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16 Amazing Long Distance Cycling Tips

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Cycling is a great way to get in shape, but it can be tough to know where to start if you’re new to the sport.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, or you’re not sure how to take your cycling up a notch, then read on for our top tips for long-distance cycling.

With YesCycling, you’ll have everything you need to make your cycling dreams a reality.

We provide all the information and resources you need to plan amazing rides, connect with other cyclists, and stay safe on the road.

Let’s go!

1.Carb-loading

Carb-loading normally starts two days before the ride, so you will need to plan. Rest during these days, and your muscles will build plenty of glycogen stores if you eat properly. On carb-loading days, you should eat at least 10 mg of carbs per kg of body weight.

Pasta Bolognese is the perfect carb-loading dish

The most important carb-loading meal is the one the night before your long-distance bike ride. All kinds of pasta with bolognese sauce or maybe some fish with potatoes are good enough. Any rice dish is also a perfect way to add carbs to your meal.

Read more: Whole Wheat vs. Regular Pasta: Which Type is Better for Cyclists


2. Start With Shorter Distances

This one is common sense, but many cyclists out there disregard it and start with a huge ride. They directly go for a super long ride unprepared and then suffer a lot.

Even if you feel that you are in great physical shape during the ride, remember that bike riding can be a challenge for you for a long time. If you plan to make 100 miles-ride start with 20-30 miles around your home or maybe in the city.

Read more: How to Prepare Your Bicycle for Spring

You have to gradually increase your rides’ distances and slowly get to the point when you can make your big century ride. Before the ride, you can try a few times, 50% or 75% of the planned distance. If you are OK with that, most probably you are ready for the long-distance ride.


3.Use GPS Bike Computer With Heart-rate Monitor

My personal bike computer Polar M460

At first, I was not sure how this thing could help me on my rides, but only after my first long-distance bike ride, I realized that it’s a great tool. Looking at the stats on the go can be very motivating and rewarding.

Typically I check time, distance, speed, average speed, and heart rate zones. With all this information, I can cycle smarter and be more motivated. If your cycling computer can connect to Strava and Strava segments live, you will be even more motivated and competitive.

Read more: Best Smartwatches for Cycling

Checking your heart rate zone in the big climbs and staying in the right zone is crucial. You can always buy a good dedicated GPS bike computer with a heart rate monitor and become a better cyclist. Of course, there is also an option to use a sports watch with cycling mode.


4.Pedal Smart

Maintaining a cadence of around 90 RPM is crucial for your long-distance rides. In these zones, you give your muscles and aerobic system a break. It is scientifically proven that 90 RPM is the most efficient cadence speed. It would help if you considered this in your cycling. If you don’t have a cadence sensor on your bike, finding the right cadence speed is a little bit tricky.

You have two options: buy a cadence sensor or to count until you get accustomed. Take a 15 second time interval, and as you pedal, tap your knee each time at the top of the pedal stroke. Count how many times you tap. 15 = 60 RPM , 17-18 = 70 RPM. 20 = 80 RPM , 22-23 = 90 RPM , 25 = 100 RPM , 27-28 = 110 RPM.

Read more: Best Electric Bikes Under $1000


5.Eat And Drink a Lot During The Ride

This one is one of the most important long-distance bike riding tips. Your target should be eating one piece of food every 15-20 minutes. One bottle of water ( around 1 liter ) every hour also should be OK. Of course, this depends on heat and exertion level as well, and you should adjust adequately.

If you don’t eat enough, you can hit the wall and feel the so-called ”bonking”. It means that you haven’t taken enough carbohydrates while cycling and have exhausted your body’s glycogen reserves, leaving you with deficient blood glucose levels. You will feel extremely weak and tired, and most probably, your ride will get to an end.

To bonk while cycling is something that you should NEVER experience and you should avoid at any cost. So eat enough every 15-20 minutes, and this will never happen to you. Usually, I carry 1 energy bar every 20 minutes of my ride, and in the middle, I make a big meal in some countryside restaurant. Just in case, always get some extra food and water supplies.

