How to Train for a Long Bike Ride

Cycling requires a high level of endurance training before you can successfully tackle a long-distance ride. According to the Sports Fitness Advisor, cyclists training for long-distance rides should push themselves to the limits to prepare. You should reach your VO2 max, or maximum oxygen consumption capabilities, during training to evaluate your ability to successfully complete a long bike ride. There are a number of steps you can take to make your efforts worthwhile.

A close-up of three cyclists riding bikes on the side of the road.
Credit: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Step 1

Include interval training two to three times per week as you prepare for a long ride to increase your endurance and build your aerobic capacity. While you need to take long training rides, frequent interval training should be interspersed in your schedule. Ride hard for three minutes and then rest for three minutes. Continue with this pattern for 30 to 60 minutes.

Step 2

Train until you reach your lactate threshold at least twice per week. The lactate threshold indicates your anaerobic capacity. Typically cyclists reach their lactate threshold at close to 85 to 95 percent of their maximum heart rate. Use a power meter to track your performance. Hit the threshold and maintain the strokes for 10 minutes and then rest for two minutes. At least once a week ride at your maximum anaerobic capability for a solid 20 to 30 minutes.

Step 3

Perform resistance strength building exercises every other day to build muscle endurance. Concentrate on your leg muscles by doing squats and lunges while holding onto free weights. Do 50 repetitions of each. Use leg machines at the gym set to weights comparable to the amount of resistance you use while pedaling to best replicate your long-distance ride.

Step 4

Stretch after every training session to increase your flexibility and avoid stiffness. Stretch your glutes, hamstrings and legs by sitting on the floor and bending your legs to pull each muscle group. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds to get the maximum benefit. Stand and pull each leg behind you and hold. Lean against a wall with your legs behind you and stretch the backs of your legs.

Step 5

Continue training in the winter months if you live in a colder climate by cross country skiing and riding indoor on a stationary bike.

Things You'll Need

  • Free weights

  • Training goals

Tips

Sign up for a race in the future so that you can have a training goal to which you can aim for. Give yourself enough time to reach the entire distance during training before you tackle a race or competition. Train for at least 12 weeks if you are new to long distance cycling.

Warning

According to Ultra Cycling trainers, you should listen closely to your body when you are in training for a long ride to avoid injury and to determine which areas need the most work. For example if you can only maintain your lactate threshold for 15 minutes, then make a note to prepare your ride accordingly. If you get a cramp, stop and rest to ease the discomfort. Pushing beyond your body's capacities can result in serious injuries that may preclude you from taking on the long rides.

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