Today was one of these times. A while back I went down a late-night cycling rabbit hole, as I often do, looking into saddles. Finding the perfect comfortable saddle is probably the holy grail of cycling. Some feel great for a short time, others feel terrible in minutes. A small change to your position can make a once comfortable seat now feel like hell. Move it a tiny amount and you can lose all feeling in places, well yes, there. So somehow after some random searches and a couple of YouTube endurance videos, I came across Infinity Saddles. For some reason the unusual design of their saddle caught my interest for a few hours. More reading, more YouTube ended with a purchase. I thought the idea and reasoning made some logical sense to me and the fact that some of the great endurance riders used them probably clinched the deal.
So, I had a new saddle a week or so later and it felt pretty good. With the relatively high cost of this item, I began the process of finding its perfect position and setup on my bike. A few weeks later I noticed a random email from Infinity’s owner, saying he was traveling to Florida to support their sponsored riders in a 24-hr. endurance race. In the email it mentioned Vince Marcel (the inventor/owner of Infinity seat) would be able to do a couple of free fittings for Infinity Saddle owners while he was there. Now that is the type of thing I’m talking about, when I say impulse for random opportunities. It seemed like a decent idea to drive the 4-hour return trip, for a saddle fit from the guy who had actually invented the thing. Surely if anyone knew how this particular saddle should sit on both you and your bike, it was him, right? An email followed and a fitting was set up, at a hotel swimming pool area, where Vince and his wife Diane where staying. Over the next few days as I waited, I looked into why Vince and Diane had traveled all the way from LA to FL just for a race.
Sebring 24-hr. turned out to be quite a special race. It is a qualifier for the epic crown of endurance cycling, Ride Across America (RAAM). A 24-hr. ride that includes 100-mile loop around the Sebring area, then consecutive 11-mile loops near Sebring raceway and finally around 12 hours through the night, riding around the Sebring Raceway itself. Sort of like a century road ride followed by a cycling Le Mans!! I have read and watched many videos about RAAM and must say it has become a feint and distant goal of mine. It’s actually insane to think about, but hey, wasn’t riding 3,500 miles in 43 days as a newly diagnosed cancer patient and none cyclist, any less so?
So now my previous unplanned weekend was turning into two round trips into the central Florida wilderness, for a seat fitting and then to watch some crazy people riding bikes none stop for 24 hours. Better than sitting around watching TV for sure. Saturday, I set out west into the open rural landscape of Florida. It’s funny but Florida is very built up along both coasts, with probably the exception Orlando which is pretty central. The center of the state is mainly farming, agriculture crops and of course the Everglades. For anyone who hasn’t driven around here the contrast between coastal and central Florida is extreme. Coastal development for the rich, the retired and the Snowbirds is never ending. Houses get bigger, more expensive and exclusive. $50 million plus for a winter home isn’t that unusual. For the same amount you could literally buy hundreds of acres of pasture or farmland. I’ve never understood the property market, maybe because I grew up in the countryside as a child and then lived in major cities like London, Milan and Manchester. I love space, nature and quiet but also sometimes see the benefit of nearby entertainment, medical facilities and services.
Anyway I digress off on a tangent, which all of you who know me, know it’s a very common occurrence and quite normal for me. So, Sebring. After a couple of hours on uncharted roads for me, I arrived at a hotel by a lake in Sebring. I got my new bike out of the car and headed to the swimming pool to meet Vince, Diane and Infinity Saddles. My bike was setup on a trainer and Vince began his magic. A quick nudge here, alteration there and some great pedaling advice along the way and my position got better and better. Once done I got my gear together and chatted about cycling as we walked to the car. Exiting the hotel, we were met by a legend of the Endurance cycling world and one of the riders Infinity endorse/sponsor Marko Baloh. I have read and watched many videos about Marko and here he was in the flesh, so to speak. We exchanged some greetings, couple of questions from me and the obligatory photo I thought would be sort of cool. Then it was in the car and back to coastal civilization.
Somehow, I persuaded Deirdre that night that a trip to Sebring in the middle of nowhere, to watch a few cyclists riding for 24-hrs., might be a fun day out! Remarkably, after a lot of initial doubt, she agreed to come along for the ride. We arrived at the Racetrack late afternoon and parked up alongside the many vans, cars and rider support tents/canopies, set up near the track. Riders came in from the road, circled the parking/support area and then left for another 11-mile road loop. Most grabbed a bottle and/or snack on the fly, not stopping. A few did stop for a minute or so for food, bathrooms or just a brief rest, before heading off once more. As we walked along the line of support crews, some large and professional looking, some just a devoted follower in a chair at the back of a car. I felt like I had discovered a whole new world of cyclists that I had never known before. Passionate, dedicated and determined individuals, pushing themselves to the limit, in the middle of nowhere, just for the experience. My kind of thing I thought and at that moment I knew I will be experiencing this for myself next year. Yes, the idea of riding a bike for 24 hrs. and hopefully cycling somewhere between 200-400 miles actually seems like a fun thing for me to attempt.
With my new thoughts of now being a future participant we continued to walk along the line of support, chatting to anyone who looked like they would chat. I knew Joe Barr (another endurance legend from Ireland) was riding, so I was hoping to maybe have a chat with his Irish team, just because they are Irish I guess. Someone pointed towards a tent and said his team was there. I will usually talk with anyone who has time or fancies a chat about anything other than politics, religion or money, so up to the tent I walked. I started a brief conversation with a young woman which didn’t develop much at all. I returned to Deirdre a few yards away, to find out, that no wonder my kind words and questions about Joe got a cool polite response, it wasn’t Joes team. Oh well, at worst they will just think I’m some odd, old Brit talking rubbish, I’m good with that. Then I met Jillian, Joe’s partner, nutritionist and team manager. This time my questions, comments and couple of hopefully humorous lines, got a much better response. All of a sudden, the small Irish legend appeared in the flesh and pulled up next to us. Jill gave him some pineapple, a bottle, some words of encouragement and race statistics, then the wee man was off again.
As we walked back to the car, all the support vehicles started to pack up for the short move onto the track pit lane, where they would spend the next 12 hours watching and cheering on their friends/loved ones through the night. Who the hell is crazy enough to want to sit, watch and support me doing things like this became my new question of the day?
So there it is. I got an email about a bike saddle that I purchased. As a result, I met the inventor of the Infinity saddle, got a free fitting for my seat, met a legend and past world record holder for endurance cycling, met another legends support team, decided to enter next year’s 24 hour race and left a young woman thinking Old Brits are pretty crazy. A good weekend in the middle of nowhere.