A ride or two mid week of around 30/35/40 miles; I tend to be time constrained so this is often all I can fit in. On the weekend, I'll fit in one longer ride 50-80miles. It really depends.Now, I should stress here that when I go out and ride my bike I ride my bike because I love it. I don't ride my back to try and beat any time records or ride past as many people as possible.
However, in order to ride long distances in nice settings I need to be fit, strong and happy climbing. I can fit in a few gym sessions a week and looking for some advice of things to do in order to generally improve my cycling fitness and be more comfortable over distances and climbs.
Please note, I do not want to go out on my bike doing intervals, pace rides or things that really aren't fun. I enjoy riding my bike, suffering needs to be reserved to the gym
In order to ride long distances you need to have a lot more than a modicum of cycling fitness; in order to ride 80+ miles you need to be fit and conditioned which either comes from riding all the time or working on it in the gym.
You don't just do two leisure rides a week and then comfortably ride that kind of distance. The rides I do are generally around 16-18mph, so I have some amount of cycling fitness; that doesn't mean I can comfortably ride for 80+ the last bits are still hard and I'm tired..
From what little I have read about this the consensus seems to be that the best thing to improve cycling fitness and stamina is lots of mileage at a steady pace, i.e. the upper reaches of the comfortable heart rate zone, where you could carry out a conversation while riding, not pushing yourself into the anaerobic zone.
They're right though. 80 miles on a bike is approximately equivalent to 30 miles walking, something that anyone with a modicum of fitness is capable of knocking off in a day. Lots of people who ride LEJOG do so off the back of very little training, and that requires 11-12 days of back to back 80 mile days (often with panniers full).
If what you're really saying is that you want to be able to ride 80+ miles FAST, then the main thing is to work harder building your speed on your regular shorter rides in some logically progressive manner. Improvements in pace at 30-50 miles will easily transfer to 80+ miles.
If you really want to use the gym perhaps you could use it for recovery sessions after beasting yourself on your midweek rides. If you want to do something intensive instead, get on the excercise bike and do relentless hill reps until you're in a heap on the floor.
In reply to parkovski: I think we're talking on cross purposes here...
Firstly, I don't agree that anyone with a modicum of fitness could get on a bike and ride it for 80miles. When I first started cycling I was very fit, hill walking, climbing, squash and I'd have been utterly, utterly spent. if I even made it. Lets assume that they could do it riding very slowly for an entire day; would they do it comfortably? no.
I'd like to be able to ride the same distances at the same pace (16-18mph) but it to feel more comfortable. Endurance within the legs, being able to ride hilly routes but still have enough in the tank to feel okay at the end etc. There must be something in the gym that can produce this kind of fitness? Swimming, bikes etc
"I'd like to be able to ride the same distances at the same pace (16-18mph) but it to feel more comfortable."
This is the part you missed out stressing in your original post.
"There must be something in the gym that can produce this kind of fitness? Swimming, bikes etc"
How much time are you planning on spending in the gym? I got the impression it wasn't very long - i.e. short chunks of time that you couldn't get out on your bike. If this is the case than you might be able to do things to compliment or recover from your existing riding, but it is never going to do as much as the riding you've already said you're doing. There's nothing magic you can do - the best answer is probably to get on the excercise bike and do hill reps.
"p.s doing LEJOG requires training."
No it doesn't. I accompanied a friend who'd only ever done 2 days of back to back cycling before, and only cycled short commutes on a brompton regularly. He did it in 11 days. On the same trip we met two guys on a tandem who weren't regular cyclists and had bought their bike a couple of weeks before. We also met an 11 year old boy cycling it over 2 weeks.
In reply to parkovski:
Yeah I did LEJOG with about a dozen people of varying fitness levels. The slowest member of the group had done no training apart from a 10 mile round trip commute, was overweight, on a tandem with an undermotivated ten year old and seemed to make it his mission to stop at every tea shop betweeen Cornwall and Caithness. He was still cracking out 70-80 mile days easy.
You could try spin classes in the gym, which can improve your cycling fitness if used correctly. Doing core strength work may help prevent you getting too tired from being in the saddle for long hours.
However, if you are looking to get better at long distance riding, a big part of it is just conditioning your body to being on the bike for many hours at a time and, for that purpose, there really is no substitute for time in the saddle I'm afraid. There are people out there who cycle 600km (and more) in one go, or who have reasonably good fitness and just ride 80 miles, without ever having been in the gym. My advice is to just plug away with your longer rides at the weekend, they will get easier with time.
> Rather than going to the gym you could do an hour of suffering on the turbo trainer but I've never meet anyone who'd not rather do their suffering on the road.
Strangely, I find it much easier to make myself do structured training sessions on the turbo than than outside. I guess because you have to structure a turbo session to make it interesting whereas outside I get distracted or my rhythm gets upset by hills or descents being where I don't want them
> (In reply to Beat me to it!) 600km in 372miles, no-one rides that without either training in the gym or training on the bike by riding all the time.
