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Recovery Rides - Fact or Fallacy?

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Recovery Rides - Fact or Fallacy?

Old 09-05-10, 12:27 PM
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Recovery Rides - Fact or Fallacy?

First, let me apologize for what might appear to be a somewhat misleading title. As I was out on my first ever "recovery ride" I was searching for a catchy title. After all, who the hell would want to read about some 60+ y/o's recovery ride? But when "Recovery Rides - Fact or Fantasy?" (the first iteration of the title) popped into my head, it occurred to me I might be able to kill two birds with one stone... post a boring ride report, and prompt discussion on the relative merits of "recovery rides."

In the year and a half that I have come to BF for all sorts of cycling wisdom, recovery rides have popped up in most discussions of post hammer-fest activities. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence, I'm not familiar with any empirical evidence supporting the concept.

The theory, as near as I can tell, is to take a short, low effort, high cadence ride and get the blood flowing to clear toxin build up from the leg muscles. It certainly sounds logical. My interpretation is a 30-40 min ride in HR zone 2 at about 100 cadence. Speed and distance are irrelevant and are dictated by maintaining the other three factors.

But is this settled science, or just addicted cyclisits excuse to get out of the house for yet another ride Truth be know, that's how I used it today. When my wife said "Why are you going out for a bike ride today? You rode 115 yesterday!" I was able to justify it by saying "Everybody on bikeforums says you have to take a short recovery ride the day after a hard effort. It works all the poison buildup out of your legs."

So, what do you think? Any empirical evidence to support "recovery rides"

Oh, and by the way, humor an old man and check out the ride report.
Post 115 mi LOOP Recovery Ride

Executive Summary: 35 min; Ave Cad: 99; HR: Zone 2. NOTE: RWGPS average cadence is bogus. They average in 0 cad and report an mean, not the mode or median. Garmin reported 99.

Last edited by bobthib; 09-05-10 at 12:35 PM.
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Old 09-05-10, 01:34 PM
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Done plenty of Exertive sports in my time and a number of them have left me dead at the end of the event. Going back to 50 odd years ago now and Rugby. 1 1/2 hours of basically sprinting for 60 yards at a time for most of that 1 1/2. Remember I was fit and had youth on my side. We used to play on Wednesday afternoons and thursday mornings and the knocks showed up. We had to get to school 1 hour early for some gentle exercise before the school began. Stressed muscles- Aches in the legs and even bruises used to feel better after that exercise. It had to as the only excuse out of the Saturday game was a Broken limb with plaster round it. Crosscountry running and we were warned that the next day training run after races-if we were doing one- had to be gentle.

Bike riding and I have followed this regime. Only after the long rides-Never do the Fast sprint type ones. Problem is that I have to do it after work when I have already gone a day of working the muscles that I should be recovering.

But I have even done it straight after a ride. Did a century that finished 10 miles from home. Took 2 hours to do that 10 miles but no stress- no strain- no effort. Woke up next morning feeling dead but the muscles were OK.

So do recovery rides work- I'd say yes. Only time they don't is if there is a pulled muscle or other damage. Then further damage could be done.

Have to admit that as I have got older- The need for some gentle exercise to get the knees working- the muscles loose that have gone tight and the need to stretch the aching back have become more necessary. At the rate I am going on- I might need a recovery ride after a trip to the local shops shortly. But I think that is down to lack of riding rather than too much of it.
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Old 09-05-10, 01:51 PM
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bobthib, I haven't read anything lately, but in the past any side of the debate had some empirical evidence to support their side, so I doubt there's much written in stone. I think that the recovery day ride following a physically taxing ride has more of an effect on the next ride, if you're riding within the next couple of days. If you ride only on weekends, then there may be little, if any advantage of a recovery ride.

I don't think that it matters what type of ride... cardio, spin practice or sight seeing is important, just as long as the legs 'come up to temp' on the recovery ride. On second thought, if your physical ride had tuned into mashing technique, a spin ride, where you run one legged for intervals would be best.

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Old 09-05-10, 02:47 PM
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Can not remember the expert that said "recovery" rides, ie. going as slow as possible were a waste of time and did not really work. Basically said it was of more benefit to go out as hard as you feel you can after a hard ride.

