Stop Soldier Suicide – done

I have a few takeaways from the Stop Soldier Suicide Challenge Ride and would love to share them with you. First, this challenge was the first I had ever participated in that ran fully on Messenger AI. Every input to Messenger on Facebook had an instant reply. In fact, unlike the linking of the Great Cycle Challenge to Strava, the SSS ride had you input your ride mileage via Facebook Messenger. It was an odd sensation to me and at times felt very manual, but the process was simple and efficient. I would send the message “MENU” and the system would respond with options. As I input the options – the system would say “You’re doing fantastic! Blah, blah, blah.” It made me wonder how other people that don’t work online perceived the process.

Part of the process automatically built me a fundraiser page on Facebook. This must have been well set up because it raised more money – almost instantly – than my Great Cycle Challenge fundraisers do. Keep in mind, this is the first SSS ride and will be my fourth GCC ride.

When I signed up to ride the SSS, they sent me two really nice t-shirts. They were a synthetic, cool material that I began to use as the jersey while on the ride. They were like the Spartan shirts from the Super, but a little thicker and better feeling on the skin. Another win. All in all, I would say that if you are interested at all in these types of events, keep this one on your bucket list.

As I began the challenge, my intention was to do the whole thing on Mountain Bike. I figured it was only 250 miles for a whole month, so why not? As the month started, I mounted the Giant Reign and knocked out a few mid-level rides to earn some miles for the board. Soon though, my bike was beginning to act up.

I began to have some shifting concerns. The bike was hanging up between gears, then not going to the larger sprockets at all. I played with some of the cable tension on the trail, but then soon found that the jockey pulleys – the ones on the derailleur were not clearing the larger sprockets. This led me to see that I had forced the mechanism into the sprockets, bending a bolt in the derailleur. When I got home, I cleaned the bike and broke out some tools. I was able to adjust the mechanism to clear the gears and finagle the cable tension to manipulate the gear changes even with the bent bolt. I was now in a race of survival for the month to finish the challenge.

Each ride after that came with some challenges added to the pressure of the challenge. I kept thinking “I thought I was doing this to enjoy myself?!?!” The chain kept rolling off the inside and outside of its correct path. There was extra resistance in the bash guard around the bottom bracket, and now I was becoming sensitive to the needs of the suspension for a little attention.

I don’t think the bike is going to make it to the end of the month

It didn’t

After a week off the trail and taking the Giant to the shop, I decided I would hit up some miles on the Cyclocross set-up on the Ridley. I love this bike. I usually ride the Ridley in a street configuration, but have wheels and gearing for off-road as well. I took the bike to Temecula and toured around wine country a little. The temperature climbed to 105 degrees on the ride and laid out what would be the beginning of our hot streak in Southern California.

With a week to go, a heatwave, and a Ridley now set up for road riding, I had about 100 miles to go. Rainey had a Figure Skating show in Riverside on a Saturday. I was like “Well that knocks Saturday out for riding” but Heidi, my wife, suggested I take the bike and gear – then ride back. Right on.

Rainey did awesome at the event. You can catch her at her own site From there I decided to take a roundabout way to get home, throwing in an extra part that I call Tom’s Loop. I have a training route I do. It leaves my neighborhood, passes a couple of shopping centers, then goes south to a place called Tom’s Farms, then over a large climb by the golf course and loops back home. It’s about 20-miles with 1500 feet of climb.

It was hot, but I killed the climbs and racked up the PR’s (Personal Records). This left me with a big ride to finish the challenge. So Friday was the day. I left the house at almost noon, as other responsibilities kept me from leaving earlier. Remember the heatwave? Well, I decided to head south toward Lake Elsinore, take a lap around the lake and head back to Corona. 25 miles into the ride, my Karoo 2 Hammerhead computer was reading 109 degrees!

Stopped under the awning at the gas station for shade.

Yes, it was hot. But I thought to myself that hiking in Afganistan is probably hotter and nowhere near as fun as riding a bike. The day finished with 58 miles and a challenge complete.