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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 08-20-13, 01:37 PM   #1
maddane
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How long can a person ride a bike without support?

I am curious about endurance cycling, and wondering how long one person can ride a bike without support, by only refilling bottles at gas stations and buying energy bars, packing gels. etc.

I live in California and we have some looooong state roads and for some obscure reason I am strangely in love with the though of the loneliness of enduring the long distance by myself. Last year I strapped on my CamelBak and ran a full marathon in Napa Valley without meeting anyone and without restocking supplies along the way - and I LOVED IT! One of the best runs I've ever done. And now I want to do something similar on the bike.

Any experiences with this? Looking forward to hearing from you all!

- Christian
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Old 08-20-13, 03:07 PM   #2
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Without better defining the question, the answer would be "indefinitely".

People do 1200k's, which usually involves pre-arranged sleep stops, but you can sleep beside the road if you care to, or do without to the extent you can manage that.
There's no reason to limit yourself to energy bars. If you're going to eat at convenience stores, they usually have sandwiches and stuff, too, so you can get plenty to eat if you're not picky. I don't see many randonneurs using gels, that's more a roadie thing. And if you were going to ride "indefinitely", you'd likely have to cut your daily mileage down accordingly. It becomes more of a touring/hobo type of thing then.
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Old 08-20-13, 03:39 PM   #3
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Around the world, apparently...

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/...ide-in-92-days

Paris-Brest-Paris is a 1200k ride that limits support to the controls. Some events, like the Furnace Creek 508, require support.

Of course, if you're going to ride extended distances with little or no support, in low-density areas, it might be wise to have something like a Spot GPS, or something for a mobile device (e.g. GPS Tracker).
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Old 08-20-13, 04:27 PM   #4
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I am curious about endurance cycling, and wondering how long one person can ride a bike without support, by only refilling bottles at gas stations and buying energy bars, packing gels. etc.
At least 1200K.

But really, you could keep going as long as you had the finances to do so. That's usually known as touring.
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Old 08-20-13, 04:30 PM   #5
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I am curious about endurance cycling, and wondering how long one person can ride a bike without support, by only refilling bottles at gas stations and buying energy bars, packing gels. etc.

I live in California and we have some looooong state roads and for some obscure reason I am strangely in love with the though of the loneliness of enduring the long distance by myself. Last year I strapped on my CamelBak and ran a full marathon in Napa Valley without meeting anyone and without restocking supplies along the way - and I LOVED IT! One of the best runs I've ever done. And now I want to do something similar on the bike.

Any experiences with this? Looking forward to hearing from you all!

- Christian
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Old 08-20-13, 05:13 PM   #6
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OK :-) I was being a little vague here. Let me narrow down the criteria a little:

- I want to go as far as I can in say 24 hours.
- I want to limit the stops to unloading 'waste' and onboarding fuel. No comfy bed or three course meal.

I would think that riding 500 miles in 10 days is pretty easy and can be done alone without much planning. But how about going 500 miles non stop without sleep by pretty much keeping the riding to e.g. two hours in the saddle (empty two bottles and eat all the supplies) then stop for ~10 minutes to restock.

I tried not putting my feed on the ground for 5 hours once and neck, arms, back (and butt) start to a bit sore at some point.
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Old 08-20-13, 05:41 PM   #7
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Look into 24 hour races, there many be one in your general area.

At the 2013 National 24 Hour Challenge, lots of riders were able to complete 200 - 300 miles in that time period, and usually top out at 330 miles.

Keep in mind that if you go too long without sleeping, you can run into some serious sleep deprivation issues.
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Old 08-20-13, 09:28 PM   #8
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OK :-) I was being a little vague here. Let me narrow down the criteria a little:

- I want to go as far as I can in say 24 hours.
- I want to limit the stops to unloading 'waste' and onboarding fuel. No comfy bed or three course meal.

I would think that riding 500 miles in 10 days is pretty easy and can be done alone without much planning. But how about going 500 miles non stop without sleep by pretty much keeping the riding to e.g. two hours in the saddle (empty two bottles and eat all the supplies) then stop for ~10 minutes to restock.

I tried not putting my feed on the ground for 5 hours once and neck, arms, back (and butt) start to a bit sore at some point.
24-hour race: http://www.machka.net/24hour/2006_UMCA24hour.htm ... although there was some limited support.

The four 1200K randonnees I've done have all had controls of some sort where support was provided, but the Last Chance was pretty light-on in that regard: http://www.machka.net/usa/24h_lcride.htm

The 1000K randonnee I did in Manitoba was completely self-supported: http://www.machka.net/1000/1000km.htm


I've done heaps of self-supported 600K randonnees, and 400K randonees, and shorter distances.
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Old 08-20-13, 09:51 PM   #9
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OK :-) I was being a little vague here. Let me narrow down the criteria a little:

- I want to go as far as I can in say 24 hours.
- I want to limit the stops to unloading 'waste' and onboarding fuel. No comfy bed or three course meal.

