How To Train For Ultra Endurance Cycling
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How To Train For Ultra Endurance Cycling

October 31, 2019


– One of our GCN new years
resolution suggestions for 2017 was the prospect
of riding a double century. So, 200 miles. So, if riding centuries are your thing, this could be right up your street. – It definitely could
but, at the same time you’re saying that Matt, we
did have to actually admit that none of us here
at GCN have ever ridden a double century. So, to find out how to train
for one, we’ve consulted a few ultra endurance
experts like our friend, Bruce Berkeley, and also
gone back to our own training knowledge too. Another coffee? – Tom, you already had four espressos. – I’m nervous. (upbeat music) – If you’re really intent in
doing an ultra endurance event, there’s no real shortcut to
simply putting the miles in. You can’t just afford to
ride 50 miles if your target is a double century. – How far do we have to go, Matt? – About 199 miles, mate. – Oh, one mile in? – Yeah, sorry. Your preparation is vital. In the simple words of Bruce,
“If you fail to prepare, “you prepare to fail.” Getting the longer rides in is
going to condition your body not just from a physical
fitness point of view, but also getting your body
used to sitting on a bike for that sort of duration
and at the same time, training your mind. You don’t need to have
done the distance of your event in training, but
you should have done at least half the distance
on a few occasions. Also, doing a couple of
long back to back days will teach your body
and mind to keep riding when already fatigued. – Similar to other goals
though, is the gradual buildup. Increase the length of
your longest ride each week and do so gradually
because going in too long too early could do more harm than good. Once you know what your end
goal is, work out a plan about how you can get there
between now and then. – [Man] Rest and recuperation
becomes even more important when you’re doing the big hours. Going to this extreme in exercise duration is really going to deplete
your body of it’s reserves. So it’s vital that you give
it enough rest to recover. Otherwise, you risk
digging a very big hole. – Nutrition becomes doubly
important, both on and off the bike. The correct nutrition off
the bike will help you to replace everything that
you use while cycling. Is that nice? And what you eat on your
rides becomes vital. As an experienced rider,
you can probably now muddle through a century even if you don’t get your nutrition spot on. Double that distance and
you’re going to go through some dark periods unless
your nutrition is planned and executed perfectly. Find out what works for you. It might be that at the lower
intensity you’ll have to ride at for these longer
distances, a different type of food or drink works better for you. It’s a case of you experimenting
and then putting it into practise in your training
before the day of the event. – Making sure your body is
in perfect working order is the first step, but the
same should really apply to your bike as well. Spending 10 hours in the
saddle is hard enough. The last thing you want is a mechanical or to feel uncomfortable. – So make sure it’s serviced,
in good working order and fits you very, very well. Pay particular attention
to the contact points with your body. So think saddle, bars, shoes, insoles, cleat position, that sort of thing. Also, anything that can
improve your comfort. So think things like bigger
tyres or better clothing is going to make a massive difference. – Don’t start out too hard. There’s not too much time to recover during an ultra endurance
event, so it’s absolutely vital that you get your pacing strategy spot on. In fact, it’s a good idea to use either a heart rate monitor and/or powermeter to make sure you stay
within the right zones. Endurance events are hard
enough and if you get your pacing strategy wrong,
you can make the latter stages particularly tough and brutal. – Once we get into ultra
endurance distances, it becomes a mental game
as much as a physical one. Many people are physically
capable of riding for 10 hours, but it’s their head that holds them back. So, training your mind
becomes just as important. You can’t let a small
inconvenience such as a headwind affect your concentration,
motivation and determination. You need to teach your mind
to cope with the diversity to stay positive at all times. As endurance riding expert,
Bruce Berkeley says, “Your mind is your biggest asset.” You will go through ups and
downs, but keep focused on the goal you have and find
ways to break it down. Everyone will find their
own way to do this. Bruce suggests trying not
to think of the big distance number, as this can seem
almost too large at times and a long way off. So, think of the time
that you’re riding for, rather than the miles or the kilometres. That’s a much smaller number
and therefore much easier on your mind. Ultra distance events
are probably 75% mind, focus and determination, and 25% physical. – In conclusion, your body can
do whatever you want it to. It’s your mind that you need to convince. So, never, ever, ever give in. – Inspirational stuff Matt
and we know that a lot of you absolutely love your epic
endurance riding adventure, so do let us know your do’s and dont’s for preparing for this
down in the comments. If you haven’t done so
already, subscribe to GCN. All you need to do is click
on our logo, which should be onscreen now and a
hugely important subject when you’re doing an
endurance ride is comfort. So, to get more comfortable on your bike, click right there. – Yeah and for how to
prepare for your first ever 100-mile ride, how ’bout
clicking just down here. We need to lie down now, don’t we? – I do.

