Long distance sports inspire the best in most of us. If we aren’t on the road or trail, we’re secretly wishing we could be.

The long miles are a comfort to a long distance cyclist. You have nothing but the open road ahead of you and your home-life troubles behind you.

Profound thoughts bloom like springtime blossoms as you pump yourself farther across the landscape. And your body rewards you with those addictive endorphins every endurance athlete adores.

But you want to get the most out of those miles. You’re already benefiting from long distance cycling.

You’ve suited up properly, but you always crave more out of your rides.

Reaping those long distance rewards requires a bit of strategy. And if you aren’t getting the full distances you want, perhaps we can help you achieve your goals.

Start Small To Work Up To Long Distance Cycling

Long distance cycling is relative. To some ten miles is long distance.

To others, 100 miles is long distance. So, when we say “start small” that’s relative too.

First, ask yourself what level you’re at. If you’re cycling every day, how far are you going?

Your daily cycling distance should be your starting point.

If you want to plan a long distance cycling trip, give yourself at least six to eight weeks to work up to it.

Increase your mileage by ten to twenty percent every week. If you were riding at a moderate distance, you should have built up the miles.

If you can’t afford to take the time to build up the miles in this manner, do shorter miles during the week and longer miles on the weekend. Your weekend miles should be at least double your weekday miles.

Pedal At A Cadence When Long Distance Cycling

You might be one of those people who just likes to go all out. You’re a sprinter.

But in long distance cycling, sprinting isn’t a good idea unless you’re in a race and trying to beat someone to the finish.

If you’re trying to actually be the most efficient on the road, science has something to say about that.

When Lance Armstrong came on the scene, everybody wants to emulate his cadence. They guy who wins so many Tour De France races must have something going right.

But science (and recent news about certain drug scandals) has completely blown that notion off the road.

As it turns out, performance comes at its highest when a rider is pedaling at 80 rpm. They apparently tested 60, 80, 100, and 120 rpm cadences and found the 80 is the most efficient cadence.

Typical wisdom has always dictated the 80-90 rpm was the best and most efficient cadence for long distance cycling. As it turns out, conventional wisdom was the bee’s knees!

Hydrate Or Die!

This may seem like an extreme mantra, but forgetting to pound the H2O can actually put you in the hospital. Especially if you’re pedaling through the desert.

How then should you hydrate? Before, during, and after a ride.

You should drink 12-16 ounces of water a good four hours before any long distance cycling trip.

You will get the best absorption this way. This will help prepare your cells to take on more water throughout your trip.

In cool weather, you should be drinking one 16 ounce bottle per hour.

In hot weather, a 150 lb rider should be drinking up to four bottles per hour.

If you weigh more, you may have to cut back on your hydration. Just as you don’t want to dehydrate, you don’t want to over-hydrate.

If you’re cycling for more than an hour, you should carry a sports drink. Your body doesn’t just hydrate with water. It uses these amazing chemicals called electrolytes. Without electrolytes in your blood, you die.

This is why people have gone off into the desert with just water and still died of dehydration.

Most of the time we simply get our electrolytes from our food. But when we exercise and sweat more than usual, we bleed out our electrolytes.

You need to replenish your electrolytes if you are long distance cycling for more than an hour.

Save Your Energy For The Last Third

There is nothing more exciting than starting out the gate at a clipping speed. You’re ahead of everyone. The race is looking bright and your path to victory is sure.

But you hit that second third of the race, and your path to victory is starting to look more like an opium den of pain than a sure thing.

You begin to lag behind because you used all your energy in the first third of the race.

Use this principle any time you go long distance cycling.

Divide your race or ride up into thirds. The first third go at a steady pace. Don’t shoot out the gate.

Slowly wind up your speed. This is an incremental gain in speed.

Once you hit that middle third, you should be at your most efficient cadence.

And since you’re never going to live this moment again, pull out all the stops in the last third. This is the most exciting time in a race. It’s the time you get to pass everyone by.

And this, our friend, is one of the most amazing feelings in a race.

This is the most exciting time in a race. It’s the time you get to pass everyone by. And this, our friend, is one of the most amazing feelings in a race.

When you float on by a competitor and smoke them by miles, that’s long distance cycling gold right there.

Long Distance Cycling Is Best Done With A Friend

The social aspect of cycling is probably the best part of this sport.

Not only can you weather the long miles talking shop and trashing each other’s sports teams. You can help each other out if trouble comes your way.

Wind is another reason to ride in a pack. Having someone in front of you gives you an eddy of wind to slip into. You can trade for first spot along the route to lessen the strain of the wind.

Long distance cycling is probably one of the most rewarding things on earth.

What are some ways you weather the miles and get the max out of your rides? Let us know in the comments below. And, as always, ride on.