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Improving my long distance riding

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Improving my long distance riding

Old 06-01-15, 09:12 AM
  #1  
ncrnelson
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Improving my long distance riding

For years my longest rides have stagnated at around 50 miles. Now at 28 I'm at my physical prime(in theory), but I've got a two year old and another baby on the way in August. Long rides are hard to find time for, but short rides or pulling my daughter in the Burley is easy to do often. I'd like to do longer rides or at least ride 50 miles or so without it wrecking me. The problem is cumulative fatigue of my legs, neck, back and arms. My bike fit is good, discomfort isn't really an issue.

So to folks with families and obligations, is getting out for frequent short rides enough or do I really need to make time for more long rides to see improvement?

And just to make it C&V, I'm doing my long rides on my 83 Cannondale.
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Old 06-01-15, 09:22 AM
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I have an (almost) two year old as well. It's always difficult to find the time, so when I do get out for centuries, which is about once a month, I feel them for sure.

My son and I ride to daycare everyday on my way to work, so my regular weekday ride is about 16 miles roundtrip. He's good for about 25-30 on the weekend before he's not into it anymore.

Do some research on interval training. If you can't get long miles in regularly, hitting the short stuff hard can be a decent substitute.
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Old 06-01-15, 09:25 AM
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How hard do you push yourself when you are riding? The more pressure you put on yourself to go as fast as you can, the harder it is to recover and ride for distance. Also, while the frame may fit you, it takes the body time to adjust to a "proper" cycling position. I think some of your discomfort can be reduced by raising your stem/handlebars a couple inches, and then, as you find yourself comfortable on rides (in the back/neck/shoulder), consider lowering the bars a quarter inch, and getting used to that for a while before repeating the process.

You don't say where in the legs you are feeling fatigue. If the fatigue is mostly in your quads, you probably need to raise the seat a bit (and correspondingly raise your bars additionally by an equivalent amount besides what was noted above).

There are plenty of people who offer more detailed advice about bike fitting, and there are plenty of web sites that discuss it. Feel free to peruse them and get additional pointers.
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Old 06-01-15, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by icepick_trotsky View Post
Do some research on interval training. If you can't get long miles in regularly, hitting the short stuff hard can be a decent substitute.
I agree, interval training is great. Very good to strengthen the legs and good for your heart rate to.

Also, if you have hills close by, just drill them over and over until you can't anymore. According to the grade and the amount of effort put in, this could be a pretty quick and very effective workout.

As far as the pain in your arms, neck, and back, if the bike fit is good, it's probably due to not spending enough time in the saddle. The more time you spend on the bike, the more your body will get used to the position and the better you'll eventually feel.
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Old 06-01-15, 09:40 AM
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I think my fit is ok, though I feel it's still a work in progress. I don't have any real comfort issues though I feel I rest too much weight on my hands. Perhaps raising the stem would improve that, though I was hoping to build up my core strength through more riding which hopefully would remedy the arm and back fatigue.

If I go for a long ride I don't ride intensely, I've got to make the trip back after all. I figure short more intense rides could help with leg strength, I may also have to give in and do core exercises. When I think of training it makes riding sounds less fun, but I suppose if I want results that may be what's necessitated.
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Old 06-01-15, 09:45 AM
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Intervals aren't just about leg strength. Working that hard raises your lactic threshold, which means you won't fatigue as easily when you do get the long ones in.
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Old 06-01-15, 09:46 AM
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"Training" can either be something intensive, or something gradual. When I was young (up to about your age), I was very fit and also very competitive. It didn't take too may years away to see everything change due to becoming more sedentary (except for my competitiveness - which resulted in more unpleasantness than was necessary). I am making the stem suggestion as part of a gradual re-acclimation to cycling that hopefully can spare you some pain over the couple months it might take for your body to regain it's feel for cycling.
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Old 06-01-15, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by ncrnelson View Post
For years my longest rides have stagnated at around 50 miles. Now at 28 I'm at my physical prime(in theory), but I've got a two year old and another baby on the way in August. Long rides are hard to find time for, but short rides or pulling my daughter in the Burley is easy to do often. I'd like to do longer rides or at least ride 50 miles or so without it wrecking me. The problem is cumulative fatigue of my legs, neck, back and arms. My bike fit is good, discomfort isn't really an issue.

So to folks with families and obligations, is getting out for frequent short rides enough or do I really need to make time for more long rides to see improvement?

And just to make it C&V, I'm doing my long rides on my 83 Cannondale.
25 mile rides seem to be the max for busy folks.
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Old 06-01-15, 09:56 AM
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i think its a getting used to things issue. a lot of the discomfort form longer distance is simply from not being used to it. The more you do it, the more you can tolerate these odd positions. My hands are one of my weeknesses on the longer distances. i have found that the opposite of what has been said here is true for sore hands, don't necessarily move your bars up, as this can cause you to put even more weight on your hands. rather move them forward and force yourself to stretch a bit more and you will take some weight off the hands. this is what i have found. to do this i use a nitto deluxe stem at 110mm nearly level with my seat. I moved my saddle back a touch and switched to a roomier bar (nitto noodle). the noodle bars force me to stretch my torso out a touch more than my older bars. i have a few more positions to put my hands on the larger bars too. I now ride the drops way more often as well.

