A Guide to Combating Cycling Fatigue
By Nathaniel Wu
A couple of weeks ago, I went on my first bike ride since the winter of 2021, and I have to say it was a rude awakening. The ride was only 2 miles, but I was lightheaded by the time I returned home. Sure, I paced myself horribly, but I knew that I was more prone to cycling fatigue. Fortunately, there are a few tips that can help reduce cycling fatigue for a more comfortable and enjoyable ride.
#1 Mind the weather
Since cycling is an outdoor sport, the weather plays a crucial role in the quality of the ride. When it is too hot, you fatigue much quicker and can potentially develop heatstroke without adequate water. However, weather that is too cold can make breathing difficult.
Although you can’t change the weather, you can make some adjustments to cope with the weather. For heat, bring extra water, apply sunscreen, and wear breathable clothing. For colder weather, layer up and bring gloves. Adjusting to the weather makes the ride less taxing on the body, which helps with reducing fatigue. Obviously, some days might be too hot or too cold to ride, so try completing indoor workouts and postpone your ride for better day.
Just like any form of exercise, stretching is crucial. It might be tempting to just hop on a bike and begin riding. Believe me, I’ve done it countless times. However, stretching before a ride makes such a big difference in how you feel. Some important muscles to stretch are the hips, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Try hip openers and closers, leg swings, calf stretches against a wall, and touching your toes for a nice hamstring stretch.
Stretching is not just for the beginning of the ride. If you have a break, make sure to stretch out your legs. If you can’t make stops, then wait for a downhill and straighten your legs briefly to allow blood flow to the legs.
#3 Fuel Up
Cycling requires energy, and energy comes from food. Hence, it is important to consume enough calories before a ride. Consider eating protein a couple of hours before the ride to get sustained energy. A protein shake can also help. However, it is even better to load up on carbs shortly before the ride, an hour or so. Pasta is a great food that is high in carbs and can be customized for every palette. For energy throughout the ride, bring some bars and/or energy gels for quick sources of glucose, which is used for respiration.
#4 Pace Yourself
At the beginning of a ride, it is often tempting to go very fast because that is when you are the freshest. For longer rides, do your best to avoid this common mistake. It is all about pacing, and sustaining a slightly slower pace is better than constantly fluctuating speeds. It all comes down to physics, as it is easier to maintain a constant pace than try to accelerate and tire out.
Biking trips should be fun and rewarding, but it can be a grind if you are fatigued from the very beginning. With adequate preparation, you can mitigate some fatigue, but you will inevitably feel tired at some point during the ride. This is a good thing because that means you are getting stronger. Keep a happy mindset, stay calm, and happy riding!