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cross country bicycling
Long Distance Cycling in Japan, 2015

Long distance cycling is one of the most challenging pursuits any cyclist can undertake, but it also happens to be one of the most rewarding. If your cycling experiences thus far have largely been limited to short trips to and from work and the grocery store, you may want to consider undertaking a long-distance race. Successful endurance cycling requires specialized training, the right equipment and the right mindset. In short, it will help hone attributes that will make you a more accomplished cyclist!

Training for Long Distance Cycling

Just as cyclists need a specialized training regimen to improve their sprinting, so long distance cyclists need to adopt training techniques specifically aimed at helping them cope with the physical demands of long distance cycling. Before you undertake that cycling marathon, you need to make sure that you’re fighting fit. Here are some training methods that will really help to boost your long distance cycling performance.

Improve Core Strength

  • It’s easy to maintain a perfect cycling posture when you’re sprinting over a short distance of 400 meters, but when you’re cycling non-stop for miles on end, you’ll tend to slouch. Over time, this may cause injuries to your core muscles.
  • Improving core strength will help you maintain a good cycling posture over longer distances. It also reduces the chances of injury.
  • Good exercises to improve core strength are hanging leg raises and hyper extensions. You should aim to tense your muscles for at least 15 seconds per repetition as this will simulate the kind of pressure your core muscles are placed under during endurance bike rides.

High-Repetition Weight Training

  • If you’re serious about cycling, you’ll probably already have incorporated some weight training into your training regimen. You’ll need to adopt a “low weight, high repetitions” philosophy when training for long distance bicycling.
  • In general, endurance bike races involve low-intensity cycling. Explosive power will not be quite as important as muscular endurance in these events, so instead of doing 6 to 15 repetitions with heavy weights, aim for 40 to 50 repetitions with lighter weights.

Interval Training

  • What sets a long-distance biking champion apart from the rest? Well, many experts will tell you it’s his ability to sprint in short bursts during the race. These short sprints enable him to get in front of the pack and avoid being crowded out at bends and corners.
  • When training for a long distance race, you’ll be cycling for at least an hour a day. For every hour you train, do six sprints at maximum speed. You should be attempting a sprint roughly every ten minutes.

If these training methods sound painful, they are. As the saying goes, “no pain, no gain”. Long distance cycling is a demanding sport, but with the right training regime, you’ll stand a great chance of claiming that champion’s trophy.

Accessories for Long Distance Bike Rides

There are many different kinds of long distance bicycle rides. On rides that last more than a day such as cycling tours, you’ll need to lug along a pretty big pack with your sleeping bag, cooking equipment and other utilities. On rides that last a few hours, you’ll probably just need a few bike repair tools.

Bicycle Repair Tools

Long Distance Cycling
  • We’ve got some great tips on putting together a bicycle repair kit.
  • In general, you should always have a wrench, a pair of pliers, tire levers, a bike pump and some spare inner tubes with you on long distance rides. Remember – the longer the ride, the higher the chance that one of your bike parts will malfunction.

Bicycle Rear Rack

Long Distance Cycling
  • For long distance bicycling vacations, a rear rack is indispensable. You can’t possibly fit a week’s worth of clothes, a sleeping bag, food, and water into a pannier or small cycling backpack. You’ll need to pack all your essentials into a regular duffle bag or suitcase and mount it on a rear rack.
  • We’ve done loads of research on the best bicycle rear racks.

Bicycle Bags

Long Distance Cycling
  • A bicycle pannier is the best place to store any equipment you might need to access while cycling. Many cyclists keep some snacks, their water bottle and a phone or mp3 player inside their pannier.
  • A backpack offers more storage space for longer rides.

Tips for Long Distance Cycling and Races

Here are six very handy tips for more comfortable and convenient long distance bike rides.
  1. Pack Some Healthy, High-Energy Food – You’re bound to get hungry during a long distance cycling event, so you need to pack some small snacks that you can munch while you cycle. The most important consideration is that you must be able to eat them with one hand. You can’t stop and eat a microwave dinner during a race! They should also be healthy and wholesome, which means no energy drinks. These are loaded with tons of sugar and caffeine and will cause an energy crash. Fruits, granola bars and trail mix are better options.
  2. Warm Up Thoroughly – Many endurance cycling champions swear by warm-up stretches. They help to loosen the muscles, get blood flowing to where you need it most and prevent debilitating muscle cramps which can ruin your chances of winning a race. They also help to prevent injury.
  3. Hone Your Gear-Changing Skills – If you’re sprinting on a track, gear-changing is pretty low on your list of priorities. During a long distance bicycling event spanning a few hundred miles however, you’ll probably encounter a wider variety of terrain, requiring you to change gears to avoid tiring yourself out. Practice on all sorts of terrain before your long distance ride so you’ll know exactly which gear to use in a given situation.
  4. Pace Yourself – The common mistake made by rookies is to embark on a crazy all-out sprint at the start of an endurance ride in an attempt to get in front of the pack. Well, you won’t stay in front for very long if you tire yourself out at the beginning of a race! When a long-distance race begins, you’ll usually find the best cyclists in the front third of the pack, but not at the very front. They will overtake the lead cyclists later once the latter get fatigued.
  5. Replace Lost Salts – Long distance cycling is hard work and you’ll be soaked in sweat before long. As you probably already know, sweat contains a lot of essential salts and you’ll need to replace all the salt lost if you are to function at the peak of your physical capabilities. An isotonic drink like 100Plus or Pocari Sweat is a good choice.
  6. Stretch While Cycling – If you remain in the exact same posture for your entire long-distance ride, your joints and muscles will become stiff and cramped. Make sure you shrug your shoulders, let your legs hang loose and rotate your ankles on a regular basis. This maximizes joint and muscle mobility and minimizes any uncomfortable body aches the next day.

Books About Long Distance Cycling

More information about long distance cycling can be found on several informative books. Take a look at these selected books:

Long Distance Cycling
Long Distance Cycling
Long Distance Cycling

Summary

Long distance cycling rides are among the most satisfying endeavors any cyclist can undertake. Although these events require a great deal of training and preparation, rest assured the effort is well worth it. You’ve got all the long distance bicycling information you need now, so all that remains is for you to get in the right frame of mind. Remember – no pain, no gain. Have fun on your endurance cycling trips!

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Bill Cosby

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