We are the kind of cyclists who enjoy the whole range of riding from leisure rides around the city (to the brewery and back), to daily commutes, to road races, to longer multi-day rides. The freedom of mobility that a bicycles provides comes in many forms and we are on board for all of them.
That said, it took us a few rides to really learn what makes multi-day rides most enjoyable for us. We’d like to share these with you in case you find them useful for your rides.
#1 – Be careful of designated cycle routes
As many of you have no doubt experienced, there are many designated cycle routes that might lead you to believe they are appropriate for cycling. Often these routes are advertised using photos of the one small stretch of the route that actually has wide clean shoulders and no cars.
For example, there is a cycle route 517 in Western New York that follows route 5 south along Lake Erie. We started out from home Buffalo and headed for Fredonia where we had booked a BnB. To be brief, this route was not enjoyable except for one picturesque short section through a vineyard that smelled like Welch’s grape juice. The shoulder of the road disappeared many times and was littered with debris which hampered our speed. The speed limit was 55 mph and the traffic was incessant with two lanes each way most places. Overall, it was neither fast nor safe nor pleasant any of which on their own would have been great. On the way back, we found several more pleasant non-cycle route roads that made the journey much more scenic and enjoyable.
#2 Eat more often than you think is necessary – even if you’re not hungry. And of course, hydrate.
While riding a bicycle can feel like second nature and like you wouldn’t need to change your daily eating habits, we have found that long slow rides consume a lot of energy without you necessarily feeling worn out. We found that we were in better shape for riding 8 hours a day when we ate a small snack at least once an hour regardless of whether or not we were hungry. This gives you a reason to get off the bike, stretch, drink some water and eat a snack. I like to eat half an energy bar or a piece of fruit or something small.
We use our GPS tracker watches to remind us either every hour or every 10-15 miles.
#3 Make your last day an easy one
There not a better feeling in the world than having worked hard for a couple of days and then to have a nice easy roll into the finish line. We accidentally discovered this through poor planning for our ride of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). We parked our van in Pittsburgh, cycled 15 miles to the Amtrak station, and rode the train to Cumberland, MA. We then cycled uphill for 25 miles to the top of the Eastern Continental Divide and 10 more miles to the BnB we had booked. My legs have never been so sore for a relatively short ride. The grade of the climb was such that we weren’t always sure that it was uphill other than we were much more tired than usual. It turned out that after a tough first day, the next two days were awesome weather and scenery and with the hard work out of the way, we could really enjoy the next two days of cycling back to Pittsburgh. The last day was only 35 miles and we got back to the van by lunch.
#4 Choose enjoyable over direct
It may seem obvious that, when you’re out for a multi-day ride, it is not a race. You will hardly notice a couple of extra miles when you’re exploring new areas or some quiet back streets where the cars don’t bother you. Enjoy the scenery!
I found that there is something about being on a fast road with cars whipping by that makes me want to put my head down and just get it over with. Clearly this is not the point at all so during my snack breaks, I also try to take a minute and remember that it’s about the journey and not the destination – and look for alternative routes!
#5 Choose a loop over out-and-back
Although, this is not always possible there are other options for only having to ride the same route twice. Amtrak is particularly helpful so some cycle paths. I am not a fan of the out-and-back rides. The one exception was a relatively short 12-mile ride in Zion National Park. With a minimal amount of car traffic and courteous shuttle bus drivers, riding in the park was amazing.
#6 Check the wind forecasts
For me personally, there is nothing more painful than riding for 8 hours straight into the wind. It is almost impossible to gain any momentum and feels like you’re riding in sludge. Check the direction and timing of wind to see if you can work around the route to give yourself breaks from a headwind. We learned this while riding the Erie Canal pathway last fall. What should have been a 6-hour ride turned into an 8-hour ride home.
So that’s what we’ve learned so far! What have you learned on your trips? I’d love to hear from jess at normalbicycles.com .