You’ve written the event in the calendar and you’re looking to set a training plan in motion for the ride. However, when thinking of preparing for a bike ride that’s more strenuous than your normal 20 to 30 mile weekend ride, there are quite a few checklist items to run through. You must prioritize training, gear, and getting everything in line for a long distance — or even a short distance — event. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Preparing for a bike ride
Regardless of if you are looking for tips on how to prepare for long distance cycling or are seeking ways to prepare for shorter distance rides, a cyclist needs to know what’s at stake. This includes the time frame for training and the gear that’s called for, when preparing for a bike ride.
Think about it: for a long distance ride, there are different factors involved that need to be thought about and planned for when comparing it to a short distance ride. Similarly, there are some aspects of shorter rides that aren’t as pertinent when considering how to prepare for long distance cycling.
Read on to get information about the best ways to prepare for your upcoming ride or race that you’ve been looking forward to.
How To Prepare for Long Distance Cycling
Even if you’ve participated in a long distance ride or race, it’s still a good plan of action to set your goals for the event and remember to have them be realistic but still challenging. These goals will help you pick the best training program to have you be as prepared as you can for the upcoming ride.
Whether you’re training for a long distance race or simply prepping for a century ride, the training will likely look grueling — at least to others! — but when broken down into steady increments that are catered to your riding style, you’ll be ready for that race, ride, or adventure in no time.
Training and preparing for long distance biking, whether it’s for a long distance race, a century ride, a marathon, or a triathlon, consists of a few factors, one of which is the biking part. When you go on rides and increase your distances, day by day and week by week, you can prepare your stamina and endurance for the ultimate goal. These outings are ideal and one of the higher priority items when it comes to the training. Typical programs usually last 12 to 16 weeks.
In addition to finding a cycling program that will train you up for your long distance ride, strength training — not on a bike — will also improve your fitness and health for the race or ride. Strength training and other kinds of low-impact exercise, such as pilates and yoga, assist with engaging different parts of your body and muscles that are needed for cycling but aren’t necessarily targeted when biking.
Another factor that should not be overlooked in figuring out how to prepare for long distance cycling and how the preparation looks in your daily routine is to know the foods and drinks your body needs. Long distance cycling tends to require lighter proteins and some carbs. Understanding your body and how it reacts to fat stores, energy consumption and release, and what foods and drinks (including energy gels) your body reacts to poorly or well, will help guide you in your training and preparation for your long distance bike ride or race.
Your gear is just as important as your training for any length of ride or race, but this is especially true when it comes to long distance cycling. When on a bike for a century ride or an intense race, it’s vital to be comfortable, safe, and secure, but also to have any bit of your gear give you an advantage.
You’ll likely receive a checklist — or you may already have one! — but some of the main items you’ll need are:
- Your bike
Although this is self explanatory, note that you’ll want the correct kind of bike for the type of long distance ride you are participating in, think of the terrain and the type of conditions expected on the course in terms of pavement or smoothness of ride. You might need to fit different tires, especially if you're doing a gravel event. This is also a good moment to check over your bike, making sure it's in good working order, your tires still have some miles left in them, your chain and cassette aren't too worn and you've freshly lubed up your chain.
- A helmet
At KAV, we’re biased, but your Portola helmet will be custom fit to you thanks to our complimentary Fit Kit. Every helmet is 3D printed with the highest quality materials and safety measures possible, and you can feel confident in knowing that it fits correctly and offers unmatched protection. We're proud to say our helmet has been tested by a third party and verified to be at least 25% more impact resistant than the national CPSC safety standard.
Using lights at any time of day is crucial, as they warn motorists, other cyclists and pedestrians of your presence on the road or bike lane or path.
- A flat tire kit
We recommend having 1-2 inner tubes, two tire levers, some repair patches, a small and slim multitool, and a mini pump. You should have one of these with you for any bike ride but it's especially important when riding longer distances.
- Nutrition items
Preferred cycling fuel often includes sandwiches, energy bars, fruit, energy gels, and water and electrolyte drinks. If you’re a cyclist who lives the long distance ride lifestyle, it might be useful to speak to a nutritionist or dietician to uncover the best food and drink options for you and your body. The more you ride the more you will better understand your body and what works best, but this is definitely something that you need to get dialed in as soon as possible.
- Miscellaneous items
This can include a mobile phone, photo identification, and money of any sort — cards or cash is fine and a great tip is to always have a $10 bill tucked inside your saddle bag so you'll always have some money on you in emergencies. Additionally, you may need extra clothes, such as a waterproof jacket or vest that’s easy to roll and pack down small that provides warmth and can protect from inclement weather if you come across it on your ride.
How to prepare for short distance biking and sprints
Training for a short distance or sprint bike ride or race will look fairly similar but the sprinting portion stresses the explosive power — whether from a low or zero RPM start — and being efficient in decision making on when to overpower other riders or how to meet and exceed your personal time goals.
One of the highest regarded and lauded sprint road racers, Mark Cavendish, has given proven tips on training for short distance and sprints, such as judging the distance that you need to sprint and committing to the sprint and knowing the capacity of energy for what you can expend.
One factor for short distance or sprint biking is that intervals are more of a focus and whatever training program you take on, you’ll notice a difference in building up to high speeds for less time versus increasing long distance stamina.
Similar to learning how to prepare for long distance cycling, short distance training also incorporates off-bike work like box jumps, jump roping, and most calisthenics workouts such as squats and planks.
Just like long distance cycling, short distance riders will want a bike and helmet that cater to their needs on the ride or race, as well as a light connected to their bike, a flat tire kit, and nutrition items. However, when it comes to the miscellaneous aspects of cycling for sprints, it’s important to keep as aerodynamic as possible, including items like the handlebar and clothing.
Although short distance cycling and long distance cycling are similar in terms of gear preparation, there are fairly vast differences in how to best prepare for a long distance bike race due to the length of the ride. Regardless of the little or large differences, both require immense dedication and passion to achieve your cycling goals.