You rode HOW FAR?
Long-Distance Bike Riding FAQs
When I tell friends about this bicycling club, they are shocked at the distances our members ride. While 40K sounds like an amazing ride to them, it is but a season starter to us. So, are we a club of high end athletes? Far from it.
Here is a brief introduction to long distance bicycling through a series of questions and answers.
- Why ride with a club? Riding in a group makes the ride more enjoyable, safer, and helps new riders learn the techniques to successful distance riding. There are techniques that make 40k a short ride, and 100k and up achievable by mid-summer.
- Why do people ride racing (road) bikes? The answer surprises most who don’t ride long distance – they are more comfortable. The purpose of down-swept handlebars is to provide a variety of hand positions. A properly set up racing bike distributes body weight. About 1/3 is on your butt, 1/3 on your feet and 1/3 on your hands. In a traditional “comfort” bicycle, almost all of the weight is on your butt, which is why it gets sore quickly. The setup on a road bike is different for distance versus racing. Racers crouch over much more to lessen wind resistance, but it is a less comfortable position.
- My legs tire out so fast, how do you do it? Another critical factor in long distance riding is seat position. On a ride last year, one rider was complaining of a sore back. He looked too far back and I suggested a movement of his seat by about an inch forward. He was amazed at the change and how good his back felt on the next ride. Bike setup is far more complex for distance. What you can get away with riding to the corner store is different from a long ride. Seat height is key, in that if your legs are not extended to their full length, you waste the strongest part of the push. Also, your knees will quickly hurt if the seat is too low. The right seat position for distance is not the right position for mountain biking. A mountain bike seat is much lower so that you can raise out of the seat on bumps. Beginners like to have their seat so low that they can comfortably stand with their feet of the ground when stopped. This is far too low and makes for tough pedaling.
- How old are members? We have members ranging in age from their 20′s through 60′s and even some in their 70′s (you should see them go!).
- Do I need an expensive bike? In our group you will see bicycles that span from several hundred to many thousands of dollars. A proper road bike is built for comfort and more distance for the same effort. Mountain bikes are not recommended, they require much more effort, especially the ones with knobby tires and suspensions. Those knobs steal a lot of energy, as do shocks. Mountain wheels and tires are also heavier. Weight saved on the wheels is more significant than on the bike. You have to spin the wheel, not just move it. Narrow seats are more comfortable, as wide seats tent to chafe the inner leg. If you are planning on buying a bike it is highly recommended to purchase one from a specialty bike shop rather than a department or sports store. Department store bikes are assembled with poor quality components and will not prove satisfactory in the long run. Our club membership will entitle you to a discount at many local bike shops.
- Do I need special clothes? You do need a CSA-approved helmet. Again, bike clothes are built for comfort. They are designed to breathe, shed perspiration and be seen by car drivers. As 1/3 of your weight is on your hands, riders usually wear bike gloves to prevent blisters. Cycling shorts provide padding for the groin while bike shoes make pedaling easier by not flexing. Our club has special jerseys that make us look like a team on the road, but usually you’ll see members in a variety of outfits.
- Will I get left behind? We try to never lose a rider, especially a beginner. (We do, however, have a few advanced riders who are famous for getting lost.) I saw first hand the value of riding with a group last year when my bike broke down. It was not something that could be repaired on the side of the road. Ross rode back and got my car. We loaded on my bike, then caught up to the group, where he unloaded his bike and continued. This was especially nice for me, as I was 15 km from nowhere. It would have been a long walk back, made worse by my racing shoes. The ride host and everyone participating are responsible for making sure no one is left behind. Usually a rider will stay with the new people and coach them on technique as well as morale.
- Does everyone ride in one group? No, usually there are two or three groups depending on rider speed. We usually have two (or more) ride distances to choose from. We reqroup frequently to allow slower rices to catch up.
- Where do we eat on the rides? Food is a big part of a ride. On each route, we plan for a snack or lunch break. Some people bring their own food; some buy food where we stop. Every rider is responsible for his/her own drink and snacks. On the Century Ride, while snacks are supplied by the SAG wagon, it is recommended to pack a lunch (will be carried by the SAG wagon).
- What is a “Century Ride”? This is the key ride of the season. A metric century is 100 km in one day, an English century – 100 miles (160 km). If it is your first year of distance cycling 100 km is an achievable goal. Support vehicles (SAG wagons) are deployed for the century ride to provide snacks and help stranded riders who can’t finish the ride or have mechanical difficulties.
- How fit do I need to be to ride with the club? If you are presently fit enough to ride take your bike on a 20 to 30 kilometer ride you are fit enough to join us in the spring when our rides start at 40 km and progress upwards from there. If you are presently participating in an endurance sport such as running you are probably fit enough to make the leap to cycling with not to much difficulty (and it’s much easier on the joints!).
- How do I start? See our joining page for information on participating on our rides.