Sunday, 5 December 2010

Preparing for a long distance cycle ride

Lots of people I know are committing to long distance charity rides at the minute. Very admirable. Inevitably the "help" e-mails are beginning to arrive in my inbox, particulary from people who haven't done any kind of endurance or distance riding before.

I'm no expert, however, I've read enough books in my short time as a cyclist to have picked up some of the pointers you should consider. Here are ten tips to get you started: -

  1. Pick the right bike for the job. Road bike? Tourer? Mountain Bike? Check with your organiser what they recommend.
  2. Set a decent amount of money aside for your new bike. Avoid Halfords, go to a local bike shop or internet specialist. I've written a road bike buyers guide here.
  3. Remember, that just because you can run it doesn't make you an endurance cyclist. Running and cycling use different muscle groups. You need to put training miles in on a bike, not in your trainers.
  4. Get fitted on your bike, give yourself the best chance of being comfortable and using every ounce of energy efficiently.
  5. Cycling is all about power to weight. Lose as much weight as you can prior to your ride without sacrificing strength. Every pound you lose, it one less you need to haul around on your bike and it will make ascending easier.
  6. Don't leave it to the last minute to train or you will make it really difficult for yourself. Any ride exceeding 100 miles in distance on a single day or subsequent days, will require a high level of fitness and preparation. If you're doing say 400-500 miles over a week, you should be thinking around 16-20 weeks out in terms of preparation time.
  7. Don't over estimate how fast you will ride. 100 miles will probably take you around six to seven hours depending on terrain. The hillier, the harder. The bumpier the roads, the longer it will take. Check the profile of your ride to establish what balance of fitness/strength training you need to do.
  8. Get yourself tested so you know what your training zones are. For distance riding, eating/fuelling is absolutely key on the bike. If you burn sugar at low intensity, you'll be running out of steam quickly unless you replace it.
  9. Get a specific training plan book. These are widely available on the web or in a high street book specialist like Waterstones. Joe Friel has written a decent book which you can view here.
  10. Buy the right kit. So essential. Whether that be the kit you have on yourself, on the bike (tyres) or in your saddle bag. Buy the best you can afford at the time. Buy cheap, you might pay twice.

1 comment:

  1. You touch on it, but getting your fuelling right is also important. Eat and drink, little and often. If you feel hungry or thirsty, then you have probably left it too late.

    Also with things like energy gels and drinks, try them, before the big day. Nothing worse than an upset stomach and 80 miles left to ride... trust me!