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Long distance cycling training advice

mask of sanitymask of sanity Posts: 610
edited May 2009 in Road beginners
I’ve had a road bike for a few weeks now and in the summer (June or July) I’m hoping to cycle from my home in Sussex to my uni house in Bristol, which works out at about 140 miles and I was wondering the best way I could prepare for it. The furthest I’ve ridden to date was a (what I would consider hilly...) 60 miler which I did in four hours but really tired me out as I was pushing myself to do it as quick as I could. My cycling prior to my road bike was purely functional: getting to school, friends houses etc but it’s given me a good base fitness.

What I wanted to know is the best way that I can prepare for such a distance and indeed whether it’s sensible to attempt with my limited experience of road biking. I’ve started running and cycle as regularly as I can (not easy seeing as its exam period atm and only have a MTB with me at uni :? )but would I need to cycle a distance more similar to the 140 miles just to see if I’m capable of doing it? Is running even going to help with cycling and would I need to build up more strength from doing weights or something?!

I think the biggest issue I can see is the time spent on the bike rather than the distance itself. By that I mean I could do it in one day if I averaged ten miles an hour which I assume would be fairly easy but would mean being on the bike for 14 hours, which would hurt!! :-s I also don’t really know what the route is like in terms of hills etc.

The more I think about it the more difficult the task seems but I’m so determined to do it that I’m prepared to put the work in! Any feedback would be gratefully received, thanks. :)


  • Frank the tankFrank the tank Posts: 6,553
    You just have to build up your endurance by building up the miles gradually. Don't go flat out ride at a steady sustainable pace. 140miles is a long way for anyone let alone a relative novice. You'll need to do it when there is the most sun light hours as well. Also if you're doing the ride alone you'll have to be mentally tough as well as physically up to it. The longest ride I've managed was one of about 180+ the weather wasn't the best either. I was physically and mentally knackered after and because I'd actually failed in reaching the goal I had set myself I was not overly elated with mt feat.

    I wish you all the very best.

    Steady and long is the mantra.
    Tail end Charlie

    The above post may contain traces of sarcasm or/and bullsh*t.
  • APIIIAPIII Posts: 2,010
    They'll be people far more qualified than me to help you along, but here's my input.
    Time in the saddle is the most important in my experience. 140 miles will take some time, so to prepare, try and do one long ride a week, progressively extending the time spent in the saddle. Don't worry too much about speed. You can try and improve speed with your other rides. These should be shorter, harder efforts during the week.
    Break the journey down i.e. find some stop points 40, 80 and 120 miles along the route, where you can take a break, eat, drink, etc. and will allow you to tick that part of the journey off. I think this is really important, as 40 mile stretches seem far easier to cope with than 140 miles in one go!
    Finally, you did your 60 miles at 15 mph, so pace yourself when you set off. Try and limit it to 13-14 mph, that way you won't burn out half way.
  • amaferangaamaferanga Posts: 6,789
    If you can ride 60 miles at 15mph already, then provided your bike is comfortable you could probably ride 100 miles tomorrow at a lesser pace without much trouble. So you're really not that far off 140 miles already :)

    If you build up your long rides to 100 miles over the next month or so, you'll manage the 140 miles. I've done a fair bit of very long distance cycling over the past few years and I work on the theory that once I can do a given distance fairly comfortably, I can manage one and a half times that distance (over the same terrain) without breaking myself.
    More problems but still living....
  • ForumNewbieForumNewbie Posts: 1,664
    I couldn't do 140 miles in a day, but if I was in a position to attempt it, I would think 14 hours at 10 mph average would be easier that 10 hours at 14 mph average. However as you can already do 60 miles at 15 mph, I think a reasonable target for you would be say 12 hours at around 12 mph. If you find that pace fairly easy for the first 70 miles, you could gradually up the pace for the second half of the ride.
  • CiBCiB Posts: 6,098
    Having just answered the other thread about 200 miles in two days, I wouldn't be sure about knocking off 140 in a day for a novice. It's a long way. I did 85 & 90 on successive days and struggled for the last 10 on each, but how much of that was due to me knowing that I'd nearly cracked it is hard to say. I wouldn't have fancied looking at another70 when I was having my moment at the side of the road though. 80 is pretty straightforward, 100 is doable but 140 as a first long ride is pushing it a bit. You'll need some serious trainning and the right energy replacement for that sort of distance. I'm not best placed to advise on that, but that's the clincher.

    Carry a tube of savlon or similar too. You'll appreciate it after the first 3 hours, even if the first 20 yards is like sitting on a bag of tadpoles.
  • Thanks for all the feedback. Is definatly something to think about. I think i'll aim to do a few 100 mile rides and see if i can do it and how i feel after it. If i struggle with them to much and see very little progress then i shall hold off doing the 140 miles, for a while which will suck but probably for the best. Thanks again!
  • bobtbuilderbobtbuilder Posts: 1,537
    Physically, you need to train your body to do a long distance & time in the saddle. Whilst you may not need to ride a full 140 miles before the big day, IMO you need to have done a ride of at least 110 - 120 miles.

    As Frank said, don't discount the mental side of a long ride, especially when doing it on your own. There will be times during the ride that you will get dispirited, and you need the mental fortitude to cope woth those times.

    Nutrition is also a huge factor. You MUST keep eating & drinking even if you don't feel hungry or thirsty. All the training in the world won't help if you bonk on the day.

    As for the route, is 140 miles the actual distance you will ride or simply the quickest route between the two points? As you can't use motorways, your actual route could be longer than that.
  • I shall aim to do a distance like that then. Might cycle fifty miles of the route then turn round. That will give me a bit of an idea of the route and terrain etc. but would also enable me to call my mum should I have problems... lol.

