How to do a 24hour spin cycle

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This article is in relation to a 24hour spin cycling challenge I completed for a homeless charity Streetlytes. The final distance I got to was 420miles. The challenge was attempted to build up for ‘The Adventurists’ transcontinental race from London to Istanbul on August 2nd 2013 – an unsupported, solo and nonstop 2000mile cycling race with several checkpoints including in the high alps. You can follow my race @NWlongworth (‘UK2Istanbul cycle’)

Important tips for the challenge:

–          Wear SPD or clip pedals – this will not only stop rubbing from straps on the spin bike but also give you extra output from the pull phase of your pedal rotation. I would recommend getting SPD rather than SPD-R pedals (which feature on all spin bikes). This gives you a much larger surface to pedal on and should give you an extra 5% on speed and distance. This is something I didn’t do and there is a certain amount of regret.

–          Wear cycling, padded shorts. Enough said.

0-60 miles (end of period should be 2/3 hours into ride)

This is the ‘fun’ period of the challenge. You have all the excitement of starting, with perhaps a brief few words for the camera on why you are doing the challenge. But remember it is very easy to get caught up with all the energy and miss out some important points which you will regret in the later miles. I think at this stage your resistance on the bike shouldn’t be at a minimal (let’s face it if you have no resistance it is easier than riding a road bike and whats the fun in that) however nothing crazy. You should be able to set a pace of 40kph and a RPM of 105.

–          Concentrate on your eating strategy and make sure you get something in you at least every 20minutes. For the first 1 ½ – 2 hours this may only be light flapjacks or some sugary sweets but it is vital to make sure you keep the energy levels topped up so you don’t crash when you hit the unknown at 100+miles.

–          Remember for the vast amount of time being on a spin bike can be very boring. We set up a small cinema and put down a schedule of films that reflected your mood/mindset at that part of the ride. The first film was ‘Apocalypse Now’ something that you had to concentrate on and was suitably distracting for you not to set a ‘mad’ pace of over 40kph.

60-120 miles (end of period should be 6/8 hours into ride)

Depending on how experienced/fit you are on the bike – and I would hope that you are of a reasonable endurance for this challenge – this is an important few miles. This is the time when you should be eating a solid helping of pasta or another form of long lasting energy, which is important when you reach the 150-160mile point where most people can get home after a bike ride and lie on the couch. I would recommend that this is the first slot for your support crew (riders on a spin bike alongside you for encouragement; we broke it up into 2-3 hour slots) as it is important to keep the pace up which will bring up your average mileage at the end. RPM should still be at the 97-98 point.

120-200 miles (end of period should be 11/13 hours into ride)

This is your last ‘grace’ period –i.e for a lot of people what you know to expect – and the following 12hours is when the real challenge sets in. By this stage you should of had 2-3 reasonable helpings of long last energy and you are mixing your isotonic & water drinks to stay hydrated. Your pee is a vital indicated on whether you need to take more or less water on. Too dark and you need to get that water in; too pale and you must get those salts in. At this stage I would recommend mixing up your diet – perhaps munch on a few apples or even pastries – whatever your body needs! You must treat yourself, because 24hours on energy bars (I used protopure endurance bars, which I would highly recommended as they are not too sweet and feels like ‘real’ food ) can get very boring. At this stage if you started at 5pm (as I did) you will be entering the early hours of the morning. If you cant get other riders commited, ask people to drop back into you from the pub – the drunkness can be very distracting! Get a new fresh set of clothes on – it will feel amazing.

200-300 miles (end of period should be 16/19 hours into ride)

I appreciate I have just put a whole 100 miles into one section and perhaps this should be broken up, but to be honest this is the time for auto pilot. Get your favourite/most distracting films on – I went with a few Rockys and Team America – and if the doubt starts to kick in just remember why you are doing this. Personally I use the image of regret when I am old and grey. At this point your RPM may be hovering around 82-83, concentrate on the pace and keep turning those legs around. This may be the time to pull out the MP3 (I would keep it in reserve til that point to save the ears and stop a headache!). At this stage I would expect most riders to have no resistance on the spin bike.

