newbie doing a 600-mile bike please!!!

Taauriaa Posts: 6
edited August 2011 in Road beginners
Hello all,

Okay, so I've signed up to do a 600-mile bike challenge from London to Ireland. It's in support of my Dad who has cancer, and I need the best tips you guys have to offer on:

a) surviving it
b) maybe even enjoying it

It's about 100 miles a day for 6 days and there are some toughish days going over grade 4 and 5 hills.

There are, however, some 'issues' - hence my plea for advice:

- the challenge is in 4 weeks' time and I only have a week of training under my belt

- I have moderate cycling experience, but that's with whizzing around London on my Brompton and Airnimal. The first proper road biking I did was 10 days ago!

A bit about me:

- I am a relatively fit 35-year-old man
- I am 5'10 and 80kgs
- I have a new Trek 1.5 2011 Compact
- I have already put in 10 days' of solid training, including 150 miles on the bike so far
- the longest ride I have done to date is a 45 miler 2 days ago from London to Kent over the north downs, which kind of knackered me!

So - my questions are:

- what can I do in 4 weeks to get myself in the best possibly shape to complete this challenge?
- what are the best things I can do with my technique in 4 weeks to make the experience tolerable?
- is my bike going to be okay dealing with the hills we're going to face, esp in south wales - do I need lower gearing?

Any advice would be really, really appreciated - it's for a good cause :)


  • In my humble opinion you are very under prepared for a ride of this type. You need to make sure that you are rested and good to go for the actual ride so whatever you do over the next four weeks needs to be something you can recover from quickly. I would suggest that you just get out and ride and get some hours in the saddel doing whatever feels right. This should at least get you a bit more used to the riding position etc. I assume you are using clipless pedals? If not, that should be your first change. Secondly you need to get prepared mentally for how much pain you are going to feel.

    Good luck with the ride and please let us know how you get on. I am sure that sheer determination to support the cause will play a huge role in you succeeding with this.
  • Taauriaa
    Taauriaa Posts: 6
    Yes, I am feeling a touch under-prepared - hence my post! The tricky things that I am not sure how to balance are: rest vs workout; and banging out the miles vs working on my posture. Time probably dictates that I just do as much as possible until a week before the ride, and - as you say - just cycle in way that feels right...

    And watch lots of Lance Armstrong videos...
  • pdstsp
    pdstsp Posts: 1,264
    You should also try doing back to back days to get the body used to riding distances every day. Perhaps over a weekend ride out to somewhere a day away from home, stay the night and ride back the next day. One 100 mile day will be ok for you, the adrenaline, excitement etc will see you through - it's getting up the next morning and the next one and the next one which drains you - mentally as well as physically. I did lejog last month and it is tough to sit on a bike all day every day no matter how much you love cycling.

    Also if you are cycling to Ireland don't forget the life jacket for the pedalo.

    Good luck

  • fludey
    fludey Posts: 384
    Is it a group ride? Can you not fit in a rest day half way through.

    I would also order in plenty of recovery drinks for after the ride each day to give your muscles the best chance you can for the next day.

    Not sure where your stopping along the route but massages may come in handy at the end of the day as well.

    I did a decent ride not long ago, but just a one day event and prior to it the most I had done was a 50 will hurt at the end of the ride and it was hurting lots the next recovery is a must!
    The 2 days leading up to this ride I just did a very gentle 10 mile ride with minimum effort just to keep my legs moving.

    Im sure you will make it as you have a personal motivation to do it, and just treat it how I did mine aim to finish and dont worry about the time.