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  1. Did a 330km ride last year and the video is full of good advice. Some points to add:
    Choose your route (if you aren't on organised ride) – not just for terrain but different roads/ scenery helps break monotony.
    Plan for even only short stops every 50-60km. Mentally breaks it in to series of short rides. Eat, stretch and get comfy (apply chamois cream etc)
    Ride with friends. when you're in a bad place, they'll get you through it, and vice versa.
    Know your route. Use a Garmin with route mapping – as there is nothing worse for morale than getting lost or riding miles in the wrong direction by mistake!
    Do it for a reason, whether charity or similar – gets you through the dark moments by focusing on the "why".
    Be prepared for different weather. Take suncream, waterproof jacket etc.
    Think about all the Kudos you'll get on Strava.

  2. Totally agree with Matt, it's amazing what you can convince your body to do.
    For me the decision is the most important. It can be scary and involve a lot of unknown, but be excited about it and DECIDE you will complete it. Don't set out to TRY anything. Outside of injury/safety, persist until the mission is complete 🙂

  3. Asked a few weeks ago in the comment section for tips on a double century, and here comes the video. Thank you guys, you are awesome 🙂

  4. My longest individual ride was 1,204km around the Netherlands in 46 hours. But as you guys say, it's more about the mental aspect than the physical – I held the Zwift distance record of 1,620km in 53 hours. Anyone who can spend that amount of time on a static trainer should have the mental toughness to ride Ultra events IRL. I'm down for the Transcontinental Race this year and I'm not taking part just to make up the numbers!!

  5. I prepared completely different than this, not saying that this is wrong just saying I did it different. The biggest ride I did was 45 miles. I rode at 7am for 2 plus hours then rested for 30 min to 2 hours then went out and rode again. Sometimes I would do the double ride at opposite ends of the day but still the mileage was the same. As for food I eat bread no butter, potatoes and energy bars but saved the gels for the last hour. I drank 1 sugary drink and 1 of just water every 2 hours, this kept me peeing clear.
    My ride was 311.5 miles which took me 16 hours 30 mins
    Sore bits were neck and hands but other than that I was ok.
    The longest ride ever before this was 120 miles about 4 years earlier.
    P.s I did this ride to raise money for my local cancer ward where I was for 6 months with cancer. I'm all good now and still ride my bike most days for between 1 and 2 hours.
    All the best to anyone who is trying a long ride.

  6. I've just done 180 miles (300km) a couple of times, and will do again in June. Pacing is definitely key, it's better have extra in the tank for the latter stages than burn out early on. Also very important, if possible, is to get in a group going at your pace. I usually ride alone, so it was an important lesson for me: get some practice in group riding in advance, it makes a huge difference. The funny thing with these long rides is you find yourself seeing the "70km to go" sign and thinking "nearly there"!

  7. Cadence and cadence-monitoring during the event is critical. Speaking from experience, a fairly "flat" route of 150-200 miles will encompass at least 4-5,000 feet of climbing, and ; if you don't keep your cadence between 85-90 rpm average, muscle fatigue will set in far faster, with the double-whammy of begetting likely knee sores. As a result, it is also imperative to have proper gear ratios- a standard or compact crank will suffice, but if you have a cassette lower than 11-28 you're asking for trouble!

  8. Love doubles in California. We've got about 20 options throughout the year. Keep rest stops short (<10 mins), comfort is more important than saving weight, you'll go through bad patches so just keep moving no matter your speed and they'll pass, misery loves company so make friends, select right gear ratios if you'll be doing a lot of climbing.

  9. Thanks GCN. I was hoping to do my first century last year but the event was shortened to 50 due to weather. This year I'm planning not one, but two century rides for charity events. I will get one day to recover between the two. Any suggestions on how to spend that one day (nutrition, rest, massage)? #AskGCN

  10. I did a 205 mile ride a few years ago. I think the longest ride I'd done in prep was 80 miles but I've done many century plus rides in my life. When choosing the bike for the the double I opted for my trusty cross bike with 32mm road tires. Road bike would've been faster but the cross bike was the most comfortable bike I own. Plus I knew my route would take me over some rough roads and wanted a bike I knew would handle them. I finished the ride in 11.5 hours total and 10.5 hours ride time. Eating and drinking are key. I jumped on the scale when I got home and I actually gained a little. Probably over hydrated a bit but felt pretty good and the end of it all. Could've gone farther for sure but was glad it was over.