I would think that riding 500 miles in 10 days is pretty easy and can be done alone without much planning. But how about going 500 miles non stop without sleep by pretty much keeping the riding to e.g. two hours in the saddle (empty two bottles and eat all the supplies) then stop for ~10 minutes to restock.

I tried not putting my feed on the ground for 5 hours once and neck, arms, back (and butt) start to a bit sore at some point.
How some of this works:
A 400k is a fairly common randonneuring ride, normally done without any sleep breaks. Depending on conditions and riders' speed, can take maybe 16 hours to 24 hours. That would normally include stops every 30 miles or so for food and drink. And that's about 256 miles.
A 600k is a fairly common randonneuring ride, but normally done with a sleep break- usually close to 400k the first day, a few hour's break, then do the rest.
A 1,000k is normally done as 3 long days with sleep breaks at night.
A 1200k is normally done as 4 days with sleep breaks. On any of these, a faster rider or one not needing as much sleep can shorten it up.

What you can do will depend to a great deal on your circumstances. If the route is laid out where you can get supplies ever 30 miles on a 24-hour basis, you should be able to cover around 250-300 miles in 24 hours, more if you're really good at it. If it's too far in the boondocks, you may have trouble getting supplies where you need them.

Going too long without sleep breaks can be a problem. The problem is if you plan to ride X miles without sleeping, then get out there in the middle of it and just can't keep your eyes open, what do you do? It could just screw your plans all up. Or it could be as simple as just taking a short nap and going on. But try not to work yourself into a corner with that kind of thing.

I once rode 500 miles in 42 hours on a race. But I had to get some sleep in the middle of it, too, and there were times I couldn't even finish a 26-mile loop without having to nap a bit because I was about to fall off the bike. Not a good situation.
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Old 08-21-13, 09:17 AM   #10
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Driving alone at night can be hazardous

Have done a 824 mile race back and forth across South Dakota that does allow riders to compete without support. Did it twice in 2009 and then again in 2011. First time did it merely to make within 96 hour time limit and second time tried to do within 3 days. The first time I did use motels for sleep but the second time I was sleeping out on cement. I didn't carry a tent but had a waterproof bivy sack. Encountered some bad thunderstorms and a cut tire 70 miles from the end which required me to loose a lot of time. Had to wait several hours to get a replacement tire driven out to me (boot not adequate as tube bulging through cut).

In my second experience while driving at nite and going up a steep incline after I crossed the Missouri river, had two yokels in pickup who deliberately tried to run me over. They had extra lane to pass when going up hill but slowed and pulled next to me while blaring on horn and rolled down their window. I asked what was going on and all I got was a drunken look from the passenger. Next thing I new the driver cut immediately over into my lane and almost got me. Came close to going over the side of the road but maintained my control after doing a 360 in the roadway. Other than that I really enjoyed the experience but probably(promised wife) wouldn't do another unsupported.



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Old 08-30-13, 01:52 PM   #11
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Having done some long distance footraces in my past, I'd say the factors involved are:

Conditioning - If you can run a marathon you're probably already in good aerobic shape. You'll just need to get the different muscles used when pedaling a bicycle in shape.

Bicycle fit - Seems you noticed this recently with your sore butt, etc. Just get the bike to fit right, get a decent seat (everyone's butt is different), and this should be easy to overcome.

Water & Food - you can pick these up as you go along.

Fatigue - The better your conditioning, the longer you can resist your body/muscles wearing out.

Sleep - This you can't control very easily. When you start seeing pink ponies and gremlins running across the road its time to stop and nap.

Environment - I can't see riding too far in the dark, especially on those llooooonnnnggg lonely California roads (been on plenty of them in car). Not much shoulder on them, so it would be easy to get run off at night by a car (even with lights/reflectors), or even wander off them if tired. I'd probbly limit myself to starting a few hours before dawn, and stopping around sunset (or soon after, when I strt seeing those pink ponies!), so about 14-16 hours(?). At about 15mph, that would be a good solid 225 mile/400km day.
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Old 08-30-13, 03:20 PM   #12
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On that last issue, it's highly dependent on the roads. Here in Texas, the best roads for riding are generally rural "FM" roads. Away from urban areas, they don't have much traffic, they're usually in reasonably good shape. Late at night, traffic will just fall off to nothing in rural areas, and it's great riding. Generally no shoulder, but with the lack of traffic, that's okay. You for sure want some good lights front and back, though.
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Old 08-30-13, 04:45 PM   #13
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night riding is wonderful around here and in much of rural Pennsylvania. It can be a little annoying further east. And when I say night, I mean after about 8 PM.
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Old 08-30-13, 07:31 PM   #14
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I should qualify my definition of 'night time' from a California suburb perspective: Evenings the roads are crowded with vehicles until about 11pm; not my idea of friendly bicycling. But early mornings are a perfect time for riding. I regularly get up at 4AM during the week for a pre-dawn 15-20 mile ride, and the streets are barren (traffic seems to pick up about 5:30M). As for those early mornings that the OP mentions, the 'country' roads here in California outside of cities/major metro areas are probably a lot like those in Texas. So I'd be more likely to suggest an early morning 4AM start rather than riding into the evening hours.