    Good luck and look forward to hearing how well you did :D
    Felt AR4
    Planet X Pro Carbon 105
    MTB Kona Kikapu Deluxe with a few upgrades!!
  • MichaelW
    MichaelW Posts: 2,164
    Your foldy experience should mean you have a base of adequate saddle time, ie you are not a total newbie.
    You need to get some longer miles into your legs, personally I find that 30 mile rides are good for getting back into distance and you can do one of a evening. Dont race, just keep up a steady pace at a reasonably high pedalling cadence (80rpm) and use your gears.
    Make adjustments to the riding position as needed.
    Test out your shorts, gloves, shoes etc.
    Don;t forget to eat and drink.
  • Peddle Up!
    Peddle Up! Posts: 2,040
    You'll get good advice here, the only thing I can offer is "Do it for your Dad". I hope that doesn't sound trite, because it's not meant to be.
    Purveyor of "up" :)
  • bearfraser
    bearfraser Posts: 435
    lots&lots of Sudocream for your Chamois !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Good cause enjoy it .
  • dodgy
    dodgy Posts: 2,890
    With the limited time you have, just get stuck in and get some miles in, leaving enough time for a brief 'taper' to rest before the event itself. I'd say try to get at a minimum 200 miles a week leaving the last week before going as a very easy week just to keep your legs spinning.

    Best of luck, keep us all up to date, you'll get lots of encouragement and you deserve it.
  • pottssteve
    pottssteve Posts: 4,069

    I have never done the distance you are planning to do, but have picked up some tips over the last few years. Mainly common-sense, but may be helpful.

    I'd suggest you make sure that the bike is as comfortable as possible over the next couple of weeks - make little changes if needed to maximise comfort. This includes saddle height and tilt. Get some miles in over the coming weeks to get your backside used to it. Make sure the bars are in the right position so you are not over-stretched, otherwise your shoulders, neck and arms will ache. You do not need a stretched out race position. Comfortable clip-shoes will help, especially ones with a stiff sole to support the foot and ankle. Good quality bib shorts and, as was mentioned, a generous application of chamois creme or similar.

    Before riding, stretch and warm up. Do the first few km at a steady pace. When riding, change position of your hands regularly to avoid excessive stiff shoulders/neck. Eat/drink little and often, starting before you feel hungry or thirsty. I personally find it hard to get started again after a lunch stop, so I prefer to continue riding.

    Make sure your gearing and cadence match your fitness and the terrain - don't try to power up climbs as you'll knacker yourself; spin in a lower gear if needs be.

    After each day, try to get at least a leg massage (do it yourself if you have to). Pay attention to the ligaments and tendons as well as the muscles - these can also be damaged by over-exertion.

    Get used to pain - it's going to hurt!

    Good luck.

    Head Hands Heart Lungs Legs
  • CiB
    CiB Posts: 6,098
    You have left it a bit late, but the main issue is about nutrition & fluids each day. There have been plenty of threads on here about that aspect so try a search for them.

    One tip I can pass on is that it gets easier v quickly, doing high mileages on consecutive days. Day 1 will be an adrenalin rush most of the way, day 2 will be easy initially but will then start to hurt but by day 3 onwards your body will be used to it and it won't be as hard. It won't be easy but pacing it, eating properly and keeping the fluid intake up will benefit you enormously.

    Don't be afraid of using energy gel bars and things like Nuun tablets to help you in the latter stages of each day either.

    Good luck.
  • skyd0g
    skyd0g Posts: 2,540
    A few things:
    Chamois Cream - Assos is probably best. You won't regret it.
    Bib Shorts - at least two pairs (to wash/change), preferably with gel pads. Try Santini @ Prendas Ciclismo.
    Eat & Hydrate. Bananas / museli bars / water / energy drinks while riding.
    Split each day into sections - ie: 4 x 25 milers's not a race, so take it easy & enjoy the ride.

    Good luck, for you & your dad. If you have a 'just giving' or similar page, post it up here.
    Cycling weakly
  • unixnerd
    unixnerd Posts: 2,864
    Might be an idea to get a professional bike fitting. If your position is wrong you'll make muscles hurt for no good reason.

    Eat a banana an hour, the potassium reduces cramp.
    Wear gloves with a padded palm.
    Get clip in pedals and good cycling shoes.
    Sweaty shorts cause rashes, wash them every night. - Quality Binoculars at a Sensible Price.
    Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert 2012, Cannondale CAAD5,
    Marin Mount Vision (1997), Edinburgh Country tourer, 3 cats!
  • All the above advice is good, but i'd add:

    Don't use anything new in the final week of training before the ride. Shorts, energy drinks/gels/bars etc, recovery drinks, saddle, food.....anything else you can think of.....getting used to having the same food and drink and supplements inside your body is just as important as getting used to riding your bike for this kind of endurance event.

