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ArnoldB 07-02-03 12:35 PM

Newbie - how to approach building stamina for road cycling
I have a newbie question on how much stamina do I have to have to begin road biking for distance.

I have a raliegh hybrid which I ride 8 miles a day at less than 10 mph. I've gone periodically to the local bike trail and usually do 13 miles at < 10 mph. I'd like to try a weekly trip that goes 23 miles with a halfway stop for breakfast. The speed has to be 10-12 mph. To test my stamina, I went to the local trail and did 6 miles at 15 mph, nonstop. I went a total of 8 miles that day because the temp was around 90.

My question is how to approach being confident that I can complete the 23 mile trip without making a fool of myself. I also ride a stationary bike 20 minutes a day with pretty good tension. Is there any kind of recommended program someone could suggest? On the daily rides, I ride with my wife. I can't increase the mph on those. Any suggestions would be welcome.

TheRCF 07-02-03 01:01 PM


Originally posted by Arnold Bailey
I'd like to try a weekly trip that goes 23 miles with a halfway stop for breakfast. The speed has to be 10-12 mph. To test my stamina, I went to the local trail and did 6 miles at 15 mph, nonstop. I went a total of 8 miles that day because the temp was around 90.

My question is how to approach being confident that I can complete the 23 mile trip without making a fool of myself.

That sounds a lot like my normal rides - 12.5 miles, eat breakfast, ride back. In my case, I can now commonly do it at an average of 16 mph (not counting stops for lights) heading out. The first 4 miles have a number of hills and usually I'm riding into the wind on the outbound leg. Coming back I usually take it easier and I guess I run closer to 14 mph.

But when I first started riding 16 months ago (I'm 54), I only averaged 8.4 mph. This quickly increased, but I remember being stuck for some time trying to get to 12 mph and various other points.

It seems to me if you did 6 miles at 15 mph, you should be able to average 12 fairly easily for the longer trip. I don't know how much experience you have, but there can be a huge difference in effort for even a small speed difference on a bike. A 3 mph reduction from 15 to 12 is really big! Plus, you should be able to go faster on a smooth road than on most trails or bike paths (at least the ones I've been on).

So, if you only go 12 to your destination to eat, you could average something under 10 to finish and still average at least 10 mph overall. From what you describe, I don't see a problem for you.

Give it a go and let us know what happens. BTW, why does your average speed HAVE TO be 10-12 mph anyway?


ArnoldB 07-02-03 01:20 PM

Thanks TheRCF that gives me some confidence. The 10-12 mph is the beginner trip. That's the criteria set by the bike club. I don't think I'll run into any hills on the trip. I was kind of discouraged that I could only do 8 miles at 15 mph. I've been riding for a little over a year. I think I'll give it a shot. I'll let you know how it works out.

jlvantassel 07-02-03 01:31 PM

Fairly new myself so all I can share is what I have done.

Spinning classes started a few years ago and have reallly increased my stamina. Before doing a couple long rides I would build up my weekend rides. Maybe 20 Saturday and 20 Sunday. Then 30 and 30. 40 and 40. So on until you build to the mileage you want.

When or if you can't get out as much but you can take a spinning class, it sure can't hurt.

Good luck.

dragracer 07-02-03 01:33 PM

I've been sort of in the same boat AB. I've been thinking about going on a weekly ride the LBS has here. I shop owner told me they normally split up into two groups with the faster riders in one group and the newer, slower folks in the other group. I'd definately go with the slow group but I'm even a little worried about looking like a real newb even in the slow group. Guess I just need to stop worrying about it and try it one time and see what happens. It's pretty flat around here in SE Kansas so I think I'll be ok. It's those darn long hills that really zap me.

Good luck on your ride AB!!

TheRCF 07-02-03 01:42 PM

I you don't have hills, that should make it much easier since only wind would be a possible issue. I'd be surprised if your normal winds there are worse than here (typically 10-25 mph here).

Also, since you've been riding a year, there isn't an issue about not being used to riding and having to develop the muscles from scratch.

8 miles at 15 mph is just fine I would think. Like I said, there is a huge difference in effort for relatively small speed gains on a bike in my experience. I track 3 types of rides:

1. Push as hard as I can for as long as I can (lots of muscle burn).
2. Push pretty hard, but try not to let the muscles burn too often.
3. Push pretty hard, but try to avoid the burn altogether.

