Cycling a bit further

Tomorrow I’m planning to ride 177.5km (109mi). Further than I’ve ever cycled before.

But only by a bit.

It’s a local route that I’ve planned myself. The idea is get some training for the Audax I’m riding from Chepstow in two weeks time.

Tomorrow's planned route.

Tomorrow’s planned route. 177.5km (109 miles) and 2670m climbing.

As the Chepstow event is designated a “Grimpeur” with 3 AAA points it will be hilly. I like hills, but I want to feel prepared for climbing them all day long, so that’s what I’ll do tomorrow.

Despite having done a lot of touring cycling in years gone by, I’ve only regained a serious interest in cycling in the past couple of years.

Two years ago there’s no way I could have done this.

Two years ago 24km (15mi) was a struggle which left me feeling pooped and wobbly for a day or two.

Gradual improvement

Increasing the distance I could cycle took some effort, but the technique wasn’t exactly rocket surgery. Typically though, I did do some geek-research on the Internet. There’s a lot of technical training ideas if you want to take things very seriously, but thankfully the TL;DR seems to gybe with common sense:

  • Go out and ride your bike
  • Rest well
  • Eat well and healthily
  • Repeat, gradually increasing the ride length

I started last winter by cycling to work and back on a weekly basis. Twenty-four hilly kilometres each way – enough to improve my fitness. It was hard at first, but got easier each week. I saw the sun rise over frosty fields on winter mornings and (after a shower and change of clothes) arrived at work feeling alert and enthusiastic, like I’d already had an adventure.

At least once a month I’d try to get out for a longer ride, starting around 50km last Autumn and increasing slowly that to 120km by June this year.

I also I entered some longer Sportives – 100km (60mi) in February and March, moving up to 160km (100mi) at the end of June. Sportives are a nice way to start out doing longer distances as they usually come complete with feed stations to provide snacks and drinks and a “broom wagon” to sweep up any riders who have to pull out due to mechanical failures or injury. As a result, Sportives are more expensive than more minimalist Audax rides – typically £25 compared with £3 – £10 for Audaxes.

In August I did my first ever Audax ride – The 100km Blackmoor Tour starting near Salisbury. This gave me an understanding of the Audax format and some practice following route sheets (in addition to the GPS) as well as knowing what to do at the controls. It was also quite sociable and took in some beautiful countryside, even if my phone’s camera can’t do it justice.

View from near the highest point on the Blackmoor Tour audax.

View from near the highest point on the Blackmoor Tour audax.

The Blackmoor tour was a BP “Brevet Populaire” at less than 200km. Other BP events start as short as 50km (31mi), so there’s something for most people to aim for. All UK Audax events are listed on the AUK Calendar and can be entered (for a small fee) by anyone.

In the last month I’ve had some great tandem rides with Erica around Shropshire and a sportive in North Wales, which set a record distance for us on the tandem 141km (89mi) and my highest ever top speed on a bike, 75.5kph (46.5mph). Thanks to the in-laws for baby-sitting!

I’ve also been out about once a week in the evening for a quick sprint or hill-climb, which I’m told helps improve overall speed.

So that’s my informal, retrospective training plan.

In two weeks I’ll see if it’s enough to get me around the 200km Border Castles Randoneé from Chepstow.

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