Paul Zbiek has learned a lot of interesting things while riding his bike.
Just not all of them have much to do with cycling.
“I know where every port-a-potty is to Harrisburg in the east and to State College in the west,” Zbiek said Wednesday night at Sickler’s Bike and Sport Shop in Exeter.
Zbiek picked up that little bit of information while racking up more miles than I care to count as an ultra marathon cyclist. He was at Sickler’s on Wednesday to present a program entitled, “So You Want to Do a Century.”
And while Wednesday’s nice weather had most cyclists out on their bikes instead of at Zbiek’s presentation, he still had plenty to offer.
For instance, those port-a-pottys he is so familiar with are a little fewer and farther between this year. According to Zbiek, budget cuts have caused the state to put fewer out this year, especially at boat launches.
He also had plenty to say other than where to find the most convenient restroom.
Surprisingly, he said getting ready to ride 100 miles isn’t as hard as a task as it seems.
If you are turning out 20- or 30-mile rides on a regular basis now, you are only 10 weeks away from be ready to complete a century.
“Just take your longest ride and each week add 10 percent (more distance) to it,” Zbiek said. “By Week 8, you should be up to 75 or 85 miles.”
At that point, you are ready to ride a century. It’s that easy.
Zbiek assured me that even someone in as marginal shape as I am can complete a century if I just follow that simple formula.
“You just have to be really committed to making that increase each week,” Zbiek said.
He should know.
He has ridden more than 100,000 miles and completed over 400 Ultra Marathon Cycling Association certified centuries. In 2004, he was the UMCA Mileage Challenge champion with over 60 century rides. That’s two months worth of 100 milers.
In August, Zbiek will attempt to ride a “Metric Millennium” over six days as a fundraiser. That’s 1,000 kilometers — or more than 621 miles to you and me.
He also suggested that if you are going to take a shot at a century, it’s a good idea to get a heart rate monitor and learn how to use it.
“It gives you a heads up that something might be going wrong before you start feeling bad,” Zbiek said.
If you see your heart rate rise unexpectedly, he said, you can expect “bad things.”
“It’s really helpful (to have one),” Zbiek said.
It’s also really helpful to remember to ride out at your own pace, he said.
Don’t get caught up in trying to match the effort of riders out to set a torrid pace.
“Be careful at the start,” Zbiek cautioned first-time century riders. “It’s going to be a group start and their are going to be a lot of hammers there.
“If you try to keep up with those hammers, they are going to end up scraping you off the pavement.”
How did Zbiek become such an expert on long-distance riding.
It was a simple formula. His job as a professor of geography at King’s College leaves him with the summers off.
And since his emphasis is on Pennsylvania geography, what better way to experience what he teaches than from the saddle of his bicycle.
At least, he can make sure his students know where all those port-a-pottys are.