Intro to Cycling Blog #2 – Preparing for a Long Ride

By: Justin Lethbridge, Communication and Event Coordinator for the Ontario Cycling Association

August 21st, 2020

Last month we talked to the co-owner of the Dundas Speed Shop Scott Kelly about what beginner cyclists should know before buying their first bike. This week we spoke with David Jack, Ontario Cycling Associations Lead Coach – High Performance Track/Road Program, about how cyclists should approach increasing the length of their rides.

Increasing the length of your ride is a great way to improve both your cycling skills and your fitness level. While going from your usual ride to something that can be either twice as long (or more) can be a great way to spend more time on your bike, it isn’t as simple as just staying on your bike longer.

The Ontario Cycling Association’s Lead Coach David Jack said that successfully completing long rides comes down to your preparation. He stressed that it’s important for cyclists to stay within their body’s limitations.

“It’s all about knowing your body. If someone is relatively athletic they can push themselves beyond what they’re used too, they can go from an hour ride to a four-hour ride. They will probably be sore the next day but they can do it…. If you’re not as athletic, it’s not a good idea to aim to go for a long ride immediately unless you have been a high-level athlete in the past.”

Coach Dave has been involved in training Team Ontario athletes and has worked with athletes who have gone on to win medals at Nationals and Worlds events. He said that you have to know what your body is capable of in terms of fitness level and what type of shape your body is in.

“The biggest difficulties you can have when going from the couch to the bike, especially when going for longer rides, is that your butt isn’t prepared for the pressure points.”

Coach Dave said that it can take a long time for your body to get used to the unique pressure points caused by remaining on a bike seat for long periods of time. One of the ways to combat this is by getting well fitted bike shorts with chamois, padding in the crotch section, that lessen the impact of pressure points.

In addition to well-fitted shorts, riders looking to extend the length of their rides should make sure they have well-fitted bike.

“It’s important that you have a bike that has been fitted properly,” Coach Dave said, “so that you aren’t putting unnecessary strain on your body. For example, if your feet are too low it will put pressure on your butt but if your feet are too high it will cause stress on other parts of your body like your back. Unfortunately, with COVID it can be hard to find a bike shop that is doing professional bike fits but it’s worth your time to find one.”

(For more details about bike fit you can view our first blog HERE)

Even if you have a perfectly fitted bike, a comfortable pair of bike shorts and feel like you’re fit to extend the length of your rides, the question remains how do you do it? Coach Dave said that you have to wait until your ready.

“The biggest mistake is going too far, too quickly. If you’re comfortable doing 15 km rides don’t go right to 100 km, you have to work up to it.”

He added that a good way to increase your endurance is by using a circuit.

“Plan out a circuit you can do, maybe a 10-15 km route, then as the weeks and months go on you can simply add another lap to increase the distance… Even when you do your first longer rides, I recommend doing a circuit near your house as opposed to a point-to-point. That way if you’re not able to continue, then you aren’t caught 50 km’s away from home.”

With rides of any length, Coach Dave stresses that it’s always important to be prepared with all the proper equipment including:

  • Enough water for your ride and/or a plan to refill your water while on your ride (you should have enough so that you can have a drink every 15 minutes)
  • Snacks/food such as energy bars or gels. Coach Dave recommends eating roughly every 30 minutes (for more information on nutrition, keep an eye out for our Intro to Cycling Blog 4- Nutrition)
  • Extra tubes, a pump and other items required to fix a flat tire
  • A full charged cellphone in case you need to make a call
  • Debit/Credit card and your Health card
  • A mask

In addition to having the proper equipment and enough fuel, getting ready for a long ride also comes down to mindset.

“You can start getting ready for a long ride by doing slow building,” Coach Dave said, “but a big part isn’t just the physical aspect, it’s being prepared…. You have to have the right mentality. You have to be tough enough mentally to push through the toughest parts of the ride.”

While not everyone will be going on marathon-length rides, making sure that you are properly prepared is important for any bike ride your planning.

If you want to connect with Ontario Cycling with any questions or feedback, please email us at [email protected] For more information, visit the website:
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