    The last thing you want is to start a new carb drink a couple of days before and it not react well with your body!

    apart from that......mental strength! Tell yourself time and time again why you are doing it and just keep pushing the pedals! Steady cadence and the miles will fall off

    Good luck!
  • alwaystoohot
    alwaystoohot Posts: 252
    IMHO the only way your're going to mke it to the end is to take a mass of carb and protein supplements before, during and after each day. You really need to understand the dietary challenge of keeping your body going to arrive at the end of each day.

    Good luck matey.
    'I started with nothing and still have most of it left.'
  • Bikefotos
    Bikefotos Posts: 59
    First of all good luck with the ride, the reason for doing it will carry you through.

    Some good advice given previously, just remember to break the day into segments as mentioned before. A 100 miles over 9/10 hours is only 10mph, no need to rush , take your time and take plenty of breaks. Eat plenty after the ride and rest well.

    Your bike should be fine for the ride through South Wales, where do you sail from? If you let me know the route I should be able to advise on any nasty hills, but most east to west are fine. Bit different if you go South to North or vice versa!!
  • AidanR
    AidanR Posts: 1,142
    After doing a couple of tours and a few centuries these would be my tips:

    You've got all day, so use it! 100 miles is pretty daunting, but two 50 milers or three 30 milers isn't so bad. Never ever push the pace, even if you're feeling good - you'll just pay for it the next day.

    Get comfortable - bib shorts, chamois cream, decent gloves, good position on the bike. And test it all beforehand! I'd also recommend picking up some pawpaw ointment for saddle sores.

    You haven't said if you'll be supported, or carrying your own gear. If you're going to be laden down with panniers I'd suggest low gearing. The cheapest way to lower your gears is with a new cassette. If riding supported then 27 or 28 out the back should be fine. If you've got panniers consider getting a mountain bike cassette and derailleur. Any Shimano 9 speed stuff will work with your Tiagra. Oh, and if you are carrying your own stuff, pack light. I mean seriously light. You'd be amazed how little you need.

    I'm not a big believer in energy drinks, bars, gels etc. as I tend to avoid sugar in my diet and prefer real food. Too much "sports nutrition" can wreak havoc with your bowels! However, use it if you need to. My preference would be to cycle 30 miles and then have a proper meal and a bit of a break off the bike. But keep something with you - a banana or similar - in case of bonking. A banana an hour to keep up your potassium level is going to be overkill if you're in the saddle 8 hours a day though!

    Hydration will be an issue - you'll probably need to be drinking at least a bottle of water an hour depending on the weather and how much you sweat.

    Warming up and stretching
    Don't stretch beforehand, stretch when you stop*. You won't even need to warm up - just get on the bike and keep an easy pace. However, you will benefit greatly from stretching when you stop as this will aid recovery. Quad, hip flexor, hamstring, glute and groin/hip stretches would be advisable. Possibly your back and shoulders too depending on how they feel. The longer the stretch the better - aim for 30 seconds. You may not want to stretch every time you stop, but make sure you do it at the end of the day at the least.

    As others have said, try to get in some long rides. One properly long ride a week (50 miles, building to 100 miles) should be supplemented with shorter, more intense rides during the week. Consider interval training - it's the best gain for the least time.

    I would also suggest doing some core work if you don't already - planks, L-sits etc. as this will help you maintain your posture and technique on the bike better.

    Enjoy yourself! Chat to people, admire the scenery, stop to take photos. Don't make it a chore.

