If you don’t know me or follow any of my profiles, my name is Robbie Ferri. I am an ultra-distance cyclist, and I have been riding big miles for about eight years now. I have been across Europe multiple times, been in many a Bikepacking race, and even broken some world records. I can honestly say none of this came easy, and I had to learn a lot along the way. I didn’t have many friends who rode bikes when I started, so I feel I had no clue the first few years. Years on, I have made some fantastic cycling friends, taken some amazing lessons from the best, and learned some amazing lessons myself.
I recently got asked what the most important lessons I had learned that helped my ultra-distance cycling were, and honestly, I said to the person to hold on for a blog to answer this. These lessons may seem simple, but they made all the difference, and it took me learning this to go from long distance to ultra over the years
Yes, this sounds simple, but it’s complex to get the hang of. When it comes to Ultra distance cycling, not only do you have to be able to ride far, you need to minimize the time you spend not cycling. I want to give a few examples of common errors I made when learning how to become efficient.
Shopping and refueling
When you need to go shopping, or you have stopped at a feed station, you need to minimize the time you spend messing about. I used to stop, stroll around the shop for 10 minutes, pick what I wanted, go outside and eat, sit on my phone for 20 minutes, feel sorry for myself, 5 minutes repacking my bike, and then need a warm-up to get going again. This was such a bad habit when it came to covering distances. It was a whole 35 minutes lost, and really you can turn up at a shop knowing what you want to get in and out in 5 minutes, then put the food on the bike and get on riding straight away and eat on the go if you feel confident enough to and your safe to do so. Sometimes it is good to have a decent rest and sit down, but if you are really against the clock, it can be time-consuming and cost you places in a race or hours over a day.
Know where your stuff is
Let me give you an example. Bikepacking, when you pack your bags, you need to be organized. I have food and water in my frame bag, tools and spares in a small saddle bag and clothing, sleeping and charging in a roll bag. This makes it so when I get a puncture, I know where all my tools are. When I get to a campsite, I know where all my sleeping stuff is, and it’s all organized. I hate to see people on the side of the road emptying the whole of their bags because they forgot where they put their wallet. It’s such a massive waste of time.
Do your research
If you have gone to all the effort to plan a mega route or enter a Bikepacking race, then put time aside to put some research into where you can stop for food and water. It is such a massive time waste stopping to hunt for shops and hotels, never go in assuming that because you’re going through a town, it will have a shop and a hotel. Making a plan like this will help you feel organized and stay efficient on the roads.
Eat and Eat some more
Cycling uses a lot of calories, and these require replacing. I can burn anywhere from 400 to 600 calories an hour during endurance riding. That’s a lot to eat, a 60g chocolate bar is only about 220 calories, and that’s two an hour at least.
It would be best if you had a plan and a strategy when it comes to eating and drinking. Plan how much and at what intervals you should be eating. This will be unique for everyone, and you will need to think about foods you can tolerate a lot of. The worst thing you can do is wait until you’re hungry and thirsty because then it’s way too late. It’s an art form getting your eating right. Have a play with it and see what you can get right. If not, contact a nutritionist.
One of the most significant differences I made was having a structured training plan. I am a Personal Trainer myself, so designing a Strength and conditioning program was easy, and it is a service I do for many cyclists at the minute online. If you are interested, click the lift and shift tab above to apply. On the bike, training came from the legendary Niel Copeland from turn Cycling. We work together on clients currently, and the benefits they get from it are incredible.
Having Strength Training helps so much from power, mobility, injury prevention, and pedaling structure. The on the bike training meant I wasn’t wasting my time when I was riding my bike, and it became productive, and it was tailored to my goals, which was placing highly in Bikepacking races. Spending some money on actually having some training structure will always be more valuable than a newer bike or a new set of carbon wheels, and I think it’s crazy that people don’t invest more in it.
Cycling is an epic sport, and it’s easy to do, but to be good at it it can take a little planning and a little more effort. You won’t regret stepping it up to the next level.