Perhaps we’ve already inspired you to give racing a go. Or perhaps you’d like to keep your riding strictly non-competitive. Either way, we know you’re always up for tips on improving your cycling!
We’ve picked the brains of Fusion RT Fierlan to get their best tips for endurance training, so that you can ride harder, for longer.
1. Spend More Time with Your Bike
Sorry ladies, there’s no quick fix for improving your endurance. You can’t rush endurance training, but it’ll be worth the effort.
Fiona Hunter-Johnston puts it simply: “Building up endurance is all about just getting your legs, heart and lungs used to being on the bike for longer and longer periods of time.”
Fiona recommends participating in fun and friendly rides that you gradually make longer, and faster. “Start at a pace you are comfortable at, but after a few weeks don’t be afraid to go out with other riders who are a bit better than you!” she says.
Keeping it fun means you’re much more likely to keep it up.
2. Get to the Core of Things
Angela Hibbs makes use of core stability and core-strength training to improve her riding.
She explains its benefits: “I do a lot of time-trialling where you are in a bent over position, sometimes for up to 4 hours… My body needs to be able to hold the position efficiently and effectively, to not only prevent injury but to be aerodynamic and fast!”
Gillian Taylor and Jenny Hudson rate yoga and pilates for helping to stretch out – or you could try following along to a YouTube ab workout like this one.
If you’ve not done much core-work before you will feel a lot more confident if you can get along to a core-strength class (most leisure centres run at least one core-orientated class) to learn moves and technique from an expert.
3. Make yourself comfortable
Nothing is going to slow you down or kill your vibe more than being uncomfortable!
“You need your bike to fit perfectly – any position problems will cause you pain if you’re spending lots of time in the saddle” says Gill. We’ve written a little bit about the importance of a bike fit here. Your local bike shop is a good shout for a good bike fit – to find a good one it’s worth asking around at your local club or Facebook group for cyclists in your area.
During longer rides is when you’re going to suffer the most from a poorly fitting bicycle.
Clothing is also very important! Find your perfect padded shorts, and make sure you’re packing some layers so you can adjust your clothing for the climate.
Make sure you’ve got a well-fitting helmet that’s not too loose or tight on your head and gloves to keep your hands from getting sore or cold. Never underestimate the comfort power of a nice pair of socks too – for colder times of year we love a nice pair of merino socks!
4. Fuel right
Fuelling with the right food and drink is absolutely essential for longer bike rides. If you’re not eating enough or if you’re eating totally the wrong thing you could find yourself worn out a lot earlier on in your ride.
Angela lays it down, “for endurance rides you will need some electrolyte drink supplements, this is to replace the sweat and fluid, otherwise you will cramp up and cause muscle damage”.
“I would not encourage taking too many of the energy gels for long rides, these just give you a short term energy boost which then runs out. After one, your body looks for this instant sugar straight, so you have to keep taking them on otherwise your body will hit the wall. I would suggest for longer rides try cereal bars, malt loaf – and bananas are excellent!”
Fiona “For long rides it is important to eat foods which will give me a lasting energy boost, such as flapjack or other wholegrain, natural bars. I try to avoid taking gels unless I am feeling really bad, as this causes a sugar spike. I also try to avoid a lot of caffeine for the same reasons.
As a bottom line rule however, for endurance rides, the more food the better – there is nothing worse than training when you are hungry and you won’t train well for it!”
Regular training using gels and specific bike food can get pretty expensive and a lot of it isn’t really that tasty, although the packaging can be very convenient. We like making our own cycling food, but sometimes nature knows best!
Jenny Holden is a big fan of bananas. “Energy foods can get a bit tiresome and synthetic, so I always try to take a banana on a longer ride.”
Your food intake on the bike is important, but don’t under-estimate the importance of recovery-eating after your ride. Getting in some protein will help your muscles repair, and reduce aches.
Jenny has a great tip for a fast protein hit! “you can get little pouches of quinoa from the supermarket, all pre-cooked! Super quick and easy for lunch/dinner. I use a lot of grains like quinoa and lentils as they’re high protein and carbs but don’t make me feel too bloated or heavy.”
Having something quick and tasty waiting for you on your return will make it a lot easier to eat the right thing.
5. Have a Target
It’s important to know what you’re trying to achieve. Pick an event or distance to have in your mind as a target, this will help keep you on track.
An event is probably going to be a better target than a distance, as Gill explains: “distance can be misleading because 40 miles of hard racing on a lumpy course in the wind can be much tougher than a 65 mile race on a flat course where you can hide in the bunch.”
Gill suggests training according to the distance of the event – if it’s over 100 miles, you need to train at that distance (or close to it). “Bear in mind that 100 miles in a bunch is much easier than 100 on your own!” she says.
6. Do it slowly
As we said earlier, there’s no quick fix for improving endurance.
“Endurance has to be built up slowly, over weeks, months, even years. Trying to do too much too soon can often result in illness and fatigue that mean you don’t actually improve despite training hard” says Gill.
It’s a good thing you love cycling then!
Slowly increase your weekly ride over a period of a few weeks or months to see results. “Just start by increasing the duration slowly, after a while you wont notice the difference between riding for an hour or for 2 or 3 hours” suggests Angela.
Keeping a training diary or writing down your achievements is a really nice way to look back on what you’ve achieved, and how far you’ve come.
7. Keep it Fun
Change It Up
Angela suggests keeping long rides interesting by throwing in some sprints, or short, harder efforts. Strava segments can work well for this, or for a low-tech challenge Angela says “use lamp-posts or street furniture and imagine that it is your finish line and sprint as hard as you can to pass it, then make sure you recover again afterwards.”
A cafe stop can also be important in a long ride, this will give you a chance to recover and have a good meal (but don’t over do it!).
Don’t get too comfortable though! Just make sure you’re only stopping for about 30 minutes at the most, otherwise your legs will stiffen up and it will be very hard to get going again. As tempting as that roast dinner special might be, it’s not going to help when you get back on the bike.
A Good Bunch
Cycling is better with friends, if you can find someone at a similar level to you, building your endurance together will help you keep your head in the game and make it fun. Finding an appropriate training partner or group ride makes the longer rides go faster – if it’s someone at a similar level to you, you can improve together.
If you’re consistently trying out new routes, you’ll find you get bored a lot less! As Gill says, “new routes and exploring places helps keep long distances fun.” Check out if there are routes you can build around a good country pub or beauty spot.
Keeping your Instagram feed going with pictures of your bike adventures is a really nice way to keep track of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen. Or you could go analogue and keep a visual diary of your adventures with printed photographs!
We hope we’ve got you feeling inspired! Endurance is all about hard work and determination, but with Fusion RT’s tips, at least it can be fun!
Let us know in the comments how your endurance training goes!