Ten things you didn’t know about training for a long ride

Many of us have targets that help motivate us or give us a little direction over the winter months, whether they’re having a go at racing, riding a first Century or tackling a Sportive. With the first day of spring finally upon us, now is a great time to take a fresh look at our fitness and plans for 2018, so we can make sure we’re we not only moving towards those goals but on track to absolutely smash them.

When it comes to training for a long bike ride or Sportive (and when I talk about long, I mean long for you) there are few shortcuts so you’ll need to commit to time in the saddle if you want to enjoy your target event rather than simply survive it. With a wealth of downloadable training plans scattered across the world wide web, finding out what kind of strategy to take has never been easier but these documents usually don’t provide much information beyond which training sessions you should put in your calendar.



Once you’ve started on your journey, you’ll soon realise that preparing for a long ride isn’t just about sticking to a training plan; that’s just one aspect of pedaling your way to glory. There are a whole host of ‘do’s and don’ts’ and insider tricks that can make the process of moving towards your target that much more enjoyable and it’s these I’ve collected here, to give you a head start. So read on to discover ten things you might not have known about training for a long ride or Sportive.


It’s easier to do long rides in a group

Long, solo rides can be really fun. Other times they can seem to drag! Riding with a group of people may not only make time go faster so you can train for longer without realising it, it also makes covering more distance easier as you can shelter behind other riders.

You need to eat all the time

Ok, not all the time but one of the biggest mistakes you can make when upping your mileage is not eating frequently enough. Aim to consume between 0.5g and 1g of carbohydrate per kilo of bodyweight each hour, spread throughout the hour. You can get your carbs from a mixture of energy drinks, gels, energy bars, bananas or sandwiches.



Don’t try and lose weight on the bike and train at the same time

Never try to restrict food (to lose weight) whilst you’re actually cycling as it will negatively impact your performance; you won’t get make the fitness progress you should and you won’t enjoy yourself either. If you want to shed a few pounds, look at reducing calorie intake on rest days and avoid overeating in the evening.



You need chammy cream

Friction is unpleasant. Applying cream to your under carriage and/or the inside of your cycling shorts might seem strange at first but just do it and thank us later.

You need recovery time

It can seem counter intuitive but more and more riding doesn’t directly mean more and more fitness. Your body actually adapts to the training you’re doing whilst at rest; your muscles repair any micro tears from cycling and in the process build stronger muscles. Rest days are as important as training days.

Stay in a low zone

Try and keep your heart rate down whilst doing long, endurance rides and avoid overexerting yourself if you want to finish them – an example would be trying not to go too hard on climbs. That’s not to say that short, sharp intervals aren’t beneficial, they’re actually a good way of making quick improvements but don’t go wild on every ride or you’ll never get enough time in the saddle. Long, steady miles are really useful and help build that endurance base

You need to increase distance or intensity

Following on from the above (recovery time) it’s essential that you increase your training load gradually or your body won’t be able to cope and make the adaptions you want. Try gradually adding extra sets of intervals to your more intense rides and then adding time to your long, lower intensity rides. Avoid adding a load of intense intervals AND drastically altering the duration of said rides – you risk burning out.



Make sure your bike fits

The most aero position is not necessarily the best for us all – yes, you’ll save precious watts but that’s pointless if you can’t ride comfortably for long enough. It might be unfashionable to suggest (there’s a real cult of ‘slam that stem’ at the moment) but for some people raising the bars can make sense. If you can, try adding or removing spacers under the stem, borrow a different length of stem or test or speak to a professional about getting a bike fit.

You’d better hydrate, hydrate then hydrate some more

Even the slightest level of dehydration really affects your performance so make sure to drink regularly. Some people like to set themselves a reminder on their bike computer.

You can substitute some shorter, higher intensity rides for longer, lower intensity ones.

Not all of us have limitless time to train for long distance events and whilst getting back-to-back hours on the bike is important, shorter high intensity rides can be substituted for some of the hours. Done correctly, you can get more bang for your buck from these rides, particularly if done on a turbo trainer where you never get to freewheel or rest.


How many of these did you know already? Am I preaching to the converted? What goals and targets do you have for 2018? Let me know in the comments below!

Comments (10)
  1. Hayden Snyder March 29, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    I’ve been training for a 150 mile ride next month (my longest ride, as I just started riding in January) and I have a bad habit of only riding when I have time to go 40+ miles. I definitely need to start getting out and upping the intensity of my shorter rides when I haven’t got time for longer ones!!

    • Juliet_Elliott April 3, 2018 at 11:21 am

      wow, 150 miles is super long considering you only started in January. Hope you’re enjoying the process of working towards your goal and best of luck with it!

  2. Greg Hibbert March 29, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Great reinforcement, thank you!

    Rode the IOW loop last weekend, recovery ride Sunday. Punchy sprints on Zwift Monday then a lovely ride with a new cycling buddy covering 60km of Belgian roads and pavé on Tuesday.

    Aiming for TdY, Hampshire Hilly Hundred and maybe the Etape. Nearly 2200km so far this year and I love Zwift.

    Oh, I only added road riding in October as I’m a MTB and CX rider previously.

    • Juliet_Elliott April 3, 2018 at 11:22 am

      sounds like you’ve had a great week. Which Etape, the original one in France? There are so many now.

      Sounds like you’ve taken to road cycling like a duck to water but if you ride CX that’s no suprise, you probably find it easy!

  3. Craig Telford April 2, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Hi Juliet, great article. I’m new to cycling (10 months) and I’m learning so much so reading this has provided more learning. I’ve completed two sportives this year already and have a target to complete 11 this year. The two things I’ve taken from the article is about hydration and rest days…I’m still trying to cope on rest days mental trying to not get on the trainer ha. I burnt out last week by not resting so I’ve learnt my lesson. I also think your tips about not trying to lose weight on the bike and train at the same time are brilliant and everyone should be aware of what you’ve said. I’ve lost 70kg in the last year through cycling but it’s only now I’m down to my target weight that I can fuel and train properly and see the benefits. Anyway keep up the great work and it’s been a pleasure following you on Instagram recently (the_cycling_goat) haha. Cheers you are an inspiration 👍🏻

    • Juliet_Elliott April 3, 2018 at 11:24 am

      wow, 11 sportives this year is a lot, that will be really fun!

      I totally hear you about the rest days and they can sometimes do my head it too. But even Peter Sagan says it’s better to have one too many rest days than one too many training days because you can really stunt your progress.

      Congrats on the weight loss, that must feel great! Thanks for the follow, it’s really nice to hear you enjoy what I’m doing.

  4. Dori April 2, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    Good read as always – compact, yet very informative. Greetz from Northern Germany!

  5. bill k April 7, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    Juliet, that’s really good advice about trying to ride more and lose weight. I totally make the mistake every spring of saying, “I’m going to lose the pounds I gained over the winter, and I going to ride more, and I going to increase my power and be faster too! Yeah!”. It never works out and I become a huge grouch in the spring.

  6. Andy Grant April 30, 2018 at 9:02 am

    Great Advise im doing the Etape next year and i will follow your advise New to cycling but got to star somewhere

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