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3 Tips for Tackling 500+ Miles

Greetings ESR riders!

I wish I was giving you these tips on how to get through 500+ miles live and in person after a good day on the bike, Greg’s map review talk, a great catered dinner under the tent and the inspiring words from Terry and the survivors we get to hear from. 

The ESR ride has been a major “BIG FUN” week in my life for the last 4 years and I’m going to miss it dearly this year. But here we are making the most out of a difficult situation – thriving vs surviving. Because that’s who we are!

The range of riding experience and fitness level of ESR riders made it a bit of a challenge to come up with the three best tips that everyone can use to help tackle riding 500+ miles. 

I was recently on a cycling vacation in North Carolina that gave me some time to ponder the basics of what makes long distance bike riding enjoyable and what can make it feel like punishment. 

On Day Three of my ride, I made a huge hydration/nutrition mistake on a long hard ride that resulted in the worst 40 minutes that I’ve had on a bike in years. This reminds me that no matter how fit or experienced a cyclist is, hydration and nutrition can make or break you.

I also happen to be on a new bike that I’ve only done 3 rides on. I’ve had a dozen bike fits in my time as a cyclist and have fitted over 100 athletes on the Retul system myself so I know when my position is right for me. Still it took 5 rides of tiny adjustments to get it perfect. 

I was also fortunate to get to ride with my friend (and yours) Katie Hamister. Talking with Katie about her accident and how she thinks about safety now inspired me to include this topic as one of my tips.

Kudos to everyone who has been putting in the miles and raising funds during the ESR challenge in July and best of luck to everyone of you for taking on this next challenge.

So here are my 3 tips that I hope will help you exceed you goals.

Tip #1: Hydration and Nutrition

In order of priority, hydration trumps nutrition. Nutrition doesn’t work in a dehydrated state. It’s August hot now and your body’s cooling mechanism is sweat. 

You must replace both the liquid and the electrolytes that make up your sweat. The less acclimated you are to heat the more electrolytes you lose through sweat. 

  • Drink 1 to 1.5 bottles per hour. Depending on the intensity and length of the ride.
  • Use an exercise hydration product that focuses primarily on replenishing electrolytes vs carbohydrates.
  • If you have a computer that has an “Alert” feature, program it to remind you to drink every 10-20 minutes. The latest research recommends drinking greater amounts every 20 minutes vs small sips every 10 minutes. If you choose every 20 minutes, you’ll need to drink a third of your bottle at a time. Either way, you’ll be fine.
  • Drink before and after your ride.
  • Try not to ride during the hottest part of the day.
  • The rate at which you consume carbohydrates during your ride depends on the intensity and length. See the recommendations based on the latest science below.
  • Important to remember that the amount of calories in a bar or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, for example, is not made up of 100% carbohydrates. When you’re calculating your energy needs use grams of carbohydrates vs calories for you measurements.
 

Tip #2: Comfort via Bike Fit

I know, I’m always harping on this bike fit thing. Thing is until you’ve had a professional fit, you just don’t know what you don’t know. The level of comfort and biomechanical efficiency you’ll get from a bike fit can be transformational. As an added benefit a good fit will greatly decrease overuse injuries.

  • Regardless of the kind of bike you’re riding, it must be the right size for you.
  • Your flexibility/mobility determines how your position on the bike should be.
  • The width of your sit bones determines your saddle width. This has little to do with gender or body composition/shapes.
  • Comfort should be your #1 priority for a 500+ mile challenge.
  • The standard on bike fitting systems is Retul. 
 

Tip #3: Safety

Now that you’re properly positioned on your bike and have a hydration and nutrition strategy you’re ready to tackle this challenge. Your #1 goal should be your safety.

  • Install a flashing rear light on your bike. Even better are rear lights with radar that shows oncoming vehicles on your bike computer. I use the Garmin Varia.
  • Wear bright colored jersey. Bright green and red jerseys are the most visible.
  • Keep your eye on the road when your drinking from your bottle (don’t till your head up and look at the sky) instead hold the bottle level and squeeze for water flow.
  • Ride defensively. Although you may have the “right” by law, assume that vehicles will not exercise them in your favor. Be aware of “the worst case scenario” in any situation.
  • Hold on to your handlebars. The images below illustrate what I mean by this. In image 1, the rider is merely placing weight on the hoods. In image 2, the rider is holding the bars while placing weight on the hoods. The same applies in images 3 and 4. When the thumb is over the bars vs. under the bars. Those of you who have heard me speak bout this know it as “the hook.” 

Be Well!
Coach Charlie Livermore, CTS Pro Coach