    *Normal static stretches when cold are more likely to injure you than prevent injury, and actually weaken the muscles for 10 - 15 minutes. Warming up is only necessary if you're going to be doing something intensive. If you're cycling all day you'll be going at a warm-up pace anyway. The only reason to stretch before exercise is to increase mobility, i.e. increase your range of motion if you would otherwise struggle to get into the necessary position. This is unlikely for gentle cycling, and in any case is not achieved through static stretches for the reasons outlined above.
    Bike lover and part-time cyclist.
  • vorsprung
    vorsprung Posts: 1,953
    Taauriaa wrote:
    - what can I do in 4 weeks to get myself in the best possibly shape to complete this challenge?
    - what are the best things I can do with my technique in 4 weeks to make the experience tolerable?
    - is my bike going to be okay dealing with the hills we're going to face, esp in south wales - do I need lower gearing?

    Any advice would be really, really appreciated - it's for a good cause :)

    In 4 weeks you don't have time to "grow more muscles". Try and ride everyday. Try and fit in a 100 mile, hilly ride as "practice" before the real thing. Do not neglect resting. Two weeks before really go for it and over train. One week before basically have the week off. Just ride once, for a short distance but fast midweek.

    So days 14-7 before the event, go mad and ride as far and fast as possible everyday. Ignore the pain. 6-5 days before rest, do not ride. day 4 do a short (25 mile maybe?) ride at a brisk pace, including some hills. Day 3 until the event again rest, do not ride.

    Technique wise, just ride the bike get good at drinking from the bottle, pedalling at a high cadence etc

    Gearing, see what cassette you have on the rear of the bike. According to the Evans website, that bike has a SRAM PG950 9 speed 11-26. I would guess that a PG950 11-28 could be fitted instead. Ask your bikey mates and/or the local bike shop

    The other thing you can do is buy equipment. Yes! I am not recommending you train and suffer, I am telling you that part of the solution to your challenge can be bought for money.

    100 miles per day is quite a long time on the bike. What will suffer is your contact points, the hands, the feet and the backside.

    For the hands, ensure that you have some padded mitts. The cheap option is the "washable gel mitts" from inmotion products. The expensive option are the Specialized top of the range gel mitts. You could also fit gel padding sets under the bar tape.

    For the feet, ensure you have proper sports socks that will wick well. I have started using Sorbothane "full strike" shock absorbing insoles recently and they remove lots of road buzz

    For the backside, get some proper shorts. If you are on a budget then I'm sure that Decathon do some. Cream for your tender parts is also of vital importance. I tend to use Sudocreme nappy cream as it is designed for use on that region. The purpose of cream that is applied before you ride is to protect from sweat.

    If you want to do all your contact points a favour then fit some bigger tyres. Your bike comes with 23mm tyres. If you fitted some 25mm or 28mm tyres, all your contact points would benefit. Schwalbe Ultremos or Continental GP 4 Seasons are good and come in those sizes.
  • Thebigbee
    Thebigbee Posts: 570
    IMHO the only way your're going to mke it to the end is to take a mass of carb and protein supplements before, during and after each day. You really need to understand the dietary challenge of keeping your body going to arrive at the end of each day.

    Good luck matey.

    Alternatively what the pros have used for years - sulphate or some nice IPO or HGH!

    Seriously though 100 miles a day is a hell of a lot. Basically TDF standard.

    I'd be completely fked after one 100 miler and wouldn't be looking forward to the same the next day.

    I think you need to extend the time taken so more manageable rides are possible and have a rest day midway and maybe just do a leisurely 25-30 miles then just to get you closer to your target.

    You said that you did 150 miles in 10 days - 15 miles a day. You need to be at least doubling that but having a full day off say every 3 days.

    How are you getting back from your destination?

    Best of luck anyway!!
  • AidanR
    AidanR Posts: 1,142
    TdF standard? Don't be ridiculous.