    I'm hoping I will be ok mentally as normally when i put my mind to something I can see it through but dont know how it will be with this... I guess by cycling more you get better at dealing with the mental aspect as well as the physical.

    Nutrition is definatly something i shall have to do some research on before i attempt it, so know doubt i'll be asking that later! :P lol.

    The route is the actual distance, shown by google maps anyway, not sure how accruate that is. Its actually a lot further to go by motorway anyway.
  • toontratoontra Posts: 1,160
    edited May 2009
    140 is within the capability of most if they approach it correctly. I've regularly done several successive 150+ mile days and I'm no superman.

    I agree with a lot of the advice above, especially APIII where he says to break it down into 30-40 mile sections. Psychologically this will be a great help.

    But the biggest boost to your chances is to set off early. This has several advantages:

    1) The roads are quiet
    2) You're still half asleep and will be progressing without being fully aware of the effort!
    3) The biggest advantage is again psychological. Even at a modest pace, if you set off at dawn then you will have covered 50-60 miles before most people start work!

    Another tip is not to clock-watch. I never look at the time until I'm well over half way, according to my split mileages (see above). It really can be dispiriting to see the minutes slowly ticking over.

    Also, don't stop for too long at breaks. The muscles tend to tighten up and it requires more effort to get up to pace again.

    In terms of training, start with a leisurely 100, then another a bit quicker and a third as fast as you feel comfortable with. It just isn't practical for most people to be able to try out the full distance in advance. There shouldn't be any hidden surprises progressing from 100 to 140, provided your bike set-up is good and you heed the nutrition/hydration rules.

    Good luck and report back!

    a serious case of small cogs
  • amaferangaamaferanga Posts: 6,789
    Something to be aware of when you do longer rides is accepting that you will go through 'lows', but that a 'low' at say, 50 or 100 miles in is unlikely to last til the end. As above, just keep drinking and eating and it'll pass.

    I think your plan to do a couple of 100 mile rides and take it from there sounds good. IMO you really don't need to do a 120 mile ride to know you can do a 140mile ride.
    More problems but still living....
  • Yet more good advice :) Thanks very much!!

    I've mapped the route out on and its given an asent of 2143 m and a desent of 2199m. How does that relate over 140 miles? (i.e is it a lot?) I'm guessing that the figure means the vertical height change rather then the distance of asent. Sorry, very badly worded and no doubt a stupid question... Just need to know as much about what i'm hoping to do as i can.
  • ForumNewbieForumNewbie Posts: 1,664
    Yet more good advice :) Thanks very much!!

    I've mapped the route out on and its given an asent of 2143 m and a desent of 2199m. How does that relate over 140 miles? (i.e is it a lot?) I'm guessing that the figure means the vertical height change rather then the distance of asent. Sorry, very badly worded and no doubt a stupid question... Just need to know as much about what i'm hoping to do as i can.

    My longest ride has been a 72 mile circuit and looking back at my Garmin GPS stats I see that it included 6,400 feet of ascent but that was quite a hilly ride. Your height ascent of 2143 metres (yes, it will mean vertical height change) is equal to 7,030 feet, so over 140 miles it should be just over half as hilly as my ride was - so it won't be flat but it shouldn't be too bad.
  • DunkeldogDunkeldog Posts: 138
    Again - way more qualified folks here than me - but I'd say don't try to rush it. It took me a fair while to comfortably get beyond the 50 mile range. Seemed to be stuck for ages but eventually my endurance picked up. Just be patient and build up sensibly.
  • amaferangaamaferanga Posts: 6,789
    I wouldn't rely too much on the ascent/descent figures from online mapping websites - try the same route in bikely and you'll probably get vastly different figures. But they are a reasonable guide and an ascent of 2200m in 140 miles equates to what I would call a fairly unhilly ride. But then what someone who lives in Norfolk consideres hilly probably wouldn't even register with someone from the Lakes or the Peaks....

    If you're training over similar terrain it should be nothing to worry about.
    More problems but still living....
  • Yeah, didn't think it seemed very hilly. The 60 miles i did had somehting like 2000m of ascent so will be alot less hilly then that.

    Im fairly used to cycling hills. Im training on the Sussex country roads which are pretty much all short sharp hills. Im really strugling to find a flat(ish) route i can go on to get the 100 miles in! Had one ride which involved cycling up the south downs which was pretty dam hard! Well worth it though when I'd made it to the top!! :D
  • CiBCiB Posts: 6,098
    Something I forgot to add - take a Walkman, loaded up with whatever you really like to listen to. FWIW I had a lot of music but also a few comedy podcsts to lighten the mood, stuff like The News Quiz, Ricky Gervais & Karl Pilkington, a couple of Fighting Talk podcasts from R5. You will have lulls in enthusiasm after a few hours solid pedalling. This sort of thing was a big lift for me, esp at 87 miles on day 2 climbing a stonker of a hill at Cearwys, just 3 miles from the end. (Pub at the top helped too :) )
  • tbutchtbutch Posts: 27
    As most of the above have said, you need to spend some more time in the saddle, but 60 miles is good going averaging 15mph. The longest I've ever clocked up is 160 in a day.
    It's mentally tough, and physically exhausting but well worth it, and i'd do it again.

    - Just make sure your fully prepared before you set off. Get used to cycling for long distances, if you can do a good long ride each week your endurance will soon pick up.
    - Make sure people know your route and have someone on stand by should you need to be collected.
    - Food and water is very important. nuts, dried fuit, flap jacks are all good.
    - Savlon in the shorts helps too.

    Good luck mate
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