  11. A small group of us did a 200 miler last summer. We rode from Worcester to Aberystwyth (and back) via a very hilly Elan valley. Our food regime consisted of Fish and chips on the beech once we got to Aberystwyth. Never have chips tasted so good.

  12. I had only been riding seriously for about 9 months before I started riding more and more each day trip, first 100 miles then hundred fifty and then ultimately I did 200 miles one day last summer. it was glorious. I took a long plenty of food and electrolyte supplements and refill my water bottles frequently, as I learned from watching many gcn videos. I also strapped to my top tube a 20000 milliamp hour battery to keep my cell phone and front and back lights going all day. what an adventure, nothing like it.

  13. I did a 540 km (335 miles) race last summer. It was great. Hydration and getting enough calories in is key. The longest training rides before the race was about 200-240 km. Good enough for me, atleast.

  14. Nah I can't do it, can't handle it any more, I give up, all of this stealth advertising by Canyon, I give up. Especially when there's only three clicks between me and an Aeroad… DAMNIT GCN DAMNIT

  15. Guys plenty of ultra distance rides done every year in CTT 12 hr and 24 hr time trials. The top riders doing over 300mls in 12hrs and 500mls in 24hrs in solo time trial events…simply mind blowing.

  16. longest I've made it is 176 miles and I exhausted out. my hydration and nutrition was spot on. however my route had way too much climbing, so I became much more fatigued in the miles past 100. I'd say route planning is another huge vital step in the big picture of it all. it is still on my list to do!

  17. Picking a route with the fewest controlled stops was important to me. My hardest/longest ride was a 160 miles (solo) which consisted of 20 miles of bike path with controlled stops about every mile. It was an out and back and those stop signs killed me. I've done rides up to 50 miles longer that didn't hurt as bad as this one.

  18. I tends to break down the distance by 50K and just do that one at a time. The first 15 km is always around 25km/h despite I might warm up already.

  19. Water! Plan your route to include regular stops with safe water sources (if not riding in an organized event). Dehydration will not just sap the energy quickly, it is dangerous, and annoying having to hunt around for somewhere to fill the bottles.

  20. Comfy bike and food and drink stops – if you are not against the clock stop at the pub for lunch! Enjoy the day. Metric doubles are quite doable with such stops. Ate a whole ginger cake once outside a corner shop. Great.

  21. hi lads, IV been training for a ultra 550km race in June, doing long 200 and 300km rides. I went to recent club race and didn't have the legs to keep up. Two different sports?

  22. 1300km in 55hours.. race around Slovenia.. 500km per week for 6 months… eat drink and have stell ass 🙂

  23. longest ride I have ever done was 130 miles. sooo difficult, could have finished Stronger with more food. Dropped 10 lbs and insane chaffing like I have never experienced before and hope to never again.

  24. my friend's 12 year old brother cycled 1000 kms in 29 hours, his only tactic was training long distances and keeping his power output around same during trainings

  25. I sweat at a rate of about 46 oz. per hour and can replace at 24 oz. per hour. After about 4 hours of riding, I am far enough behind on fluid replacement that I am down about 5 lbs. This isn't abnormal but it does preclude me from tackling extra long days as I haven't yet cracked "the code". I've tried nuun, pills, electrolyte drinks, etc however their effectiveness is limited. any guidance? I'm planning on two rides (self-supported) that will take between 10 and 14 hours… carrying 5 gallons is not an option. #askgcn #tourqeback

  26. I did john o'groats to lands end unsupported last week, the week prior to posting this comment. Completed in 8 days, really recommend watching the vid you showed with sean conway. Took all his tips did about 110 miles a day.

  27. Go ride with the Randonneurs, ride a few 200k's and then try to complete an SR series (200k,300k,400k & 600k). Set your goals and follow through with it. Also don't be afraid when things will not go as planned because it will happen. And train to eat, lots of riders have stomach issues because of eating way too much carbs. You will need to find what will work for you! Real food is good, also carry food and enough to drink. And if you don't feel good or bonked just ride slower than usual for a while. Most of the time your legs will naturally pick up the pace again.

