Any cyclist knows that nothing beats the feeling of a long bike ride. The joy of covering long distances using only a bicycle brings a sense of accomplishment like no other. But for beginner cyclists, the idea of a long-distance ride can be intimidating and oftentimes, exhausting.
However, it doesn’t have to be. With enough preparation and a solid strategy in place, you will be able to go for a long bike ride regardless of your experience level.
How to Increase Your Distance
When it comes to long bike rides, it’s easy to assume that all you need is impressive stamina and endurance to cover long distances. Yes, your fitness level does matter - but it’s more than just that. As with most other things, there is really no easy route on going from zero to hundreds of miles overnight. It takes time, dedication, and lots of practice.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to increase your distance:
Take Gradual Steps
Aim to increase the length of time spent on your bike. Say you can comfortably ride at 50 miles. Over time, try to add at least 6-10 miles to that distance. Doing this consistently will do wonders for your endurance as the longer you can go in a single session, the better your stamina will be.
Train Regularly But Don’t Overtrain
Make sure that you build and improve your stamina through regular exercise. One good way to do that is to change the intensity of your ride sessions. You can switch up sprints and then move on to gentle, slow rides in one period. Doing this exercise pushes your body to the limit while not allowing it to fall on a plateau. However, always allow your body some time to recover in between training sessions.
Prioritize Your Base Fitness
No matter how determined and ambitious you are in riding long distances on your bike, it wouldn’t matter if you don’t make fitness your top priority. At least three times a week, perform a variety of cardio exercises such as swimming, jogging, cross-country skiing, trail running, etc.
You don’t need to worry if you’re pressed for time. You can do these exercises in as short as thirty minutes. The key here is to condition your body as much as possible to endure long distances and avoid any possible discomforts such as leg cramps.
Ger Victor, a passionate cyclist who documents his bike adventures on his YouTube channel, has been cycling since 2013. As someone who likes riding cross country and doing long-distance touring rides, Ger Victor swears by yoga.
“Flexibility exercises like yoga can help when at home and off the saddle,” He shared.
Ride With Company
Some days, you might prefer to ride alone. But there would also be days where you would like to ride with some company. After all, long bike rides mean longer hours spent on the road, and you’ll never know when you need a friend to be there for you when the going gets tough. Riding in the presence of like-minded people who share the same goals as you do helps you to be more motivated in accomplishing them.
With our fast-paced lives coupled with our busy schedules, it can be easy to fall on a cycling hiatus. However, you’re not doing your body a favor by skipping on a routine. In fact, if you go on too long without training, it will not only lead to muscle injuries but also a lack of motivation. Create a regular schedule and stick to it by all means.
What to Wear
When going on a long-distance ride, comfort over style should be your top priority. Research weather conditions to your destination first so you can wear (and pack) the appropriate cycling clothes. For Ger Victor, besides making sure that he’s comfortable on his ride, he also keeps safety in mind.
“Helmet is definitely a must and I never ride without wearing one,” He said. “You also need gloves for extra hand protection, and sunglasses so that your eyes can be protected against dust, wind, and bugs.”
Long bike rides can sometimes involve unpredictable conditions. One moment, you can be riding on a bright, sunny day, and then the next thing you know, it starts raining. When that happens, your visual acuity is affected. We all know that when we’re on the road, seeing things as clearly as possible is non-negotiable.
Nowadays, cyclists have the option to choose between sunglasses and cycling goggles. Which is better, you might ask? The answer all boils down to personal preference. Some cyclists like the look of sunglasses.
And some prefer wearing goggles since they provide 360-degree protection especially on windy days where projectiles could hit their eyes during a ride. In addition, cycling goggles are more helpful when you’re riding in the winter months as they protect your eyes better from the icy cold winds.
If you opt to wear sunglasses on your ride, you want a pair that is durable enough to withstand whatever you throw at it. Lenses are also another deciding factor when choosing your cycling sunglasses.
Go for polarized sunglasses, especially when you’re looking to ride in the brightest parts of the day. These types of sunglasses also prevent glare from reflective surfaces.
Our Top Picks
If you’re on the hunt for your next pair of polarized cycling sunglasses, check out our top picks below.
1. Cheating Death Polarized Sunglasses
The grey lens base color of these sunglasses makes them one of the most ideal colors if you’re riding in high contrast and sunny conditions. Grey also provides true and neutral color representation.
2. Necessary Down-Time Polarized Sunglasses
Like the Cheating Death sunglasses, the Necessary Down-Time sunglasses have a grey lens base color. These, however, are mirror-coated with green-blue to reflect blue light away from the eyes. When you’re riding in an area where there is a lot of water, having a green-blue lens mirror coating helps to balance the overall light spectrum and provides a brightening effect in your field of vision.