My best average speeds for 11.17 miles (my main measuring point) for each are: 18.05, 16.83, and 15.82. As you can see, not a lot of difference, especially between the last two.

I would also mention that on occasion I back off even more, though I'm not just taking a relaxing ride. Even then I average over 14 mph - usually closer to 15. In fact, sometimes I wonder if it is worth pushing hard when I can take it relatively easy and not be much slower!


ArnoldB 07-02-03 01:50 PM

I guess I have to show my ignorance pedal-n-paddle. What are "spinning classes"?

earleybird 07-02-03 02:31 PM

Looking at your bike it suggests to me that the biggest hurdle you have is probably going to be simple resistance.

A hybrid necessarily has low pressure middle to large profile tyres to cope with a variety of terrains. ( yours are probably 28 or 32mm + The problem is they are definitly not designed for speed. Every mile and hour above 10mph on those tyres and the drag resistance is gioing to require considerable increase in effort. Its not a straight line graph either
I don't know what your tyres you have but I would look at simple ways you can make the most of your existing strength and stamina. Don't waste a joule of energy.

Look on the side wall of your tyre for recommended pressures and pump them up to the maximum pressure if you haven't already done so. This will give you a noticable improvement in both speed and responsiveness.

Next look at the possibility of putting a smaller profile smoother tread tyre on your rims maybe a 28 or even a 25mm which will pump up to a higher pressutre and have less rolling resistance.The improvement in speed for the same output will be huge. Ask your local bike shop (lbs) or the forum for advice of suitable tyres to fit your rims as it is a bit of a nightmare

Lastly look at your position on the bike and see if you can lower your body profile to cheat wind resistance a little. At 15mph + it will make a big difference to crouch down even especially if you have straight bars that are set high for comfort

Good luck with your long one:)

jlvantassel 07-02-03 06:56 PM

My mistake. I should have been more clear.

Spinning is actually a trademark by Madd Dog Athletics for Johnny G Spinning classes. They are like aerobic classes on stationary bikes. Other health clubs may call them cycling classes or have other names.

Stationary bikes with an instructor leading everyone through different positions and various cadences while music is played. Spinning is suppose to be good for road biking. Someone correct me if I am wrong but I think that is how this Johnny G guy developed the program to improve his road biking.

Either way you go, don't take the pleasure out of your biking.

live311 07-02-03 07:18 PM

I would also recommend some time on a stationary bike at your local gym. You can get a more efficient aerobic workout that way since you have complete control over the resistance. It will also allow you to work on your pedaling techniqe (a whole other thread). I also strongly recommend some weight training to supplement your aerobic training, specifically squats, one-legged leg presses (pure torture but very beneficial), leg extensions, and leg curls. If you can't do that, I suggest you find a nice loop with a couple hills you can do and time youself.

Gargoola 07-03-03 12:03 AM

I started serious training for a marathon ride at the beginning of the year, I found it difficult increasing my stamina, and still do, because my metabolism is so fast. I'd be fine and then I'd find my speed just dropped off, even though the legs were fine. That doesn't sound like your problem, I'd just go for the longer ride and see what happens, either you can make it at the quicker speed or you have to slow down the extra 3 miles an hour or so. Even if you do slow down it will improve your endurance alot to be able to do a longer ride slowly. I guess it also suggest a rest in the middle, making sure you stretch (speciall lots of squats) to keep te lactic acid out of the legs.
I also take with me some scruggin, like chocolate nuts, dried fruit, doesn't really feel alot but it really does help if you struggling with energy. Just a small container will do, Icarry it under my seat in a medium sized seat bag.

I also found that finding a decent hill that's reasonably close and climbing it daily, or as often as possible helps alot, even though it doesn't extend your endurance, it builds strength and feinately build efficiency in pedaling/

MichaelW 07-03-03 04:33 AM

If you are doing 8 miles a day, every day, then you will have no problems doing an easy-paced 30mile day ride. You are well beyond the newbie problems of actually sitting on the bike for any length of time.
I would say dont bother with any spinning or gym work, just get out and ride. You dont need to ride fast, just at a steady pace.

