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Cycling Tips: How to Bike Long Distances

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I trained to improve my endurance so I could bike to provincial parks and beaches. Long distance biking is one of my hobbies.

My bicycle and backpack. Taken during a bike ride around Presqu'ile Provincial Park.

My bicycle and backpack. Taken during a bike ride around Presqu'ile Provincial Park.

Why I Ride a Bicycle

Bicycles don't need gas and cyclists don't need to pay to get into most parks. They can also go where motorized vehicles can't.

Cycling Saves Money

I started biking so I could go to the beach and other places for free. A new bike costs money but it can quickly pay for itself by saving you money. Some people get a bike instead of paying for a car and car insurance.

It's Relaxing

Cycling to parks and beaches felt great. It was relaxing and I enjoyed it more than driving. I also noticed that it was good for my heart and lungs. My resting heart rate and breathing slowed down. A strong heart does not need to beat as many times.

You'll Get in Shape Fast

Riding a bicycle starts off as a low-impact exercise that requires very little effort or skill. It is easy for me to start up again in the spring after taking 7 months off. Biking up hills gave me large rock-hard leg muscles and I lost inches of belly fat. While biking to beaches I got in the best shape of my life without trying.

You can turn it into an expert-level exercise by increasing the distance, the number of hills, and your speed. As you get good at it you will begin to look like an athlete.

After doing it for a few weeks you probably will not want to stop.

Start With Positive Thinking

If you think you can, you can. The first thing you need to do is to believe you can do it. Negative thinking holds you back. Positive thinking helps you to take action.

Getting in shape so I could bike 37 miles in 3 hours was fairly easy. Most people could do it. The hard part was convincing myself it was possible. You don't succeed unless you try and you don't try when you think it is impossible.

For years I told myself I could not do it. Now I think it is easy. I wish I started biking long distances as a hobby 10 years earlier. Lots of ordinary people do it for fun and relaxation. Tell yourself that biking for 2 hours is easy. Start assuming that you can do it. Then try it.

How Long Does It Take for Cycling to Get Easier?

Six weeks ago I went 2.36 miles in 20 minutes on my elliptical trainer. It was a difficult workout. Last week I went 7.8 miles in 60 minutes on my elliptical trainer.

This week I went 8.2 miles in 60 minutes and the workout was easier. When I start a new cardio routine my body quickly adapts. I need to increase the intensity or duration of the workouts so it does not become too easy.

Based on my experience, it takes a week for cycling to get easier when you do it as a weekly workout. If you are not overtraining then cycling can get easier almost every time you do it for 3 to 4 months.

During the summer I like to work up to doing 3-hour bike rides. When doing the same long-distance ride every week it would take 4 or 5 rides before it feels easy.

It could take longer to improve if you do it as a daily workout. When you exercise too frequently your muscles don't have a chance to heal.

Easy is Overrated

After doing the same workout 4 times it can start to feel like I am just going through the motions. I don't feel a sense of accomplishment, it does not change my body, I don't accomplish new things and I don't look forward to doing it again. It becomes boring.

One of the reasons cycling is my favorite form of exercise is because I can keep challenging myself.

Compete with yourself every week. Trying to improve makes it fun and rewarding. That is why I will cycle to a park that is three times farther away than the closest one. I try to keep challenging myself until cycling season is over. As you get better at an exercise increase the intensity or duration so it does not become too easy. It should be hard.

I aim for a moderate level of difficulty.

While biking around a park I stopped to take a picture of a white-tailed deer.

While biking around a park I stopped to take a picture of a white-tailed deer.

Bike Long Distances Without Getting Tired

Cycle long distances without getting tired or being sore the next day by planning your rides. First, check the hourly weather online. If it says 20E km/h then there is a strong wind coming from the east. Biking against it would be like biking uphill the whole time.

You should always check the hourly weather because the wind direction can change. It could be going west in the morning and east in the afternoon.

Choose a bicycle route based on your previous rides. Increase the distance or intensity a little at a time. Google maps can tell you the distance and how long it might take. Increasing your rides by 15 minutes at a time is a good limit. After 12 bicycle rides, I could bike for 3 hours straight. When I got to the beach I did a lot of walking and swimming. The next day I was not stiff or sore.

Find Your Optimal Speed

Start slow and maintain a slow steady pace most of the time. Hold yourself back. Running, biking, and using an elliptical trainer seems really easy at first. People often go too fast and quickly tire themselves out.

A good speed for a long-distance cyclist is 20 km or 12.4 miles per hour. That is my average speed. If you go as fast as you can without pacing yourself then you will probably need to stop and rest for a while. You may not reach your destination.

Try Breaking up Your Rides

Split 1 bicycle ride into 2. Bike to your destination. Take a long break. Then bike home. In the summer I spend hours at the beach before bicycling home. Two rides are usually better than one when you are not in a hurry. Rest, drink and eat some food before heading home. Take some pictures and enjoy it. You don't need to do it as one long workout to quickly lose fat or build muscle.