    100 miles a day for 6 days is manageable so long as you're reasonably fit. The key will be mental strength.
    Bike lover and part-time cyclist.
  • aripallaris
    aripallaris Posts: 294
    do loads of leg work with really high repetitions. squats no weight, about 50 -100 a few times a day. u can do them at home.just squat up and down. get some calf raises in too (use a step). thats another area that will take a big hit. make sure u stretch a lot. the more you work your muscle the tighter they become. get them nice and flexible before hand.

    small light jogs and some bike rides too will help get ur cardio up. swims will be good for overall body and have minimal impact of joints.

    if u have access to a heart rate monitor use it to keep your cycling/work rate a manageable level. its very easy to go hard and fast too early. last thing you want is to bomb half way through.
  • AidanR
    AidanR Posts: 1,142

    The only off-bike work I'd be bothering with in such a short time-frame is core work, and then only if he hasn't done much of that before.
    Bike lover and part-time cyclist.
  • vorsprung
    vorsprung Posts: 1,953
    do loads of leg work with really high repetitions. squats no weight, about 50 -100 a few times a day. u can do them at home.just squat up and down. get some calf raises in too (use a step). thats another area that will take a big hit. make sure u stretch a lot. the more you work your muscle the tighter they become. get them nice and flexible before hand.

    small light jogs and some bike rides too will help get ur cardio up. Swims will be good for overall body and have minimal impact of joints.

    I don't agree with this advice. As the OP only has 4 weeks any training should be specific. There is no time for raising general fitness and muscle building.
  • AidanR
    AidanR Posts: 1,142
    Wait, how the hell did that happen? I was saying +1 to vorsprung's post that has now appeared after mine (!).
    Bike lover and part-time cyclist.
  • Thebigbee
    Thebigbee Posts: 570
    AidanR wrote:
    TdF standard? Don't be ridiculous.

    100 miles a day for 6 days is manageable so long as you're reasonably fit. The key will be mental strength.

    I am not being ridiculous - they do about 100+ miles a day - so it is the same standard.

    Yes - they do it for a lot longer but I think you have missed the point I was making.... :lol:
  • AidanR
    AidanR Posts: 1,142
    Yes, and jogging 100m down the road is Olympic standard :wink:
    Bike lover and part-time cyclist.
  • Frustratingly, my email stopped reminding me about all your helpful posts, but I've been catching up on them just now and I really am so grateful for all the useful tips you've provided. Definitely a lot for me to take away for my first few forays into the world of cycling!

    Anyway, I finished the bike ride on Sunday: 575 miles in 6 days, averaging just under 15mph the whole way, riding in a group of 8 and sleeping in tents! Quite the adventure - and I am definitely a better cyclist as a result.

    Toughest day was fourth day in Wales - 8 x grade 5 hills and 4 x grade 4s spread out over 90 miles, followed by a night ferry to Ireland, no sleep and straight back on the bike at 7am the next morning!

    I don't want to bore everyone with the details of how I prepared and how I fared on the trip, unless you think it will be useful for other newbies. Happy to share details of people think useful.

    But - big thank you again to all :)
  • AidanR
    AidanR Posts: 1,142
    Good work!
    Bike lover and part-time cyclist.
  • Peddle Up!
    Peddle Up! Posts: 2,040
    Top man! An impressive achievement with an impressive average. I'd certainly like to hear more and I'm sure it would benefit other riders too.
    Purveyor of "up" :)
  • cougie
    cougie Posts: 22,512
    Sounds a good challenge - but I'm sure you can do it.

    I'd get a watch with a timer on that you can set to beep every 20 mins or so. When the watch beeps - take a bite or a swig of energy drink. You need to start feeding from the very beginning. And take it steady. Fast sprints will be paid for later.

    How are you travelling ? Support vehicle I hope ? Its harder if you have to carry your luggage.

    Good luck !
  • Well, here's how I did it:

    Prep was very focused because of limited time:

    I had 35 days from buying my bike to starting the ride.


    First 7 days I was just getting used to the bike and did 3 rides of around 30 miles each - easy ones, round Richmond Park / Hyde Park, etc. On days I didn't ride I did at least one other form of exercise: either a spin session or a swim. One rest day.

    Next 7 days I did 5 rides of 25 to 45 miles each - including one challenging ride over north downs with some tough hills. Speed was irrelevant, just aimed at finishing it. One day I worked out twice - a ride in the morning and a spin class in the evening. I took one day rest and the day I didn't ride I took a swim.

