1887, Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle (a highwheel bicycle, too!).
I first heard the term around 1970 while running cross country in high school (photo), and a friend and I tried to top each other putting together weeks of uninterrupted streaks a few times. Later we heard about British great Ron Hill who won the 1970 Boston Marathon and currently holds the record for consecutive runs at 52 years and 39 days for a total of 19,032 days in a row from 1964 to 2017.
I was (and am) quite inspired by Ron Hill, but what made me start riding every day was aging. Up until I was about 35, I could ride or not ride and still feel pretty good on the bike as long as the riding I was doing was quality riding. Yet, only a couple of years later, even a single day off left me feeling stale and stiff and unhappy on the bike.
So, in 1990, I set a goal of streak cycling for ten years. This was a pact I made with myself. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t know if I could do it and I felt it would be hard enough to keep the promise to myself. I also decided not to record the rides in any way but to simply commit to giving it my best try and see if it was possible to ride every day for 3,650 days.
I kept the ride requirements simple: to go for a real ride every day. By a real ride, I meant that I had to get suited up and go for approximately an hour. I didn’t have to kill myself, but it had to be a real ride where I broke a sweat and got out for a good local loop or, if the weather was bad enough, pedaled in place on an indoor trainer (to me, harder than riding outside).
Before I tell you how my streak is going, I’d like to say that I believe anyone who’s a little stubborn and determined can do this. It’s just a matter of making up your mind to do it and making it happen; that and a little luck. In fact, you probably brush your teeth every day already. Don’t laugh. Cycling every day isn’t all that much harder. Really. And it has wonderful benefits like almost never getting sick, always feeling comfortable on the bike, being able to peak for races or events quickly and easily, staying fit and trim and eating what you like (within reason), and having good, positive energy most of the time.
My streak went smoothly for almost three years, from January 1, 1990 to December 23, 1993. A highlight was a cross-country driving trip in a rental truck packed with stuff we moved from New England to our new home in California. I strapped my beautiful Richard Sachs on the back of the truck for easy access and each morning early, before the family was up and ready to roll, I got in my ride. In this fashion I enjoyed a spectacular view of Mount Rushmore, a ripping tailwind in Cody, Wyoming and the sheer terror of rush hour in Las Vegas.
Then the whole thing came to a crashing halt, when on a frigid morning, just two days before Christmas in 1993, I hit black ice in the Santa Cruz Mountains, went down hard and broke my right hip. I was sure it meant the end of serious cycling for me, however, the doctor explained that it’s a very common cycling accident and that I’d be fine once he put me back together again, which required three 4-inch-long stainless-steel screws to pull the bone back together (I asked for titanium, but they said stainless is good enough).
The doc was right. After only six days off the bike, on December 30, 1993, I started my new streak riding on a trainer one-legged, my healing leg propped up on a soapbox per doctor’s orders. I realize in hindsight that if I had only had a little more resolve, I probably could have found an exercise bike in the hospital and not even taken a day off, which would have kept the streak alive!
But, I didn’t, and I lost those six days. The good news is that the broken hip made me even more determined to complete the ten years of non-stop rides; I hit that mark years ago and just kept right on going. I’m now working on my 26th year of consecutive rides and am proud to have made it this far.
Enough about me, though. I want to tell you about some other truly impressive streak cyclists and mileage junkies who have done, or are doing things I could never dream of accomplishing. If you know of more streak cyclists or mileage junkies, please let me know and I’ll add them to this page with whatever information you provide or I can round up.
My cumulative mileage since I began tracking it (January 1973) is 710,000. There’s probably another 5 to 6K prior to that from tours (Iowa to Minnesota, Iowa to Wyoming), training, and racing, but I do not count that since it was not properly logged. So far I have 1,826 century days (days with 100+ miles). I have at least one century every month for 301 consecutive months.
Winters in Iowa where I used to live were always a challenge. February 28 & 29 and December 5 & 13 are the only calendar dates in which I have not ridden a century, and I hope to pick those off over 2007–8, weather permitting. Spending 10 winters in Austin, Texas really helped in picking up the dates that would have been difficult in the north.
I have ridden every day (outside) for 8,645 consecutive days (24 years this May). The last time I missed riding a day in October, November, December was 1972. The last time I missed riding a day in January and February, June, July, August, & September was 1973. My minimum mileage is 3, but for almost 10 years from 1988 to 1998, the minimum was 20. I still remember doing 20 miles on the mountain bike in Iowa City when the high temperature was minus 15 degrees. There was a 15mph NW wind, but at least it was sunny.