> In fact, even saying there's "many" that kind ride that sort of distance appears way of base to me.
Not true, I don't train in a gym and I do that distance, many of my cycling buddies do and they don't go near a gym. Your earlier posts are also confusing doing 16-18 mph average and being able to do longer distances. Every person I know who has failed at the longer distance events, it wasn't fitness that was a deciding factor. A couch potato couldn't do it, but a reasonably fit, I.e a person with a modicum modicum of fitness could. If there are guys in their 70's riding these distances , then so can you, with the right approach. When you have actually cycled a long way you will understand.
True, the numbers who cycle this distance regularly in one go is low, only a few thousand in the uk. But that's more because most have a mental block on riding these kind if distances, rather than a physical one.
Ask yourself why you struggled with 80 miles, and you may be surprised by the real answer.
Saw the bit about maintaining a speed of 16-18 mph for 80 miles. Well if you can't, then slow down, and complete the distance without burning out. Why not ride 80 miles at 12 mph and see if you're still burnt out?
In reply to Beat me to it!: I did say "train in the gym or ride all the time"- he guys that do 600km must do one or the other.
I have ridden many rides at that distance; however, I'd like to be able to do it more comfortably. I didn't struggle, but the last 10miles weren't pleasant at all- more hanging on to the wheel of a lot of the guys in-front of me. perhaps due to riding in a group that's slightly quick.
I'd be pretty fresh if I toned it down to 12mph over that distance, yes.
I don't feel there's much separating me from the guys that ride 80miles at 18mph and are still strong at then end. Hence why I want suggestions for the gym, whether I could drag out a bit of extra fitness to be stronger in the last 10. I appreciate that big gains can't be done in the gym; however, I though small margins like that could be breached..
Running low on energy?
Lack of power
All of the above?
You might be reaching your natural knock point, which precedes the bonk or total crash. The body can only store enough glycogen to last 3-4 hours at the speed you're riding. As that runs low, your body turns more to fat burning. Fat delivers energy at a lower burn rate, so you have to lower the intensity or burn out / bonk. So upto 50 miles you're not exhausting your glycogen stores, but towards 80 you are. Also 5% dehydrated is 20% reduction in performance. So you need to take on more calories, water during the ride.
You can train the body to be a more efficient fat burner, so the glycogen lasts longer, but that takes a evel of training similar to a professional. Hence why most long distance cyclists drop 1-2mph and ride within themselves.
In the last 10 or so miles I feel like I'm working as hard as I can just to keep pace; for example, I'd have nothing in reserve if the terrain steepens or if we had a head wind. It's hard to explain, on the flat without a head wind I feel no difference between 30 and 70 really, but at 70 as soon as it toughens from the norm my legs are gone, they feel like lead and there's nothing extra to give. I do occasionally cramp, but I'd not say it was common..more a complete lack of reserve for when it toughens.
I must admit, nutrition isn't my strong point on the bike- I tend to have some sort of cake item at around 50 and a banana or two but that's really it and over that distance i'd drink 2x550ml water bottles- one water, one juice with a dash of salt in it.
In reply to Chay: Are you happy to ride on the exercise bikes in the gym? Based on what you've described gym work (weights/etc) won't really make any difference to your ability to ride 80 miles at a quicker pace. Time spent on an exercise bike, if that's where you want to do your 'suffering' will. There's many reasons for going to the gym, but if yours is to ride 80 miles more quickly, you'll need to spend more time pedalling. You'll get marginal improvements in aerobic capacity by swimming/rowing mahcines etc, but from what you describe that's all fairly sound - you need to spend more time on a bike.
Try Jelly babies or chewy bars , and drink at least 500ml per hour of riding. Also try dropping the speed and see how you get on. For hill climbing find a hill over 5% and do hill repeats on it for long as you have available. Low gear in saddle, high gear out of saddle, low cadence, high cadence etc. you get the idea. Before long you'll look forward to when it points upwards.
If you're thinking of doing LEJOG non-stop then some gym work can be helpful. On rides over 1000km you often see other riders have problems with the muscles that hold their heads up or keep the shoulders aligned. Chronic fatigue of these means they stop working and the head flops forward until the chin is supported on the chest.
Ironically you need a fair degree of 'core strength' to ride well as the torso connects the working parts of the arms and legs, but riding doesn't do anything to strengthen the core. Fell walking with a heavy sack or some gym work can be useful in these circumstances.
You can get additional water bottle mounts, some or the bars, and some for the seat tube, assuming your bike can't take two bottles. Otherwise just fill up on the way round.
I'm just not convinced a gym bike can do much for real riding. Riding a real bike, outdoors ,involves so many elements a static bike can't replicate. Besides you'll probably spend time going to / from the gym that could have been usefully spent cycling. If you can't get out then how about some rollers to practice on?
