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Rest Days

Old 04-11-24, 11:29 AM
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Rest Days

Do long distance touring cyclists take substantially more rest days than a fitness or road cyclist?
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Old 04-11-24, 11:39 AM
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I personally am not a fan of rest days. I tend to ride every day at home and on tour. I might take easy days here and there on tour. I sometimes call them half days. That said If there is something special I want to do on tour I may stop for that. That might be an all day hike, whitewater rafting, or whatever. Once I took a a week off to explore the Yosemite Valley, but regular rest days are not the norm for me.
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Old 04-11-24, 11:56 AM
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Most of my tours are bracketed by immutable dates, so I schedule zero days to not miss a meeting, a flight or something else.

Zero days are useful to deal with lousy weather (ex: miserably cold rainy day; gale force headwind), health issue (ex: upset stomach, flu, not so mild injuries consequences of a fall), and fascinating POIs (ex: museum, day hike).

I try to start a trip with a 1-day/week bank. But I never succeed. Typically half. Typically a few days left in the bank at the end of the trip.

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Old 04-11-24, 12:54 PM
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Unless you're cycling across thousands of miles of Siberian tundra, or you're one of those waiting-for-death geezers who have lost all interest in the world, you're going to want to take an occasional day off to be a tourist whenever you get to an interesting city, relic site, national park, or other such attraction. You spent all that effort to get there on a bicycle. You're not going to just ride past without stopping, right?

That said, I've met multiple such geezers on the road who never stop for attractions. Tragic when one gets to the age where all curiosity toward the world is dead. Kudos to them for still being able to cycle at least. The brain is just as important as the body...

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Old 04-11-24, 01:05 PM
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Great comments guys, and informative, but they deal with why you do not want to ride without taking days off. But how about needing to (other than for weather, sickness, etc). From a strictly physical standpoint do you not need a day a week to recover your muscles or is that not an issue going slowly in lower gears?
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Old 04-11-24, 02:22 PM
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Just speaking for myself, many mornings my body is telling me I need a rest day, but if I start riding that feeling goes away. So basically I don’t ”need” rest days, but sometimes, I’ll take one anyway and do some washing and wandering around or whatever. Those are good days too
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Old 04-11-24, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by spinconn
Do long distance touring cyclists take substantially more rest days than a fitness or road cyclist?
Not sure I fully understand the question in context of a "fitness" or "road cyclist". I assume for these two categories, the most common situation is that they are home. So a rest day is a situation where they are home but not riding.

I assume for a "long distance touring cyclist", they are not at home. In this category, the most common situation is they are not at home. A rest day is one where you are still out of your home situation but not riding that day.

Based on my experience, if I were to guess, I would expect to have more "rest days"/"non-cycling days" when you are at home. They might be days you are actually chosing to rest and not ride. They might also be days you simply are doing something else, e.g. doing other errands, working, visiting others or anything in a list of many things you I more easily do at home than when I am on the road. So my best guess at the answer is "no, someone at home might take more non-cycling days than someone on a long-distance tour in part".

However, if we put aside the comparison aspects of your question, there is a separate question of how often do touring cyclists take a rest day and under what circumstances. For me the answer really depends on the overall length of the tour:
- When my trip duration is short e.g. four days or less; then no I don't expect to take a rest day.
- When my trip duration is a week or two; then I am more likely to put in a "contingency day" to deal with unexpected things that come up, e.g. inclement weather, mechanical issues, interesting tourist opportunities. Sometimes the contingency day gets saved to the end point but sometimes I might use it along the way.
- When my trip duration is longer, say a month to many months - then I have allowed extra days along the way. These have been used in a variety of ways on some of my longer tours, e.g.
* Cycling the outside of Australia for eight months, I took some for tourist highlights e.g. Uluru or the Bungles or ... other places I might not see again
* Cycling six months in USA last year, I took some for extremes of weather (e.g. heat warning in Iowa, smoke in Illinois, rain in South Dakota, wind in Washington)
* Cycling across Russia, we would travel/camp for 7-10 days between larger cities and then when we reached a city we would stay for two nights in a hotel and get a chance to do laundry, refresh, etc.
* Cycling across the Americas for 18-months, I took a break or two for weather, but also along the way to attend language school, to fly back and file my taxes, etc.