Since my last day off the bike, I have logged 549,000 miles, 1,472 centuries, and 381 race wins. Over the past 25 years (1982–2006) my shortest year was 2001 at 21,397 miles. My biggest year was 1987 with 27,513 miles, 171 century days, and 42 race victories (including PBP). My two shortest years since 1980 are 20,370 (1980) and 21,397 (2000). My 25-year average is 23,200. I currently have 422 race victories since 1965, too. Plus, I have plenty of other obscure, yet interesting streaks, such as the number of years riding at midnight at New Years, and consecutive miles of racing in Europe without losing a race.
I spoke with Freddie a few times on the phone when I was working at Bicycling magazine, but I’ve never met him personally. I don’t know Freddie’s cycling stats, but he is said to have pedaled more than a million miles and according to David Perry’s fine book Bike Cult, once covered 115 miles one-legged after suffering a knee injury. And most of his miles have been ridden on basic bicycles (Perry also says that Freddie did his first century in 10 hours on a Schwinn Sting-Ray!), without cycling clothing and unsupported, too. Here’s a link to a recent Bicycling story with more amazing facts about Freddie.
Colin sent the following account of his cycling streak:
August 23, 2017
Not sure if you remember, Jim, but I emailed you about 2 to 3 years ago about a cycling streak that I started. Back then I was at 100 consecutive days cycling outside. You said to email you when I got to 1000. On August 6th I rode my 1000th consecutive day outside. I am now working on the next goal of 10,000 days. Today I rode my 1017th. The details of my story are listed below. I know that you understand many of the logistical difficulties that I faced.
What made me decide to do this?
I used to run for exercise but did not enjoy it that much. In August of 2014 while down at the beach I borrowed a friend's bike and rode for the first time in about 30 years. I liked it. Late that fall I borrowed a bike from a friend and started riding. Since I enjoyed it I rode some every day on the trails at the school where I teach. I started riding to get in shape. I rode for about 30 days consecutive before I set a streak goal. My first goal was to ride 100 consecutive days outside.
Once I got to 100 the next logical step was 1000 because it seemed like a good challenge. The first 50 days were between 5 to 15 miles. The next 100 rides were 20 miles minimum. The past 850 rides have been at least 30 miles. In all I have ridden just over 34,000 miles over the first 1000 rides. I ended up losing about 70 pounds in the process. My new goal is 10,000 consecutive days now which is around 27 years. I am also training for the Dirty Kanza which is a 200 mile gravel race next summer in Emporia, Kansas.
What was the most challenging thing about this?
Logistics have by far been the most challenging part. I teach at a boarding school where schedule can be consuming. We have classes 6 days and week, duty once a week, and coach 2 seasons per year. Since I coach in the Fall and Spring I ride from 4:30 am to 6:30 am during the week. A 4:00 wake-up call can be very tough after a night on duty when I don't get to bed until after midnight.
In Virginia the weather creates some serious challenges as well. If it snows I usually ride from 3:30 am to 5:30 am since I have to ride slower. When it rains I usually have to laugh because it can be pretty soul-sucking to ride in the pouring rain for 2 hours. My coldest ride was 5 degrees and my hottest ride was about 103 degrees. Logistics when traveling are challenging as well, since I now also bring all my gear and bike wherever we go.
Did I ever think about quitting?
Not really. I work better when I set strict rules for myself. It's not, "if I am going to ride" on any given day, it is "when am I going to ride." I did wreck on a road ride about two years ago where I got scraped up a bit. The next morning I was sore but it didn't make me want to quit.
This summer we had a family reunion in Chicago so I rode to Chicago. My wife and kids drove and met me along the way. It took 6 days total with rides of 200, 125, 150, 150, 100, and 80 miles. Going on longer rides like this and competing in races have been fun ways to continue to challenge myself with my rides. I have been lucky that my family has been supportive, I couldn't continue without their help. If you are interested you can follow me on Strava where all my rides are recorded or on instagram at ridestreak.
According to a story in The Arizona Republic by Cecilia Chan, 54-year-old Phoenix runner Craig Davidson has run every day for 10,841 days (30 years), and covered more than 173,000 miles. Plus, he has found over $8,100 in lost change along the way, including once finding a $50 gold coin now worth about $1,000. Click for a scan of the newspaper story sent by a helpful reader; click again to hide.
In a February, 2004 issue of Surfing Magazine, I read about the amazing Dale Webster who had surfed at the time for 10,407 days in a row. Now think about that. You can't surf without an ocean so he had to always have one accessible for all those years. In the video at the top of the page is a lot more about Dale and his surfing streak.
If you’re interested in becoming a streak cyclist, my advice is to go for it. Just take it one day at a time, stay determined and you’ll probably find that the more days you chalk up, the more you’ll want to keep the streak alive. Good luck! Let me know how it goes.