The most effective upgrade you can make is to more efficient tyres. You will be amazed at the difference this makes. For general purpose road riding, many of use chose a slick 25 to 32mm size, which can take 80-100psi air pressure

I use Panaracer Pasela 32mm which is a narrow one more akin to a 28mm and can take 90psi. It works fine on roads and I can still use it on bike trails.

You may also want to look at a pedal attatchement system. Most sport riders are using cycling shoes with clipless pedals, but older style toe-clips and straps are a cheaper option which is almost as effective at a easy riding pace. For safety, you should keep the straps lose. I do all my commuting and long day rides using toe clips, and they work well. You can use them with any shoes, including stiffer trail shoes or leisure cycling shoes.

NIBYAK 07-03-03 05:16 AM

Iíve never been to s Spinning class, but I agree that you need to learn how to spin. At the speeds that you are averaging, you should never be in the big ring (big gear on the crank - by the pedals). You need to work on your cadence. Itís not about pedaling hard; itís about pedaling faster and smoother. When youíre cruising along count you pedal strokes for 15 seconds and figure out your RPMs. Then you need to work on increasing the RPMs. Donít try and do 90 RPM to start but gradually increase your cadence until your comfortable spinning faster. When the pedaling gets too hard and your cadence slows down, downshift to an easier gear. The key is learning how to pedal faster without bouncing around on the seat. After a while spinning higher RPMs will be become second nature. The hardest thing to do in the beginning is to not allow yourself to slow down on your cadence. When I was learning I had a friend who would scream SPIN!!! whenever I slowed my pedaling. Unfortunately for you, he lives in Pennsylvania and wonít be available to help you out. Another thing that we used to do was on a set place on my ride (at a mile-post, road sign, tree, rock . . ,anything thatís at the same place all of the time) we would start off spinning in an easy gear for a set distance of about a quarter mile and we would just spin out as fast as we could pedal. Ever time we passed this spot we would have a spin race and we would never shift to a higher gear. Itís amazing how fast you can go in an easy gear once you learn how to pedal. Spinning will increase your speed and stamina. Just try it for a few weeks and you will see your speed and distance increase.

dexmax 07-03-03 05:59 AM


Since I began cycling I was spinning.. I don't really like the resistance so I tend to use the lighter gears.. I guess it was my style. I didn't even knew then about spinning.. but I was spinning.. If I remember it right I maintained my cadence to about 75-80rpm then..

Now, I maintain it between 90-100rpm.. Sometimes on climbs, my cadence drops to about 70rpm. When it touches the 65rpm mark when I'm really tired, I tell myself to turn back or to stop for a rest.

On flats, maintain 80-90rpm for starters. And gradually go up to 95rpm..

NW NJ Biker 07-03-03 06:40 AM

Iíll second what Nibyak said. Learn to spin and donít use the big ring.

One more thing, make sure your seat height is correct. There are good instructions here:

Your knee should be nearly fully extended at the bottom of your pedal stroke. Youíll waste a lot of energy if you have the seat too low.

MichaelW 07-03-03 07:42 AM

Dont bother with the "Spinning" (tm) class, but do practice spinning your pedals in circles. Clipless pedals or toe clips are needed to spin correctly at 80-90 revs/min

>>"Your knee should be **nearly** fully extended at the bottom of your pedal stroke. "
Note the nearly. If you set your saddle for full extension when your heel is on the pedal, but actually ride with the ball of your foot on the pedal, you will have the correct knee flex to avoid injury.

ArnoldB 07-03-03 11:12 AM

Thanks for all the advice. I learned a while back that repetitions were important when I started doing 13 miles. I've been doing 75-80 rpms daily when I ride with my wife to build my stamina. Obviously, I wasn't using any science here. I think my plan will be to give it a try at the highest tire pressure; and, see how I do. If I do ok, I'll definitely look into the tire sizes. I knew that I had a lot of drag. I was hoping that a tire change would help. I really appreciated the help.

belfast-biker 07-03-03 03:42 PM

Spinning classes for someone who owns a good bike sounds....wrong. :p

A friend goes there and tries to get me going as well...but she says the instructor pushes everyone to the same level. Isn't that the main reason why newbies stop going? Hello?

Plus I can "spin" along the local cycle network, in the glorious sunshine beside a beautiful river.

I suppose I'm weird like that...

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