Sometime rather than a specific rest day, I will use that contingency time instead to make a shorter ride. A good example was last year I was traveling through Nebraska in August when an abnormal high "heat dome" event happened. Mornings were still comfortable but heat/humidity in the afternoons was much higher. So I took ~6 days to cycle what I otherwise would have spent ~4 days riding and took my afternoons off.
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Old 04-11-24, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by spinconn
From a strictly physical standpoint do you not need a day a week to recover your muscles or is that not an issue going slowly in lower gears?
For me that is a choice I can make. I ride at a relaxed enough pace that I can ride day-after-day without needing to take an extra day to recover.

That was different on a supported ride I did across Africa where I wasn't the one setting the distance/direction/schedule. In that case, there was a particular itinerary and the choice was either to ride or be in the support vehicle. I didn't want to be in the support vehicle so I rode whatever I could and then found scheduled rest days more welcome.

If I had done that as a self-supported tour instead of a supported ride, then I would have had lower average mileage. In part because I was carrying my gear. However, also in part because I would have picked distances that matched the conditions e.g. if I was feeling less than 100% I would have made a shorter day, if I had tailwinds I would have made a longer day, if I had headwinds I would have made a shorter day, etc.
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Old 04-11-24, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by spinconn
Great comments guys, and informative, but they deal with why you do not want to ride without taking days off. But how about needing to (other than for weather, sickness, etc). From a strictly physical standpoint do you not need a day a week to recover your muscles or is that not an issue going slowly in lower gears?
Zero days are an interesting. A few days off I've done something "interesting" like going whitewater rafting, or doing a day hike. The next day was hard after those zero days -- they weren't all that restful! But when touring, I'll often do a lot of sitting or lying down when I get off the bike, rather than gardening, mowing, or household chores like I do at home. That lets my muscles rest and recharge so I'm ready for the next day's ride.

Most of the training plans I've seen for fitness (century rides) or racing call for a day or two off every week. I'd guess while touring, overall, I take a day off the bike every two or three weeks. It's also quite possible to do a half-day ride when you're tired while touring, which surprisingly often leaves me fresher the next day than sitting in a camp or motel room does.
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Old 04-11-24, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Yan
Unless you're cycling across thousands of miles of Siberian tundra, or you're one of those waiting-for-death geezers who have lost all interest in the world, you're going to want to take an occasional day off to be a tourist whenever you get to an interesting city, relic site, national park, or other such attraction. You spent all that effort to get there on a bicycle. You're not going to just ride past without stopping, right?

That said, I've met multiple such geezers on the road who never stop for attractions. Tragic when one gets to the age where all curiosity toward the world is dead. Kudos to them for still being able to cycle at least. The brain is just as important as the body...
In the light of this, I'll clarify my feelings about rest days.

I am inclined to make a distinction between days taken off to do stuff and rest days. Days sitting in camp or a motel room all day resting is not something I'd do unless sick or something and yet I see folks choosing to do that. Even at home I don't tend to take days off. It has been about 6 months since I have missed my morning mtb ride.

As far as recovery... I think an easy ride is better recovery than no ride.

Also you can do a lot of tourist stuff and still ride part of the day. Hiking to a waterfall, visiting a museum or other attraction, chatting up the local folks, or whatever will usually still allow for riding down the road a ways to another campsite.
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Old 04-11-24, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by spinconn
From a strictly physical standpoint do you not need a day a week to recover your muscles or is that not an issue going slowly in lower gears?
I wear (and navigate) with a fitness watch (Garmin Enduro), keeping track of my heart rate. I don't remember ever getting to the stage where suggested recovery times would be more than a few hours. I am certainly not an expert, so you'll perhaps want to try better sources, but touring being a low output activity (i.e. HR is essentially never above aerobic level) there may not be a need for planned recovery.

