8 tips to long distance endurance cycling

Conquering long-distance endurance cycling can be an intimidating quest; but, isn’t this the case with all milestones in endurance sports? Nonetheless, athletes, even beginners, shouldn’t shy away from it. Even if you’re not very fit, there’s no reason why you can’t tackle a long ride, if you prepare properly for it, under your coach’s guidance.

What is long-distance endurance cycling?

The truth is that there is no clear definition of what actually constitutes long-distance endurance cycling. It highly depends on the athlete, their fitness, and their athletic experience. However, if we tried to loosely define it, we’d say that it’s the ability to keep cycling for a long time — and, of course, for a long distance — at a low intensity. In order to acquire this ability, however, you need to get aerobically fit; which takes us to the next part of this article.

Why is long-distance cycling important for aerobic efficiency?

Ask any physiologist, and they’ll tell you that without building a good aerobic base, first, a cyclist cannot go very far. Hence, building a strong foundation is imperative here. Training in long-distance endurance cycling — which is executed mostly at a low-to-moderate intensity, in zone 2 — greatly contributes to achieving the necessary physiological adaptations for achieving a solid aerobic base.

Let’s briefly explain this through the lens of physiology. We know that the energy the body needs to sustain any kind of physical activity comes from the aerobic system. Essentially, in long-distance endurance cycling, the athlete aims to increase the amount of work the muscles can produce, using oxygen, to minimize energy contribution from the anaerobic system. This way, the blood in the muscles can carry oxygen to the working muscles much more efficiently. That’s why long-distance training is primarily concerned with building aerobic endurance and muscular capacity.

Benefits of long-distance endurance cycling 

The benefits of long-distance endurance cycling are already clear to athletes who are experienced in long rides. But, for you, who need the motivation to get on your bike for a long ride, here are some reasons to include this type of training in your plan*:

  • Improves the cycling economy
  • Builds a solid aerobic base
  • Improves stroke volume
  • Optimizes pedaling efficiency 
  • Enables the activation of aerobic enzymes
  • Enhances overall cycling performance

* Talk about this with your coach, first, though.

8 tips to get the most out of your long-distance endurance cycling sessions

If you finally decided to give long rides a go, good for you, dear athlete 💪! Now, let’s take a look at the tips we’ve gathered below, to help you feel confident and strong during your training.

  1. Keep it long (4-6 hrs), but gradually increase the distance or the duration
  2. Keep it easy (low-to-moderate intensity, mostly zone 2)
  3. Provide the necessary fuel to your body (60-90 gr of carbohydrates per hour)
  4. Track your power or heart rate — even better, both
  5. Find a cycling buddy who is at the same performance level as you (for safety reasons, as well as motivation)
  6. Learn how to make minor bike repairs, like fixing a flat tire 
  7. Hydrate your body with an isotonic drink (don’t omit this, it’s very important)
  8. Always wear a helmet

A few rides away from maximizing your long-distance cycling performance

You will probably face many challenges while on long-distance ride training. However, you will also gain many new experiences. In reality, no challenge can stop you, if you don’t let it. If you prepare properly, you can ‘weather the storm’ and overcome anything that comes your way. 

As Chris McCormack said: 

When your legs scream stop and your lungs are bursting, that’s when it starts. That’s the hurt locker. Winners love it “in there”.

So, keep a positive attitude, and remember that you’re just a few rides away from conquering long-distance endurance cycling! ✌️

8 tips to long distance endurance cycling was last modified: November 23rd, 2022 by Eleni Konstantinidou