I biked for 3 hours to Sandbanks Provincial Park.

I biked for 3 hours to Sandbanks Provincial Park.

How to Bike Uphill

Biking up hills requires strength. Do some of the bicycle strength training and go up easy hills before tackling the big ones. I also recommend walking or running up hills. Train for them so you can stay on your bike.

Cycling up hills can be difficult but it is also rewarding. It can provide you with a sense of accomplishment and a good view.

Save your interval training sprints for the hills. Build up momentum before you get there and sprint up the hill. For longer or steeper hills alternate between a fast and slow pace. You can catch your breath and pick up a lot of speed on the way down. If there is another hill nearby, peddle instead of coasting the whole way down and use the extra speed to get partway up the next slope.

Choose Your Hills Wisely

It is okay to get off and walk. Give yourself permission to stop before getting to the top of a big hill the first 2 or 3 times. Improve your strength and endurance and try again later. Some hills can wipe you out. They are not worth the effort. Get off your bicycle and walk so you don't ruin the rest of your bike ride.

If walking would be faster then the hill may be too steep.

Try Switching to a Standing Position

When going uphill I usually switch to the standing position. If it is a long hill I alternate between standing and sitting. Changing your position changes the exercise. It works the muscles differently.

Doing some off the bike strength training to help me get up the hills.

Doing some off the bike strength training to help me get up the hills.

Heat Exhaustion & Dehydration

Increasing your strength and endurance should be easy. The three things that can make it difficult are heat exhaustion, a lack of energy, and being dehydrated. Riding a bicycle can use up a lot of energy and sweating uses up a lot of water.

Always Take Snacks and Water

Bring food and cold water. Thermoses and ice can keep the water cold for most of the day. I bring a water bottle and a thermos because one may not be enough.

Try an Earlier or Later Start Time

On really hot days leaving 30 minutes earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon can make a huge difference.

In the summer, biking home between 4:30 and 5:00 was brutal. I suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydration while trying to get home by 6:00 pm. Leaving later fixed that problem. The rides are easier and more enjoyable.

Do your outdoor workouts early or late to avoid the heat. The trick is to bike at the right time.

Long Distance Cycling Training Plan

Start by choosing interesting routes or destinations. You should look forward to your bike rides. It is easier to motivate yourself to cycle once a week when you go to interesting places like parks and beaches. Getting to the destination and enjoying the scenery can be your reward.

Consider Driving to Your Starting Location

If the places you want to go to are too far away then put your bicycle in your car or on a rack. Drive to the location. Then cycle around it.

Be Realistic

Going from a 20-minute workout to a 2-hour workout requires training and that takes time. The more time you give yourself the easier it will be to achieve your goal. Begin biking in the spring so you can ride to parks and beaches in the summer. Cycling season seems to fly by. I recommend starting as soon as the weather is nice enough.

Always Plan Ahead of Time

Plan your rides ahead of time so you have time to get ready. For me bicycling long distances is easy for 2 reasons. I give myself lots of time to improve and it is very rewarding. Getting to the destination is my reward along with losing fat, gaining muscle, and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Eat According to Your Energy Output

Is a person that got over 50,000 Fitbit steps in a day going to become overweight because they ate more food than the person that did 5,000 steps?

Some people think so, but the number of calories you burn matters. During cycling season my appetite for healthy food increases and I drink more water. If you need more food then eat more food. You can eat more while losing inches of belly fat.

Further Reading

10 Long Distance Cycling Tips

  1. Plan your rides weeks ahead of time.
  2. Do some of the bicycle strength training.
  3. Increase the distance or speed a little every week. Ease into It.
  4. During the hottest months bike during the coldest parts of the day.
  5. Bring lots of food and water.
  6. Compete against yourself.
  7. Travel to interesting destinations.
  8. Check the hourly weather forecast for the temperature and the wind speed.
  9. Believe in yourself and don't listen to people that say you are crazy.
  10. Do it as a fun hobby.

Humans are very good at increasing their endurance. If you don't have any serious health conditions and you are under 65 years old then it should not be difficult. You might be able to do it if you are older. Some long-distance cyclists are in their 70s or 80s. A few are in their 90s. Cycling can slow down the physical and mental effects of aging.

Remember to compete against yourself, not other people. You don't need to cycle for three hours straight or keep up with other cyclists. Have fun and improve your health. Riding a bicycle is good for your heart, lungs, leg muscles, glutes, and abs. You will still need to exercise your arms. If you can I recommend trying kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding.

Cycling is great for losing fat and building muscle. People will notice the difference.

A short clip from a video of me coasting down a large hill with a nice view.

A short clip from a video of me coasting down a large hill with a nice view.

Final Thoughts

Don't forget to bring a camera. Long-distance cycling and nature photography go together. You may get close to wild animals or see some beautiful scenery. It is also a good way to record your achievements. When you break one of your records, do something new or see something interesting take a picture or record a video.

Great photo moments don't usually last long enough for me to get my camera or phone ready. So I bought a GoPro camera and a helmet mount.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Michael H

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