The long ride. It has to be one of the best weekly sessions on anyone’s training plan. There is a sense of calm knowing that for one morning a week you can be out exploring for 4+ hours by yourself or with some of your best mates (even if they weren’t your mates at the start, they will be by the end). The sense of accomplishment that welcomes you at the first sip of your post ride coffee is something that can only be understood by those who have experienced the joy of the long ride. The long ride is also one of the most important weekly sessions for any cyclist or triathlete as it helps to build a solid endurance base that is critical to speed and strength development. Below we unpack the necessities that are key to a successful long ride.
Start on the shorter side
If you are new to the long ride and just building it isn’t a good idea to go out for a 4 hour ride the first week, you may not even get here in the first month. By failing to safely build your distance you can get injured. A good rule of thumb is to build the distance by 30 minutes each week and make sure you accompany your longer ride with one or two shorter rides throughout the week to get some extra time in the saddle.
Start on the slower side
No one likes rolling out for a long ride at full gas. It is one of the most unpleasant riding experiences. If you are going out in a group, make sure the pace is steady and something that the whole group can hold for the duration of the ride without leaving half the group bonking three quarters of the way through. This is easier to manage if you are heading out alone but remember to start steady, if you’re feeling good you can build it up throughout the ride.
Pack enough fuel
On bonking make sure that you are adequately fuelled. And by fuel we don’t just mean sucking back gels every twenty minutes. In the days leading up to a long ride start thinking about your nutrition. Before you leave for your ride it is always good to have a small snack such as rice cakes with honey and peanut butter or a banana and muesli bar. It is also important to start eating before you get hungry having a small bite every hour or so should keep the hunger at bay. We like to carry muesli bars, bananas, dates or a couple of peanut butter and honey sandwiches to carry with us for the ride. We also carry an emergency gel or two but be sure to drink adequate water to ensure the gel doesn’t upset your stomach. At the end of the day find what works for you and keeps your energy levels up. Some of us like to rely on whole foods as fuelling with different sugars can increase the oxidation up to 1.7 grams per minute (meaning the sugar gets to our bloodstream faster, so we get energy faster when we need it). Others have no trouble surviving off gels for the whole long ride. You can overdo your ride nutrition, so it’s best to find a plan that works for you and adjust when needed. You don’t have to finish everything you pack so it never hurts to pack a little more.
Staying hydrated is just as important as eating on the bike. In the days leading to the ride remain hydrated through sipping water and depending on other activities a low carb electrolyte drink. Before you head out for your ride aim to drink a bottle of water with your post ride snack. On the bike have one bottle filled with water and remember to sip at it throughout the ride, before you feel thirsty. In your other bottle place some electrolyte drink to optimize your fuelling. Try look for a low carb option such as KODA or SiS. Try to plan ride stops where you know there is a tap or opportunity to fill up your bottles.
Have the right gear
Being out on the bike for a long time can lead to unpredictable things happening, normally the ride should go to plan but there are always days where something may go wrong. On a ride make sure you have the gear needed to fix, at a minimum, two flats, a mini pump and CO2 canisters, your phone, some ID and cash so if something does go wrong you have the right equipment to deal with it.
Wear the right gear
This is where we can really help you out. Wearing the right gear is key to an enjoyable ride. You don’t want kit that is rubbing or to tight and uncomfortable. All of our cycling gear is designed with ultimate comfort in mind and is perfect for longer distance rides. It is also a good idea to look ahead at the weather and consider if you will need any extra layers. An easy and lightweight option is our Covert Wind Vest that can be easily stashed in your pack pocket. Sunnies are a critical piece of kit (not just for style!) and never go astray. They can sit on the helmet when you don’t want to wear them. Sun and wind burn can strike like something else on the bike so it is always a good idea to apply some sunscreen before you ride and if possible carry a small packet with you in case you need to reapply.
Being out on the road for a long ride is, as we have said, one of the highlights of the week but it can still get tough. There will be days where the mental fatigue hits before the physical fatigue and it is important to have the tools to deal with this. Some days you may need to break the ride into sections that you can tick off as you complete each ones, other days you might just need to gently remind yourself why you are out on the bike, whether it be for a race goal or some quality time with your mates. Other days you may just need someone to tell you to harden up and that’s ok too.
When done right long rides can be thoroughly enjoyable and are a key session in anyone’s training week. The sense of achievement that comes with feeling spent after some time outside on two wheels in nature is something else. If you’re getting out there, make sure you tag us in and show us where your riding. Bonus points for a post ride coffee shot, arguably the most important part of the long ride.