The Personal Trainer: The secrets of the long-distance cyclist
by Ann Angell
Special to The Star
Oct 02, 2011 | 2900 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Backstory

Roger McCulley of Anniston is not your average exercise buff. He is a cyclist who enjoys the journey — but his journey may seem extreme to some. Maybe you don’t think it’s normal to cycle from northeast Alabama to the beach four or five times, or to the mountains of Tennessee. For Roger, it is.

Many of us we feel good if we accomplish an hour a day in the gym. We must be underachievers.

To support his cycling habit, Roger owns a business in north Anniston called McCulley Cabinet. The company fabricates custom cabinets commercially, with very limited residential work. Roger’s interest in cabinetmaking started when he was 12 years old. His interest in cycling started 32 years ago.

Roger likes to prepare months ahead of time for his next distance ride. Typically, he may sign up for a trip that requires 80-120 miles of cycling a day, with no days off. Some of the trips he aims for may cover 500-2,000 miles of cycling and may last for seven to 20 days.

As a kid, Roger played some sports in high school, but his interest in endurance fitness really grew around 1977, when he started running shorter distances on dirt roads then later built up to longer runs.

In his 32 years of cycling, Roger has mastered some noteworthy and grueling rides. In 1994, he completed the Terrible Two in Sebastopol, Calif., which was 216 miles and a 17,000-foot climb.

In 1997, he did the Eastern Mountains Bicycle Tour, which started in Panama City, Fla., and ended in Portland, Maine. It took 19 days, 2,047 miles and 104,000 total feet of climbing.

In 1999, he did the Oregon Trail Tour for 26 days and 3,450 miles.

In 2010, he did The Grand Canyon Tour, which was biking from Albuquerque to the Grand Canyon, hiking the canyon, biking to Chinle, Ariz., hiking Canyon de Chelly, and biking back to Albuquerque.


During unfavorable weather, Roger still gets in his workout by exercising daily at the gym.

These days, he starts around 5:30-7 a.m. He likes to work on the elliptical, treadmills or the rowing machine.

On fair weather days, he may ride anywhere from 20-70 miles with stretching afterward.

Most weeks he includes a base of cycling of 150-225 miles per week, as well as fast walks of 12-15 miles per week. Roger says he always takes time to stretch after he works out. He also adds free weights two to three times per month and weight machines two days a week.


For breakfast, Roger likes to have something light, such as fruit or nuts. He may change that up with all-wheat cereal with fruit and flax seed. He always takes a multivitamin daily.

When it comes to lunch, he may have a sandwich with chips, nuts or a salad. For dinner, he may have grilled chicken or baked fish along with pasta or a salad. In between, he snacks on nuts and fruit for energy.


The gear really depends on the weather. Roger doesn’t ride when the thermometer goes below 35.

When the temp is between 35 and 60, he wears Capilene 3 undershirts, wool socks, arm and leg warmers and a thermal headband. He also needs shoe covers to keep his feet warm.

In the spring, he wears layers he can peel off as he gets warmed up.

His helmet is a Giro Ionos no matter the temperature. Roger carries a Garmin GPS wireless model to track his heart rate, distance and elevation. Many times he carries a backup Garmin to make sure he gets his stats.

The shoes are Speedplay cleats.


Roger listens to music when the weather takes him inside to the gym, but never on the road. Some favorites he listens to on XM radio are the Grateful Dead and 1960s and ‘70s classic rock.

Ann Angell is the program center manager at the Oxford Y for Now.
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