Long distance cycling not only helps build strength and endurance, but it also makes for a rewarding day out.
But planning is key. Countless cyclists have found themselves in a heap of trouble having not fully prepared for the demands of a long training ride.
If you’re worried this could be you, fear not. We’ve put together some top tips to ensure you’re ready for whatever the route throws at you.
Plus, we’ve spoken to Olympian, road race champion, and our ambassador Lizzie Deignan. She’s given us her insights into what she does before, during, and after a long-distance ride to ensure it’s a success.
Table of contents
1. Plan your route
Spontaneous rides are fun – but if you’re cycling or longer than a couple of hours, make sure you know your route in advance. Study the maps so you have a good idea of the ride you’re about to take on. A punishing climb or rough terrain should never be a surprise if you can help it.
It’s also advisable to check the forecast before you leave. Depending on your location, the weather can change unexpectedly, so don’t get caught out.
Lizzie Deignan agrees:
“Depending on what you want to get out of your ride, it’s worth planning your route – especially if you’re training and want to get something specific out of your ride such as hill training, but even if you want to ride a certain distance.
“Equally, if you feel a bit nervous of busy roads, you can ensure that your route includes plenty of open spaces or areas with limited traffic. It’s also a lot less hassle if you’ve planned your route in advance and don’t have to keep stopping to check where you are!
“It makes it a lot more enjoyable and you hopefully won’t get lost! It’s worth putting your route in to a bike computer if you have one. If not, there are lots of apps for your phone that can help.”
2. Fuel properly
This tip might seem obvious, but work out what foods help your body to perform. Everyone is different, so consistency is helpful here. If you usually start the day with a bowl of porridge, don’t suddenly switch to eggs on toast the morning of a long cycle – it may not agree with you, and you won’t feel at your best.
Make sure you also take plenty of water with you and something to snack on during the ride to keep your energy levels up. Some great cycling foods include bananas, flapjacks, and energy bars. This healthy flapjack recipe is simple to make and will see you through many a gruelling uphill climb.
“Fueling properly is vital for any long ride. The only meal that stays the same for me every day is breakfast. I always start with a big bowl of porridge, made with oats, chia seeds, coconut oil, milk, almond milk, and raisins or seasonal berries. I always have a double espresso to wake me up too! Then I make sure I eat during any ride over 2 hours long.
“I eat every half an hour – I find it easier to digest food when I take smaller portions little and often. I usually eat flapjacks or bananas or a croissant at the cafe stop in training and then save energy products for racing. Make sure your recovery food is right too – I’ll usually have lunch as soon as I get in off the bike – a go-to would be salad and omelette with some carbs.”
3. Stay safe
Having the right equipment is essential for every rider, no matter the distance. Wearing a helmet and attaching lights to your bike saves lives, so don’t risk riding without these two crucial things. While you’re on the road, make eye contact with anyone that could potentially pull out in front of you, try and anticipate their movements, and ride in tight lines.
Check out our Pedal Safe campaign for more tips on how to stay safe while cycling on the road.
“Make sure you follow the rules of the road and respect other road users. Be visible at all times on the bike – wear visible clothing and use lights (even in the day). Don’t hug the edge of the road – there will be more potholes and grates there, and it will make it more tempting for cars to nip past you.”
4. Prepare for emergencies
At a bare minimum, take a pump, an inner tube, a multi-tool, waterproof, and a self-adhesive puncture pack. Always make sure you have a fully charged mobile with you too, in case you run into trouble and need to make an emergency call.
Carrying a portable battery pack like this Anker one (£20) will give you peace of mind that you won’t run low. Plus, you’ll have more battery life in the bank to take photos along the route.
5. Get comfortable
Even if you feel at ease when you first get on the bike, bear in mind that after the first few miles, things can start to chafe, rub, and pinch. It’s therefore essential that you’re as comfortable as possible before you set off – because it will only go downhill from there! A good pair of padded shorts will save you hours of pain.
You should also make sure you’re wearing tight clothes that make you as streamlined as possible. This will stop you from becoming a flag and making everything far more effort than you bargained for! Also, make sure you have clothes for all eventualities – especially in the UK, where a rain jacket is a must.
We selected our favourite waterproof jackets for men in this article.
“It’s vital to be comfy on the bike – ideally with a proper bike fit before long training blocks, but if not then at least make sure the saddle is adjusted and is comfortable and that you get no knee pain from your shoe or pedal fit.
“Make sure you break in new equipment on shorter rides – don’t get a new bike, shoes, or pedals and go straight out and ride for five hours. That’s a sure route to injury.”
6. Listen to your body
Lastly, go at your own pace and don’t use up all your reserves on the first couple of hills – you probably won’t recover for the rest of the ride, and it’ll be a miserable one as a result!
If you feel you can’t push yourself, that’s fine. Every day is different; what you achieved last weekend might not feel right today – listen to what your body tells you and trust that it knows best.
“If you start to feel a niggle then don’t push it, always side with caution and take it easy or cut short your ride. You may lose three days’ training and feel lazy for not training with a small pain, but you could save yourself having to have weeks off the bike with a developed injury.”
Now you’re equipped with all the knowledge you need to make sure your next long-distance cycle ride is a success, don’t forget to cover yourself with specialist cycling insurance. Longer rides naturally come with a greater risk of injury and damage to your bike and accessories – so don’t leave yourself unprotected against any issues that may occur. You can get a buildable, bespoke quote in minutes here.