Spring is here! We’ve been grinding out thousands of miles over the winter, however, if you are more sensible than us, you’re probably starting to ramp up to some longer rides now the weather is warmer. As a reminder, here are some things my tandem partner and I find help make longer rides the pleasant experience they are meant to be.
Get it sorted
This might seem blindingly obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. Make sure your bike is in good working order. That slightly annoying gear change that requires you to click down two and back up one for example will become truly uncomfortable towards the end of a long day in the saddle. Get your bike properly serviced and ready to go. It’s one less thing to worry about.
If your bike fits you properly you can ride quite literally hundreds of miles without back pain, knee pain, neck pain or infact any sort of pain other than fatigue. If you are buying a new bike and your budget is £1200 for example, spend £200 and get the correct measurements for you and with the rest of the money buy the bike that fits. Better to be comfortable on a good bike than uncomfortable on a fabulous bike.
Use good kit
Cycle clothing has been designed the way it is for a reason. It works. A good pair of shorts in conjunction with a high quality chamois cream on top of a comfortable saddle substantially decreases the chances of saddle sores. Note: Comfortable does not necessarily mean a padded saddle. These days you can get great kit that means you don’t need to look like a trussed up chicken. For longer rides things like making sure your cleats are behind the ball of your foot can avoid the dreaded ‘hot foot’ problem.
Keep going, keep eating
Lots of stops hammers your average speed. Big meals can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable for hours afterwards. Eat small amounts of food every half or so and avoid stopping for longer than it takes to have a swift coffee.
Ride the hills expending the same effort you do on the flat, the sort of speed where you can maintain a conversation – just about. Ride down-hill at the same effort too. That’s the key to a good solid average speed. Keep trundling along.
Look up – look around
It’s likely your long distance rides will take you to place you may not know very well. Don’t forget to look up and look around and enjoy the scenery. You may never ride in those places again, so make the most of them. Don’t be like so many people – face down starting at their bike computer as they ride past a beautiful vista.
Know where you are going
Sometimes, hills seem to go on forever. If you carry a route profile in your jersey pocket, a quick glance will tell you the length and give you some idea of what lies ahead. It doesn’t make the hills easier, but at least you know how much more suffering you are in for.
On very long rides, the miles can seem to take forever. By breaking the route down into chunks, our preference is about 33 miles and then breaking that down into significant towns or villages you will pass through. We tick these off as we pass by and their proximity means the next way point is never more than a few miles away. This really helps the ride seem less effort.
Get into the rhythm
This one is a bit more controversial, so do your own thing. I find music helps, particularly when you are feeling a bit low or tired. I use a stereo to mono earbud in one ear that allows me to listen to music and the radio and still hear traffic around me. I use my phone as my music player and this in turn is linked to my gps. I get turn by turn directions in my ear and so don’t have to keep constantly looking at the screen to see where I am going.
Whatever works for you – do it. Have a great time out there.