- Pressure Points: Cycling has several pressure points where you body meets the bike — feet, hands and butt. Creating a comfortable ride, sometimes at the expense of a little extra weight is worth it. For me, my downfall has always been saddle discomfort. I have had saddle sore issues since day one. Sometimes, I can go for two seasons without any problems, but then, sometimes out of the blue, things blow up. Frequently, in the spring, I test new saddles, for inclusion on my website, or as I am always seeking the “the one.” Because of that, during the process of changing out from one saddle to another, or from one bike to another, my body doesn’t get a chance to adjust long enough. Elsewhere on the blog, you will find my experiences with many different kinds of saddles.
- Gastrointestinal Distress: Many cyclists or other endurance athletes have GI problems that cause their stomach to stop accepting food or fluids. Fortunately, I have had good luck in this area. This podcast with Ben Greenfield interviewing Allen Lin (Scratch Labs) and his theory indicates that we should be eating more solids, rather than a liquid diet. Solids will slow down your stomach emptying, thus making it more stable. This flies in the face of Hammer Products, who believe the opposite is true.
Either way, consuming electrolytes, and not just plain water is imperative to stave off bonking. How much to take is subject to discussion. I personally use the elete-brand liquid add-ins to my plain water bottle and then a sports drink to my other bottle. I use Endurox, which has protein which is good for events exceeding three or four hours, or Heed, which only has carbs, and is my favorite “subtle” flavored drink.
Per Seattle randonneur David Roberts: Tums are useful for stopping cramps. Chew one at the first muscle twinge. If it keeps on coming on, chew another. Brand name Tums, regular strength work best. Again, they seem to work too fast for the stuff, whatever it may be, to get into the bloodstream, although sublingual might be really quick. It’s definitely not the calcium. Blood sugar levels are also important: When you’re trying to change a flat alone in the dark and it’s raining, maybe suddenly you find yourself crying. Eat something. Any time the idea of quitting enters your head, eat something. If your power is dropping on a long climb, eat something. Many times negative feelings can be banished by eating. The rest of the time it’s dehydration. (June 2016)
- Attitude: I came into cycling, after having done many mountaineering and backpacking trips, in both summer and winter. Those adventures taught me two things..plan and prepare well, but keep a positive attitude, as some things are just out of your control. Just deal with it and don’t quit. If the weather goes south, or you are lost, or you are experiencing mechanical problems, try to stick it out. I guess you could call me a summit-bagger. In mountaineering, we wanted to complete the climb by going all the way to top — quitting early was a DNF, something I didn’t like.
- Body Weight: many serious amateur and pro cyclists have a body weight between two and 2.5 pounds per inch. It’s important to have your power and strength ratio to a point where you can climb up heels at a reasonable speed and or go up and over rollers without too much hesitation. For me, my shortcoming is my love wheat products, especially pastries. I also like other products foods that are high on the high glycemic index which include corn, corn chips, and potatoes. I am not saying you should be gluten-free by any means, but replacing many of the wheat products with vegetables will help a lot.
Another note on body weight during an event: if your weight is way down during an event, then most likely you are not hydrated. On my first 100-mile ultrarun, they weighed all participants at the beginning and then later, at about the 70-mile mark. If your weight was too low, they pulled you and got fluids into you until your weight was up.
- Moving Speed: some cyclists just train alone (like me, since I live in a rural community with few other roadies), but it is very difficult to gain speed by riding alone. Riding with a small group of friends, especially those that are faster and you, will help immensely. Some folks believe that for endurance long-distance cycle if you do not need to develop speed work. I completely disagree. By doing speed work with these so-called club brides, it brings your heart rate up to a high point which is invaluable in longer rides. I also do interval work on gradual hills, but nothing matches the competitive spirit of trying to stay up with someone else while sprinting on a flat, or climbing.
- Sleep: Many of us are so nervous the night before an event, that we sleep poorly, so the key is to get a solid nights sleep, two nights before big events. When doing multi-day brevets (i.e. 600 km or longer), the key is to leave each morning before the control (or checkpoint) closes. Leaving after the closing time means you are chasing the clock in a big way. When I ride 1000 or 1200K events, I need 3-5 hours of sleep each night, otherwise I just get too dang tired during the hot afternoons. Because of this, one my driving forces during my many workouts is to increase my speed, so I can get enough sleep during multi-day events.
- Breaks: Recently, a good cycling friend, Kerin Huber, from California, mentioned (while we were doing a 1000K), that the key to getting a good time on long rides, it not necessarily your moving speed, but how often and how long you take at each stop. During brevets, some cyclists dilly-dally at the c-stores and eat up time. Others like to take multiple opportunities during the day to eat at sit-down restaurants, instead of doing “grab and go” food. I tend to like to only eat major meals only once or twice per day, while the balance of my calories is on the run, or eaten curbside.
- Efficiency While Riding: Some randonneurs feel that drafting is only for racers and not appropriate while riding brevets. I believe that one should do whatever is necessary to increase your moving speed, so that if there is an unexpected problem (mechanical, GI, weather etc.) you have more time in the bank — it serves like an insurance policy. Drafting at night is OK, IF one leaves a little more space that usual. I recall on early on day one of a 1200K, that two individuals, both out outside the US, touched wheels at night and both went down, causing one to get a broken hip.
Sometimes, while riding late at night, If I am tired, having someone next to me and talking will keep me going without fatigue. Though not as efficient as drafting, it will allow one to keep on moving.
During the middle of July (2015), while riding a 600K (375 miles in just under two days…or quicker), I reflected upon the various reasons why some cyclists do not finish long rides. The three most common problems are listed first.