How to prepare for an ultra-long ride
What to bring along? Here is a short checklist
Optional, but recommended items
Other general thoughts
- I’d say its 70% mental, 30% physical. You need
the right state of mind. Try to anticipate what riding for 24 hours would
feel like. As long as you drink/eat enough, you can almost always continue
riding slowly if your mind is up to it.
- Get used to sitting in the saddle for many
hours. Take short breaks. Stand up to avoid sitting too long at a time.
When rolling down a hill, stop pedaling and shift your body position from
side to side.
- Obviously you will have to have done some long
rides to be able to enjoy an 18 hour bike day. (But we also have had
riders triple their personal best on the August 2003 Fargo-Winnipeg ride.)
- I don’t maximize training (as in 5 times a
week) the way many competitive riders do. My three longest rides this
summer had each been preceded by 2-3 weeks with hardly any riding!
- Have shorter “bailout” options in case
something goes bad (weather, defect, stomach problems, cramps, bad day, …)
- Bike-wear: helmet, gloves, shoes, bike pants
- To change when you get there: shorts, T-shirt,
- 1 pair of light beach slippers (walking in
bike shoes is uncomfortable; I also use them as insulation pad to sit on!)
- Rain-Gear: Gore-Tex jacket, long bike pants,
long-sleeved bike jersey
- Money/credit card/drivers license (no border
crossing without it!)
- Sunscreen (Your skin WILL burn without it on
- Repair kit for bike, 1 spare tube, mini-pump
(mounted at bottle holder),
- Required hex-wrenches to disassemble bike
(saddle, handle-bar, pedals) for bike box
- Battery lights back & front
- Cell phone (keep in mind limited coverage cross-country)
- iPod + charger (if you like music to boost morale
– I recommend it)
- Digital camera (not really necessary, but I
love my pictures!)
- Toothbrush / floss
- Small first aid kit (gives some peace of mind)
- 2 bottle holders are enough on this kind of
route. At every town I make sure before I leave that both bottles are full
(usually at a gas station or convenience store.) At night, when nothing's
open, you probably find at least a soda machine, so bring dollar bills and
quarters! If you're looking at a long stretch, you can always put a 3rd
bottle of Gatorade in the backpack.
- Cereal bars, 1-2 bananas
- Eat as much pasta as you can the evening
before (at least 6 hours before you start) to load up on carbohydrates.
- Eat constantly during the ride (bananas, power
bars, fruit, etc.) Don’t eat a big meal – you would stop too long and
digestion takes energy away from riding.
- Even more importantly, drink mineral drinks
constantly and BEFORE you're getting thirsty. Once you run low you'll
cramp and then it is “game over”! If you don't have to pee at least every
1-2 hours, you're not drinking enough.
- Stop often but only for a short time (5-10
min); take power-naps; that way your muscles don't cool down and it's more
refreshing in the long run.
- I would not go on a long ride without my aero
bars. They help aerodynamics, reduce strain on back and help you maintain
different positions on the bike.
- Don't ride hard, just pedal smooth. Don't let
the odometer tell you how hard to ride. That depends primarily on wind and
hills. Long and steady is the only thing that matters.
- Don't think about the goal and how far to go
it still might be. More importantly, try to get in the groove and enjoy
the freedom of the road, the weather, the sunshine, the smells and sounds
of nature, whatever is out there. I found the less you think about the
ride itself the more likely you are to enjoy yourself and be surprised
that yet another hour has passed already ...
- Work your way up gradually. Don't try to ride
7 hrs in the dark right away. That's hard. Start 1 hr prior to sunrise to
get the experience of night time riding without the low morale. I'd say
start with a 300km all-day ride (12 hours, round-trip) and see how that
goes. As I stated: My average is 4 hrs for 100km.
- Have a plan for retrieval. Ideally you have
someone coming along with the car. But that can also be tempting to just
give up too soon when the going gets tough...
- Be prepared for little mental challenges:
Detour due to road construction, missed a turn and have to go back, bad
stretch of road, hills, dust/wind/rain, etc. Most such difficulties don't
last very long.
- To go far, ride with tailwind. Sounds so
obvious, but few people systematically plan for it and do it. Retrieval is
an issue, though!
- I find larger highways better than smaller
ones due to the smooth road, wider shoulder conditions and generally less
turns and hills. If you go on small roads, make sure there is very little
- I use Zip-lock bags for many small items; they
keep things dry (sweat, rain) and organized, while they weigh nothing. For
example, I bring a couple of tissues in a zip lock to clean the sunglasses
from sweat! Another zip lock bag contains dental floss. Handy to have,
weighs next to nothing!
- Pack your fresh cloths in plastic bags to keep
them dry if you do get in a rain shower.
Around the world adventures of a self-propelled optimist
by Lloyd Sumner
Road of Dreams
A two-year bicycling and Hiking Adventure Around the World
by Bruce B. Junek
A Round-The-World Bicycle Adventure
by Barbara Savage
Hope this helps. Let me
know how it's going for you. I'd love to hear from other people's experiences.
Have fun and ride safe.