If you're short of time in Edinburgh then a few laps of the road around Arthur's seat is a surprisingly enjoyable way to spend an hour.
If you're hell bent on hitting the gym and are at Edinburgh Uni then look up the 'Advanced Circuits' classes. Not sure if they'll make you better at riding your bike but you will punish every single muscle in your body. Even your eyelids will hurt.
IMHO, the most obvious consequence of being fitter is that you just go faster, and still end up knackered. True, if you were to ease off and pootle along it would be different, but it never seems to work that way.
Road cycling's an endurance sport, not a power sport (although feeling as weedy as I do that's hard to believe). You might increase the strength of your legs by pushing weights in the gym, but your 16-18 mph will become 16.5-18.5 and you'll still be goosed.
Eat lots when you ride, and don't wait until you've been out for 3 hours before you start eating.
you are doing 80mile rides in a group?
you're ok with the pace till near the end when you start to struggle?
you think that if you slowed down towards the end you'd be OK, but the group would drop you?
in that case all the advice about eating and drinking more I'd totally agree with...
for the gym (and i repeat the advice this is better done on your bike, but you insist on the gym, that's fair enough)
i found a huge difference in my riding after doing some interval training to improve my speed... then you're group cruzing speed is a smaller % of what your max so is more comfortable
what i did was find a hill (replicate on the exercise bike in your case) that i could climb flat out in about 30 to 45 seconds at almost sprint speed. i'd then find a way off the hill and circle round that took about 3 to 5 times the ascent time, keep pedalling but sit up and breath very deeply to recover. do that 3 times to start with and then ride flatish ground for about 20 minutes to recover properly. repeat that whole process 3 times to start with. nothing to stop you doing this on the exercise bike if you like, but remember the saddles on those things are generally dreadfull
but remember the advice about eating and drinking? you need to do that in the gym too!!!!!!
Download a sufferfest trainign video - theyre basically intervals - but with video and music to make it interesting - so it will normally be 45min to an hour including a warm up - intervals - warm down.
you don't need a heart rate monitor or anything just put in effort to a given effort out of ten (where 10/10 would be your max).
Part of the comfort of long rides is getting used to being in the saddle (of your actual bike) for a long time - all the gym work in the world won't make your, bum, neck, wrists etc be comfortable over a long day - you need to build up to a ride of 70% dstance of what you're aiming for. make sure your bike/ seat/ cleats are set up right for you - do you have good shorts? do you need chammy cream etc.
In reply to Chay: Try some spinning classes if you're constrained to the gym. A lot of people swear by them, and if you ride home again afterwards, you'll definitely improve your endurance performance for last 10 mile issue.
In reply to Chay: Good gym work can be done on the excercise bikes, try threshold sessions, 2 x 20 mins at your lactate threshold HR, it is about 88% of your max HR (or take a threshold test to find it) with some warm up and 5 mins between with easy pedalling, and you are done in an hour, focus on position, try and set the bike up like your road bike. You can also work with weights, thighs and calves, plenty of machines and free weight excercises there. And do some core stuff, stomach and back. Good luck...
I've not read all of the advice here, so may be repeating what others have said - but I think I come fro a reasonable position of knowledge.
Firstly, you aren't taking on enough energy during your 80 mile rides. You should eat a decent meal (porridge etc) 3 hours before you start. The 3 hours is key to allow your body the time to process food into energy. You should then be drinking a minimum of 2 750ml bottles with energy drink diluted as per instructions and stuff your pockets with bananas/flapjack/energy bars. 80 miles is a long way for any cyclist - I ride a 25 mile tt in under 55 minutes, so am fairly bike fit, but I rarely ride 80 miles, and when I do, i'm tired!
Secondly, you either need to do high intensity intervals, which will increase the power that you can produce for a given heart rate, or allow you to work at a lower heart rate whilst producing the same power, thus enabling you to be fresher at the end of a long ride.
you need to regularly ride for longer that 90 minutes. 90 minutes is key because it is the amount of time that you can using energy stored within your liver, blood and muscles. This enables your body to start burning fat more efficiently as fuel. Even the skinniest cyclsist has enough fat to fuel days on continuous exercise, our glycogen stores are limited to 90 minutes. If you are doing these 'fat burning' rides, then take less food with you. These will hurt in a different way, because you are forcing your body to burn something that it isn't used to. Imaging running a petrol car on diesel!
There is no easy way to get fit to be fresh at the end of an 80 mile ride. Personally I don't get your insistence to do high intensity work in the gym. It sounds like you have reasonable fitness, but not outstanding fitness, so you should be focused on marginal gains, you should be focused on things that will give you massive gains!! If you are time constrained, this means intervals - which suck!
for climbs, the best thing you can do is loose weight - I didn't catch whether this is an option for you, but worth considering an an alternative if you don't want to do intervals. cycling is mostly about power to weight ratio, if you can't increase power, decrease weight.