so maybe consider a moderate bar drop and stretching your position a touch to reduce some hand fatigue and put more weight on your torso. this will also help you get into a position to increase power ever so slightly. I didn't think a new set of bars would change my comfort level as drastically as it has, but I love em.
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Old 06-01-15, 10:06 AM
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My kids are a bit older, so maybe my approach won't help you. But several years ago I told my wife I was going to go for one century, i.e. a ride of 100+ miles in a day, every month. And she was okay with that. So I just started doing it. The first couple seemed pretty long. They've gotten easier. Now I've done it for five years, I think, having missed only two or three (and made up for it by doubling up other months).
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Old 06-01-15, 10:11 AM
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I think too much weight on the hands has more to do with seat position than stem/bars position. I find if I move the seat back a cm, and tilt it slightly nose-up I have better weight balance for longer rides, with less hand/upper back fatigue. I'm working up to a 350-mile week of rail trail touring, so this has been on my mind a lot.
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Old 06-01-15, 10:19 AM
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Good for you wanting the distance riding. You have the comfort down so now its overcoming fatigue. With your young family, the hardest part might be finding the time. But if you really want it, figure a way to get as many miles in as possible - consistently and no more than a week off between rides. The other thing is having an understanding spouse or s.o.. But DO take breaks from riding altogether. If you can dedicate consistent solo bike time for just a month, the cardio and muscles will cooperate. If in the flats, go for the headwind routes or if in hill country, attack them but slowly and methodical. Conserve and pace yourself and not with another.

As for myself, its fun taking the little ones on a trailer ride but its no serious workout. I'm not going to risk road riding with them and certainly not going to elevate the speed.
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Old 06-01-15, 10:44 AM
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I think the mental component is huge, and needs to be addressed, too. WHY exactly do you want to ride distances over 50 miles (your threshold)? I can tell you that if my only reason to be out riding is to see the odometer tick over 50 miles (or some other arbitrary distance), I lose motivation and can't summon the energy, even if the fitness is there. It's only a little better than riding a trainer (ugh!) at that point.

Instead, consider picking out nearby cities or roads or trails that you haven't travelled by bike. See if you can rope buddies into these longer rides, or join a cycling group that does longer weekend rides. Make it fun and explore new territories, and when you have solid reasons to be out riding, you'll find a way to solve any other problems that crop up.

I rode a 400k (~250mi) brevet not too long ago, and it was a wonderful experience. The scenery was beautiful, the people I rode with were great, didn't have any bike problems, and I arrived at the end feeling fresh enough that I could have ridden more. I'm sure fitness played some role in it, but I also feel that there is a pace where you can ride nearly indefinitely as long as you are taking in adequate nutrition and sodium and water. There's a lot of that kind of discussion in the Long-Distance Forum, so check it out if you haven't yet.

P.S.: @ncrnelson, are you able to bike to work? Even though my round-trip route is only about 13 miles, it does wonders for getting and keeping me in shape.
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Old 06-01-15, 10:48 AM
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I don't have time for long rides except when my grown son-in-laws visit so several times a year we will go for a few back to back 50-90 mi rides.

I ride as hard as I can for 25 mi 5 days a week (before work). So I'm pretty comfortable to about 35-40 miles. At 30 mi I change positions more and make sure I've got my backstroke working. By the end of the ride I'm spent but so is my son-in-law and he's younger, stronger and rides more. At 63 endurance, not physical prime, is on my side. At 28 even though you are at physical prime endurance is still developing.

Ride hard as much as you can. Even when pulling your girl (lucky you!) pull some hills. Riding hard every day goes a long way to keeping you in riding shape. Work on keeping your back flat. When you get the chance to ride longer especially if you can't do it often It's going to tax you. Do it anyway & enjoy the ride.
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Old 06-01-15, 10:58 AM
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Thanks for all the great responses.

I do have good access to some great hilly trails only a couple miles away, they're about 18 miles for the long loop. It's a good training ride that I honestly don't utilize enough.

I may yet adjust the saddle angle, I'm riding it more level than I have in the past after reading some talk on here about angling your pelvis forwards to reduce pressure on your sit bones. I had a belt saddle on this bike previously that was tilted bask a bit and the last 45 mile ride was real hard on my butt. I know this was partially due to sitting too hard on the saddle because of my tired legs. This last ride the saddle was more level which I think left a bit more weight on my hands, less directly on my sit bones, but the result was no sit bone soreness. It was no experiment though because I rode on my fairly new Brooks b-17 this time, so the specific reason for the relief could be twofold.

I don't want to swap bars or stems yet both because I just wrapped them with relatively expensive tape and I can't say that they are the cause of any issues that couldn't be caused by lack of core strength. Also my saddle is most but not all the way back and my saddle to bar drop is about 1 inch.

With regards to pulling the Burley trailer, that can be an intense workout, as soon as you turn that into even a mild headwind it really becomes a ball and chain.
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Old 06-01-15, 11:48 AM
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I'd say change your goals to suit your life. I work long enough hours that I barely get to see my kid at all when I bike-commute. I'm happy to tow him on the weekends. I'm doing something with him when he's awake, and he gets some long naps. Before I was married, I would hurry home to go for a long walk with the dog, who had been waiting in the apartment all day. Either way, you don't need to be alone to make this "training," you can get your heart rate into whatever zone and take just as long at it.
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Old 06-01-15, 11:51 AM
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Early starts make it possible. Out the door at 6:00 am, 50 no-dawdle miles, back home by 9:30 am.
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