    Next 7 days I only did 2 rides - a tough 45 mile ride and a 23 mile mountain bike ride. I took one rest day and on all other days I did a spin class in the morning and a swim in the evening.

    Next 7 days I did 3 rides of about 20 miles each, did 4 spin classes, 2 swims and took one rest day at end of week.

    Last 7 days, right after my rest day, I did a tough 100-mile ride over north downs. Then I rested the whole of the week leading up to the challenge - supplementing with a few easy swims and lots of stretching.


    I was anal about my diet throughout the 5 weeks leading up to the challenge. I didn't drink any alcohol, eat any fast food or sweets. I lived off low GI carbs and protein, with fruit and veg round the edges. I made sure I got protein and carbs into me quickly after exercise as well as lots of water with electrolytes. Favourite meal was breakfast: banana, protein powder, porridge oats, natural yoghurt and milk blended into a smoothie plus a strong black coffee before training.

    During longer training sessions, I preferred to eat oatmeal bars (flapjacks / Mule bars) on the bike, plus one bottle of water with carb powder and one bottle just water.


    In bed by 10.30, up at 6 to train first thing.

    During the ride

    I started off riding in easy gears with a high cadence, much higher than my fellow cyclists. I just didn't have the bike fitness to maintain speed in the heavier gears. All the spin classes I'd done had prepared me for high cadence spinning anyway. As the ride progressed, I got more and more bike fit until I almost reversed my riding style - cruising at 20mph on the flat in heavy gears, lower cadence.

    Our route was flattish - which helped (one or two grade 5s each day) apart from one day getting across Wales. Here we hit inclines of 16 to 20% and we all suffered. Again, my interval training in the spin classes helped me through this - plus a vicious 25% slope I encountered every week on my training in the north downs that I eventually got up. Knowing I could get up 25% meant I refused to let the 16 to 20% climbs beat me. If I hadn't seen slopes like this before I may not have been mentally prepared for their severity. I guess the lesson here is to know your enemy!! It was here more than any where that thinking about my Dad helped me through it. Strangely though, this was by far my favourite day.

    In terms of nutrition, we were very well looked after. We stopped every 25 to 30 miIes to replenish carbs and water from the support van. I lived off flapjacks, carb/electrolyte powder in the water and bananas. Other meals - proper food - LOTS of it - we ate an enormous amount, not always hugely healthy, but certainly with an eye on getting glycogen levels restored.

    Post ride ritual

    Straight off the bike at the end of the day, we would neck a decent amount of protein recovery drink. I was one of the few riders who didn't immediately head to the pub. I did about 20 minutes of long stretching down, holding all stretches for 30 to 40 seconds each. I stayed off the alcohol totally until the last few days

    We were lucky enough to have spas / swimming pools lined up at the end of every day. These proved invaluable for loosening up tension built during the day. I would do a few lengths in the pool then unwind in the hot tub before giving myself a leg massage. On tough days, I'd massage tiger balm into my legs and this seemed to help recovery by morning time.

    Other bits and bobs

    I did pick up some niggles in training. Some achilles pain that I remedied by moving my cleats back and some other aches and pains that I just had to exercise through and they eventually disappeared - probably just my body getting used to new movements.

    On the ride my knee gave me some problems. I'd had ligament surgery 2 years ago. I just necked anti-inflammatory ibuprofen and this would disappear fairly quickly.

    I got bad chafing early on, despite using LOTS of chamois cream everywhere and wearing double padding. The almost magical cure for this was Sudocrem - sorted me out almost overnight and will be top of the kit list next time.

    Kept tyre pressures near max every day.

    Ok - I think that's all the major stuff. I hope this is useful to any other newbies like me thinking about doing a biggish challenge. A friend told me during training: 'the more pain you feel now, the more you'll enjoy the ride' and this certainly proved to be true. Hobbling into spin classes is not fun, but it would have been a lot worse to tank half way up a Welsh hill miles from home!!