Congratulations, you've signed up for your first endurance cycling event! Now what? As a long-time endurance cyclist and founder of a 192-mile bike-a-thon, the Pan-Mass Challenge, I can wholeheartedly attest to the fact that every sport has a learning curve, especially endurance athletics.
In cycling, factors for success include technology, nutrition, hydration, clothing and learning how to mesh your abilities with the bike beneath you. With the right strategy and preparations, you'll be hitting the pavement, trail or terrain in no time – and for a long time.
1. Get the right bike for you
Bikes have become increasingly sophisticated, and bike R&D provides a constant education as equipment evolves. When selecting a bike, consider weight, materials, drivetrain, wheels and, of course, fit. Do your research beforehand, take it for a spin before committing and purchase from a credible vendor with a knowledgeable team that can find the best bike for you.
Bonus Tip: Practice "unclipping" your shoes from your bike prior to your first ride. Only very few people, when first using a clip-in system, don't fall. And, yes, it hurts.
2. Make time for practice
Obviously, the more time you're willing to put in, the more likely you'll be comfortable and successful. If you're training for a summer ride, hit the gym in winter and get out on the roads as soon as it's safe to do so. Work your way up three to four days of riding per week, and as much as 100 miles in a single ride. You should find a pace that's sustainable for both effort and comfort.
3. Learn from your mistakes
Those participating in endurance cycling events like the Pan-Mass Challenge should complete at least one century ride before the big race so they can make and correct mistakes that will only surface on a long-distance ride. Among other things, you'll grind your gears, get sunburned and dehydrated, so use your practice time to make errors and correct them as you go.
4. Fuel appropriately
Your eating habits shouldn't change dramatically over the course of your training, but make sure you're getting enough protein and carbs to carry you through a long session. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before an endurance ride, and experiment in your training rides with gels, chews and bars to keep you powered up and cramp-free.
5. Care for your body
Make sure to cool down after each session and make stretching part of your daily schedule. These are terrific deterrents to injury and the imbalances that happen when you become very involved in a single sport, whether it's cycling or something else.
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