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2/3Hrs Plus Legs Give Up

jonnyb_123jonnyb_123 Posts: 8
edited March 2016 in Road general
I've been discussing this with my cycling friend for some time, but neither of us have come to a definitive conclusion as to what is going wrong.

I am a fairly regular cyclist, 2-3times a week although this is sometimes weather dependant. I also run 2-3times a week too, so often I cycle on days after I've ran. My issue is that cycles that last any longer thatn 2/3hrs my legs effectively give up.

I find that I get major burning (to the point I have to slow/stop pedalling) even on the gentlest of slopes for any cycles I ride for over 2/3hrs. I've read up on "bonking" but cardiovascularly I feel totally fine, but my legs don't want to know. I can limp by on the flats, but throw in an incline and im in the lowest gear at 70rpm.

I always take on plenty of water (usually a bottle an hour roughly), and am eating bananas / gels throughout the ride. Usually have 1 water bottle, and 1 salts/sugar type isotonic drink on the bike). We do often stop for a quick bite to eat on longer rides (circa 100km and beyond), and I do find getting back into the swing of it particularly difficult. Is this bonking? or am I doing something fundamentally wrong?

It's frustrating as I would like to enjoy longer rides, but I tend to hate the last 30-40km and slow my friend down massively. Any help would be great!


  • I'm a regular cyclist (2/3times a week) and a runner (2/3times a week). This often means cycling on days after a run.

    My problem is on longer rides (circa 100km + beyond) which tend to be 4hrs in the saddle, I find the last hour or 2 awful in my legs. They burn insanely with an gentle incline after the 2/3hr mark. I initially put this down to fuelling, and it was me "bonking", but I feel like i fuel well.

    I set off with 2 bottles of water, one of which has an isotonic powder in. I also usually take 1 or 2 bananas. Most likely we'll stop en route for a small snack (sandwich usually) and to refill bottles.
    I also go out with gels, and usually have one towards the back end, often when i feel [email protected]

    It's frustrating me, as every long ride 100km+ i end up hating the last 30-40km, and slow my friend up hugely.

    Cardio-wise I feel fine, but the burn in my legs is agony to the point i slow/stop pedalling.

    Any help on what is happening would be greatly appreciated!
  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    Bin the water. Take two bottles of energy drink. Isotonic probably isn't enough energy in for you ? Its weaker compared to the stronger energy drinks ?

    I'd not bother with gels on the bike - you can handle proper food on the go - an energy bar or so = but you might find that the energy drinks help you.

    Are you possibly just not fit enough on the bike and heading out too strongly ? Draft your mate for the early part and see if you feel better from that.
  • mrfpbmrfpb Posts: 4,483
    Different strokes for different folks. I take gels with me as I find eating more than a small cake makes me feel ill when pushing hard on the last leg of a long ride, energy bars don't go down well on the move either. I also take one water and one electrolyte drink on the bike, and this suits me better than energy drinks. However I am trying to lose weight, and tend to start rides in a fasted state, and start taking gels about an hour in.

    Personally I find it hard to do a ride the day after pushing myself on a run, and I rarely run more than 5km, but it tires my legs in a way that cycling doesn't. The other way around is fine, I can run 5km the day after a 50km bike ride without a problem. Maybe you need to think about planning rest days more effectively?
  • BobbinogsBobbinogs Posts: 4,841
    Bin the gels on a 2-3 hour ride with your mate. Gels are for races or the sharp end of a tough long ride when you have had enough of eating for 6 hours and yet still have the odd big hill to get over.

    Why not start by doing some endurance riding? I find it best done on one's own as it is easier to ensure that everything is stable. Try to find your zone 2 rate (the level that keeps you moving and you can sustain conversation but it is a little effort). Then, keep this fairly stable on a flattish ride for 2 hours and see how you feel at the end. Work on gradually increasing this and the endurance will come but it is something that will take a little while. When you can comfortably do 3-4 hours in z2, try a z2 ride for 2 hours but in the last hour empty the tank (without going Frank Spencer) and go from there.

    Riding z2 should mean you are able to eat things like Bananas, Flapjacks and Nakd Bars on the bike (a couple per hour after the first hour will suffice), along with the odd bottle of water.
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Endurance comes through a process of adaptation and it may we be that you're overloading your systems or not giving yourself enough time to recover, particularly if you're doing a run before you bike as you're still emptying your muscles of glycogen. As you get fitter your economy / endurance improves so it may simply that you're not taking on enough energy to replenish yourself
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • ddraverddraver Posts: 22,060
    To be honest, it just sounds like you need to do more long rides. Now that spring is just about springing, get some maps out or search for some routes in magazines and stuff and go see the world in the sun. Start well within yourself for the first 50km and enjoy it. If your mate is the competitive type, find another one who is happy to ride for the sake of the ride rather than the race. Maybe plan a coffee stop halfway round. For a lot of us amateurs I think that a lot of the secret to riding further is just getting used to spending time on the bike. Speed/distance is not important, just be out and cycling for 4, 5, 6 hrs etc.

