This past weekend saw the summer solstice – the longest day of the year – and lots of us take inspiration from this to attempt our longest ride of the year.
Many of us are happy riding for a couple of hours and do so regularly, but if you haven’t done a ‘big one’ before, maybe your first 100 miler, here are a few pointers to help you step up to the extra distance and ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.
- Plan a route
It will be worth spending a little time working out a good route. Make it challenging without being brutal – you don’t want to burn yourself out on a monster climb before you’ve reached half distance after all! It pays to have a short cut option just in case too.
- Build up to it
Moving up from a couple of hours in the saddle to much of the day requires a little adaptation in your body and your training. Try to spend longer in the saddle on your rides beforehand, stopping less and going further. Also think about your intensity, you might be able to charge along at 18mph for 2 hours but consider knocking the pace right back if you’re out for much longer. Be sure to get some proper rest after these longer rides too to allow extra time for your body to recover.
- Bike set up
It’s vitally important to have a bike that fits you properly. If you’re used to shorter rides then you might not notice faults with how your bike is set up, or dismiss minor niggles. If you’re considering stepping up the mileage however, then it would be worth having a trusted local bike shop, or even a bike-fit specialist, take a look at your riding position to ensure that these are sorted and don’t have a chance to flare up. A comfortable riding position is the bedrock of happy cycling and time spent ensuring that you and your bike are in harmony is time well spent.
- Get in the zone
Riding further than you have before, be it 50, 75 or 100 miles, can be challenging mentally as well as physically. Former top pro racer Jens Voigt famously used to tell his legs to ‘SHUT UP’ in order to keep going. If you don’t possess that level of single-mindedness it can be useful to train yourself to focus on things other than the discomfort in your body. Try to focus on things such as the scenery, or holding a good position on your bike, or maintaining a smooth pedaling technique. Have way points or small goals to aim for to get you through the day and always try to remember how good it will feel at the end.
- Eat right
Probably the most important part of doing a big ride is making sure that you’ve fuelled properly. Start the day before with a healthy, balanced dinner with plenty of vegetables. Carb loading used to be the go-to strategy but nutrition has moved on these days. It pays to drink plenty of water and lay off the booze (sorry), and perhaps have a bowl of cereal for supper as a boost. On the big day, a nice hearty bowl of porridge is a good start, washed down with lots of water. During the ride itself it’s important to keep eating and drinking. 500ml water per hour is a good guide – more if it’s a hot day. Have a second bottle with an electrolyte mixture too. Food wise, avoid too many energy gels, save them for an energy boost when you’re flagging. Try to eat a cereal bar every hour, and take some bananas with you too. Ultimately the key is little and often, keep the tank topped up and stay hydrated and you should make it to the finish with energy to spare.
After the ride your muscles will be craving glycogen so try to have a recovery shake or some fruit juice within 20 minutes of stopping, and a hearty meal with plenty of protein within an hour. And maybe now you can have a well-earned beer to toast your achievement!