300-350miles (end of period should be 20/21 hours into ride)

Did someone get your lunch order? Start taking on whatever your body craves – chips, sandwich whatever. 300+miles is a big distance, even as a spin bike and off a road bike, and your body will start moaning. Give it whatever it needs! At this point my thighs started to cramp up, so if possible get a good massage in and stretch those legs. You may want to use your 5 minutes every hour broken up in to two, just to walk down the corridor and loosening the legs up. Keep your ass down as long as possible – on a spin bike your RPM will be much higher if you keep your legs ticking over rather than doing ‘climbs’. Focused on a target of 75 RPM, perhaps will a few dashes of 85 if a good song comes on the MP3!

350-425miles (end of period should be 24 hours into ride)

I fell apart in the last 3 hours but if you are strong this is your chance to get up and over that 450 mile mark. At this stage you have cycled from London to Edinburgh and carefully remind the people you want sponsoring the ride. Get your ‘marketing’ team to promote the ‘end’ of the challenge, include highlights of how you have got on for the last 24hours and importantly maximise sponsorship for your charity. These last 4 hours hurts, but you have to just stay on the bike. Treat yourself to chocolate and get those endorphins going, because you won’t be getting anymore from the exercise! Your feet will also start hurting but whatever you do don’t take those shoes off it will only cause them to swell up more.


My top (recent) adventure, endurance athletes


This list is made up of the most inspiring athletes and adventurers that I came across over the last 24 months – people that inspired my own participation in the Transcontinental Race (Bike race to London-Istanbul) and have set the wheels in motion on why I want to work & be involved in ultra endurance science.I think this list shows how exciting and inspiring the world can be – not to mention for anyone can achieve to raise money for good causes!

