Tech Tips

Preparing for your first 'Big One' (60 mile / 100 km bike ride)

Riding the Big One - long range cycling
The Big One doesn't have to be undertaken alone. Riding with a mate helps when you hit a low point and having a conversation while riding is a good way to avoid pushing to hard. If you can't talk you need to slow up!  Photo: Xasáuan Today

When it comes to numbers, nothing seems as daunting as your first 60 mile ride (or in metric terms, 100km). Let's make it easy for our friends worldwide and call it 'The Big One' from now on. It seems reasonably straightforward to complete your first Big One, but this can be greatly different for various cyclists. Firstly, being fitter doesn't make it too much easier, it generally just makes the ride faster. Secondly, not everyone lives on a salt pan so most of us will have to conquer a hill or two along the way! Whatever your personal challenges may be, it's a distance we should all be able to nail. Even if it's not on your first attempt...



Preparation for your first Big One is greatly dependant on how much time you have to train during the week. Whatever your circumstances may be, it's best to try to fit in some longer rides in the weeks leading up to your Big One. Don't get caught up in smashing your rides out as fast as possible, but focus more on building your efficiency. This can be achieved through riding at a higher cadence (pedalling speed). Aiming for a cadence of around 90-100rpm is best, and you'll know you're pushing too hard a gear if you can't hold that cadence.

Already ridden your first Big One? Why not get organised for a gran fondo! Check out "How to prepare for a 100 mile gran fondo" for a guide on what you'll need to accomplish your first big (non-race) race!



Build up your distances gradually, and soon you'll be ready to give the Big One a crack. While you're out doing your longer rides, start getting used to eating and drinking more than you normally would. When riding longer distances, it's always important to fuel your engine before you need the energy. As a rule of thumb, try consuming one piece of food for every hour you ride. Some people need more or less than this, but it's a good starting point. Here's a basic plan for you to use as a guide, when it comes to packing those pockets.



Unfortunately your jam pikelets won't look quite like this when you pull them from your jersey pocket, but they are full of carbs, sugar and fat. Perfect for refuelling near the completion of a long ride!  Photo: Metropotam

The Big One will take you anywhere between 4 - 5 hours on average.


1st Hour: 1 x energy bar and half a bottle of supplement drink
2nd Hour: 1 x energy bar and half a bottle of supplement drink
3rd Hour: Solid foods and a gel, and half a bottle of supplement drink
4th Hour: Solid foods and the remainder of your drink
5th Hour: If needed, eat what's left or pack some treats like Jelly Snakes (or dried fruit for a healthier option!)
TOTAL: 2 large bottles, 2 energy bars, 1 gel, jam pikelets, 1 banana and some treats.



This plan clearly isn't based on advanced nutritional science, but more on reality. Chances are you just had breakfast, so one can't expect you to drink a full bottle of drink as well as solid food in the first hour - trust us, you'll probably struggle to eat at all! You also can't be expected to stop and refill the 4 bottles you stashed up your top, which is why you'll need to cope on just two large bottles if possible. You'll notice in the 3rd and 4th hour of your ride, you'll be eating solid foods. This ties in well with your bodies lunchtime cycle, so eating something with more substance will help your body AFTER the ride, when you'll also struggle to eat immediately.

Speaking of after the ride - we know you could probably get through a 4-5 hour ride on a glass of water if you really had to, but this is about training and growing as a rider. If you're starving your body while you ride, can you imagine how this will affect your post-ride recovery? Muscles need fuel, and your body's fat content just doesn't suffice as an immediate source of energy, hence the quantity of food during your Big One.


TIP:  Consider a post-ride recovery shake, to tide you over until you feel you can eat. These shakes are full of good stuff such as protein, electrolytes and minerals. The kind of stuff growing muscles need!




complete the big one

The feeling of completion is worth the effort getting there.  Photo: Kevin Stent / Fairfax NZ

  • Holding a steady tempo is ideal for your first long ride. As previously mentioned, you should aim for 90-100rpm as often as possible. This means you're putting less physical strain on your muscles, which allows you to use less fuel and ride more efficiently. Assuming we don't all have heart rate monitors, ride at a perceived output of around 6 out of 10.
  • If you hit a hill on your Big One, use the opportunity to stand up for a while. This will give your behind some respite and also use different muscle groups. The brief period of standing will work wonders in the long run when your rump starts to ache.
  • Consider using chamois cream for longer rides. Sweat leaves a salty residue on your skin, and down "there" it can be like fine sandpaper, which you'll only realise once you get into the shower after your ride... Ouch!
  • Enjoy the view as you go. As a real motivator, save that café stop for the very end when you're near home. You'll have earned it!!


Get out there and give it a crack! The exciting part is riding the final drag home, knowing you're about to complete your first Big One! It's a real sense of accomplishment, and it opens the door to other possibilities in your riding. All of a sudden, you're able to find new routes, more hills and even more secret riding loops. Go on - you know you can do it!



Gopr2706Author: Joey Esterhuyzen
Joey has been racing bikes since he was a kid. He never grew old because of this, and still pops up on the race cards now and again near the pointy end... Joey loves nothing more than a solo road ride in the hills, or a fast and flowing MTB trail session... "Who says you can't whip an XC hardtail?!"

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