On the fitness side, a more serious issue is perhaps caloric deficit. A full day in the saddle may easily burn 3-4 000 calories. (40 portions of oatmeal, or 20 bowls of ramen, or 16 snickers bar, or half a liter of olive oil... Unless you carry enough fat in your body -- or eat copious meals -- you might end up losing muscle mass.
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Old 04-11-24, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by spinconn
Do long distance touring cyclists take substantially more rest days than a fitness or road cyclist?
Please tell me, how frequent do "fitness" or "road" cyclists take rest days?

I have toured with a friend that seemed to need rest days rather often. I do not.

The solo tours I have done, I can only remember one rest day, that day was after a 14 hour day that really burned me out. That rest day was really needed.

My last tour, I kept track. This tour was rainier and windier than most of my other trips. Below in chronological order.
5 days riding
1 day too windy
1 day riding
1 day too windy
6 days riding
1 day off for rain, followed by 1 day off for wind
6 days riding,
2 days off for rain,
3 days riding
3 days sightseeing. I was a bit ahead of schedule for my flight home, so looked for a scenic campground to take some time off.
3 days riding.
Summary, total, 33 days, riding 24 days, weather stoppage 6 days, ahead of schedule combined with sightseeing, 3 days.
This does not count air travel and related logistics days at start or end of a trip.

Originally Posted by spinconn
Great comments guys, and informative, but they deal with why you do not want to ride without taking days off. But how about needing to (other than for weather, sickness, etc). From a strictly physical standpoint do you not need a day a week to recover your muscles or is that not an issue going slowly in lower gears?
As I noted above, I had one rest day that I can remember after a 14 hour day in the saddle. And that is all.

That said, I have toured with a friend that needed frequent rest days. So, everyone is quite different.

I suspect that ACA would give you a good number of how many off days they schedule for a multi-month tour if you asked them, they probably know what is most commonly needed.
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Old 04-11-24, 04:40 PM
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One more note: Where I can, I schedule a trip open ended. I am planning a trip for this summer. I know what day Amtrak will take me to my starting point. I am guessing five weeks, but it could be four, or maybe five and a half weeks. I plan to make my reservation for my return trip home on Amtrak about three to five days before the end. That way, if things are going slow or usually fast, it does not matter because I can adjust the day I come home.

But airlines, I can't make a reservation for an affordable price with less than a week to go, if I flew somewhere for my tour, I schedule both flights on the same ticket. I try to stay a few days ahead of schedule when biking, which means I will need to waste some days later or try to find some good sightseeing to do late in the tour to consume excess time. And also for this reason, if I am flying, I will give myself a little extra time contingency in my initial planning.
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Old 04-11-24, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Yan
Unless you're cycling across thousands of miles of Siberian tundra, or you're one of those waiting-for-death geezers who have lost all interest in the world, you're going to want to take an occasional day off to be a tourist whenever you get to an interesting city, relic site, national park, or other such attraction. You spent all that effort to get there on a bicycle. You're not going to just ride past without stopping, right?

That said, I've met multiple such geezers on the road who never stop for attractions. Tragic when one gets to the age where all curiosity toward the world is dead. Kudos to them for still being able to cycle at least. The brain is just as important as the body...
Up until now, all of my recent (Since 2009) touring has been while I was employed, thus limiting my time away. During two-week trips, I would usually plan a day off in an interesting place worth doing something other than riding on to the next place. Sometimes, that day off would involve an out and back ride from camp.

During trips of shorter duration, I rarely took days off except on long weekend trips where I stayed in one place for two nights. The “off” day always involved some riding.
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Old 04-11-24, 07:26 PM
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"Please tell me, how frequent do "fitness" or "road" cyclists take rest days?"

