Expert Tips For Big Rides

Centuries and all-day spins are pure joy when you follow these tips. By Alex Stieda

Photo by Xavier Briel

Photo by Xavier Briel

There is nothing else like the long ride. Flying up and down hills, riding solo or sharing the workload into the wind, feeling drained at the end of an all-day ride–no other sport has these things.

Of course, to ride long you must first gradually build your strength by increasing the length and intensity of your long rides. Say your weekend ride is two hours. Over a period of eight weeks, add about a half hour to each ride; in two months you’ll be ready for a century. Be sure to sneak in another ride or two of at least an hour during the week.

When riding long, also keep these things in mind:

Pedal Smart

By maintaining a cadence of at least 90 rpm, you give your aerobic and muscular systems a break. Think of lifting a 9-kg bench press 10 times instead of one rep of 900: You lift the same amount but with less overall effort.

Eat and Drink Lots

Aim to drink about one bottle per hour, depending on heat and exertion level. Don’t worry so much about what you mix with the water; the water is what’s most important. Eat a bite or two of food every 15 minutes–consistency over the day is crucial. If you’re out beyond two hours, plan a stop to refill bottles and have a snack.

Use the Rule of Thirds

Divide the ride into three more or less equal distances. The first segment should feel easy, just spinning along. During the second, you should start to feel your muscles working. If you have any jam left, show it in the last third. Nothing screams “rookie” like jumping away on the first climb only to bonk and need to be babysat to the finish.

Watch the Wind

It can be friend or enemy. If you start with a tailwind, roll easy–you’ll have a headwind on the way home. In a group, stick together during headwind stretches so you can take turns at the front working to shelter the others.

Plan for Trouble

It’s likely your ride will be smooth sailing, but just in case carry gear to fix at least two flats, a minitool, cell phone, ID and cash. Follow the code of the road: Stop for any rider in need; the good deed will come around one day.

Quick Tip

Aches and pains crop up during long rides. To minimise them, move.

A) Periodically change hand positions, keeping your thumbs wrapped around the bar or brake lever for security.
B) To relieve your neck and shoulders, shrug for 5 to 10 seconds.
C) On a clear stretch of road, reach one hand up between your shoulders for a few seconds, then swap hands.
D) Stand up and drop one pedal so your leg is straight. Let your heel sag below the pedal. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs.

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2 Responses to Expert Tips For Big Rides

  1. Bev McKenna November 29, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Great tips…. so glad our Team of 12 Ladies, pretty much had followed all those rules on the build up to our 1st Coronation Double Century. It sure was the harshest weather conditions in DC history, an intense headwind most of the way, that eventually became THE most amazing tailwind, and pouring rain, that slowed us down on what should have been the best descents, but ultimately finished looking like frozen drowned rates. The best part of all is that ALL 12 of us finished within 5 seconds of each other as per plan and NOT one of us had a single puncture over 203kms!!!

  2. Martin March 16, 2016 at 12:28 pm #

    I try to stand up and pedal but I get tired very quickly, I mean within a few seconds my legs are burning like , you know what. I understand to get your heart rate down one should stand up, when standing mine goes up. I have been training a lot but my standing ride leaves lots to be desired. is it my quads? What can I do to improve my standing ride?

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