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.

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