8 Tips to Increase Your Cycling Distance
A good sign of cycling progression is to ride longer distances. Sportives, cycling events, and group rides are all accessible once you can put away the miles. The question that arises is how is this accomplished? These tips to increase cycling distance will shed some light on how to train to build endurance and power, which are both needed for the longer ride.
Endurance and Power
Endurance and power are what gives you the energy to ride, and the strength to turn the pedals to reach the summit of the highest cols in the world. Even if your goal is to reach a distance of say 100 kms, you’ll need to improve your endurance and power to be able to do so. Many pro cycling techniques have been developed to improve these two aspects of a cyclist.
Good cycling training works better when you have a goal to reach. This helps to focus you and give you something tangible to work towards. Keep goals achievable and once you hit one, you’ll have the confidence to hit another and build distance. Hitting goals relies on having the motivation to do so. As such, you may want to read our article on keeping motivated to cycle for guidance.
Work Out Your Cycling Schedule
Before you begin to work on increasing distance you should work out when you can ride. The chances are you have a life with competing demands on your time. Through working out when you can get out on two wheels, you can decide when is the best time for the distance rides. When your time on the saddle is shorter, you can use HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)or other training techniques to build power and endurance.
Gradual Build up and Recovery
The key to riding distance is to build up gradually. If you push yourself too hard you risk injury which can potentially set you back months and damage your enjoyment of the sport.
As well as a gradual build-up of miles, factor in recovery times as well. This will give your body the time it needs to heal and operate to its full potential.
Ensure you prepare adequately for long rides. You should wear appropriate clothing for the weather, and you should ensure that you have adequate spare parts, a phone, emergency money and a bank card, together with food and water to sustain a distance ride.
When planning a route, ensure you know where you can top up water bottles if needed to remain suitably hydrated.
Use Pro Techniques
To be able to ride pro distances it is a good idea to train as much as possible like a professional. With this in mind consider using:
- Cycle training zones – This will help you manage your training as your power meter or heart rate monitor will provide you with the training numbers needed for more effective cycling. The idea is that by knowing your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) or Functional Threshold Power (FTP), you no longer rely on feel but numbers to get from A to B.
This data can be used to categorise your training by zone. It can be used during long rides for better pacing. For more guidance, read our article Cycle Training Zones Explained.
- Strength endurance training and fasted rides – Strength endurance training will build power in your muscles allowing you to sustain a ride for longer. While fasted rides are good for building endurance. These two techniques are good if you are short on time.
- High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) – Use the HITT technique to build endurance and power. Like strength endurance training and fasted rides, the technique can be used when time is limited.
- Adopting the correct pedalling technique – Many cyclists tend to stab down on the pedals rather than maintaining a smooth cadence which is the professional way to ride a bike. Our article Pedal like a Pro and Ride Like the Wind gives you the insights needed for better pedalling.
When you start using pro techniques you’ll start to notice your cycling improve. Once you’ve worked out your training schedule, you’ll be able to ride more efficiently and build endurance and power faster.
When embarking on distance rides, start at a comfortable pace that you feel you can sustain for a considerable amount of time. Building distance is not a race and it is easy to get the pacing wrong when you are fresh and adrenaline may be building in your system.
As a guide, if you can’t talk when you cycle you’re probably going too fast. If you’re using cycling training zones, ride in a zone that is comfortable and not too taxing.
As endurance riding uses slow-twitch muscle fibres, you may want to take in a route with easy climbs and reduce the need for hard acceleration as possible as this will use up your energy (glycogen) stores faster.
Being able to ride a considerable distance without some nutritional knowledge is impossible. After about an hour, without food and fluid intake you’re eventually going to bonk and hit the wall. This is disastrous and unpleasant and should be avoided.
Instead, learn your body and know when you need to refuel. This is invaluable.
Hydration is particularly important regardless of the distance you ride.
If you want to take your riding to the nth degree you may want to consider bike upgrades to make your bike faster and lighter. If you’re going to go down this route, invest in lighter weight clothing as every gram saved helps you ride more effectively.
Riding distance is fairly straightforward especially if you adopt pro techniques and commit. Good luck.
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