How Cycling Regularly Drastically Improved My Cycling Endurance
It’s no surprise to people reading this blog that cycling is one of my passions but as with many other people who enjoy working out or cycling, you aren’t always motivated to workout. Your motivation goes up and down. Some days you are super motivated and on others, you don’t even want to get out of bed.
Let’s cover a little back story, I started cycling during the COVID quarantine period because my dad had an extra road bike hanging in our garage. The road bike was a solid starter road bike that wasn’t so expensive that I was afraid to ride it. If my dad had a top-of-the-line road bike, I probably would have never started riding.
My First Ride
The first time I took the road bike out for a spin, my legs were burning within a few miles. I had never realized how much of a workout bike riding could be. I remembered riding my bike when I was little jumping over grass patches and using jumps my friends and I made and riding for hours at a time.
I didn’t realize how much of a difference different gears and riding in the higher gears made. With a road bike, depending on the gear you were in, you always had to work hard to keep your pace.
This first ride was a rude awakening to how little I had been working out. I was no stranger to staying in shape. I played basketball in high school and had to do intense conditioning for that. Back then, I lifted weights 5-6 days/week and did a ton of cardio almost every day. If you saw what we had to do for basketball conditioning, you’d think we were on the track team. However, I’d been out of high school for a while and my workout routine had gone down. So, I definitely wasn’t in the best shape at the moment.
I don’t remember the exact distance of my first ride but I’d guess anywhere between 10 and 15 miles. I’m sure I could’ve kept pushing myself to ride further but I didn’t know when my legs would start screaming at me. So, I decided to play it safe and cut the ride short and work my way up to longer rides.
I’m glad I did cut it short because now that I ride more often in my town, I know that the ride home is the hard part because there’s a slight incline and usually a headwind. These are things you don’t necessarily pay that much attention to when you aren’t cycling.
Getting On A Routine
Don’t forget, this was all happening throughout the COVID Quarantine, so I didn’t have much else to do and this was one of the few things that got me out of the house. So, I started riding almost every morning.
My 10-mile ride turned into a 15-mile ride, then 20 miles, then 25, then 30. It sounds like this was a quick process, but it took time and consistency. I’d ride 15 miles a couple of times before moving up to 20 miles and the same for 20 miles before moving to 25 miles and so on. At 30 miles, I stopped increasing the distance because I found a convenient loop to ride. So, 30 miles became the regular route that I’d ride multiple times per week.
After I’d been riding multiple times per week for weeks or months, one of my good friends decided to get a bike too. So, we started hanging out with each other and going on bike rides. And before you say I shouldn’t have been going with someone because of quarantine, we both were quarantined at our house other than going for bike rides. So, us going together made no real difference and we never got COVID from this.
After doing 30 miles a day for weeks, 30 miles became easy and I’d often do 30 miles in the morning by myself and then ride another 20 miles with my friend in the evening. This wasn’t an everyday thing but it’s worth noting in how my cycling endurance had progressed just from riding consistently. I could ride 4-5 days per week now, while sometimes doing 2adays.
Fixed Gear Riding
After a few months of riding, I got a fixed gear bike and my road bike took a back seat. I enjoyed riding my fixed gear bike for some reason. The simplicity of having no gears and the style factor that came with sliding were appealing. However, at this point I’d been riding 30 miles/day for a while so, riding fixed wasn’t too difficult.
My first ride on my fixed gear was about 25 miles. It was definitely different and afterward, my legs were way more tired than I expected. It was like I was working all new muscles even tho they were both bikes. For those that don’t know what a fixed gear is, a fixed gear means the rotation of your pedals is locked to the rotation of your rear wheel. This means as long as your rear wheel continues spinning you can’t stop pedaling. In simpler terms, you can’t coast you have to continually pedal while you ride.
After riding my fixed gear bike for a while, my legs got used to the new muscles being worked and I could ride my fixed gear just as far as my road bike and I could keep pace with my friends on road bikes. The furthest I rode on my fixed gear bike was 65 miles.
No Motivation For Cycling
After quarantine ended and I was able to do other things. My motivation for riding 5 days/week and sometimes riding twice per day went down and I started riding once a week sometimes every other week if that. Part of this is because I started back working and it didn’t fit in my daily routine to be able to go hop on my bike whenever I felt like it, but a lot of this was a loss of motivation as other options were available.
My cycling endurance quickly began decreasing, and the 30-mile rides that I previously could do with ease became difficult which made me even less motivated to ride because I was always drained when I did ride.
Being able to ride multiple times a day and multiple times per week went to being tired after 1 ride. This went on for months riding every once in a while and making no progress. So, I set a goal of riding 100 miles.
100 Mile Cycling Goal – First Century Ride
When working up to a cycling goal such as 100 miles, you don’t necessarily need to ride 100 miles to prepare. I believe the recommended training for a large ride is regular rides at around 75% of the length. So training with 75-mile rides, you should be able to ride 100 miles as 75 miles becomes easier. While this is what’s recommended, I definitely didn’t follow this method at all.
I started back riding 3-4 times/week doing 30-40 miles. I did this for weeks until I could ride this amount with ease again. I did maybe one 50-mile ride over the course of this training period. My endurance came back quicker than I expected. After a while of regular riding, I decided to just jump from regular 30-40 mile rides to 100 miles.
I do not recommend this method, it takes a lot of willpower since you haven’t fully worked your way up to this. You’re essentially jumping from 2-3 hours of riding to 6-8 hours of riding depending on the pace you hold. This can be an intense jump for your body and a huge hurdle for your mind.
Up until about 70 miles I was chilling. The last 30 miles were the hard part. The last 20 miles were even harder because I hadn’t really planned my ride out and the route I rode only ended up being around 80 miles.
The Last 20 Miles
When you have no other choice but to make it back to your car, it’s a little easier to push yourself to make it back. However, since I misplanned my ride I got back to my car at around 80-85 miles. I then was stuck with a choice to cut the ride short and not make 100 miles or make the conscious decision to ride away from my car again to add on the last 15-20 miles.
One thing I did plan about my ride was that I would be riding into a headwind on my way out, so for the first 40 miles, I rode into a headwind. For the next 40 miles, I had a tailwind. No one wants to ride into a headwind when they’re already tired. So, now being back at my car when I’m already tired, I knew that adding on another 20 miles meant I’d have to face a headwind either on my way out or back. However, unlike the first 40 miles where I fought a headwind, I was tired now. So, pushing myself to ride the last 20 miles was even more daunting.
I really wanted to hit 100 miles and complete my first century ride tho, so I pushed forward and rode into a headwind. So, I could relax during the last part of the ride. I struggled to ride into the headwind for about 8 miles and then turned around finishing out my first century ride back at my car.
Riding regularly was the main factor that allowed me to increase my cycling endurance. I didn’t follow any special training regimens. I just got on my bike and road multiple times per week and over time my endurance went up. There’s no special trick to gaining endurance other than consistency.
Yes, I’m sure there are trainers out there and training regimens out there that will allow you to gain endurance faster, but it all comes down to consistency. Even if you have the best training method, if you only do it once a month, you won’t find results.
Daily riding allowed me to essentially double or almost triple my riding from 30-50 miles to 100 miles. No, I don’t ride 100 miles regularly like some cyclists, but I can confidently say that if I wanted to I could. I just don’t have the free time to regularly take out 6+ hours of my day to go on a bike ride.
The more riding becomes a fun active hobby, the easier it will be to get on your bike on a regular basis. There are many things you can do to make riding more fun such as going on group rides, joining a community, and riding with friends.