Reviewed by Ken Bonner
Publisher: Human Kinetics
Price: $19.95; paperback, 272 pages
Source: Company website, online book sellers
How Obtained: Review copy from publisher
RBR Sponsor: Yes
A Comprehensive Digest of Distance Cycling Knowledge
There is a growing interest in cycling, and long-distance cycling in particular, in the U.S. and other countries around the world where the sport is popular.
For quite some time riding centuries (100 miles/160 km) or long community rides have been goals shared by many cyclists. And some of us have been ultracyclists — regularly riding brevets of from 200 km to 1,500 km. Now, also on the rise are Gran Fondos, which combine the goal of achieving distances of up to 200 miles/325 km or more with either a fast time or the congeniality of going the distance with other like-minded cyclists.
Although there are many cycling books that advise roadies how to train for short, long and ultra races, or how to prepare to tour long distances, until I read Distance Cycling I had not come across a cycling book that succinctly addressed training, technical and mental issues related to long distance cycling in an inclusive, informed and readable fashion.
John Hughes and Dan Kehlenbach (both have written multiple eArticles for RBR) have co-authored a very useful and readable book for those who are intrigued by the idea of cycling farther than their personal comfort zone. Both are professional cycling coaches and have “cycled the talk” of long-distance cycling. (Full disclosure: As a board member of the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association, I worked with Coach Hughes when he led that organization, and I wrote one of the sidebars in Distance Cycling.)
Their personal knowledge and experience is clearly conveyed in the breadth and depth of information in this book that can benefit both distance cycling rookies and old-timers alike.
Some passages from Distance Cycling illustrate the array of useful information it contains:
Bike Selection and Fitting
“Do you have bike fit concerns? A bike that fits is the most important factor in comfort and performance. If you are particularly tall or short, a woman, or have orthopedic issues such as back trouble, a standard frame may not fit you correctly. The bike should be fit to you: do not try to fit yourself to the bike! Before going to the bike shop, write down the key points to help dial in the right position.”
The authors note details the rider should consider related to: injury history; chronic pain; other activities in which the rider participates; personal physical flexibility; core strength, cycling history and cycling goals.
“For long-distance cyclists, no matter how much we spend on lightweight, aerodynamic equipment, without fuel to power our engines, our performance will be severely limited.”
“While you are riding, experiment to figure out the kinds and amounts of food that taste good to you and sit well while riding. Some people prefer energy bars and sports drinks, whereas others like fruit, cookies, pretzels, crackers, bagels with peanut butter, breakfast bars, or other foods. Commercial bars, gels, and drinks have no performance advantage, but they may be more convenient.”
“don’t experiment with unfamiliar foods or drinks during your event.”
Long Ride Event Preparation
The authors describe factors to consider when traveling to an event by car or plane; and to think about your destination in terms of accommodations and bike stores that will be near your accommodations.
“You should learn as much as possible about the details of your event and clear up any confusion that you may have. Even if you have done the ride for the past 20 years, details can change. The day of the event is not the time to discover something you weren’t expecting.”
They also include three practical pre-event checklists which remind riders to review easily forgotten items. A clear demonstration of the fact that they’ve “been there, ridden that” is that the lists are broken down into time slots: The night before the ride; The morning of the ride; and, Just before the ride.
Managing the Unexpected
“Solve problems. As your training rides get longer, you are more likely to encounter a problem. With a bit of ingenuity you can overcome almost any difficulty. Practicing your problem-solving skills during your training rides will help prepare you for your event.
“Dead legs? Slow down for an hour and eat and drink.” Suppose your rear shift cable breaks. How do you choose to interpret the incident? ?—?_ Position the derailleur on the most useful cog and jam a stick into it to hold it in place.”
“Fretting over rain, headwinds, or other things that nature may throw at you just wastes energy. Embrace the good days with the not-so-good days. Riding during inclement weather will make the pleasant days seem all that much better!”
Weaving In Other Experts
The authors incorporate interesting chapter sidebars by experienced cycling coaches and long distance cyclists as well — providing succinct and practical information that rounds out the material contained in the main text. A few examples:
- “I go out of my way to find the new or unusual outings — after all, exploring was what got me into endurance cycling.” – John Lee Ellis, in Planning a Season — Structure and Spontaneity
- “For longer brevets learn what happens to you when you get little sleep. You may never be able to ride 24 hours nonstop, but you should know your limits. You learn by incrementally increasing the length of your rides and testing your ability to stay focused on little sleep.” – Michelle Grainger, in Riding with Muscle and Mental Fatigue
- “Dreaming, goal setting, and planning can be among the most interesting aspects of long-distance cycling. These are the first steps toward a more rewarding and fun season.” – Lon Haldeman, in Importance of Setting Goals
Distance Cycling needs to be in your cycling library. Even if a cyclist thinks he or she knows it all, Distance Cycling will remind that person about the essentials of bike selection and fitting, relevant nutrition and fluid replacement, practical training scheduling, long-ride preparation (event packing lists and pre-ride checklist), managing unexpected issues and safety on the road. In short, the book is a comprehensive digest of distance cycling knowledge.
Ken Bonner is a former marathon runner and renowned ultracyclist who holds the course record for the British Columbia Rocky Mountain 1200k and several UltraMarathon Cycling Association point-to-point records. Retired and living in Victoria, British Columbia, he rides about 18,000 miles a year.