Inspired by the Tour De France? Got loads of miles in during the hot summer? Why not tackle a mega miles challenge? Follow our tips to eat up the roads or trails for longer than you have ever done before.
Build it Up
When you are planning a big ride, it’s important to be realistic. If your usual road ride is around 30 miles, don’t try to jump up to a 120 mile ride. It might be possible, but it would be very painful and could be dangerous. If your target is a 120 mile ride then building up distances from 30 miles should include 50 / 60 mile rides and 80 / 90 mile rides before tackling ‘the big one’.
If you are planning a long ride, then make it easier by reducing the amount of climbing on your chosen route. Avoiding climbs and following valley roads can also often bump up the miles too. Check the weather, lighter winds are better – unless you are heading in one direction and not returning! If the forecast is wet, will a long, wet road ride mentally scar you?
Get your late summer – long ride started early. The light, early mornings are the best time to hit the road. Cooler, very light traffic and that chilled out early morning vibe will get you on your way. If you are aiming for a six-hour ride, getting back at lunchtime will keep family members happier and it also builds in potential time for contingencies, punctures, emergency cafe stops etc.
If you are planning a particularly adventurous ride, it might be worth building in a bailout option. Not so much planning to fail, more like planning of the unforeseen. Things happen, like broken spokes in the middle of nowhere, it is worth thinking of options, especially as you get further away from home. It’s worth thinking about what could happen, even though it probably won’t. Also bear in mind that those beautiful remote areas we enjoy riding in, often don’t have a mobile phone signal.
Fuel the ride
A longer ride will burn much more fuel. Each hour of riding will consume approximately 60 grams of carbohydrates – how will those be replaced? Where can you refill your water bottles? Pre-planning or at least thinking about fuel can minimise the chances of getting ‘the bonk’ part way on your long ride. Longer rides can justify two cafe stops! Make sure you fill water bottles while stopped too. Try to ‘drip feed’ your food through the day, little and often to maximise absorption.
Remember you are targeting going further and so speed isn’t so important. Look at your average speed for your previous longest ride and reduce it. If you are completing TDF stage distance length rides, you should not attempt to ride it at TDF style speeds. You may need to adapt your mindset from your usual rides and actively think about the ‘pottering along’ the miles, rather than ‘rattling off’ a faster average speed. If your computer / GPS device allows it, change the screen to it doesn’t show average speed, then you do not slip into a battle to hold or increase it.
Check the contact points of your bike (Handlebars, Saddle, Pedals / Cleats) are they all comfortable enough for your regular rides? Will they remain comfy for an extended longer ride? Whilst riding try to change hand position on the bars from tops to hoods and drops – this reduces upper body fatigue. Regular short stretches out of the saddle on flatter roads can also relieve your ‘under carriage’.
If you are riding with friends, make sure you get on well with them – or a six-hour ride could seem much, much longer. It is also worth picking somebody who won’t try to make the ride harder than it needs to be, by half wheeling or ramping up the speed unnecessarily for ‘fun’.
When considering a longer ride, it is worth making sure you plan a little, just in-case things go wrong. Tell family where you are heading, take your phone, take a couple of inner tubes, tyre levers, pump, allen keys. Check your bike over, before you go – just in-case.
An alternative which could make a long ride slightly easier, is to do an organised Sportive or Audax event. Sportives have added benefits, including a sign-posted route, feed stops and plenty of other riders to relieve boredom. Audax events are cheaper, but you get less, you need to be able to read a map and fend for yourself more. Audax’s focus is more on miles ridden and camaraderie over tea & cake. With Sportives the emphasis is more on speed, they often feel almost like a race – even though they are not.
If all else fails…
So you are nearing the end of your mega miles challenge, but forgot to keep topped up with carbohydrates. Last resort on a long ride is an emergency can of coke from a garage or corner shop. A coke is a particularly potent last-resort-boost if you don’t normally drink it. It’s relatively extreme ingredients should jolt your body into action for the last few miles. However, this is a last resort – remember to plan your fuelling better for the next long ride challenge…
Stock up on proper nutrition here.
Got a taste for longer rides?
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