Snickers, Mars and Twix are among my favourites

“Bonking” means that you haven’t taken enough carbohydrates while cycling and have exhausted your body’s glycogen reserves, leaving you with shallow blood glucose levels. You will feel extremely weak and tired, and most probably, your ride will get to an end. To bonk while cycling is something that you should NEVER experience and you should avoid at any cost.

So eat enough every 15-20 minutes, and this will never happen to you. Usually, I carry 1 energy bar or energy gel for every 20 minutes of my ride, and in the middle, I make a big meal in some countryside restaurant. Just in case, always get some extra food. Also, very often, I carry some bananas because they are a great food for cyclists. Another option is to take energy gels during your ride.

Read more: Best Electric Bikes for Hunting


6. Use The 20-40s Technique

Pedaling like a pro is not an easy task. But there are some techniques you might use. For example, the 20-40s technique by Laura Trott.

When you try to improve your speed and stamina, you can try this technique called 20-40s. Sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 40 seconds, and repeat that sequence four times for one set. You can do this drill as many sets as you want, and you will definitely improve your fitness and speed during the process.


7. Check The Weather

The hardcore cyclists always say that the wind is either your enemy or your friend. If you cycle with the tailwind, you are going to be faster and will use less energy. If you are going against the headwind, you will need much more energy, and most probably, you will cycle slower.

The Weather Forecast

When you are in a group, stick together and take turns at the front, working to shelter the others. When you experience a tailwind, just use it and increase your average speed because you don’t know when the wind will change direction.

Read more: Best Electric Bikes for Commuting


8.Ride In The Right Gear

The key to using your bike efficiently is finding the right gear for each situation. If you ride in too low gear, your legs will be working too hard, your cadence will be very high, and you will get tired easily. If you ride in a too big gear, the effort will be enormous, and you will get yourself down.

In general, as mentioned previously in the article, you should be able to maintain 90 RPM cadence relatively easily. Remember that the low gears are for climbing, and you should switch down to the correct gear before you hit the hill.

This way, you will climb slowly but steadily and maintain a good average speed. The medium gears are good for flat-out terrains or tiny hills. The biggest gears are generally for descending or when you want to accelerate.


9.Always Plan For The Worst And Hope For The Best

Most of the time, your rides will be smooth sailing along the hills, but sometimes bad things happen. It would help if you ALWAYS were prepared when it happens. In my opinion, this is one of the most essential long-distance bike riding tips.

Bike Crash

Always carry at least two spares of inner tubes, tire levers, a good multi-tool, reliable bike pump, cell phone, ID, and some cash. You can always stash a $20 bill somewhere apart from your money just in case.


10. Check Your Bike Before The Big Ride

Giving your bike a quick mechanical check before you go for a big ride can save you a lot of trouble. First, you have to check your wheels if they are tightened correctly, and you can also spin the wheels to see if they turn well and without touching the brake pads; after that, inspect the tires.

They should be with adequate air pressure, and most of the tires have a print on the sidewall with the correct range. For most road tires, a pressure of 80 to 130 psi (pounds per square inch) is best. Always check for any cuts or nicks in the sidewall or tread of the tires.

Read more: Best Electric Bikes for Heavy Riders

You can also make a quick brake test by spinning the wheels individually and applying the brakes. If needed, you can lube the chain before a big ride because it can make a huge difference. Always lube with the correct lube for the weather and road conditions, and you should be fine.


11.Slice Up The Course To 3 Parts

Divide the ride virtually into three equal distances. For example, if you plan for a 90-mile race, divide it into three parts of 30 miles. The first part should feel natural, and your goal must be to grip the road and warm up your muscles.

During the second part, you will feel your muscles working hard, and in the last section, you are ready to go for the final sprint and exhaust your body to a maximum.

