Building up fitness

radread

Member
Just got a bike (a Trek 7.3 FX) through my workplace's bike scheme, which I'm very excited about. I'm 28 and only learned to ride about 2 years ago, and really haven't practised since I learned. So I can just about stay on the bike and that's about it. Can't really turn my head and keep going in a straight line, can't really take a hand off the handlebars for any length of time.

I'm planning to join a local cycle group that do trips for beginners so I can get used to riding safely on the road, but my real question is this:

My work is about 90 minutes ride away from home, optimistically. Now I'm not aiming to make this journey every day, but I would like to get to the point of being able to do it at least a couple of times a week.

I don't exercise at all (healthy weight but very out of shape), so this is a long term goal, but I was hoping for some initial tips on getting my fitness level up for long journeys - good food to eat etc. What do you all think? And what's a realistic time scale for getting to that point?

Thanks all.
 

vickster

Legendary Member
Ride as much as you can in a safe environment until comfortable, perhaps with a group as you say, read cyclecraft for road safety and awareness information and especially road positioning,
Food wise, oat based is good, porridge, flapjack. Milk good after a ride.

You say 90 mins ride, how far and what sort of roads? I reckon if you can get up to speed in the winter (being v careful if icy or very wet), you should be ready to try come May. It'll be easier in warmer weather too

Good luck :smile:
 
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Elswick Cotterpin

Über Member
Location
South Wales
Congratulations on the bike, it's a good lifestyle to adopt; gets addictive, too.

Your safety on the bike is the most important skill to develop. You could try and find somewhere with little traffic, a quiet cul-de-sac, empty supermarket car park, parkland, anywhere where you can cycle in relative peace and safety and concentrate on getting a 'feel' for the bike without having to worry too much about other road users.

Take your time, no rush, it'll come, you'll soon get used to how well - or badly - the brakes work, or how NOT to turn too sharply; your sense of balance and confidence will come along fast if you give yourself the time to develop it.

You could get a mirror to help with looking behind without the wobble, some people like them, some don't, I like them. Never used one until a year ago but my neck isn't as bendy as it was and now I wouldn't feel comfortable without one. Saying that, you still need to look behind from time to time, but that ability will come too with practice.

Fitness will depend on how often you cycle. Speaking from experience you might be amazed at how quickly you find yourself able to ride longer distances, very gratifying and rewarding when it happens, but progress can seem slow sometimes; sometimes it can feel that you're not making any progress. Then you have to find the motivation to stick with it and persevere; it does happen but you get out what you put in.

You probably shouldn't try to do too much too soon; little and often, then a little more, you'll soon learn how much you can do. And definitely get your bike set up for you, saddle height, handlebars, that can make a really big difference.

Food, I don't know, I just eat whatever. Other than that take care and have fun; if it ain't fun it ain't worth doing it.
 
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mjr

Comfy armchair to one person & a plank to the next
Good advice above. To elaborate on @vickster's advice: some protein in the twenty or so minutes after riding is a good idea, to help strengthen muscles. Milk is OK, else nuts or specialist products.

Some councils offer free cycle training which should help with getting hands off the bar to signal and so on. Don't trust it completely and check it against other advice because some (Norfolk, for example) have bad advice on road position in their training manuals. But as a source of practical advice, it's worth a try. If you say where you are, someone may know a good paid instructor if you'd like.
 

Hip Priest

Veteran
Been there! I can remember finding it incredibly difficult to take a hand off the bar to indicate, and having to stop if I wanted to drink from my bottle. It seems crazy now but we all start somewhere. My advice is simply: ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike.

Perhaps check out Sustrans and see if there is a cycle path network near you, then graduate to the roads when you're feeling a bit more confident.
 
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Once you are confident on the bike, I would suggest that you consider a partial journey by which I mean (I'm assuming you have a vehicle here) you drive part way in, say to a point where you can cycle to work in 30 minutes and park up somewhere. Get to a point where you can early manage that on top of a full day at work and then extend, slowly parking closer to home. It will require some planning and may seem counter intuitive at first but it will help you extend your fitness rather than exhausting you with a long journey each way and 90 minutes each way is quite a lot. I know because for the last 2 and a half years that was what I was doing 2 or 3 times (sometimes 4 times) a week to help out my parents each and every week (22 miles each way) and I didn't have the added pressure of a full time job. (past tense because I ruptured a disk in my spine back in November and am going to have to repeat the regaining fitness lark once I am back on my feet - not looking forward to it despite loving cycling and it being my only transport.)
 
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radread

Member
Thanks for the really helpful advice everyone - I'm nervous but excited about it all!

I live in London, and my work is about 10 miles from home as the crow flies, but as it's across the Thames and by car would involve the Blackwall Tunnel, it's a twisty route with some very busy sections that actually works out quite a bit longer than 10 miles. So I'm worried about both fitness and safety, and am definitely going to take it slowly.

One big challenge with practise is that I can't drive - so anywhere I go before I'm confident on the bike has to be in walking distance. Thankfully there's a large park near my house, so that's going to help in the early days.
 
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vickster

Legendary Member
Lots of people commute into London, perhaps you can find a buddy? Try cycle buddy if there's no one here on cycle chat, no colleagues or friends etc :smile:

Woolwich ferry not an option? Where are you going from and to?
 

Tigerbiten

Veteran
I find that when I suddenly up my distance (25->50 miles a day) when I start my summer camping tour that .........
Week 1 is easy.
Weeks 2-3 are that hardest and I hurt the most.
By weeks 6 I've become used to the extra distance and it becomes easier.
And by week 10 I've become fit enough so that the extra distance no longer bothers me at all.
 

Cuchilo

Prize winning member X2
Location
London
Get up early on Sunday morning and ride into London . The city and westend is pretty dead on Sunday mornings and its a really nice place to ride ( if you like London )
 

vickster

Legendary Member
It's an idea but I would definitely build up some road craft and experience before tackling London even on a Sunday morning. Can you ride with a friend?
 
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radread

Member
It's an idea but I would definitely build up some road craft and experience before tackling London even on a Sunday morning. Can you ride with a friend?
Possibly - tricky thing is none of them live anywhere near me so they'd have to get to me on their bikes before we could go anywhere - not sure of their fitness level for that! But yes I am planning to ask around, but I think I want to go to some group rides first - my local council will also give a two hour one-on-one session to learn some road skills. I'm just thinking I don't want to jeopardise a friend's safety because I'm so completely clueless, so want to get a few skills and a bit more confidence first.
 
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