How to Train for a Long Bike Ride
Make sure you have an appropriately sized bike for your size, and have a professional at a local bike shop fit the bike to your physical proportions. If your long ride is exclusively on the road, a road bike is the most efficient model to use and will be less fatiguing than a hybrid or mountain bike. A properly adjusted bike will maximize your comfort and efficiency on the long training rides. Additionally, learning basic maintenance skills, such as how to change a flat tire, is important for both your training and the organized ride, since you will encounter long stretches without formal aid stations.
Increase your weekly cycling mileage gradually, and focus on adding miles to one ride per week. This long ride will prepare your body for several hours in the saddle and give you the opportunity to practice your fueling and hydration strategies while riding. Your longest training ride should be about two-thirds to three-quarters of the total distance you are preparing for. For example, if your goal ride is 100 miles, your longest training ride should be between 67 to 75 miles.
Add one or two workouts per week in which you do higher intensity intervals. Even though you are training for a long ride, including some fast cycling improves your body’s ability to buffer lactate, which will ultimately enable you to achieve a higher power output at a given perceived effort level. To estimate your lactate threshold, or the point at which blood lactate increases substantially over resting levels, wear a heart-rate monitor to measure your average heart rate during a 30-minute time trial. A sample interval training workout for a long ride would be two to five 10-minute intervals at one to five beats per minute lower than your lactate threshold heart rate, with 10 minutes of recovery cycling in between.
Include sufficient recovery into your training plan. Take one or two days completely off per week, and include one low-mileage week per month to allow your muscles to repair and rebuild themselves. Your body adapts to the training you put in during the recovery periods, not during the actual training itself. Furthermore, staying hydrated and well fueled before, during and after your workouts will help your body recover optimally. Finally, tapering, or reducing your mileage during the last week or two before your long ride, will allow your body to recover and reap the benefits of your training load.