Never start too quickly jumping on the first climb pretending to be Lance Armstrong. This tip is also excellent because mentally, you will feel better each time you make it to the end of the parts. It will feel like three medium distance bike rides instead of a big and scary one.


12.Use The Science Of Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics in cycling is something that the professionals improve and use all the time. It’s not a big deal for the casual rider, but why not use the techniques on your long-distance bike ride.

It would help if you always aimed to stay in the perfect aerodynamic shape, and it is even more relevant to your fast downhills. Try to ride on your drops, tuck in your elbows, arm, and head and stay as compact as possible. Never disregard safety, and if you ride on bad roads, balance aerodynamics, and stable position.

Read more: Best Electric Bikes for Seniors


13.Bike Set Up

The bike setup is not so meaningful on your short rides, but on a long-distance bike ride, it could be crucial. Getting a bike that is the right size for you is the basic thing, but some riders still disregard it. If you don’t understand it, go to a local bike shop, ask for the perfect frame size for you, and help you.

The saddle height is also an underestimated setting, which can change the whole game for you. If the saddle is too high, to maintain the full power at the end of the downstroke, the pelvis has to tilt laterally, causing a side bend at the lumbar spine.

Read more: How Can You Prevent Injury While Cycling?

This repeated lateral side bend and pelvic tilt can cause sacroiliac joint and also lumbar spine problems in the long term. If the saddle is too low, on the other hand, the knee doesn’t go through as broad a range of movement, increasing the pressures going to the kneecap and thus increasing the chance of knee pain. Also, it may cause back pain.

14.Clothing And Equipment

You have to be comfortable and safe during your long-distance bike ride. The helmet is number one on your list, and you should buy a basic helmet from a good producer with a lot of ventilation. Don’t go for the cheap and colorful helmets because you will not look like Alberto Contador anyway.

Related: Nutcase Helmets Review – Are Nutcase Helmets Good?

The second most important thing on your list is the shorts. Bib shorts may look ridiculous, but with their inbuilt padding, they are the most comfortable option for your big ride, and your butt will be thankful. The cycling gloves are also decisive because you will feel every bump in your hands after a few hours of cycling.

Having a good pair of sunglasses is also crucial because they will not only protect you from the sun but also bugs and wind. Even if you plan to ride your bike in the summer, you should buy a good cycling jersey for the hot weather.

Another crucial part of your clothing and equipment list is a pair of high-quality road cycling shoes. I can assure you that you will never go back once you try cycling with one of those.

If you plan to ride in the dark, you have to consider some lights. Front bike light and right taillight are the first options. Also, wearing reflective clothing is a must. 

The rest of the dress and equipment is optional and, in my opinion, not so crucial for your long-distance bike ride. If you live in a rainy area, maybe you should consider buying a good rain jacket which is waterproof enough for your needs.


15. Ride Frequently

Riding frequently, in my experience, is the best way to improve your stamina and fitness level. Thus you will prepare for a long-distance ride. It is one of the best long-distance bike riding tips ever.

If you ride, let’s say once every two weeks for 50 miles is worst than cycling every day in the week for 5-10 miles. The regular daily commutes to your college or work would become much more comfortable too.

You get in better shape, and maybe once a week or every two weeks, you can make a long-distance ride, gradually increasing the miles. If the weather is terrible, you can train at home with a good and reliable bike roller. 

There is no other tip that can help you more than this: get out, hit the road, and cycle.


16. Read a few books about long-distance cycling

Patrick Tomasso

You can prepare for your journey by reading the fascinating stories of others who made it before you. I enjoy reading about cyclists who travel around the world while finding out many things about themselves.

If you are still wondering which book to take, please check our astonishing article about the 101 books every cyclist should read. You will find your next book in there.

About Alek Asaduryan

Alek Asaduryan is the founder of YesCycling and has been riding bikes and in the cycling industry since 1991. Since then, his mission is to make cycling more accessible to everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people to achieve that. When he's not out riding his beloved fitness bike, Alek reports on news, gear, guides, and all things cycling related.

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