    Possibly you re not fully recovered after the run, but that's an easy thing to check one weekend (i.e., don't run or at least dont do a hard run)
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • kajjalkajjal Posts: 3,380
    As above running then cycling for four hours is likely part of the cause.

    Other possibilities are going too fast initially and not pacing yourself.
    Your bike setup may need adjusting.
    Dehydration, but you seem to have that OK.

    Generally it is muscle fatigue that causes it.
  • svettysvetty Posts: 1,904
    In simple terms - and meant teasingly rather than critically - you need to MTFU :wink:

    In other words get used to progressively longer rides until your body adapts. Don't worry too much about the training mumbo-jumbo, just do steady long rides and fuel yourself properly. The muscles will gradually adapt until you can ride all day at a sensible pace without pain. Of course, if you race up hills to to keep up with better riders you will suffer
    FFS! Harden up and grow a pair :D
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,409
    Pacing is probably an issue if most of your rides are shorter. You'll start off at your normal 40 mile pace (especially if your friend is at least as fast as you) and then burn out once you've got significantly beyond that distance. Doing more longer rides would sort it, but even if you don't do that you'd probably find that you could cope OK with the occasional longer ride if you paced it more slowly. Thing is, it's quite difficult to do that as your legs will be itching to hammer it up the hills in the first part of the ride..

    One solution is to go with a slower friend. That'll force you to adopt a pace you can maintain for longer. I used to find this a really good way of getting longer rides in, as I get bored riding more slowly on my own. Only thing is you'll drive the friend mad by still having fresh legs at the end.. :)
  • 97th choice97th choice Posts: 2,305
    Are you using a HRM? They are pretty useful to help pace yourselves on endurance rides. I'm training for a 200k event and have found that I can push on well past 100k as long as I fuel sensibly and don't push into the higher zones.
    Too-ra-loo-ra, too-ra-loo-rye, aye

    Giant Trance
    Radon ZR 27.5 Race
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  • stueysstueys Posts: 1,332
    Have you tried a bike fit? It's amazing the difference incorrect position can make, especially for a longish ride.

    If position is good then it's down to fitness, try doing sweet spot intervals and slowly increasing duration of intervals. It's a great way to grow aerobic fitness and muscular endurance.
  • pastryboypastryboy Posts: 1,385
    Doesn't sound like you're getting enough calories in. You want something in the region of 1g carbs per kg of bodyweight per hour.

    I personally don't have any problem with running/cycling on alternate days. Immune system might take a hit but legs are always fine.
  • ddraverddraver Posts: 22,060
    Really though? Unless you re not eating before you go out, does anyone think a sandwich mid ride won't be enough fuel?

    Obviously it's hard to tell without meeting you but I struggle to believe that the solution is just a cliff bar at about 50 odd km, especially as you have a gel en-route as it is.

    Stueys may have a point in the other thread about bike fitting, maybe have a look at a few "Standards" to see if you re a long way out on any of them GCN do some good vids on setting your position up.

    Keep the faith though, If I can get there anyone can! :oops:
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 15,213
    That sounds familiar as I was in the same boat.
    I was grinding out too big a gear and suffering from leg muscle fatigue. Try spinning smaller gears.
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    Veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • davep1davep1 Posts: 796
    "Major burning " sounds like lactate build up to me. When you stop, how long do you stop for? I found 10-15 minutes is ok for me, any longer and I hate that starting up feeling. From what you said, the legs giving up going up hill after 2-3 hours sounded like lack of food but you then said you eat plenty.
    Try NOT running the day before a ride (or maybe 2) and see what difference that makes.
  • I seemed to have posted this twice, so apologies there.

    As for bike fit I recently bought a new specialized, which I had setup in store when I collected it, so I'm pretty confident fit is good.

    It could well be a pace thing. My friend finds longer days on the saddle much easier and loves hammering the hills. We used to be similar abilities but I'm thinking he's now surpassed me for the longer rides.
  • pastryboypastryboy Posts: 1,385
    ddraver wrote:
    Really though? Unless you re not eating before you go out, does anyone think a sandwich mid ride won't be enough fuel?

