Sunday, 27 February 2011

Tips for Riding Long(er) Distances

This weekend, I did a session with a group of riders who are undertaking a cycling challenge over the Bank Holiday Easter Weekend, riding a couple of hundred miles from Wembley to Ashton-under-Lyne.

They're all novice riders, so I prepared a quick handout for them, which I thought might be of use to others are completely new to cycling and the idea of distance riding.

Some Bike Fast Facts

1. Road cycling is a team sport. Races are won and lost by the team working together to get their key rider over the line.
2. The most efficient way to ride is behind someone. You can save up to 25% of your energy by tailing or riding tightly as a group. This is why pro-riders take it in turns on the front.
3. Being fitted correctly on your bike is really important as it ensures you optimise your energy to the pedals.


  • Lose some weight, if you're BMI is high. Speed is all about weight, wind and lungs!
  • Put plenty of miles in on the bike on the road, not in the gym – they’re different!
  • Pedal at a high cadence (spin speed). Select an easy gear, with high cadence (85rpm+) to preserve your strength.
  • Gears are there for a reason. Use them to maintain your cadence whether going up or going down a hill

    How to ensure you all get there in one piece
  • Eat a decent breakfast every day. i.e., Porridge, Muesli, Banana, Peanut butter on Toast.
  • Ride as a group, taking turns at the front.
  • Remember it's not a race. You're effort should be akin to running a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Ride as fast as your slowest rider. It’s easy to get de-motivated at the back, but easier if the group is helping and encouraging you.
  • Warm up as you set off, 20 minutes of easy pedalling, no heroics.
  • Eat/drink regularly on the bike. At least one large bottle per hour and 60g of carbohydrate an hour (2 x gels or equivalent in other food). Eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty!
  • Drink a recovery drink at the end of each day. I use SiS REGO, which you can buy in Tesco for around £8.99. Make sure you drink it within 20 mins of finishing or you lose the effect.
  • Stretch at the end of every day. At least 15 minutes worth. You will feel the benefit the next day!

    Great Bike Food

  • Bananas – great for slow release energy (not more than x2 per day). One in the morning, one in the early afternoon is good.
  • Pasta at night or anytime during the day.
  • Soreen Malt Loaf – nice alternative to sugary foods.
  • Flapjack/Peanuts/Snickers/Peanut butter on toast – slow release energy from the nuts.
  • Jelly Beans.
  • Dried Fruit.

Things to carry with you

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Spare inner tube, tyre levers and pump.
  • Details of next of kin in your saddle bag and any medical conditions you may have.
  • Put your mobile phone in a plastic, sealable bag along with any money (this keeps the rain off and moisture from sending your phone a bit crazy).

    What to Wear

  • A base layer to wick away sweat.
  • A cycling top on top of that with/without arm warmers.
  • A windcheater jacket if cold.
  • Lycra shorts/bibtights with a pad in the rear (trust me you will know why at the end).
  • A well fitted helmet, straps fitting snug. A small beanie cap to go under your helmet if cold.
  • Fingerless or full length gloves. Carry both with you in your rear pockets.
  • Sunglasses. Whatever the weather! Saves flies in the eyes, keeps the wind out and also protects from bits of unexpected grit kickin up into your eyes!


  1. Comment from @pabloweaver via Twitter

    increments are your friend. Take the time to build up from 10,20,40 ,60 miles. Doing too far and suffering does not inspire.

  2. Essentially what I did for this weekends Llanberis ride. Eating is paramount as on climbs you can quickly deplete your energy stores. As is drinking as a lot of water is expelled through your breath.

    Good set of tips though, follow them and the long distance ride will feel a lot shorter :)