  28. My friends and I did 165 miles in the first day of the Seattle to Portland ride a few years back. What really kept me going was 1) having someone there to talk to and suffer with. We did a lot of picking each other up and pushing each other to keep going, and 2) we had a support wagon (our wives) that met us at certain pre-determined points, so we were able to get into an air-conditioned car and have a real meal every once in a while. I can't tell you how good a Safeway sub sandwich tastes after 100 miles.

  29. in california we have a lot of doubles – i typically train up by doing at least four 120 milers, and a couple of 140 milers before the event. if you start to do enough of these in a year, eventually the event itself is your training.

  30. 272 km on my MTB in a single day
    i wish we had better roads to ride longer. but roads in my country is Awful. hope i will go on a Europe tour by cycle…

  31. It´s 70% exercise, 30% mental training and a good portion of persistence. My motto is "If you can dream it, you can do it". 😉

  32. I've been binge watching your channel for a few weeks and this is what I was looking for the most. I'm in love with endurances and I have completed a 200KM brevet already, but I failed to complete a 300km brevet recently and this video just showed me what I lacked of in that particular run. You guys are just fantastic, I'm really glad I found and subscribe to your channel. Greetings from Chile!

  33. Thanks for great info
    Looking at doing 340 in two days for charity. Relatively new to cycling, so great to have info like this available. Keep it up 😀

  34. I'm doing a ride in May of 2018 it's only 69 miles but it's my first time on a long ride what do you recommend i do to preparer for it. I have 4 months till the ride and im a 46 year old that commutes to work about 2 times a week but with the cold and the snow it makes it hard to keep my legs in good shape.. my passion for cycleing keeps me going on the cold days but the snow and ice is to dangerous to ride on. Help lol

  35. It can be tempting to ride with a quicker group than you are comfortable with and push yourself to gain from the drafting. You can find yourself exhausted with only a small part of the ride done. My average speeds when I did my first events would tail off by around 5kph over 200km. Prepare with enough supplies so you can avoid the race to beat the queues at the first feed stop and then give it a miss.

  36. I have done 540kms in sub zero temperature. And many times over 300kms. If you ride longer and longer you body will adapt perfectly. Example for me no problem if I dont eat anything in a 150kms ride. Btw on the previous day, I eat a lot, this helps a lot, and during a ride after 100kms at every 50-80km

  37. Fortunately for the few that can, a brilliant bike, like the GCN presenters ride makes you mentally psyched to ride 100 miles easily, no matter whata the pain.

  38. Last year 3 of my buddy’s did a massive 244 mile ride from Kettering in Northants to Cromer and back in 1 day. What helped us was all food and hydration needs was in a support car. We rode for around 6 months build up and as the GCN guys said keep the miles increasing over the weeks. It’s such a fantastic feeling once completed. So my advice is get support if poss and then enjoy.

  39. I love it, they keep saying 10 hours for a double century. This must be a video for pro riders as that would be 20 mph. Come on GCN you guys are better than that. The average double century rider is in the 13-15 hour total time range with 12 to 14 hours of moving time for completing a double.

  40. GCN giving advice on "Ultra" distance riding is like a randonneur telling us how to use blood transfusions and EPO to increase performance.
    200 miles is hardly "Ultra" endurance cycling. If you're serious about ultra distances, you might want to not slam the stem. Maybe a stable bike with wider tires? If you aren't being supported by a team car, how about a bike that can carry extra food/fluids/clothing. Or you can dress up like a pro racer with ads from head to toe and ride your oh-so-cool-this-month plastic bike 200 miles and tell people your an ultra-distance cyclist. Being silly is easy. Riding long distances on a bike is not and has tended, so far at least, to minimize corporate poser nonsense. I hope it stays that way.

  41. Made a promise when my girlfriend was sick, and last year, rode solo 1000k in three days, took a small camel bag with tools, jacket, lights, energy bars, money for lunch/dinner. First night sitting awake on a door step in front of Santiago Catedral the second sleeping 2:30 hours on the floor of a car parking, then Fátima Sanctuary and home again. People that you meet in the way look at you like overhuman, and their words give you strength… Motivation and objectives are everything but give your best also when training. The hardest was to get sleepy on the road, give your best, being conscious…

