Training: Conditions to Prepare For

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Training is key to long distance cycling…and training is half the fun. Even if you don’t ride every day, or prepare aerobically for the event, there are still lots of things you can do now to prepare for the AIDS/LifeCycle 12.

Here’s a check list of things to prepare for. If you don’t want to read all my comments, just remember that nothing will prepare you for each of these better than experiencing them for yourself. (But there are lots of helpful links in the text.) (Enjoy the video; the first ALC 12 fundraising video I’ve seen on YouTube…what a go-getter!)

  1. Daily Riding: Few of us have time to do a 50 mile ride during the week, so do it in pieces: commute on your bike. If you commute 10 miles per day, that’s 50 miles per week! Daily riding for any distance provides confidence of experience, added physical strength, and practice with the technical skills listed below. Get out of your car and commute on your bike. (Bonus: no more cardio at the gym!)
  2. Distance: Finishing a difficult ride is gratifying and each ride increases experience. To ride 60 to 100 miles well, you have to practice. Start with easy and familiar terrain and add miles in small increments. Avoid a new ride with unusual challenges when selecting your first long ride. However, you can get a great experience on an organized ride either for charity or with a group of friends to support and encourage you.
  3. Consecutive Distance: Once you’re ridden your first century, you’re not done. Try to pair it with a 60 mile ride on consecutive days. Such challenges will prepare your muscles for future rides, improve your stamina, and boost fat burning.
  4. Inclement Weather: Learn to ride in all conditions — and learn to care for your bike in all conditions. Successfully changing a flat during an unexpected rainstorm and then finishing the ride will make you feel like a cyclist rather than a bike rider!
    1. Heat and Sun: Prepare with electrolyte to replace lost salt, sunscreen, sun sleeves, a hat for under your helmet, and lots of water. Drink constantly and before you feel thirsty; eat before you feel hungry.
    2. Wind: Sunscreen, chapstick, and a windbreaker are invaluable. Cycling windbreakers are gossamer and outrageously expensive high-tech devices, but pack small when removed. See “Terrain: Flats, False Flats and Headwinds/Crosswinds, and Tailwinds” below.
    3. Cold: No one wants to wear bulky clothing on a ride, but cold-weather riding can lead to hypothermia and that is such a ride killer. (Google “hypothermia and cycling,” there were so many links.) So dress for the descents not the climbs. If you think there won’t be wind, you might be OK with a thin jacket or windbreaker. But if its cold and windy, you’ll need something more. But even winter cycling jackets are thin (though less packable). Plus you can get cycling leggings, winter sleeves, and insulated bike shorts which can be removed if the weather gets nice.
    4. Rain: Combined with cold and wind, rain will cause hypothermia. Prepare with quality cycling gear, and avoid stopping until you can be someplace warm and dry. Once you’ve  mastered how to ride and stop in the rain, you’ll feel invincible.
  5. Terrain: Practice your technical skills by focusing on a particular type of terrain, even though rides often offer a variety of terrain types. For instance, vary rides between a short 25 to 40 mile hilly ride with a flat century. Then evaluate your skills to improve your performance.
    1. Rolling Hills: A series of short climbs followed by short descents (but one man’s rolling hill is another man’s mountain). Some routes with rolling hills make you feel like you’re flying (Paradise Loop in Marin), while some feel like death-marches. See the section on shifting, below.
    2. Climbs: Don’t fear climbs. Just ensure all your gears are in working order. Once you’re on the hill, mentally break the climb into chunks. Use flatter sections to catch your breath. Avoid stopping on steeper sections; restarting on a steep ascent is challenging. Also avoid walking to the top as that can undermine your confidence — go slower, and prepare by reading some climbing tips.
    3. Descents: A descent on a windy, tree-lined, narrow country road can be a harrowing experience or it can be an amazing rush. Know your skills and know the road; slow down if you’re unsure of either. There’s no shame in riding your brakes, only learn how to properly do so before you ride. Improper braking can send you over the handlebars on into the hospital.
    4. Flats, False Flats and Headwinds:
      1. Flats are often deceptively easy. But unlike rolling or hilly terrain, constant pedalling is required to create forward momentum. Going for 20 mile non-stop on such terrain can be draining, especially at speed. Learn to pace yourself.
      2. False flats are really subtle up-hills. If it looks flat but there’s no wind, you’re probably really riding up hill. Check your altimeter.
      3. Headwinds: The winds can be deceptive; you might not feel any wind at all and still be in a headwind. So if you’re struggling on roads which are usually easy for you (and you’re not bonking) there’s probably a headwind. Learn to ride in headwinds.
      4. Crosswinds can be worse since you can’t manipulate your riding position to avoid the wind when your broadside is exposed to it! Learn to ride in crosswinds.
    5. Tailwinds: Everyone loves a tailwind! If you feel like you’re flying on a road you’ve been struggling with, go ahead and attribute it to your months of training and how righteously you kick ass on the road. We all do. (But here are the maths on cycling aerodynamics.)
  6. Urban Riding and Traffic: Read my posts on safety, read my posts on riding in traffic, and wear your helmet! The gist is: urban riding will teach you how to stop quickly, how to stop frequently, how to ride in traffic, how to avoid pedestrians, how to signal, and how to leave your road rage at home.
  7. Country Riding and Isolation: Read my posts on nutrition and cycling. Know the locations of parks for water and restrooms, convenience stores, or other similar locations on all rides, but especially on country riding. Avoid riding alone when going out into the middle of nowhere!
  8. Technical Skills and Obstacles: This is a huge topic and involves: riding with others signaling to other riders both your intentions and road hazards, avoiding obstacles, weaving, bunny hopping, riding very slowly, unclipping quickly, starting from a stop on both steep descents and ascents, and many other things.
  9. Endurance, Nutrition, Muscle and Core Strength: In addition to long rides and climbs, building muscle and especially building your core will help you feel like a winning cyclist. I’ll write more about this topic. And re fat burning: The less you have to push uphill, the easier it is!
  10. Early Rising: Learn how to get your ass out of bed. The best way to do it is to make a plan to meet a friend for an early morning ride. To make it easier, get your bike and gear ready for the next day and have coffee or breakfast waiting for you when you wake up.
  11. Cornering: Cornering is a technical skill requiring its own entry. Look for an upcoming post all about cornering. 
  12. Shifting: Don’t be shy to shift. Your bike has 18 gears. Use them.

One thought on “Training: Conditions to Prepare For

    […] Last week’s ride was 37 miles with 1100 feet of elevation gain; the upcoming ride is 39 miles with 2800 feet of elevation gain. Same distance, twice the climbing. You may be thinking: I could barely climb 1100 feet, how am I ever going to climb nearly twice as high? The answer is preparation. […]

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