Thursday, 18 July 2013

Saddle up!

"Winter miles make summer smiles," say cyclists through the bleakest months of the year. When our winter seems to last 10 months, that's easier said than done though; I know I was pretty late to the pedal party this year. July is here now and, with the Tour de France on and temperature's rising, there's no better time to be venturing out on two wheels and giving yourself a break from the hot, sticky run sessions. The Ride London 100 is just around the corner and I know a few runners taking up the challenge. The distance seems to be something on the minds of many so here are my tips* for upping your mileage in training:

*Disclaimer: as ever, my training tips are generally based on loose anecdotal evidence and learning from minor calamities. Expecting any physiological benefits by following them is optimistic to say the least.

Dress up

Being comfortable with the uncomfortable is something runners are generally accustomed to; however, on a bike, there are parts of the body that should never have to learn this. So prioritise the comfort and condition of your bike-lady interface with a proper pair of cycling shorts. They might feel uncomfortable off the bike, but spend more than 2 hours in the saddle without them and you'll need more than a puncture repair kit to sort out your flat tyre. On the top, a cycling jersey with a couple of pockets in the back will allow you to carry essentials such as a map, food, phone, money and spare inner tube. Head over to Lazy Girl Running to read more about the joys of cycling shorts and remember: it never pays to be a chamois dodger.

Buddy up

I've never liked the phrase “misery loves company”; however, I do believe that “mileage loves company”. Cyclists hunts in packs, largely because the wind is our worst enemy and any shelter given by the rider in front can be sweet relief from a relentless breeze. Cycling with company has many other benefits too, not least someone to hold on to your bike while you go for a wee behind a hedge.

If you're feeling really keen, contact a local club and ask to join them on a club ride. Group riding is a great skill to learn, not to mention way more fun, and some clubs will offer a beginners' ride with a leader to take care of the navigating. Cycling with cyclists is a great way to improve bike handling, up your mileage, and generally soak up the sport by osmosis.

Fuel up

Just like a long run, nutrition is something to consider carefully on a long bike ride. Cycling has a distinct advantage over running though: the ability to eat solids. Fig rolls, the well-known food of all sporting champions, make excellent bitesize snacks that you can easily retrieve from your jersey pocket. Just be careful not to start munching at the bottom of an incline or you may never breathe again.

If you're heading out for a long day, why not take in a café stop? The elite may frown upon this but it's not cheating if it means you ride for longer than without; I would certainly never judge anyone stopping for a coffee and you can log some valuable Chamois Time in the process. 

Move up

Make the most of a long bike ride by thinking of it as an adventure; anything that takes you away from your usual routes can be considered such and I like to find opportunities to cycle somewhere new. A holiday with your bike is a fairly committed way of doing this: my friend cycled from vineyard to vineyard in France as part of her ironman training last summer, which struck me as an excellent interpretation of the training/life balance. A weekend away closer to home can also be an opportunity to explore new roads. You could take this one step further and even consider cycling there. I've arrived at hen weekends by bike, carrying a dress and a toothbrush in my little rucksack; this does take some level of understanding on the part of the bride-to-be, and friends who are prepared to share their willy straws with you, so choose your occasion wisely.

Burn it up

Bike rides don't always have to be long. Just like running, a short, fast session has its own benefits and many believe that, in cycling, this may outweigh the benefits of really long, slow bike rides; I have no physiological data to back this up, of course, but I do know that a fast 15 mile bike ride is much easier to fit into a working week. Save the long rides for trying out new cafés with friends at the weekend and clocking up the Chamois Time.

I'd love to hear how your training is going so please feel free to leave your own tips in the comments. Stay safe out there and enjoy your cycling.


  1. Great post - I love cycling, I cycle to work every day and use my bike to get around town all the time. I'd be lost without it. Love going on long rides too, especially when the weather's like this, and I agree with you on stopping at a cafe - we once did a 60 mile round ride with a nice fat pub roast plonked in the middle. :)

    1. Thanks, Tess. That sounds like a great bike ride; I hope you didn't have to go up too many hills on the way home. I think I might have needed a little snooze first.

  2. I wish we'd live closer cause I'd love to go out on a ride with you!!! Maybe we could organize something for this summer? My longest ride to date was only a measly 30 miles. Will definitely need to up the ante. Good suggestion looking into a cycling club. May have to try that.


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