Going The Distance: Preparing For Longer Rides
Now that Spring has sprung, we’re in the mood for heading out on some longer rides! Explore your local area or head further afield – rolling out on one-day adventures is a great way to see the world and give yourself a challenge. Whether it’s an organised group ride or a solo adventure, we’ve gathered a few of our top tips to make going further easier and even more enjoyable!
Plan Your Route
While just rolling out and following the wind can be a liberating experience, it’s worth putting in some prep time for longer rides. Planning your route ahead of time on platforms like Strava, Komoot or Ride With GPS makes navigating new roads a piece of cake: upload it to your head unit and you’ll have turn-by-turn navigation right in front of you.
Research picturesque viewpoints (Komoot makes this particularly easy), make note of stopping points to refuel and locate any tough climbs. Anything to familiarise yourself with the route beforehand will make your experience much smoother, and setting little landmarks will spur you on if the going gets tough! If your route is local, it’s worth taking the time to actually ride some sections before the big day to acquaint yourself with what’s to come.
Riding in a sportive or audax? Most of the hard work is done for you, as routes will likely be sent to you before the event. However, it’s still worth checking through the route for the same purpose!
Practice Makes Perfect
Embarking on a big bike ride without having touched the pedals for a number of weeks or months is a daring move. While it can work out for some, practice always makes perfect! Get your body used to the sensation of turning the cranks for a prolonged period of time – riding somewhat consistently in the weeks leading up to your planned ride will pay dividends.
As a rule of thumb, try to keep the legs turning over in the week when you’ve got the time. With the days getting longer and the weather seemingly improving, heading out on the bike pre-, post-, or even to and from work can be an appealing option. Take advantage of the extra time at the weekend and get the miles in, gradually increasing the distance rather than diving straight in. Keep tabs on pacing and how you feel, this will be useful information to have on the day.
Club rides are a great way to find some extra motivation, and it just so happens that we’ve got our very own Brixton Cycles Cycling Club that’s perfect for exactly that!
Having said that, time off the bike is also key to getting through big days. This may seem contrary, but recovery plays a massive role in improving your fitness. Being tired and overworked can quickly make a ride that’s well within your ability much more difficult, so giving your body a chance to recuperate between big days is crucial.
In the leadup to your planned ride, take a good few days to let your body taper with nothing more than an easy spin to keep the blood flowing. Your legs will thank you, and you’ll be left feeling fresh, rejuvenated and ready to go!
You can have trained harder than you’ve ever trained in your life, but if you don’t keep that engine of yours fuelled, it’ll only take you so far! Making sure you consistently eat on the move will make a huge difference to how your legs feel several hours in. “Little and often” is your best bet, keep the reserves topped up and never let it go into the red – the last thing you want is to feel hungry! If in doubt, opt for more food rather than less as you’re going to be burning a lot of calories.
(photo credit: Adrian Downie)
Sometimes finding the right food can be a balancing act – sports nutrition is a great option as it’s made for purpose, offering the nutrients and energy you need to complete your ride in a compact and convenient form factor that’s easy to eat on the move. However, it’s also good to treat your tastebuds along the way, so take a bag of your favourite sweets or savoury treats!
Everyone loves a café stop. Periodically stopping for some proper grub gives you a chance to get some good food down, and also gives your legs and mind some rest before departing again.
(Bonus tip: use your bike computer to track time/calorie expenditure so you know when to eat!)
We all know how important staying hydrated is in theory, but in practice, many of us are guilty of overlooking it! While you might not realise it at the time, starving your body of the water it needs will have a significant impact on your performance – the difference in how your legs and body feel when hydrated vs dehydrated is dramatic, and this is only amplified on big days in the saddle. We’d recommend taking as many water bottles as possible: two as standard, three or more if you’ve got the mounts!
Similarly to when you’re eating, “little and often” is the way to go and we’d advise against waiting until you feel thirsty! Keep an eye on the time to make sure you’re drinking at regular intervals – most modern headunits can provide you with reminders to drink periodically so you don’t even have to think about it. It is possible to finish your ride without quite enough water, but your ability to recover post-ride will also be hindered, so drink up! After all, you don’t want to wilt like an under-watered plant at your destination!
(Bonus tip: if you run out of water along the way, most cafés will be happy to refill your bottles – this is also a great opportunity to stop and refuel with some tasty treats!)
Preparing your kit is also an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to going the distance. Here's what we’d recommend putting in your kit list.
Jersey pockets will only get you so far, and finding somewhere to keep all of your snacks and spares to get the weight off your back will pay dividends after several hours in the saddle. Our selection of toptube bags and frame bags from Restrap and Bontrager are a great place to keep your bits and bobs conveniently close to hand in an unobtrusive manner and will serve you well on big days out.
If you’re rolling out on an overnight adventure, it’s worth considering a saddlebag – this useful bit of kit is the perfect place to keep sleeping supplies compacted and out of the way without affecting the handling of your bike!
(Bonus tip: pack everything the night before, there's nothing worse than panicking on the morning of and forgetting something!)
While you can’t top punctures and mechanicals entirely, being prepared with the right spares and repairs will make them much easier to deal with!
Every good emergency toolkit contains: a couple of tubes, patches, tyre boot, tyre levers, a mini pump, multitool, a quick link and some humble zip ties. From punctures to broken chains, a small kit like this should have you covered!
We’ve all been there: caught out in the dark after a series of misfortunes that resulted in your ride being *slightly* longer than expected. Packing some emergency lights will save you the worry of navigating home in limited light – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
The Lezyne Femto USB and Mini Drive are the perfect pairing for evening rides, enabling you to see and be seen. It’s also worth running a set of small daytime lights, especially if the roads are busy.
How can you enjoy your coffee and cake if you’re worried about your bike being stolen? Keeping a lightweight lock to hand is perfect for those periodic café stops and gives you the peace of mind that your beloved bike is safe.
The Hiplok Z Lok Combo is a particular favourite of ours – lightweight and easy to pack, it’s perfect in a pinch.
We often take our hands for granted when on the bike, giving all the credit to our legs, but you’d be surprised at how much vibration goes through our hands when riding over rough UK roads. Wearing some padded gloves gives your hands some respite, which in turn will save you from achy shoulders and a sore back after hours in the saddle.
These Endura Xtract mitts are a great option for Spring/Summer, providing all the cushioning you need without overheating your hands!
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