3. Andorra Polarized Sunglasses
The aviator-style frame of the Andorra sunglasses makes them one of our most versatile pairs. They never go out of style, and they can also fit people with different face shapes. The red-orange mirror coating on these sunglasses is an excellent choice if you’re after enhanced detail and depth of field when riding.
Wear goggles if you want total eye protection. These are useful especially if you’re riding in the cold weather or if you’re wearing prescription eyeglasses and you don’t want to wear sunglasses. Plus, cycling goggles are more flexible as they conform to any face shape and size without the hassle of it falling over.
Our Top Picks
If cycling goggles are more of your preference, you might want to check out our top picks below.
1. 13-Five Cycling Goggles
If you are looking for comfort, the 13-Five is your best pick. They are made with a multi-layer foam that’s soft enough if you’re planning to wear them for long hours. The vented holes also make them a great choice if you’re having issues with fogging.
2. I.K 91 Cycling Goggles
If you’re looking for goggles that has a similar fit to sunglasses, you can’t go wrong with I.K 91. Because of its narrow form factor, these goggles rest closer to your eye socket for that snug fit.
3. VFR (OTG - Over-the-Glasses) Cycling Goggles
Our VFR (OTG - Over-the-Glasses) goggles have become a favorite among cyclists because they can be worn on top of prescription glasses. They are also lightweight and have a wide range of bicycle helmet compatibility. Keep in mind, though, that the clear lens tint on our VFR goggles doesn’t come with UV protection. If this is one of your requirements, getting the tinted version is highly recommended.
If you want a fun, smooth-sailing bike ride, choosing bike-specific clothing can certainly add up to a more comfortable experience. While you can wear almost athletic clothing that you have in your closet, you’ll certainly want to add some reflective elements so you’ll be more visible to other motorists - especially if your route involves traveling through busy roads.
- Helmets: When choosing a helmet, take time to research to find the best one that fits well on you. Your bicycle helmet should be snug but not too snug that it causes discomfort when worn for hours.
- Bike shorts: Bike-specific shorts are cut longer than casual shorts. They have gripper elastic at the leg openings to help keep them in place while pedaling.
- Bike jerseys: Bike jerseys are designed to be breathable, moisture-absorbent, and quick-drying. Most bike jerseys that are available on the market have a form-fitting cut that’s different from mountain bike jerseys. You can also opt for jerseys that have tall collars to shade your neck from the sun.
- Bike pants and/or tights: They are great alternatives when bike shorts may not work. Bike pants are suitable for the colder months, and some can also be fully waterproof and windproof. Tights, on the other hand, are more aerodynamic with less weather protection as the tradeoff.
- Bike shoes: If your bike has basic platform pedals, you can basically wear any type of shoes. But biking shoes are designed with much stiffer soles that translate to better power transfer as you pedal. For bikes with clipless pedals, buying shoes with soles that are compatible with your pedals is a must.
What to Eat
“Always make sure to stay hydrated,” Ger Victor advises. “Eat potassium-rich snacks such as bananas every hour and a half.”
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of exercise. Following this guideline ensures that you’re maintaining your performance level.
This can be in the form of drinks and gels, low-fat sandwiches, bagels, scones, low-fat cake bars, biscuits, buns, and even energy bars. Before the ride, eat your breakfast at least 90 minutes before, and be sure to choose low-fat foods for slow-release energy.
Consume high-energy drinks albeit in small quantities. Drinking too much can dehydrate you and may cause your stomach to get upset. In addition, avoid fizzy drinks such as soda or any drink that contains caffeine, as they will dehydrate you.
For any cyclist, discovering new places as you take in the sights and sounds around you is always a rewarding and memorable experience. That is exactly the case with Ger Victor.
To him, he still gets the same excitement and therapeutic feeling as the busy and oftentimes, chaotic metropolitan views transition into tranquil mountains and lakes - all that with just a two-wheeled vehicle as his companion.
When asked what made him passionate about cycling, he answered, “All areas of it, the travel aspect, and the fact that you can go places with less money and no fuel. Cycling can be a form of transportation for everyday commutes, travel companion during long-distance rides, or a race machine if you want to be competitive.”
Without a doubt, exploring new places far away from your starting point has always been one of the goals to conquer for any cyclist - seasoned and beginners alike. Although for those who are just about to experience a long-distance bike ride, it is certainly a feat that’s not without challenges.
“Don’t focus on getting fast, but make sure to allot a convenient time for you,” Ger Victor advises first-timers. “Some people get bored on the road when facing the idea that they still have a few miles left. If this is the case, you can divide the ride into different sections as sub-goals. This way, you will get the hang of it and before you know it, you’re already at your destination.”