By Fred Matheny
Stand and shift positions. To prevent crotch numbness and undue tenderness during long hours in the saddle, stand frequently and sit in slightly different locations. Dwelling in one position and grinding away for hours is a recipe for discomfort. Use every hill and turn as an opportunity to stand for at least a few seconds.
Use long rides to test clothing for events. Although 2 brands of shorts may have padded liners that are comfortable for a couple of hours, one may start chafing as time wears on. Only by trying them on long training rides can you discover which pair is crotch nirvana and which is purgatory.
Likewise for food and drink. The same thinking goes for sports drinks and energy bars. Food or drink that tastes fine in typical conditions may gag you when it’s hot and you’re 4 hours into a tough century. If you have to force yourself to eat and drink certain products, it’s guaranteed you won’t eat and drink enough.
Should you carry a cell phone? If you have one, why not? It’s light and compact enough to tote in a jersey pocket or seat bag, and it can be a lifesaver if you fall victim to a mechanical problem on rural roads or get injured when you’re riding alone. However, some riders consider cell phones a crutch whose presence discourages self-sufficiency and makes it too easy to give up on a tough ride and phone for a lift home. It’s your call.
TIP! Even a cell phone that’s out of service can be used to call 911 in an emergency. If you have an old phone that’s no longer in use, charge it up and take it on rides. You can’t use it to call home when you bonk with 30 miles to go, but you can summon medical help if you become hurt or sick.
Solo, or group rides? Finally, is it better to ride long distances solo or with a group? It’s much easier to control the intensity of your workout if you ride alone. Groups or training partners are fun, but you’re governed by their pace. By yourself, you can ride at the right effort for your goals.
I recommend a mix. I do some long rides solo so I can accomplish exactly what I want. When I go with a group, I treat it as a social ride. I still get the saddle time I need, even if the intensity isn’t optimum. It’s also a chance to refresh bike-handling skills in a bunch.
TIP! One way to animate group rides and make them more like actual events is to play games that simulate competitive situations. For instance, send one rider up the road. When he has a one-minute lead, chase him down by forming a fast paceline. When he’s caught (don’t forget to spray him from your water bottle!) roll easily for 10 minutes, then send another attacker to try his luck.
During more than 30 years in cycling journalism, Fred Matheny has written hundreds of fitness & training articles for top bike magazines and websites. Many of his best eBooks and eArticles are on sale in the RBR eBookstore. As a rider, he has raced to medals in state and national championships, plus a senior world record in the Team Race Across America. As a coach, he has worked with hundreds of riders at PAC Tour Training Camps, Carpenter/Phinney Bike Camps, and Dirt Camp.