Not everyone will understand this post. Some people love long rides, taking in the views, seeing the world in a whole different light from the seat of a bicycle. Most of the time that’s true, but sometimes on a long solo jaunt, I find myself getting awfully tempted to take a sneaky short-cut and turn back early due to a nasty bout of boredom on the bike.
This temptation becomes even stronger when the rain is falling and the wind is blowing – quite a conundrum considering this is supposed to be summer, and are usually where we should be making use of the longer days.
If you struggle with long ride motivation, here are just a few ways to keep you from getting bored and considering a premature about turn…
Plan a proper route
Motivational outages are most common when you don’t have any particular destination. If you know your local area pretty well, it’s easy just to set out with no exact route configured - the only real plan being to see where your heart and wheels take you. The problem is that with no specific route planned, it’s easy to decide your heart and wheels should take you back home!
Failing the above, why not set yourself up with a specific destination? Ride to the sea, cycle to visit a friend for lunch – that way you’ve got an exciting incentive to look forward to (and a pretty irritable friend if you turn round and ride home!)
Red Car Sprints
Base miles – ah – those long, winter rides ridden with a low heart rate. Great for building up some endurance, but actually experts are starting to question the benefits at the moment and most would agree that those with limited training time available should keep up some intensity.
‘Red car’ (or any chosen colour) sprints are simple – every time you see a red car, you sprint for twenty seconds. You will be amazed (or rather dismayed) at how many red cars there are.
There are some rules with this one – make sure you warm up and cool down without any sprints for twenty minutes, and we wouldn’t suggest keeping it up all day. That, and do be aware of the traffic around you - the only sprint when you know it’s safe to do so. That means no charging across roundabout or out of junctions.
Session the climbs
We recently spent a few days with a pro team on their pre-season training camp – and noticed most of their ‘off-season’ winter rides consisted of steady miles with specific efforts on pre-assigned hills.
Now, we’re not suggesting you fly of to Lanzarote, Majorca or the Pyrenees for your next weekend ride, but if you’ve got some longer local hills near you, use them to ride intervals such as two-minute efforts with a minute of easier pedalling between.
Concentrate on cadence
Cadence is really important to your pedalling efficiency – and thus to your overall performance on the bike. Most experts suggest you should aim to ride at 90rmp (revolutions per minute) as an average.
Firstly – a certain amount of your preference is natural. As a generalisation - people who are naturally lighter riders usually use more Slow Twitch fibres, and pedal quickly. Bulkier, most muscley types tend to use more Fast Twitch fibres and pedal more slowly. However, Slow Twitch fibres recover quickly and burn primarily fat as fuel whilst Fast Twitch fibres use Glycogen and fatigue more quickly.
If you naturally use a slow pedal stroke in a high gear your Fast Twitch fibre approach will probably come in handy in a sprint. However, to develop your endurance and lengthen your time to fatigue, practice spinning in a lower gear on your long rides. You’ll probably find this quite tiring, so start by alternating intervals of five minutes high cadence, five minutes normal cadence or try these cadence drills.
Ride With others
This is probably an obvious one but can completely transform a ride. If you’re not already part of a cycling club, the winter off-season is a fantastic time to join. Everyone will have lots of time for you, and when the weather is grim it’s nice to have some buddies to keep your spirits high in the rain.
Riding with a group not only gives you the opportunity to have a good chinwag and pass the time but will also develop your group riding skills and fitness as you’ll work harder to keep up if and when the going gets tough. Just make sure you know your group riding hand gestures before you set off.
Eat and drink enough
Finally, it’s important to ensure that your ‘boredom’ is not actually you running out of energy. Ensure you eat and drink enough on your ride to stay motivated and full of energy.
We hope your next long ride is exactly as long as intended! If you're setting off in a group, check out these nine tips to ensure a harmonious ride...