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I often heard this from other bikers where they do recovery rides the day after a long ride (greater than 100kms). What is it for and is it really needed?

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Whether it's literally "needed" or not, it often feels good. Helps keep overworked muscles from stiffening up and getting sore. And there is some reasonable basis to believe that it physically helps the muscles recover faster from the strain of the previous day. –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 8 at 13:22

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A recovery ride is a ride where you go at a very easy pace for 90-120 minutes.

The idea of it is to give all those over-worked muscles some gentle exercise so that they don't tighten up, while flooding them with nutrients to help them repair.

For people in training, it's a day off to just enjoy riding.

I ride with a friend on his recovery ride because I'm the only rider he knows who won't half-wheel him. We go for a nice easy (for him) 50km, and talk about anything except his training.

See recovery ride.

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I've never heard the term "half-wheel". Could you explain it? –  jimirings Mar 10 at 15:05
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Half-wheeling is when you're riding beside someone and one of you constantly moves half a wheel width ahead. The other person has to ride harder to match. If the first person maintains that half wheel lead, then before long the two of you are going flat out, turning a social ride into a race. It's considered to be bad manners; in the context of my answer, it would ruin my friend's recovery ride. See half wheeling. –  andy256 Mar 10 at 21:09
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Thanks! I've definitely experienced that (and probably unwittingly done it too) but never knew there was a name for it. –  jimirings Mar 11 at 13:04
    
@andy256 Interesting. I'd never heard that definition. "Half-wheeling" to me means following the bike in front of you with your front wheel half way alongside the lead bike's rear wheel. It's an invitation to having one of the skewers hook the other bike's spokes, leading to a crash for both. –  Carey Gregory Oct 27 at 19:54

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