  42. Nutrition, hydration, AND electrolytes. I've done a couple of one-day double centuries and many centuries. I've learned my lesson on things like bagels, high fiber energy bars, bananas, etc., as the primary source of nutrition. You can get away with such food for a metric century, but not for longer rides, and especially not for double centuries or multi-day long tours, e.g., STP, RAGBRAI. After all that time, I find that I like a liquid drink rather than solids… because what goes in must come out! I've settled on Spiz as my source of food during the ride, augmented by the occasional banana and PB&J sandwich. I mix up a 24 oz water bottle with 4 scoops of Spiz, giving me 500 calories that I'll drink every 25 miles, a slug a mile or thereabouts, and I'll pre-measure the Spiz into baggies and bring them with me on these long rides, refilling the bottle at each 25 mile stop. I put a second 24 oz water bottle with just water in it, and try to drain one of these every 25 miles as well… using my need to urinate as well as the color to help me determine whether I'm getting enough liquid. I'll also bring along some Enduralyte capsules with me as well and will take these if I start to feel sluggish… often what feels like lack of nutrition is really electrolyte imbalance. If it's late in the day and I'm starting to slow down after 150 miles or so, a regular Coca-Cola, poured into that water bottle over ice and 'de-fizzed' (shaken until the carbonation is mostly gone… practice this before the ride!) will provide enough pep for another hour or so on the bike… the caffeine and sugar really have an impact when you're close to bonking.

    As far as training, you can do a double uncomfortably if you can ride 75 miles, and relatively comfortably if you have done a century three to four weeks before the double… and you have 4 to 6 months of training rides in getting to close to 100 miles a week with at least one big ride toward the last third of the training cycle. Hills and intervals help, too. I would commute daily (5 miles round trip), and would build up to be able to ride long 3x a week, with a 20 mile ride on Monday evening after work, then a 40 mile ride on Wednesday, then one long weekend ride of 60 to 70 miles) a month before the big ride, then cut back to just two long rides a week with the century at least three weeks out from the big ride, and a couple of weeks of 30 to 40 mile weeks before the event… and only 5 mile rides the week of the ride and no riding for 72 hours before the ride.

    My first back-to-back double (a century per day on two consecutive days) happened without really any training… I hadn't ridden more than 40 miles at a time and didn't really have a base in. I did the ride and it was very painful, and I didn't ride my bike again, or even look at it, for more than a month. The next year I trained as above but didn't have the nutrition down, the third year I trained as above with a good nutrition plan and it was easy. I did the next two years riding the double century in one day, and it was readily do-able… 200 miles in a day is never easy.

  43. Thank you, GCN! Thanks to the advice in this video and the other GCN videos on fueling properly, I was able to train for and complete a 200-mile cycle event in one day this year, with a minimum of discomfort and no bonking! Eat and Hydrate! Ride a comfortable pace!

  44. For a recent 185km MTB race, I broke it down into 4 stages. It sure was much easier to think about 3 down 1 to go than 155 down 30 to go.

  45. It's not going to happen in the next 5 or 6 years, but my goal for the RTTC 24 hour time trial is 450 miles with a mezo-endo body type. I hope I will smash it!

  46. Where is Lasty’s seat pack? He’s just gonna make Matt change his flat for him? On an “endurnance” ride?

  47. I rode 25km just today over a couple hours. That's probably my longest continuous ride to date. I'm training to do a century, perhaps a double before I can say I'm ready for what I'm planning for. Nearly there, but I'm glad I watched this.
    A mate of mine suggested riding for longer at slower speeds as training for endurance isn't the same as training for speed. Typically this can be achieved anywhere – where I live, there are plenty of hilly and/or flat country road loops I've planned out that I can ride, double up and set new goals each time I'm out for my training regimen. The longer loops are for when I level up. Ideally, you want to train your body to operate as efficiently as possible (without putting your health in danger), so you can ride for longer and not feel as horrible aftwerwards.
    Also, finding the right cadence is key to a better ride. Once you have a steady pedalling rythm, you want to maintain that rythm uphill, downhill, or on the flats. Learn what gears and ratios on your bike affect your ride and how best to use them all.
    Ride safely, know your limits so you can push them to new heights, and have fun!

  48. i did 50 kiloliters on an old mountain bike while hungry once. my body hated me for a solid 2 days before i was willing to do it again.

  49. final conclusion is spot on,
    I can't, however convince friends to come along. They think they can't do it. But seriously, what can go wrong. You just eat more, and keep going. Even with 20km/h will get you there eventually.

    Some tips: Bring clothings for all types of wheater, Fill bidons at every stop.

  50. What about different terrain? I live in Devon every ride includes 800-1000m of climbing in 50-60km some of it brutal oh for a nice flat ride in the netherlands

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