Go the distance… or close to it. “Riding outside will allow you to familiarize yourself with spatial awareness, surface conditions, and finding balance on the bike,” notes Mark Voysey, CEO of Roula, a New York City-based company that provides premium services to help deliver better riding experiences for traveling cyclists. “You should give yourself enough time to train for the event that you can start easy and slowly work your way up (increasing mileage by about 10 to 15 percent each week) to roughly 70 to 80 percent of the total distance you’ll be covering on your trip,” says Rose.
Boost your fitness. Incorporating hill repeats and intervals into your routine, whether you’re training inside or out, will build strength and endurance for your outdoor ride. “If possible, find routes that have similar vertical ascent to what you plan to ride during your trip,” says Voysey. On the Equinox Explore trip, riders may opt for one of Roula’s pedal assist e-bikes that can provide a speed boost up hills or along the route, if needed.
Adjust your indoor rides. To help you better prepare for a longer outdoor ride, you need to make some changes to how you tackle your indoor ones, too, notes Rachel Vaziralli, Equinox senior manager of group fitness cycling in NYC. “First off, do not cheat. It’s way too easy to do indoors, but you’ll pay for it on the road. Try to keep your cadence between 70 and 90 RPM the entire time. (Being consistent will make you a more efficient rider, allowing you to ride faster, longer.) Plan on either arriving before your usual 45-minute class or staying after and riding 15 to 30 minutes longer than usual to get your mileage up. And last but not least, do not overdo your standing work. You’ll be on your butt most of the time when riding outside, so you need to get used to it.”
Gear up. If you’re traveling for the ride, pack gear for every weather condition possible: sunglasses, a hat, a cycling-specific rain jacket, plus long and short sleeved jerseys. Be sure you have a proper pair of cycling shorts with a comfortable chamois (padded insert) inside, a zippered pouch for your bike, cycling shoes (preferably clip-ins), a good helmet, and either fingerless or full-length cycling gloves, depending on the season. It’s also smart to bring a cyclo-computer and/or GPS watch to help track your distance, speed, and cadence.
Get a good fit. “Your bike has to fit properly in all ride environments (indoor or out), or else it could totally ruin your experience,” says Voysey. Go to a local bike shop and ask for a professional bike fit (if you rent a bike through Roula, they do it for you). You want to check the saddle height and reach (distance from saddle to handlebars), specifically. Your knee should be slightly bent when you’re at the bottom of your pedal stroke, and your arms should comfortably reach your brakes (without stretching) when you hinge forward from your hips with a flat back.
Learn some basic mechanics. “Flats happen all the time, and they’re never fun to fix, so you should practice ahead of time, just in case,” recommends Rose. While there will be a mechanic in the support van if you’re going on the cycling trip with Equinox Explore, it’s still worth brushing up on tire-changing and some other basics, like how to fix a broken chain and adjust your saddle.
Start every day with a clean slate. Practice some deep breathing and meditation upon rising to help you get into a good mental space before you hop on the bike, says Rose. If you’re breathing well and thinking clearly, you’ll be stronger—and able to maneuver your bike better—on your ride. Spend 10 to 15 minutes doing some strategic foam rolling to work out any lingering kinks, too.
Pack light. Carry what you need the day of, but nothing extra. Bring chamois cream (to help prevent chafing), electrolyte mix for your water, an energy gel or bar for extra calories, a phone, and ID. You should also carry a tire lever, tube, and hand pump. (Equinox Explore will provide these things or you can consider bringing your own kit.)
Warm up. Right before you gear up for your ride, do 15 to 20 minutes of dynamic stretches, like leg swings, hip circles, skips, and lunges, recommends Vaziralli. And be sure to spend the first few miles of your ride easing into the workout and letting yourself acclimate to the road.
Get to know your neighbors. “One of the benefits of riding with a group is that you have an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and potentially develop new friendships along the way,” says Voysey. It’s also a great place to meet future cycling partners.
Don’t forget to refuel. Cyclists burn upwards of 1,000 calories per hour depending on bodyweight, effort, and other variables, so you need to replenish with lots of carbohydrate-dense snacks throughout your ride, notes Rose.
Recover properly between rides. When you’re riding multiple days in a row, spend some time hitting refresh after each workout so you’re primed and ready to go the next morning. As soon as you hop off your bike, walk for 15 to 30 minutes, then do a quick ice bath or wade in a cool lake for rapid recovery and to decrease delayed onset muscle soreness, says Rose. Foam roll any areas that typically get the most sore post-workout as well.
Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. “The biggest mistake we see people make when they tackle longer rides for the first time is starting out too fast, too early,” says Voysey. “Break the ride down into quarters and pace yourself along the route to ensure you have plenty left in the tank for the finish.”