I suppose I should have started the thread with that issue.

I am no doctor of medicine, but my simplified understanding is this. Most folks who exercise strenuously and daily, be it road cyclists, runners, or other sports, have to take one or two rest days a week. Otherwise, they eventually get repetitive use injuries to joints and muscles. Most often with cyclists it is knees.

It is not about energy but muscle and soft tissue recovery. It is the same issue with weight lifting, where lifters only lift 3 times a week to allow the muscles to recover. Use breaks down the muscle tissue at the cell level and when that tissue heals it restores at a greater size and strength, which is why muscles get stronger with exercise. Absence of recovery time prevents the restoration process and results in weaker tissue.

If you can forgive any technical omissions or errors in the above, my question is based on the fact that touring cyclists ride day after day for a long time so I assumed they would require a rest day, but I thought the slow pace of touring might make it different. The comments here generally speak of various reasons why they do take a rest day, but they do not sound like they include any need to allow for soft tissue recovery.

I do not tour. I would love to, and have always read what I could in the way of touring stories, but I don't recall hearing anything about rest days. I am just curious why you folks don't seem to need any recovery time for your soft tissue.
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Old 04-11-24, 10:01 PM
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As far as muscle and tissue recovery. I will do that but it happens within the day rather than taking entire days off. The level has also changed as I've gotten older...

As an example, 40 years ago in college, my touring style was more in form of riding from dawn to dusk. I took one trip where I cycled 1194 days in one 9 day week. One of those was a day off but that was more to run around and see Quebec City than as rest. So otherwise I was touring an average of 150 miles a day. Not particularly fast but for long hours in the saddle.

Last year on my six months riding through the US, I was happy with averages that were 1/3 of that average. Getting up early in the morning (but after sunrise) and stopping noon-ish or at least early in the afternoon.

My "recovery" happened each day by picking my pacing in a way that I could ride day after day. At age 20 that pacing of using all the daylight hours was fine. At age 60 that pacing was finishing by early afternoon.
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Old 04-11-24, 10:07 PM
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Needing a rest day depends on several factors, and is similar for road and touring cyclists:
  • Age/recovery time;
  • Topography;
  • fitness level/health/injuries;
  • Weather/wind;
  • Length of ride/daily mileage.
These are all related. Any single or combination of factors could require a rest day.

Recovery time time takes longer as people get older. In my mid-thirties I rode a loaded 1,100 mile tour in 11 days. When I was 64 years old, my wife and I rode across the U.S. averaging over 50 miles per day in 72 consecutive days. Now in my 80s, the daily mileage is shorter, rest days more frequent and recovery takes longer. In my experience, I have found when I exceed a personal threshold where I am digging into my reserves requires an easy day or rest day(s) to regain my optimum output level.

My wife and I are training for a tour next summer, and use the hard /easy day method of building strength and endurance. We have ridden across Canada from Vancouver Island to Toronto, and want to finish the ride from Toronto to Prince Edward Island.

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Old 04-11-24, 10:09 PM
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Originally Posted by spinconn
I am just curious why you folks don't seem to need any recovery time for your soft tissue.
Probably because touring is about enjoying a low intensity ride. For instance, you may want to read this blurb about RAAM & Tour de France, both long distance cycling events, but with obviously different ethos. The Tour includes 2 rest days inserted in a three week high intensity high speed event. The RAAM is stageless (i.e. no rest days) with fastest riders completing the 3000 miles event in a little over a week (!!). By comparison, tourers plan for 60 days or so to ride across America.

Resting heart rate is usually a good indicator of exhaustion. I typically tour 4-6 weeks at a time, 100kms/day. My RHR remains stable.
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Old 04-11-24, 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by spinconn
"Please tell me, how frequent do "fitness" or "road" cyclists take rest days?"

I suppose I should have started the thread with that issue.

