With spring finally here and summer not far away, thoughts naturally turn to staying out longer on the bike. Cycling further is something most of us have as an ambition but many leave it too late or at least until the last minute to train up to. Let’s change that now.
In an ideal world, you would have spent the winter months building base fitness on the turbo trainer or on the odd days when it wasn’t blowing a gale or pouring with rain. If that isn’t the case, it isn’t too late yet.
So how do you prepare for longer rides during good weather? By doing the bulk of the work before it arrives.
Prepare the bike
Service your bike, check the tyres, brake blocks, drivetrain and the oily bits and make sure they are ready for the season ahead. Do it now and then everything will be ready for when you need it.
Build up spares for the sunshine too. Buy extra lubricant, spare inner tubes if you use them, spare tyres if you can afford them and a spare chain. It will save a frantic drive into town or an impatient wait for the postman. Do it.
If you service the bike thoroughly before you need it, all you will need between rides is a clean and lube. A ten minute routine before or after a ride will ensure your bike is as ready for action as you are.
Prepare your diet
While you don’t have to build a daily eating plan, you should buy in extra supplies whenever you go shopping. Plan for extra carbohydrate and protein, extra liquids and even a recovery shake or two. Buy in gels or ride snacks if you use them or make and freeze your own if you prefer.
Prepare your routes
If you use a Garmin or other bike computer with navigation, prepare some routes to follow during the sunshine. Begin with reasonable distances on routes you know. Then feed in some routes you don’t for a bit of variety. Then, gradually build up the distance, up to a 10% increase per week if you ride 3-4 times a week or per fortnight if you ride less.
If you have a target in mind, say a century ride, build steadily up to 80-85 miles/km in time for the century. If you can ride 85, you can ride 100.
Then, once all the preparation is done, it’s time to hit the road!
Pacing takes self-discipline, yet is an essential part of cycling for distance. It is often tempting to give it full beans down a descent or to get a KoM on Strava but all you’re doing it emptying the tanks. The first couple of times you ride a new route, take it easy and build a baseline of how much effort it requires, how fast you go and where extra effort is needed.
Once you have that baseline, you can build up the efforts, reduce the time and make gains. When cycling over distance, the aim is to finish, not go flat out and then collapse half way round. Pacing is essential.
Fuel for the ride
I have written extensively on Road Cyclist about fuelling so I won’t bore you by repeating myself here. Read ‘Fuelling for long distance cycle rides’, ‘What to eat before your ride’ and ‘What to eat during your ride’ for the information you need to fuel a ride.
The only addition I would make is to not be afraid of cake stops. They are not only an important cycling tradition, they are also a way of resting, recuperating and taking on much needed food and drink.
Getting your mileage up ready for the sunshine is more about the planning than execution. Get it right and you will have a full season of riding and will be ready to get out the door at every opportunity. Then, once you hit your goal you get bragging rights over whoever you can get to listen. Win win!