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I can't increase the distance I can ride

I've been riding bikes on and off all my life, the peak was when I was racing mountain bikes in the 1990's. After meeting my girlfriend in December last year, who enjoys cycling, I have tried to get back into it on a more regular basis than just a couple of times a month.

My girlfriend is progressing nicely, and can cycle on her own much further than I can, but for a few months, my rides have left me limited to a range of 20km. As i get to around 18km, my legs weaken and at the 20-22km stage, I struggle with any sort of gradient. I just lose all the strength in my legs. Up to that point, I can push hard, climb reasonably well, very little burn in my legs. But I just can't extend my range.

Any ideas/tips?
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  • roadhog said:

    I've been riding bikes on and off all my life, the peak was when I was racing mountain bikes in the 1990's. After meeting my girlfriend in December last year, who enjoys cycling, I have tried to get back into it on a more regular basis than just a couple of times a month.

    My girlfriend is progressing nicely, and can cycle on her own much further than I can, but for a few months, my rides have left me limited to a range of 20km. As i get to around 18km, my legs weaken and at the 20-22km stage, I struggle with any sort of gradient. I just lose all the strength in my legs. Up to that point, I can push hard, climb reasonably well, very little burn in my legs. But I just can't extend my range.

    Any ideas/tips?

    Plan a 30-35km ride with a cafe stop at 20km.

    After a couple/few weeks up the distance to the cafe stop and up the distance from the cafe stop to home based on how you react.
  • CargobikeCargobike Posts: 272
    How's your diet?
    Both pre-ride, during your ride and after
    You need to be putting enough calories in, to then burn them off, even if you only do 20km.
    It takes time for the body to acclimate to the rigours put on it and everyone is different. What works for your girlfriend won't neccessarily work for you.
    I'm surprised that you are getting any real burn in your legs over such short distances. Perhaps you aren't as fit as you think you are. Little and often is far, far better than longer rides occassionally.
  • brundonbianchibrundonbianchi Posts: 328
    edited 8 September
    If you really want to improve, there are some nice training plan resources available on line from the likes of British Cycling / training peaks. Pick one that suits your needs and follow that.

    https://www.cyclingweekly.com/fitness/training/cycling-training-plans-153049

    This is a good example of a 10 week beginners training plan. Invest in a heart rate monitor, and something like a Garmin edge that can analyse it, work with the zones it works out ( it’s even better with power meters ).
  • roadhogroadhog Posts: 5
    I don't know if I would describe myself as unfit, I stop cycling purely because I haven't got the strength in my legs. I have been able to walk the 6km home after my legs gave up, and the 6km was almost all uphill, but I simply couldn't spin the pedals to cover the same distance. My diet and eating habits have definitely changed. My girlfriend is slim and vegan, one meal and two snacks each day. I have always been a big eater, 3 good meals a day, with meat. I am losing weight, and feeling better for it, but i'm lacking muscle stamina and also not sleeping as well as I did. I have a garmin edge, and somewhere (just moved house) I have a HRM. I'll keep slugging away and see what happens.
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  • roadhog said:

    also not sleeping as well as I did.

    If I sleep badly, then riding any kind of distance can be a struggle.
    Riding until you can't ride any more, then not getting any sleep isn't going to help.

    Do you know why you're not sleeping? Might be something to try and get sorted out.

  • roadhogroadhog Posts: 5
    I've had a terrible year, lost a house to a fire which also killed my dogs, been assaulted, moved house 4 times, been in court twice to give evidence, started a new business, etc, etc. Its not until I typed this out that I understood what my friends meant when they said they are surprised i'm still standing.
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  • CargobikeCargobike Posts: 272
    roadhog said:

    I've had a terrible year, lost a house to a fire which also killed my dogs, been assaulted, moved house 4 times, been in court twice to give evidence, started a new business, etc, etc. Its not until I typed this out that I understood what my friends meant when they said they are surprised i'm still standing.