    I do around 6-700 calories per hour. I need a good hit of sugar to go beyond two hours if I'm putting in decent effort. Have blown up/felt nauseous many times and learned my lesson.
  • motogullmotogull Posts: 323
    I think as I get older I must avoid routine. I went for a small run (first for over a year) and it was murder yet 10 days previously I did a 50 mile ride with no dramas. I can only think my body didn't know what was going on. I'm also struggling with hills, but that has plenty of reasons why.
  • bristolpetebristolpete Posts: 2,255
    Cycling weekly aka the comic once said that the weekend warriors, people who ride once maybe twice a week are the ones who feel the most pain. I concur as a much better, smoother, fitter, stronger rider thus less pain with 2 x 11 mile each way commutes four times a week. 80 in and out miles a week weather withstanding, this brings your threshold up nicely and helps remove what you describe. However, as others say, might be nutrition, might be recovery. But I urge you to buy a foam roller and start using that.
  • cyclecliniccycleclinic Posts: 6,865
    It took me a long time to able to ride more than 2-3hrs without difficulty. I used to think it was carrying energy drinks e.t.c but now I am not so sure. Having electroyltes is useful but only if you are drinking. At this time of year I can go 3 hrs without a drop of fluids. I ride 4-5hrs on minimal food (one gel and maybe a bar or banana). What has changed is my mileage and the fact I took minimal food for long rides and something changed last year for the better.

    So how you get to where I am I am not sure it just sort of happened but going the un fun stage of bonking and legs failing is part of it I think. Spent a long time doing that. Pacing yourself is important. I have learnt what sort of efforts I can manage for the length of rides I am doing.

    training your body to burn fats is the key and it does not happen over night. and the process is uncomfortable to say the least. -wheel building and other stuff.
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 15,213
    Repeat thread, repeat answer.
    PBlakeney wrote:
    That sounds familiar as I was in the same boat.
    I was grinding out too big a gear and suffering from leg muscle fatigue. Try spinning smaller gears.
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    Veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,409
    The pacing and the doing more long rides are partially the same thing. When you've done enough longer rides a muscle memory takes over. You know how far you've got to go and you almost automatically select a different metabolic gear. Maybe it's a faster, smoother cadence with fewer accelerations that burns more fat and less carbs, but you are not thinking about that as such, you just let your legs do what feels right, knowing the distance you have to go.

    I'm often surprised on longer rides that my average speed and even average power end up being only a little less than they are on shorter, more all-out rides, even though it feels much easier when starting out. On shorter rides you put in a lot more effort to go only a little bit faster overall (although doubtless you are much faster on certain sections, e.g. up short hills).
  • ddraverddraver Posts: 22,060
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,471
    Given that you do have issues, don't bin the gels. They really can make the difference when needed.
  • adlopaadlopa Posts: 37
    I experienced much the same problem late last year, which for me was a sudden drop-off in fitness — I was very used to long, fast rides. After a number of other symptoms developed in the meantime, I'm now being tested for iron deficiency, so don't ignore potential medical explanations — visit your GP.
  • 2-3 hours riding doesn't need food. Practise starting your rides fasted and not eating till you get back. You may bonk on the first go but your body will adapt. Only TdF riders need to feed every hour so unless you are pushing 400+W the save the money for the next bike.
    Definitely do the zone 2 pacing. This gets your body used to working at that steady aerobic rate. As you practise you will get faster. You may be unpleasantly surprised how slow zone 2 is to begin with which shows how you have been trying to be anaerobic for 3 hours previously.
  • It does sound like I've got to take a few steps back to take a step forward, but if that's what it will take then hey ho!

    I'll look into the HR zone 2 side of things. I've also got a power meter (all the gear, no idea haha), so are there any tips for using this over zone 2 training? FTP from turbo tests is 254W if that helps.
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 15,213
    No doubt someone will come along with science, but I find limiting myself to 85% works if I am pacing myself.
    So, 216W max for you on a long ride.
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    Veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • paul2718paul2718 Posts: 471
    I think you need to promote recovery, so on shorter rides make big efforts interspersed with relative dawdling.

    Long steady rides have their place, but it sounds like that's pretty much what you're doing now and failing. So shake it up rather than repeat.

  • OP, when you run, I presume ou aim for a reverse split - why would it doo thopposite on a bike? IMO backing off 10% on the first 1/2 of the ride will give more than 20% back towards the end..
    Tif thou want to be scientific about it, take the moving average of the whole of your last ride. Aim to not beat that for the first 75% others your next ride. Ramp up towards the end - is the total average faster?
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