Stars and Spokes
Aug 2020. Go big, and then go home.
Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Now, we appreciate that everyone has a different definition of what constitutes a long ride, but for us it’s anything over 100 miles. The ninja endurance cyclists of this world, the likes of Mark Beaumont for example, have somewhat shifted the goal posts in terms of ‘riding long’. These super humans bang out day after day of 200+ mile days, in events such as the Race Across America (RAAM), where competitors ride around the clock with almost no rest. The August goal for Dan and me was to get a few 100+ mile rides under our belts, as we start building our base endurance, developing this fitness over the coming months will be key to our success next year.
A few observations from our respective longer rides:
More practice required for getting bike bottles in and out of bottle cages whilst riding at 20 mph along potholed roads, without dropping. Multiple fails.
Always take bike lights out with you. Even if you are starting out at 9am, long rides mean you’ll likely still be cycling along 12 hours later, at which point it will get dark.
Simple petrol stations suddenly become beacons of hope, locations where you can satisfy your cravings for nik nak crisps, Peperami (we’re not proud!) and yet more water.
For solo long rides, consider taking some headphones for music and/or podcasts, or else your mind wanders to some quite oddly surreal places…
For long rides with Dan, consider taking some headphones for music and/or podcasts, to avoid endless chat about the merits of various 1980s rock bands…
Multiple punctures in the rain at night very quickly drain your soul, but ultimately give you great practice at this key skill.
After 14 hours in the saddle, talking to animals you pass in fields is totally normal and fine.
Germany (Dan) has way smoother roads than London (me).
Ultimately, the only way to build bike endurance is to get some longer rides in. We both already have a good level of general fitness, the military demands that personnel are physically fit at all times, so it comes with the job. However, our expedition next year will specifically require a high level of bike endurance fitness, there is no substitute for hours spent in the saddle.
So far, we’ve pushed as far as 175 miles, riding from Exeter to London. The plan is to eventually complete rides of up to 200 miles in length, something we will build up to gradually in the coming months. During the expedition, we will typically be completing days of 100 miles, but it’s key that we build confidence in our ability to put in some longer days – should it be required. Plans change, sometimes factors outside of your control increase the physical demand, we need to be fully prepared for this.
As a final point, we have noticed that going beyond 120-130 miles seems to be primarily about mindset (and Peperami consumption, again, not proud). At that point, legs become tired, and the easy option is to call it a day. The drive to continue comes from within the mind, such a powerful tool. On a solo ride, 12 hours of riding completed and with another few hours still to go, you are very much alone with your mind. Controlling your thoughts, keeping positive and focused, is absolutely key – if you fail to do this successfully, you will likely fail.
These longer rides very much train the whole body, legs and mind alike. We are starting to develop our own coping strategies, from shouting at sheep in the field (me), to listening to Guns n Roses on repeat (Dan). Whatever works for you!
Watch out livestock of the USA, there’s a couple of shouty Brits headed your way next year!