I am no doctor of medicine, but my simplified understanding is this. Most folks who exercise strenuously and daily, be it road cyclists, runners, or other sports, have to take one or two rest days a week. Otherwise, they eventually get repetitive use injuries to joints and muscles. Most often with cyclists it is knees.

It is not about energy but muscle and soft tissue recovery. It is the same issue with weight lifting, where lifters only lift 3 times a week to allow the muscles to recover. Use breaks down the muscle tissue at the cell level and when that tissue heals it restores at a greater size and strength, which is why muscles get stronger with exercise. Absence of recovery time prevents the restoration process and results in weaker tissue.

If you can forgive any technical omissions or errors in the above, my question is based on the fact that touring cyclists ride day after day for a long time so I assumed they would require a rest day, but I thought the slow pace of touring might make it different. The comments here generally speak of various reasons why they do take a rest day, but they do not sound like they include any need to allow for soft tissue recovery.

I do not tour. I would love to, and have always read what I could in the way of touring stories, but I don't recall hearing anything about rest days. I am just curious why you folks don't seem to need any recovery time for your soft tissue.
Generally speaking, the rest days you are referencing, are used to build muscle. When you work the muscle, you are causing micro tears in the muscle, the muscle needs rest, and nourishment to repair the muscle, which causes muscle adaptation and growth. If you skip the rest, you won't gain strength, and most likely you will lose strength. It doesn't really apply to touring for the most part. Provided you are in decent shape, and your body gets the fuel it needs, you can ride every day. You aren't competing, and you are not doing training exercises that push your muscles to failure. If you are training for a tour, you can do riding exercises that do push your muscles hard, then you do want to give them time to rest and rebuild.

I have never set aside a day of rest on tours, but my tours are never fully planned out. I don't like a rigid schedule, so I am free to stop when I want to stop, and see the sights along the way. I have never just sat in one place for the day though, but I am not saying I wouldn't, it just depends on how I feel. I do build time into a tour so I can stop and actually see things, instead of simply riding.

I have to clarify that. I did stop in one place for two nights on my last tour, but that was because I scratched my cornea. I stayed in one campground a couple nights and visited a doctor before continuing on my way.
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Old 04-12-24, 05:34 AM
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Originally Posted by spinconn
...
I suppose I should have started the thread with that issue.

I am no doctor of medicine, but my simplified understanding is this. Most folks who exercise strenuously and daily, be it road cyclists, runners, or other sports, have to take one or two rest days a week. Otherwise, they eventually get repetitive use injuries to joints and muscles. Most often with cyclists it is knees.

It is not about energy but muscle and soft tissue recovery. It is the same issue with weight lifting, where lifters only lift 3 times a week to allow the muscles to recover. Use breaks down the muscle tissue at the cell level and when that tissue heals it restores at a greater size and strength, which is why muscles get stronger with exercise. Absence of recovery time prevents the restoration process and results in weaker tissue.
....
First, I agree with Mev, Doug64, Gauvins, and Phughes. (But where Mev said "... I cycled 1194 days in one 9 day week...", I suspect he cycled 1194 miles, not days.) They all had useful advice.

My bike tours before I retired were one week. Now that I am retired, I do not have the hassle of bosses demanding that I get back to work. Thus, can do longer trips. I am now 70 years young.

I have no medical training other than the first aid training that most people have.

I had some weird health issues when I got home from a month long tour eight years ago, my Dr diagnosed a strong protein deficiency, and a few other issues. Now when I do a bike tour, backpacking trip, or other strenuous trip I try to have a 20 gram protein bar at the end of every day when I am setting up camp. One thing that I have often observed is that bike touring cyclists often should eat more protein on tour. You can get by without for a week long trip, but the longer trips, you need that for muscle building and recovery.

