QUESTION: During typical years when there’s racing, I like to ride 40 kilometer (24.8-mile) time trials and the occasional road race. How far should I ride in training? I’m wondering if long (4- or 5-hour) rides are necessary? — Patrick A.
RBR REPLIES: Good question. Early in the spring when you’re building endurance, longer rides are fine. But during the competitive season, conventional wisdom says not to ride significantly farther than your longest event.
So if you do 40K time trials and road races up to, say, 50 miles, your longest training rides don’t need to be longer than 40-60 miles.
Early-season long rides build aerobic conditioning. But once the season is underway, distance will detract from the power and speed you need to do well in your goal events. This is well-supported by research as well as the experience of riders.
That said, there’s an important psychological factor at work here, too. Many roadies like to do long rides in summer and into the fall even though they’re competing (or doing organized or group rides) at shorter distances.
Centuries, adventure rides and tours can fit into a recreational race schedule. After all, we’re into cycling to have fun, and variety keeps it that way. Just be sure to recover well and don’t ride over-distance too often or too close to an event.
And always remember: Long rides won’t make you faster!
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.