To take a quote from the website on Ben Fogle’s 3000 mile Atlantic swim in 2014 (which would be included in any list like this) – ‘The greatest risk in life is to risk nothing’
[Follow me on future updates on articles about endurance, adventure athletes @NWlongworth. If you are a company keen to get involved in this ‘world’ and put on inspiring talks for young people, please drop me a line]
I won’t attempt to rank them – I don’t think you can possibly could – but for the sake of reference I have just put numbers next to their names.
Mike Hall
1. Record-holder and race leader for the top adventure cycling events – Mike Hall
Yorkshireman Mike Hall, 30, a semi-professional extreme endurance cyclist (mind you I have no doubt this is ‘professional’ now since my 2010 reference!) obliterated the round-the-world cycle record, taking just 91 days and 18 hours to complete the 18,000-mile ride. This worked out at almost 200 miles a day and eclipsed the previous record by Alan Bate of 106 days.
Mike Hall completed this feat riding solo and completely unsupported. Epic – and hats off to all the other competitors on the World Cycle Race! You can check out his interview with Bike Radar here:
Mike Hall is currently organiser of the Adventurists’ World Cycle Race – on 22nd March 2014 and race director for the company’s Transcontinental Race from London to Istanbul on 2nd August 2013 – You can see his twitter feed at @Normally_Human and website at
Mark Bayliss
2. Record holder on the toughest triathlon ‘race’ – Mark Bayliss
The Enduroman Arch to Arc race is a monster. It is an ultra-distance triathlon, starting from London’s Marble Arch with a 87 mile (140km) run to Dover, then a cross channel swim (shortest distance 21 miles) to the French coast, and finishes with a 180 mile (289.7km) bike from Calais to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Only 11 athletes have ever completed the challenge solo (a fantastic statistic, although for any solo participants that may be reading this and haven’t finished; the English channel tides, weather conditions do play a big role!).
Mark’s solo record (and he wasn’t wearing a wetsuit on the swim [I suppose just duck fat and manliness], something which is allowed in this race) spilt times were – Run split; 26:20:12, wait in Dover (you have the swim the channel, the tide is a factor here!) 13:59:48, Swim split; 11:48, Wait in Calais; 3:22:00, Bike Split 18:09:12 – Overall time; 73:39:12. This final time knocked 8 hours off the fastest record.
You can follow Mark on Twitter @bigbayliss
3. The first person to row solo across an Ocean – Arguably the loneliness and toughest endurance challenge out there – John Fairfax (deceased – 2012)
Rowing an ocean – whether in a team or solo – is just plain madness and simply awesome.
John Fairfax was the first person to do it solo was in 1969 (across the Atlantic) and then the first to row the Pacific Ocean (with Sylvia Cook – the first woman to row an ocean) in 1971/72. The Atlantic row took 180 days leaving from the Canary Islands and landing in Florida. I think the magnitude of how outstanding this was, was the fact that he got a message of congratulations from the crew of Apollo 11 who had walked on the moon.
“Yours, however, was the accomplishment of one resourceful individual, while ours depended upon the help of thousands of dedicated workers in the United States and all over the world. As fellow explorers, we salute you on this great occasion.”
In fact his life was so colourful that he featured in ‘This is your life’ at the age of 33!! Check it out at includes cycling from America to Argentina by bike, living in the jungle ‘like Tarzan’ and smuggling guns, whiskey and cigarettes with pirates in Panama……….
That is some newspaper obituary!
4. ‘Colossus of roads’ – Ultra marathon world record holder – Yiannis Kouros
Yiannis Kouros, 67, holds every men’s outdoor road world record from 100 to 1,000 miles. The sheer distances involved in these races I think puts him in the ‘adventure’ category – like the Sydney to Melbourne ultramarathon in 5 days, 5 hours, 7 minutes and 6 seconds. His sheer dominance of this discipline earned him the name ‘Pheidippides Successor’ (You can google him, I wont give it away) among other Greek God references (he is in fact Greek, and starred in a movie on the story of the marathon)!
Ed Stafford
5. Amazon adventure from source to sea: Ed Stafford and Gadiel ‘Cho’ Rivera
Ed Stafford, 34, the former Amy Captain, set off in April 2008 to prove the expedition community that the 4000 trek along the Amazon wasn’t too far and that he wouldn’t get stopped by illness, dense forest, biting insects, snakes, bogs, jaguars and of course man eating tribes! He estimated it would take a year – almost 2 1/2 years and 859 continuous days of walking later he had completed his journey – man I bet that warm bed and bath afterwards was amazing!
After his expedition colleague, Luke Collyer left 3 months into the trip, Ed was joined on his trip by a Peruvian forestry worker Gadiel ‘Cho’ Rivera. Cho, who had originally planned to escort him for 5 days past drug traffickers and hostile tribes, subsequently joined him on the remainder of the trek.
Stafford was announced as one of National Geographic Adventurers of the Year 2010 and in March 2011 was awarded European Adventurer of the Year. Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes put this endeavour as ‘in the top league of expeditions past and present’ – enough said.
Follow Stafford on Twitter @Ed_Stafford
Longest swim
6. First to swim the Atlantic Ocean (without a kick board) – Benoît Lecomte
This long distance swimmer completed a 3,716 mile journey in 73 days accompanied by a 40 ft sail boat that had an electromagnetic field of 25 feet to ward off sharks. I must note at this stage that he was followed by a Great White Shark for 5 days – talking about ‘the fear’ in a race.
The swim was from Hyannis, Massachusetts to Quiberon, Brittany, France with one week stop in the Azores due to equipment failure.
This August 2013 he is setting out to be the first to swim across the Pacific Ocean…..I think we should all follow him on Twitter at @TheLongestSwim
Diana Nyad
7. Power of the mind: Record holder in non-stop swimming without a wetsuit – Diana Nyad
Diana Nyad is an athlete that demonstrated what many sports physiology studies have shown: the ‘extreme’ marathon-type activities mental determination is a more important factor than the physical energy of youth.
Like many people around the world, I followed 61 year old Nyad’s fourth attempt on August 18th 2012 to swim 103 miles (166 kilometres) from Havana to Florida Keys without a protective shark cage. Suffering from bad jellyfish stings and a bad lightening storm Diana’s attempt ended at about the halfway point. This is not a failure. She had attempted a feat (even half a feat) that many people wouldn’t even dream of at any age, and it is important to note that she felt an even stronger swimmer than in her youth.
And let’s look at her youth. Diana Nyad made headlines when at the age of 26 she swam 28 miles around the island of Manhattan (1975). She then went on in 1979 to set a distance record (which still stands) for non-stop swimming without a wetsuit of 102 miles from North Bimini Island, Bahamas to Juno Beach in Florida.
Follow her on Twitter @diananyad