santa cruz mountains challenge 2019
July 2019

How to Get Back in the Saddle and Get Fired Up for Longer Rides

Join groups, train together and step up for the Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge

By Karen Kefauver

karen kefauver

Last month, on the Girls Rock mountain bike ride, I had quite an ego jolt. On a beautiful, sunny Saturday, I joined a dozen gals for a mellow, social ride that started near downtown Santa Cruz. We rolled out slowly and started riding up, up, up towards the university on a combination of dirt and paved paths. It had been several weeks since my last ride, I told my pal. Within a few minutes, I had to stop talking because I was winded. She chatted, with plenty of breath to spare, while I smiled and nodded. My quads and hamstrings were starting to burn. Soon, my fellow cyclists crested the hill and slipped out of view. My ego started to ache, too.

Positioned dead last in the group, I gave myself a little lecture about my lack of strength and endurance. Then I remembered the power of positive thinking. So I shifted gears to a pep talk. But that didn’t help either. I was frustrated and cranky. I even scolded a friend who wanted to snap a picture of me slogging uphill to post on Facebook.

I covered my face and said, “No photos!” as if I were a disgraced, doping cyclist avoiding the paparazzi.

santa cruz mountains challenge 2019
Rolling Along. You don't have to ride solo. A great way to start training for a ride, a race or just to get back in shape is to join a group ride. Two local options include the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club and the Girls' Rock Ride (women). Photo by Karen Kefauver.

After a climb that felt twice as long as usual, the trail finally flattened out. I rolled into a glorious redwood grove and felt the sun on my face. I thought of my sick friend who may never ride his bike again. My attitude shifted to gratitude. I remembered why I loved mountain biking. I realized that everyone was supportive and that no one, except me, cared about my pace on this casual ride. It turned out that being at the back of the pack was a good wake-up call and that being with a group of fellow cyclists, even ones riding fast than I did, was a great way to get myself rolling again.

I’ll probably need another bicycling reboot this summer and perhaps you will too. For tips on staying motivated on the bicycle and tackling longer rides, I talked to Kathy Ferraro, a veteran local cyclist with more than 20 years’ riding experience, and Kevin Givens, better known as frisbee legend Skippy Jammer, who is also the former coach of the UC Santa Cruz cycling team and current event director of the 21st annual Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge (SCMC) — one of the Bay Area’s premier cycling events. It’s happening July 20th right here in our own backyard. There’s still time to register and join up to 650 riders on an epic ride on some of the most beautiful, and steepest, roads in the area. This year’s routes of 75, 102 and 127 miles include a new option of riding an e-bike on the 45-mile course. You can find SCMC details at and here’s more advice from a pair of seasoned cyclists.

Five Tips to Boost Your Cycling Motivation

1. Get support. You’ll find companionship and discover cyclists who ride your pace when you join a bicycling group like Santa Cruz County Cycling Club. The club hosts rides multiple times a week for different levels of riders and offers a seasonal cycling program to teach newer cyclists the rules of the road. Also check and with local bike shops.

2. Select your cycling clothes and gear carefully. Consider the weather, the terrain and sun exposure. Don’t ever wear new bike shorts for the first time on a long ride! Check your tire pressure, your chain, your brakes and get regular bike tune-ups.

3. Make technology your friend. You can track your mileage, elevation, heart rate and more, using a variety of apps, including the most popular one, Strava, which is not just for racers. You can collect ride data using Google Maps or an Apple watch.

4. Don’t overdo it. Monitor fatigue, hunger and thirst because neglecting those can lead to “bonking,” when you get really tired and irritable. Don’t be shy about telling your ride companions that you need to stop to catch your breath, use the restroom or eat and drink.

5. Have fun. As Skippy Jammer said, “If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right!” So enjoy the ride!

Karen Kefauver is a Santa Cruz-based social media marketing coach, freelance journalist and avid cyclist. Read about her traveling and cycling adventures here: and send story ideas to: [email protected]

Get the best family tips in Santa Cruz straight to your inbox!

* indicates required

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *