Whether you are going on a six-hour ride to the mountains or a day-long bike route in Asia, it’s truly fulfilling to do long-distance biking. It’s quite different from your usual ride to work or park. But to fully enjoy the unique experience of a long bike ride, make sure you prepare for the trip.
Getting ready for a long-distance bike ride can be overwhelming, but with the right resources, you’ll nail it! First, make sure you really know what you’re getting into. Then, weeks or months before the ride, you should start getting into good shape for long-distance cycling. Here are more essential things to remember when prepping for your first long-distance ride.
Build up your endurance.
You need to build up your endurance before going on long-distance rides. It’s important not to do too much in the beginning. You can’t jump from a three-hour ride to a twelve-hour ride without the risk of sustaining serious injuries and painful recovery.
If you regularly go for a bike ride, it’s best to gradually increase the time you spend biking. For example, try adding 30 minutes to your ride once a week. Do this for eight weeks, and your usual two-hour bike ride will easily be a six-hour one! You may need to dig deep to power through the endurance training, but you’ll likely achieve it if you build it gradually.
Also, remember that you need at least one recovery ride every week to keep things interesting and avoid injuries. Going at a leisurely or slower pace makes a long ride a lot more enjoyable. That’s a perfect way to rest after training for endurance rides all week long.
Bring essential equipment.
Sometimes, in a long ride, you’ll find yourself in a situation where there’s no roadside assistance or where one of your companions is having trouble. In such circumstances, being prepared can pay off. When packing for the trip, go through a checklist of what you should bring. You may need to bring extra chain links, a gear cable, spare brake pads and anything else your bike might need. Narrow down the list, and then pack the essentials in your saddlebag.
Also, remember your personal gear: a helmet, proper clothing that doesn’t chafe, food and water. In case you find yourself in need of help at some point on your trip, take a cell phone, an ID card and some cash with you before leaving the house.
Pace yourself during the ride.
Long-distance biking is not a game of sprinting but of endurance. Think of the Tour de France. When the lead cyclist tenses up, waiting for competitors to make their move towards him, that’s when things get interesting. Cyclists need to save energy for that burst of speed needed at the finish line.
If this is the first time you’ll try long-distance cycling, it can be overwhelming and tough to figure out what you’re capable of. You don’t want to push too hard in training for fear of destroying your body. First, try and listen to some advice about what’s safe or not safe for your body. Then during the ride, always look after your physical and mental health by pacing yourself.
Eat and drink throughout a long bike ride.
You should stay hydrated and eat throughout your bike ride. How often you drink depends on the activity, but every few minutes is usually a good rule of thumb. You should also eat small portions at frequent intervals to maintain your energy levels. This can be many things, and different cyclists have their favourites. It can be anything from two bananas to a Snickers bar to an egg sandwich. If you’re doing a long ride and can’t purchase food, gas stations are great to stop at and buy something high in calories and are good for your nutrition.
Listen to your body, not your mind.
Like in other sports, having a “mind over matter” attitude is a good way to take up long-distance riding. But that can only be true in some situations—sometimes your body is tiring out, and you coax it by saying, “I just have to reach that nearby stop.” But sometimes, you have to listen to your pain for the sake of your long-term physical health, not just to get through one long ride.
It might seem like a good idea to push yourself through pain, but this may do further damage to your body. Avoid risks and listen to your body, even if it means stopping the ride and letting the pain heal before trying again.
Other times, your brain can also betray you—it wants you to give up before your body does. Your brain will tell you that you just can’t go anymore and that you need to stop, even though you still have energy left in your tank. In high-stress situations like this, it helps to give yourself a goal. Or break it down into small and more attainable steps: you can do ten more kilometres, then once you’ve achieved that, you can do ten more. Ride with what strongly motivates you.