Whoever is right on this it does get you out of the house.
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Old 09-06-10, 09:08 PM
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from Thomas Chapple, Base Building for Cyclists, page 175.

"The recovery ride is intended to loosen up the legs, enhance circulation, burn some fat, and encourage the body to release some growth hormones. Ride in your small or middle chainring and keep the ride very easy and short. Avoid riding on hills.

Recovery rides should not reach the level that would be considered training for either duration or intensity. Intensity should be level one and duration should be 30 to 90 minutes. You should ride slowly enough to make you feel guilty..."

The author recommends one or two recovery rides in a normal "training week" and two or three during a "recovery week".

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Old 09-06-10, 09:51 PM
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After a hard physically taxing ride, I'd be very stiff and sore the next day. I walk for work, and by noon the stiffness and soreness was always gone. If I had the day off after a hard ride, and didn't walk, I'd be stiff and sore for two days.
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Old 09-07-10, 11:13 AM
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I think, for me, there is some legitimacy to it. People vary in their physiology. I can ride 60 miles without breakfast or eating during the morning. It seems that many people need food to do even half that.

Now I have noticed that I feel a bit trashed after a century. I do a multiday ride in north FL every year (the FL Bicycle Safari). I have found that walking around in the campground and keeping moving makes me go from feeling a bit wasted at the end of the ride to pretty normal by bedtime. The next day I am good to go. I think I would not be as recovered if I did not put in the miles of walking around otherwise.

I recall doing a 180 mile ride one day and the next day I felt pretty trashed. I went out and did about 35 miles. After that I felt "good" again.

Is there a scientific basis for this? I rather doubt it. I don't think that anyone has come up with the definitive biochemical mechanism behind "sore muscles". There are notions but I think all they are is notions. It is still pretty much anecdotal.

Quite a bit of training is by guess and by gosh.
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Old 09-07-10, 11:22 AM
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At least for me it's an excuse to get out of the house for another ride.

"Are you going for a bike ride TODAY?!?!? You rode 115 mi yesterday"

"But honey, everybody on Bikeforums says you have to go on a recovery ride the next day!"
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Old 09-07-10, 11:46 AM
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I typically do 45 minute recovery rides on Monday and Friday. Basically the ride is "easy" with my HR in Z1 and with the intention to get the bad junk out of the muscles. I usually race and or have a hard training day on Sunday and on Thursdays the workout will be hard intervals or some extended Z3 riding. I believe, for my own body, the rides are physically and mentally therapeutic. Those are the rides where I look for wildlife and find tools along the roadside. Lately they are also the rides I do with my wife and have been compromised due to her wanting to ride up to 2 hours, but that's OK as the average speed is under 12 mph and I'm getting "good boy points" while lobbying for new bike stuff
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Old 09-07-10, 12:27 PM
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I personally have found them to be helpful. However, if someone is getting burned out from riding too much I'd say skip it.
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Old 09-07-10, 01:51 PM
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Try a different activity if you think the lactic acid buildup is still in the muscles. I do hiking with my wife and it is a wonderful activity that gets us out of the house, and on the trails. For your neck of the woods, try this link:


Climbs on hikes are a little different, yet share some similarities with riding. Bring along your Garmin and drinks. Besides, now you have a weight bearing exercise that works on the hamstrings too.
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Old 09-07-10, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Allegheny Jet
[FONT=Verdana]...Those are the rides where I look for wildlife and find tools along the roadside.
I could be in a fullon sprint and would brake hard for what would appear to be a 9/10 box wrench...
good bunggie cords merit a look-see. Found a 7mm allen key once - Campy guyz would grok that...

recovery - loafin around on a bike is on the upper level of worthwhile things to do with your life...
not sure that there's much hard evidence to favor 'recovery' ride, but its been done for ever.
I know that those days when the legs really ache at the start and I 'recovery' ride, they feel a ton better at the finish.
Alternative is sittin on the couch and watchin Wheel of Fortune with the missus... (Wikipedia ref. - UHF - Wheel of Fish)
I luv her, but I think I;d rather get a good poke in the eye... hence 'recovery'
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Old 09-07-10, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclezen
recovery - loafin around on a bike is on the upper level of worthwhile things to do with your life...
I would consider this statement settled science.
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