During winter, I think many of us are prone to cocooning. We curl up in our warm houses, and when we venture out in our layers of cycling gear, the rides are just not as long as they would be at other times of the year. Some of us tough it out on indoor trainers. Others hit the gym for crosstraining. I try to ride as much as I can, but of necessity, the miles aren’t there in the winter.
But with nicer weather, there’s no reason not to get in some miles. The kind of ride I have in mind is the kind that takes at least two hours to complete — so it’s probably a minimum of 30 miles (50 km) or so. It’s done at an easy pace. I like to average around 15 mph for the ride. I’m not racing for the city limit sign, but at the same time, I’m not lollygagging.
The whole point of doing these longer rides is to build up your aerobic threshold. These are your “base” miles, and all the other training you do depends upon a solid base. As always, you can’t just decide one Sunday that you’re going to ride for three hours if your normal weekend winter ride is an hour. Add a half hour to your long rides each weekend to extend them, and to condition yourself gradually. Back when I was a jogger, we used to call these sessions LSD, or long, slow distance. Approach your bike rides with the same attitude.
Then, you can start throwing in some training elements. Every 15 minutes, ramp it up a bit and pedal harder for a minute or two. Cycling coach David Ertl suggests that when you’re 20 minutes from home, pedal at a faster pace for about 10 minutes, and use the remaining 10 minutes of your ride as a warm down.
My own mileage has been lagging of late — I’ve done nothing more than 30 miles so far this year. I need to get in some longer weekend rides. This is probably my favorite time of the cycling year.