How to ride a really long way at a decent speed

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  • How to ride a really long way at a decent speed
  • marvincooper

    I’m doing London to Paris (280 miles) in 24 hours in July. I’ll also be doing some long MTB events, Kielder if it’s on, maybe a 12 hour race, that sort of thing. I’m used to riding 100 – 150 miles occasionally but I’m not very quick. I’m contemplating how to make the most of my riding time to get quicker and maximise my endurance.

    I commute a fairly hilly 50 mile round trip commute 2 or 3 times a week and get a weekend ride in when I can. The weekend ride would be anything from 50 to 150 miles (more often at the lower end of that range!).

    If I commute 3 times a week (which is my aim, just not always possible) then I’m pretty tired at the end of the week. I’m not blasting every commute but do try to mix it up a bit based on how I feel and what I’ve got planned for the weekend. No real structure though.

    I have rollers which I use if I’m only doing 2x commutes to get an extra ride in the week or sometimes at the weekend.

    The problem is, although I’m riding a fair amount, I have no real plan or schedule and don’t do any sort of interval training which I am sure would be good if I could get them in to my commute without completely knackering myself.

    Whaddya reckon folks? What do other folks do preparing for long events?


    What has worked for me (no podium place tho):

    Decent length rides (2 hours) at an average 75% max heart rate. Also group rides, ideally with faster people.

    Once you’re comfortable with this do longer slower rides and intervals too

    You’ll never get fast doing solo 50 milers.

    Premier Icon tthew

    280 miles/24 hours is just less than a 12mph average. If you can ride 150 miles already, I think you’ll be OK.

    Do a few audax events first to get a handle on the large distance/low speed balance perhaps.


    tthew – yes its 12mph average – but taking into account rest stops etc pushes the avg up..

    But saying that… 18 hours moving time is 15.5mph

    Which ever way its looked at, that’s a long way..


    You’ll never get fast doing solo 50 milers.

    What a load of balls. If you ride 50 miles at 85% effort then it’s better than 150 ‘dead’ miles at 70% effort, full stop. no exceptions.


    Its about quality, not quantity.
    A 50m round trip sounds perfect for a 90min interval session before and after work.
    Doing that 2-3 times a week would mean that the weekends should be easy/recovery runs, depending how you’re feeling.
    Most people over train, if you feel shit, have a rest day and don’t push yourself, it’ll only make you worse.

    Some of the top TT’ers (and some roadies) in the UK only do 10-12hrs a week and can win 10/25/50/100 mile TT’s.

    Short intervals, 4mins on (at hr zone 4-5) 4mins off X 4, have a rest and then another set (that is for muscular endurance).
    30 second flat out sprint with 4mins rest, not on the same day as M/E though, possibly while doing a longer easy ride (power work).

    Those sessions are good and recommended for TT’ers doing 25+ miles, and will be good for you too.

    Doing the muscular endurance intervals up a hill in a big gear will also help build strength.
    They will be hard, but thats the sort of stuff you need to be doing.

    Premier Icon jameso

    interval training which I am sure would be good

    Yes. Easier to do them effectively ie hold a set HR/power level on a turbo than on a commute though. Oh and ‘good effort’ to you. 280 miles in one go! )

    What a load of balls. If you ride 50 miles at 85% effort then it’s better than 150 ‘dead’ miles at 70% effort, full stop. no exceptions.

    How so? 150 miles at 70% seems like a hell of a lot of base miles in one go, but 65-70% is mid-upper base pace, hardly wasted miles. Different areas of training that’s all.
    Al’s right ime, I got a lot better at endurance pace after concentrating on base miles then doing threshold intervals on a turbo to build on that base. Many of us ‘just ride’ and don’t spend enough time doing the slower steady miles.


    Is this the Ride 24 UK event?

    I did there Manchester to London, 250 miles in 24 hours in June, took about 20 hours 35 mins i think.

    For me I did 3 types of ride really, long 120-150 miles at 70% of max, I did a number of organised 100 mile sportives where I would latch onto groups I knew where faster than me and try and stay with them with the aim of doing a 5 hour 100 miler and in betweem that when time is valuable during the week, I did hour long interrval sessions on a static bike in the gym, either warm up, 3 minutes hard, 2 minutes rest at 90% of max, or 30 seconds as hard as i could and 30 seconds rest.

