If it has been a while since you’ve been on your bike, resist the urge to be a Weekend Warrior and hammering out a three-hour ride without preparation. Start slow and work your way up.
“If you haven’t ridden all winter, strengthen your legs first on a stationary bike, or warm up slowly. Ride a mile, then two, then five, and alternate the days you ride—one on, one off at first to build up to bigger rides. If you go gung ho from the start you might burn out fast or worse, injure yourself,” said a certified athletic trainer with The Memorial Hospital.
Always ride prepared. Bring a pump, patch kit, energy bar and plenty of water—and always wear your helmet, even on short trips around town.
“Accidents happen so randomly, and the first few times back out people don’t quite have their balance back and they may fall more easily,” said a TMH athletic trainer.
This is especially true if you like riding off road. If you are new to mountain biking, practice skills on the pavement first or on wide-open dirt roads or trails.
“It’s like running on grass if you are used to pavement. It’s a change of turf that you need to get used to,” a TMH athletic trainer added.
“The longer the ride, the longer you need to train. Plan your weekends for longer rides and practice hauling the equipment you’ll need,” suggested a TMH athletic trainer.
The Lymphoma Research Foundation, which holds various rides, suggests training for a 50-mile road ride by preparing at least 4 weeks ahead of time at the minimum. Week one aim for 5 to 10 miles, week 2, 10-20 miles, week 3, 20-30 miles and week 4, 30-40 miles adding in tougher terrain as you advance. If you are new to cycling, start earlier and stretch the training out.
“Make sure you give yourself days off each week to avoid overuse injuries or muscle problems. Also, enlist a riding partner if possible,” said a TMH athletic trainer.
“A long bike ride puts emphasis on the quad muscles in your thighs. They cramp up with dehydration and once cramps kick in it may be too late to drink water and recover. To avoid that, drink two glasses before and after the event, increase your water intake 48 hours before and after a ride, and carry a backpack with ample water,” advised a TMH athletic trainer.
Replacing electrolytes with a sports drink and eating plenty of carbohydrates to regain energy and protein to support muscles against breaking down soon after the ride ends is also smart. Finally, it’s a good idea to get clearance from your doctor if it’s your first long ride. Enjoy the trails!