Lose the excuses and start gaining miles on the bike – you’ll be glad you did on race day!

Get your long rides right

How many weeks have you been putting it off then? Alright, we’ll let you off the last frosty mornings, even a bit of heavy rain, but now that spring is here and the days are getting lighter, there’s no excuse to skimp on long rides. Here’s how to make your first two-hours-plus rides of the year go so well, you won’t want to get home.


Most of us will start tackling the long rides on a road bike. Unless you have a sportive-friendly frame, then your steed is probably designed for speed above comfort, so it is worthwhile tweaking your position a bit for long rides. Don’t make haphazard changes yourself: we’d recommend seeing a bike fitter and telling them how far you’re planning to go, and asking them to make sure you fit the bike properly, and then to adjust the position so you’re sitting up a bit more, taking the pressure off your back as you increase the one-day mileage.


Only a couple of months away from race day? Then it’s time to dust off your best bike, especially if you’re racing long-distance, and using a time trial/ triathlon bike. You need time to get used to your race position, tweak it if necessary, and be happy handling your pride and joy. After all, there is no point in having a brilliant bike if you can’t use it to its full potential when you’re trying to reach yours. If you’re worried about damaging it, see if you can fit slim mudguards to keep crud out of the moving parts and off the frame, wash it down after every ride and have it serviced regularly.


Your aim in long rides is to ride further than usual, gradually building up the distance to increase your endurance and your ability to pace yourself on the bike. So while you’re adding distance, don’t be tempted to add huge hills or massive bursts of speed at the same time. Once you’ve built up your long rides for a month or two, you can look at making them more difficult each week, but make sure you can ride steady first.


No doubt you intend to get out at the crack of dawn and be back for breakfast on these long ride days, but we’d lay money on at least an hour of faffing getting in your way. Make it your mission to get on the road before most of the traffic, by being organised with your kit and doing all your bike checks the night before. Riding early not only gives you quieter, safer roads, but it stops your longest training session of the week impinging on family and social life, so you’re more likely to keep it up. Plus, your race-day ride is likely to be pretty early too – so get used to it.


Any number of things can go wrong on your early long rides. You’re more likely to bonk, get lost, have a weather-induced mishap. All of these problems can be solved with cash to buy emergency food, transport or bike spares (if you’re lucky enough to pass a shop). And if you don’t have an emergency, all the more reason for a cake stop.


Still nervous about going for your first long ride? Try joining up with your local tri club or even a cycling club. Then you won’t need to worry about where you’re riding, and if you forget something you’ll have back-up (though it’s considered bad form to turn up without spares week after week). Riding with a club also means you can control your pace by chatting as you go and picking the right pace group for you.

PHOTO: Russell Barton

You can find more triathlon training articles here and there’s a wide selection of training plans from our industry experts in this section