I’ve been cycling to work for quite a while, which means I get about 16km cycling done 5 times each week, so felt I had a good base-level of fitness.
I think it’s also important to have done longer rides to, which helps you know how you will feel mentally and physically after a day in the saddle.
I’ve done a few longer day trips this year such as doing a sportive and riding from Oxford to London on my big-wheeled bike, and riding from London to Brighton on the Brompton with the London Brompton Club. I’ve previously done a 4-day tour on the sea to sea route, and also a 259km ride around London on my Brompton in a day.
Comfort is key
All of these longer excursions enable you to figure out what works well for you in terms of comfort, which I think is the number one factor in a successful long ride. I believe the main contributors to comfort are the saddle and your position when riding, eating and drinking well, and the clothes you are wearing.
Luckily I didn’t have any accidents when I was out there, or any injuries.
I had a small blister on my leg from the anti-slip tape on a pair of cycling shorts, but I covered that up with a plaster to which I then applied anti-chafe cream and that was fine.
Aches and pains
Each morning my knees and legs reminded me that I had cycled lots the previous day, but I always started the rides at an easy pace and your body soon warms up and gets into the swing of things. The pleasure of cycling soon drowned out the noise of the aches.
Some days towards the end of the day I would dream of having a back and leg massage.
In the past I have had problems where I’ve got pins and needles in the little and ring finger of each hand after cycling long distances. This I believe stems from the ulnar nerve getting squashed by area at the base of each hand as it holds the handlebar. I prevent this from being too bad now by having decent ergonomic grips on the bike, and gloves with decent padding in the right area. In addition, if I do feel these areas being sensitive, there are two exercises I do which instantly makes my hands feel normal again. They are the ‘ulnar nerve flossing’ exercise at 2 min 40 sec and ‘waiter’s plate’ at 5 min 15 sec in the following video. They really are hugely beneficial for me, so if you have a similar issue with pins and needles in your fingers I urge you to give them a try.
The waiters plate can also be done whilst you’re cycling along, when there’s no-one about 🙂
Another thing I do on long days is to ensure I vary my position on the bike a bit throughout the day. This includes changing the position of my bum on the saddle, changing my grip, the position of my feet on the pedals, and changing my posture and style of cycling. I think variety is good.
I wasn’t deliberately trying to lose weight, and I did enjoy eating and drinking whilst out there, but inevitably all that cycling made me a bit leaner. I was 15 stone 6 lbs (98kg) when I left, and lost about a stone and a half (9kg).
My calf and thigh muscles firmed up a lot!