    This seemed to work for me, along with getting a bike fit (I know many don’t like them, but i was new to road bikes) which helped with long periods in the saddle and making me more efficient and also buying a really good pair of shorts (Sportful Total Comfort).

    Aiming to do the Dragon Devil, Welsh Coast to Coast and the London – Edinburgh Rat Race events in 2014, so better start the above training again soon!!

    Premier Icon simon1975

    I can’t give you any advice personally, but you might find this recent podcast motivational:

    Going the Distance


    Don’t take this the wrong way but can you lose some weight? Carrying a few kg less over that distance will make it a lot easier.

    Worth doing some core strength and flexibility work to keep you supple, keep injury at bay and to give you more power for the hills (and more energy spare for everything else)

    Equally is it worth looking at your bike? My carbon summer bike w/carbon cranks and carbon soled shoes is so much more efficient at putting the power from my legs into the road that I’m less tired after a long ride than I am on my winter bike.

    Not saying you have to spank a load of cash but if you can make your bike any lighter or more efficient it will help. Incremental gains and all that…


    faz083 – Member
    You’ll never get fast doing solo 50 milers.
    What a load of balls. If you ride 50 miles at 85% effort then it’s better than 150 ‘dead’ miles at 70% effort, full stop. no exceptions.

    What a load of balls – you’ll get faster doing shorter rides faster.


    Thanks for the replies some food for thought. The 280 miler is the L2P24 for Scope. It is supported so there are food stops every few hours and of course there is a rest for the ferry! They reckon you need to average a minimum of 15mph to do it in 24 hours. I’d like to be a fair bit quicker – there is a group paced at about 18mph apparently which I would love to be able to keep up with.

    I’ve not got scope to lose much weight without a new bike which isn’t really an option. I’m proper skinny!

    James0 – I’ve been thinking of just sticking with the 3x commutes and a longer weekend ride for a few more weeks / couple of moths then adding intervals on the rollers as you’ve said works for you. If I add 2x intervals a week it’s going to be tough but I guess that’s what i need just being careful to build rest into the plan. How soon before the event would you think I should start adding some interval training? I was thinking of taking sessions from the Time Crunched Cyclist plan, which would mean starting serious workouts about 8 weeks before the event.

    The 8 week plan would be something like this:

    Mon: 2x 25 mile commute at moderate / easy pace
    Tue: Intervals on rollers
    Wed: 2x 25 mile commute at moderate / easy pace
    Thur: Intervals on rollers
    Fri: 2x 25 mile commute at moderate / easy pace
    Sat: Long ride 50 – 100 miles (sometimes longer)
    Sun: Rest

    I’d be building up to this over the next few of months. Looks like a lot, but I do like a challenge 🙂


    The Time Crunched Cyclist book does include some stuff for riders training for a Century, if I remember correctly, but I think it is more aimed at building race level performance in limited time, with the trade off that you don’t build the solid endurance base that you would get from a more traditional plan with high volume base training. I think you need to start structured training earlier than T minus 8 weeks for a long distance event like this.

    Incorporating intervals is a good idea (lots of good suggestions above) but I would target being able to sustain a medium-high output for a long time, rather than aiming at race level performance, i.e. you want to be able to ride at a brisk level, where you have to concentrate, but can hold a comfortable conversation, and can crank that out for hour after hour. It’s not the sort of event where people are going to be riding flat out at threshold for long periods, like a time trial.

    For such a long event, an important part of your training should be getting used to time in the saddle, making sure that you are comfortable on your bike for long periods, familiarising your body with long sustained efforts, and learning to fuel yourself properly. You don’t have to do mega miles all the time, but a weekly long ride, and working up to a few centuries would be a good idea.

    I think riding some Audaxes would be very useful. It would give you something interesting to aim at, and would be a good way of simulating your target event – riding at tempo with a group for long distances. Try and ride a couple of 200km events. At least it will give you a feel for what you are aiming at.

