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The beginner's guide to crazy cycling challenges

The beginner's guide to crazy cycling challenges

How many times have you heard “my mate signed me up for… [Complete with appropriate challenge]”, to which you respond with a quick offer of sponsorship before you too are roped into the same madcap venture. 

It used to be 10k runs, which let’s face it nowadays don’t even warrant note. Now a marathon is the minimum acceptable challenge - preferably its three back to back ultra-marathons over the most hostile terrain known to man that impress your mates and loosen their charitable pound from their pocket. For my money, a marathon goo, but on a bike, the 100 mile ride also meets the benchmark of a marathon, as you will definitely need to train for it and it will test you mentally as well as physically.

I can’t apply any scientific basis for my hypothesis that whilst most people could cycle 100 miles in one go (it might take them awhile), it's the mental demand that will see them throw down their bike rather than any physical failure. 

Your training needs to recognise this.

Why does cycling 100 miles seem so daunting?

It's because you’ve not done it before! I would love to have developed a revolutionary training plan for the 100 miler but I haven’t. In true David Brailsford style I’ve looked at other sports for an answer. In this case a good old marathon training plan – is it too cheesy to make a joke about not reinventing the wheel…?

To overcome your Inner Chimp you need to split your training into two.

Firstly - it's all about the base

You need to build a base fitness so try commuting (aim for 80-100 miles a week) and / or spinning - let's say 30 minutes in the spin bike roughly equals 10 miles. Keep track of your mileage through Apps like Garmin Connect or Strava (or maybe just writing it down). Knowing that you are building a significant mileage even if it’s just 10 miles here and there will give you well founded confidence.

You’ve heard of muscle memory, well good old fashioned normal memory is a powerful training tool. You need to know what it feels like to ride a big distance. So once you’ve established the base fitness, try the below tried and tested From Zero to Hero training plan:

25 miles x 4.

40 miles x3

50 miles x2

75 miles x1

Secondly - go for the tonne

Pre-challenge, you need to cycle the full 100 miles – just once so you know what it feels like and most importantly that you can do it. You’re going to need to remember this on the big day.  Of course these training rides will build your physical stamina but you will also learn about pacing yourself, how to be comfortable on the bike, what and when to eat. You’ll need to remember all of this when you embark on your challenge ride.

All of the above training is best done with friends… i.e. that mate who signed you up for 100 mile cycle challenge in the first place.

the author

Ben Walder

Ben is a keen cyclist, road and mountain biking, runner, skier and even enjoyed a brief flirtation with boxing. He’s cycled John O Groats to Lands End, London to Paris in 24 hours, 5 countries in 3 days and ticked off some legendary climbs from the Tour de France. When he’s not dragging his mates out on cycling adventures across Europe he’s being dragged around by his 2 young daughters to karate, ballet, gymnastics, tennis and swimming..