    That's a lot of plates to spin there roadhog.
    Perhaps concentrating on rest and recuperation would be more beneficial than worrying about how far you can cycle in the short-term.
    As the saying goes "Rome wasn't built in a day".
    Give it time and it will come.
  • steve_sordysteve_sordy Posts: 1,982
    Do not worry about distance. Just do what you can to ensure that you enjoy the ride. The bike fitness and stamina will come.
  • Cargobike said:

    roadhog said:

    I've had a terrible year, lost a house to a fire which also killed my dogs, been assaulted, moved house 4 times, been in court twice to give evidence, started a new business, etc, etc. Its not until I typed this out that I understood what my friends meant when they said they are surprised i'm still standing.

    That's a lot of plates to spin there roadhog.
    Perhaps concentrating on rest and recuperation would be more beneficial than worrying about how far you can cycle in the short-term.
    As the saying goes "Rome wasn't built in a day".
    Give it time and it will come.
    +1
    Just go out riding and have a good time, even if it's only a short ride.
    Being out and enjoying yourself will probably do you a world of good (and help with the sleeping).
  • With no talk of terrain gradient, power or HRM data as regards to this point of exhaustion around 20Km, the first thing that springs to mind is...

    Your girlfriend is dictating the pace of these rides, but you have a lower FTP and a considerably lower W/Kg threshold up hills.

    Are you using the whole gear range of your bike, using an easy gear to climb up inclines with a cadence of ideally ~80+rpm?
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  • nickicenickice Posts: 1,899
    I had a similar problem when touring in that after three or four days my legs were gone and need at least two days off. It was down to pushing myself too hard which can be hard to resist. Have you tried going at a slower slower pace ?
  • webboowebboo Posts: 2,673
    Given the OP is struggling to ride just over 12 miles. The talk of heart rate monitors and power meters is rather over cooking it. As nickice says try riding a bit slower.
  • slowmartslowmart Posts: 3,932
    edited 9 September
    Coopsters & Steve Sordies’s advice is spot on but I’d abstain from cake and just have a beverage. TheOP’s narrative of weakening legs and struggling with gradients is a common occurrence for cyclists across a broad spectrum of cyclists and is a consequence of pushing your current boundaries.

    Leg ache is not unusual nor is struggling with inclines, it’s relative and subjective to each of us.

    Just keep on riding and start to get use to some discomfort and you’ll find that the onset of fatigue takes longer to set in

    Unfortunately the phrase “ I just can’t” is already defining what you can achieve which needs to be reset for fitness improvements to gain traction

    And God created the bicycle, so that man could use it as a means for work and to help him negotiate life's complicated journey.
  • mpattsmpatts Posts: 961
    Sounds like you've got a lot on.

    My advice, riding bikes is fun. Try to ignore the distance and get out there and turn the pedals. You'll soon be going past previous distances.

    I remember one of the first rides I did coming back to cycling, at about mile 13 (with 2 miles to go) I felt I couldn't turn another pedal, I was in tears and wanted the broom wagon to come and get me. But, I didn't give up and kept going. I can now ride basically as long as I fancy (longest ride a smidge over 200 miles). Loving it is key .
    Insert bike here:
  • steve_sordysteve_sordy Posts: 1,982
    Except for very short bursts, don't try to climb when standing on the pedals. Remain seated and let the saddle take your weight. That way your legs only have to power the bike not carry your weight as well!

    As N0bodyOfTheGoat said, just spin.
  • I've had three lots of 'major' surgery in the last three years and when my kids wanted to go out for a 'big ride' on their bikes, with me and Mrs Y, I was very nervous to say the least.

    Nervous about my insides holding up, nervous about not having been on my bike for maybe two years and nervous about the potential shame of having to quit before them.

    Well, we went to the New Forest - nice easy trails and I forgot about all the worries as we were all enjoying the ride. The kids loved it - no cars, no massive hills - and before I knew it we'd covered about 10 miles before our lunch stop. We did 16 in the end. The kids are 9 and 11 and I'm 52.

    So yeah, just ride, enjoy it, don't worry like I did and don't give it up, you'll miss it for sure. I didn't know how much until that comeback ride.

    Your stamina will come back, I'm sure. For more reassurance, give your GP a call and get a well-person checkup. They are still seeing people in the surgeries, but you'll need to mask up.
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