While the riders of the Tour de France are used to being in the saddle for 3 to 7 hours every day, day after day, that's a luxury you and I can probably not afford. Instead, we have to plan our long rides accordingly.
North Texas is lucky, in that we have great routes that leave from popular bike shops every weekend, and we're also fortunate enough to have a FANTASTIC bicycle rally calendar! I prefer the rallies, but you'll certainly get something out of every event, local, regional, or otherwise.
Preparing for a long ride requires some logistics. Here's an example:
On Friday night of last week, in order to prepare for a rally on Saturday, I did the following:
ABC Quick Check - Checked the air pressure on my tires, made sure the brakes were touching the rims in the right places and not rubbing the tires, lubed and cleaned the chain, and then checked the bike over for cracks, dings, rips in the saddle, etc. If you do this the night before, you can always fix it at home, instead of scrambling at the start of the ride.
Checked to ensure that my shoes, helmet, gloves, glasses, and sunscreen were in the car. Honestly, since I'm a cycling coach by trade, I always carry an extra helmet and shoes, just in case.
I prepared and chilled my bottles and Camelbak (YES, I drink a Camelbak as a fast road cyclist, and I'm not ashamed of it. My safety and health are more important than a verbal jibe). ALWAYS BE PREPARED. I carry extra fluids, and I drink on a schedule.
I also checked my saddle bag to make sure I have tubes, Co2 cartridges, cool-tool, tire tools, patch kits, and some cash. Because you never know.
Before the ride itself began, I repeated my ABC-Q check, made sure my Camelbak was working (clogged hoses are bad, really bad), and made sure I had some food in my pocket as well, just in case.
Car keys - well, find a spot to put them, because I think they're better served closer to the car, in case, well... just in case you get sidetracked. Do NOT lock your keys in the car!!
For the ride itself, whether you're alone or with others, remember these three rules:
BE VISIBLE, both to oncoming traffic and upcoming traffic.
SIGNAL YOUR INTENTIONS. I don't care if it's dorky, use your hand signals and communicate with all the other road users.
CONTROL YOUR POSITION IN THE LANE. I know it's controversial, but you're safer in the lane than on the shoulder, and if you're visible, upcoming motorists can always prepare to pass safely, or wait until that is possible. If you're slogging it out at a slow speed, and you can 'sense' a queue of motorists behind you, well, do the courteous thing and pull over. It's an easy way to avoid conflict. Let them pass.
If you're solo, make sure you know the route, and make sure that others know where you're going, how long you'll be, and when they might expect your return. Something as simple as a note on a fridge or windshield can make a difference if others are looking for you, and you're out on the side of a road with a broken bike that can't be fixed on the spot.
ALWAYS drink early, drink often, and drink on a schedule. Any rides over 90 minutes, go ahead and eat a bar or waffle. It's far better than bonking, and dragging yourself or others home at a delayed pace. And finally, PLEASE consider cycling without earbuds. I'm convinced that hearing is a great way to plan for and avoid pending events, and I just see too many looks of surprise when I pass cyclists with earbuds, even after I've been announcing myself for the past ten or fifteen seconds, clearly.
There's no concrete definition to the term "Long". A long ride can be an hour, a morning, a day, or a voyage of many days. Work within your limits, train smart and hard, and watch that definition change as your body adapts and becomes more powerful!
Long Rides are one of the most enjoyable aspects of cycling, and the reward is looking back at what you've accomplished with satisfaction. If you have questions about how we can help you accomplish a longer ride, be it a rally, or even the Hotter 'n Hell 100, come by the studio some evening, and introduce yourself. We'd love to help - after all, that's what coaching is all about!