Knees, I have always had bad knees, especially backpacking down hill, has been a problem since I was in my teens. I discovered about a decade ago that a Patella Tendon band is especially useful for me. I am trying to get ready for both a tour in June and also a brevet next month, rode 67 miles two days ago on my heavy touring bike on a gravel trail, that was the longest distance that I have ridden since the snow melted here this year. And for the last half of that ride I needed a Patella band on my right knee. I am not saying this is a magic remedy for everyone, but it certainly helps me. I carry a pair on every long bike ride and on backpacking trips. My point is that sometimes there are simple remedies. That said, my Dr that knows this stuff had knee surgery last year, there was no simple remedy for him.

All cyclists are known to have poor bone strength, including roadies. Runners and weight lifters stress their bones that result in more bone strength, but cyclists don't. For that reason, when I go to the gym (three times a week in winter, once a week in summer), I always try to stress my leg bones on a leg press to aid in bone density. (And other exercises for other bones.) This lack of bone density is common for cyclists and also common for older people. If you are an older cyclist, that makes you especially susceptible. Two years ago I had a bone density test, result was good. A friend of mine crashed his bike about a decade ago and broke a hip so badly that he no longer cycles, but he had not tried to do anything to improve bone strength. My point here is that bone strength might be a bigger issue than the other things you cited. But that is something that we can work on ourselves, which many people do not do.
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Old 04-12-24, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by spinconn
Great comments guys, and informative, but they deal with why you do not want to ride without taking days off. But how about needing to (other than for weather, sickness, etc). From a strictly physical standpoint do you not need a day a week to recover your muscles or is that not an issue going slowly in lower gears?
Strictly from a physical standpoint, no, rest days are not necessary once you're in good shape. If you're coming from a desk job it may take you a few weeks of touring before you get to this point, unless you specifically train beforehand.
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Old 04-12-24, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by spinconn
Great comments guys, and informative, but they deal with why you do not want to ride without taking days off. But how about needing to (other than for weather, sickness, etc). From a strictly physical standpoint do you not need a day a week to recover your muscles or is that not an issue going slowly in lower gears?
i don't normally take rest days. i take days off from cycling. if not riding, almost always doing something physical.

i try to route my long rides on back roads or dirt, hitting a decent-sized city every week or so. spend a couple days in town, walking most places to see the sights, going to museums or historical sites.

if riding thru areas with national parks, stop and camp for a few days of hiking the trails, or spend a few days exploring a temple complex.

on longer rides, 6 months or more, sometimes need to take a vacation from the vacation. pass thru town and find a goodwill or salvation army thrift store, pick up half a dozen paperback novels, load up on junk food. then find a quiet spot to spend a day reading.

i'll vary daily distances, pull a shorter ride the day following a century. but no scheduled recovery days.
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Old 04-12-24, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by spinconn
I am no doctor of medicine, but my simplified understanding is this. Most folks who exercise strenuously and daily, be it road cyclists, runners, or other sports, have to take one or two rest days a week. Otherwise, they eventually get repetitive use injuries to joints and muscles. Most often with cyclists it is knees.

...

I do not tour. I would love to, and have always read what I could in the way of touring stories, but I don't recall hearing anything about rest days. I am just curious why you folks don't seem to need any recovery time for your soft tissue.
When touring cyclists damage their knees, it's often the end of their tour. I've managed to avoid that (so far, knock on wood!). I credit decently high cadence, low gears, and a willingness to walk occasionally.

Soft tissue damage, IME, is usually saddle sores. Cleanliness and prompt treatment usually manage to save the next day's ride.
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Old 04-12-24, 10:44 AM
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I am aiming to ride the Natchez Trace perhaps this summer. Approximately 465 miles. Trying to determine how much time to budget with the necessary rest days at my age of 71.
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Old 04-12-24, 11:01 AM
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"Soft tissue damage, IME, is usually saddle sores. Cleanliness and prompt treatment usually manage to save the next day's ride."

Please tell me what prompt treatment you use for saddle sores that gets you ready the next day.
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