    Premier Icon jameso

    mc – I’ve only trained once for a big endurance ride so I’m talking from limited experience, just what I learned on the way. I did HRM-assisted base work from 6 months out. Riding z2-only for 6-7 hours changed my perception of distance, when I realised 100 road miles didn’t need to leave me tired I began to believe that I could do a lot more.
    I started the interval work about 12 weeks out but I did feel strongest about 4-5 weeks before the event on a multi-day trial ride, so maybe I peaked early or maybe I was just well-rested before that ride. 8 weeks of intervals is probably enough, with an easier week or so before the event.

    You need some recovery time after the intervals, 45 mins spinning but really easy pace for me. A 25 mile commute isn’t recovery at any pace really and there’s debate over the value of recovery rides. I like 45 mins on the turbo in the warm reading a book, or an MTB pootle somewhere pretty and flat. Felt better after.
    Anyway, 2 interval sessions a week is more than I could do. You need to work like a dog on the turbo and my legs were tired for a day or 2 after the session, I didn’t feel I could do 2 in 3 days and get a real benefit from the second session. Others will be able to and maybe I should have tried it.
    I did 2 session types aimed at raising my threshold pace, ie raise that and all your zones shift up a notch so my zone 3 endurance pace also went up, climbing efforts were recovered from faster etc. Google joe friel’s threshold tests as that’s a good session in itself. Longer intervals are said to be better for building endurance pace efforts. My sprint was pretty lame after all that but I was able to ride fairly well for far longer than I thought I could.


    Really appreciate the advice chaps. I have the Joe Friel book, just trying to work out a plan that fits in with my available time.

    Jameso, you’re right about the 25 milers not really being recovery rides. Maybe intervals once a week, midweek might be the way to go. It clearly worked for you, I only realised today that you did the Tour Divide – top stuff man! very long term aim for me (well more of a dream really). Are you planning any more epics?

    Thanks kcr too, I’ve been thinking I should try an audax event, never done one before and would be good to ride with others from time to time. All my riding is solo and some company would be nice!

    The conclusion I’m coming to is that I should aim for a weekly long ride in Zone 2, building up to regular 100 milers. I want to keep my 3x commutes but if I’m going to add intervals I need to keep these in Zone 2-3 and save myself for the quality sessions. I might need to drop the midweek commute to do this.

    I think for the next couple of months the regular Zone 2-3 commute and long ride should be enough to build the endurance base then I’ll gradually introduce LT type intervals, with the intensity increasing nearer to the main event and a couple of easier weeks beforehand.

    Sound like a good plan?

    Premier Icon jameso

    Sounds like you have a good plan. Nothing more on that scale for me, it was a one-off. The training hurt too much : )

    Premier Icon adsh

    Wow 24hrs 15mph average is haaaard. 18mph group is nutso. Your riding is pretty much what I do and I find 6hr XC racing painful…..The agony of going out too hard and hanging on for 4hrs is gross. To get droppd by a fast group 12hours in will be pain on a truly apocalyptic level.

    ps only ever enter events like this within 6-12hrs of doing a very painful ride while the memory is fresh.


    I’d get a proper plan if you want to do it quickly & comfortably. You’ve got the perfect opportunity with the rides you’re doing now, but I’d use the commutes for interval work that will help you with speed endurance.


    I’m working on a plan and ideally I’d use the commutes for speedwork as you say. Not sure if I can handle it though I’ve just done my 4th 25 miler of the week at a fairly slow pace and feel really tired. Not really had enough sleep though which of course doesn’t help.

    The 3x commutes are a fairly recent thing, I’ve done 2 most weeks from last Xmas through until a couple of months ago where I upped it to 3 and it’s still really tiring especially so if I do a long weekend ride. Maybe 2x commutes including intervals is about all I can handle in the week, or 2x steady commutes plus an interval session on the rollers.

    The most I’ve done recently is 500 miles over 2 weeks and that was a couple of weeks ago. It was a big step up in mileage probably too big in one go and I think I may still be suffering for it. Need to avoid those sort of random overtraining blips I guess so I agree a plan is required – plus the sense to stick to it when I can and take extra rest when I am too tired.

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