FWIW: After experimenting with some current low-end bikes I ride for workouts, I want to start doing day-long or two day long (maybe even three day?)bike rides next year. Looking for a good bike right now, tweak it to my liking over the winter, then have some fun with it starting next spring.
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Old 08-30-13, 09:20 PM   #15
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And don't forget about RAAM. The solo winner did it in under 8 days for just under 3,000 miles. Not much sleeping on that one. Set a new record I believe.

http://www.raceacrossamerica.org/raa...?N_webcat_id=1
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Old 08-30-13, 10:15 PM   #16
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You need to investigate refueling possibilities along your route and their hours of operation. Then there's the weather. No rain makes it a lot easier. Moderate temperatures make it a lot easier. If one is forced to make an emergency sleep stop, bivvy bags weighing between 4 and 8 oz. are available. What you propose is totally doable. Just be careful not to fall asleep on your bike and to have reliable, adequate, and backup illumination, reflective gear, and self-support bike stuff like a spare tire, etc.
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Old 09-01-13, 09:55 AM   #17
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OK :-) I was being a little vague here. Let me narrow down the criteria a little:

- I want to go as far as I can in say 24 hours.
Then the longest you can run is 24 hours. End of story.
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Old 12-25-13, 05:37 PM   #18
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Then the longest you can run is 24 hours. End of story.
Sorry Bro,

I have done 28 hours without sleep a couple of times. I know of many other riders can ride 32-36 hours in without sleep each year. It is a pretty individual thing. If you can go no more than 24 hours then that is just you. Others can have different results, and do!
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Old 12-25-13, 09:28 PM   #19
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Sorry Bro,

I have done 28 hours without sleep a couple of times. I know of many other riders can ride 32-36 hours in without sleep each year. It is a pretty individual thing. If you can go no more than 24 hours then that is just you. Others can have different results, and do!
No, 24 hours is definitely the longest you can ride in a day.
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Old 12-25-13, 09:31 PM   #20
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And don't forget about RAAM. The solo winner did it in under 8 days for just under 3,000 miles. Not much sleeping on that one. Set a new record I believe.

http://www.raceacrossamerica.org/raa...?N_webcat_id=1
The OP was about unsupported riding.
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Old 12-25-13, 10:58 PM   #21
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I have done 28 hours without sleep a couple of times.
In 24 hours? How'd you do that?
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Old 12-25-13, 11:18 PM   #22
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In 24 hours? How'd you do that?
At Paris-Brest-Paris in 2007 I had a 10 pm start time (I had been up since 8am that day). We rode straight thru until 1:30am the following day (27.5 hrs) to the sleep stop. That makes a total of 41.5 hours waking time. I have known many Randonneurs to ride thru a 600km event without stopping for a nap, finishing in 26 to 28 hours. I personally prefer to catch a 2 hour nap on a 600 km but many do not. My best time on a 600 km (with nap) is 30 hours. I have done a 300 mi event (the Grand Tour 300) in 21.5 hours but had a good group to ride with. I could not do that time and distance alone. I do not think that riding for more than 24 hours at a stretch would strike many distance riders as unusual.

You do not know what you are capable of until you try and push the limits past what you think you can do. I'm just saying that you might be capable of more than you think, and others are as well.
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Old 12-26-13, 12:14 AM   #23
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I hate explaining jokes, but Jim and I are riffing on the fact that the OP changed his goal to how much a person could ride in a 24-hour period (day.)
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Old 12-27-13, 03:49 PM   #24
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Sorry Bro,

I have done 28 hours without sleep a couple of times. I know of many other riders can ride 32-36 hours in without sleep each year. It is a pretty individual thing. If you can go no more than 24 hours then that is just you. Others can have different results, and do!
Probably the best prep is previously having had colicky children. 36 hrs, no sleep? No problem.
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Old 12-27-13, 08:45 PM   #25
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I really need sleep before 24 hours is up. I can survive on very little sleep if conditions are right, but I can't go 24 hours without being very miserable. I do pretty well on 1 1/2 hour per 24 hours. I used to think that 3 hours in 24 was my lower limit, but I've found out differently. Still hoping to get 3 hours minimum, but it doesn't always work that way.
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