I want to try a 50 km ride for the first time, to be completed continuously one morning.

The most I've even done before is an 18 km (70 minute) each way commute (out in the morning and back in the evening).

When I commute I eat (breakfast, and late afternoon snack) before I ride, but I eat and drink nothing during the ride.

I guess that the difference between that and a 50 km ride is that, on the multi-hour ride, I ought to eat or drink something on/during the ride to replenish? How much should I eat and drink then, and when? Should I expect to take rest stops, and/or to go more slowly on average?

I'm wary because I think I've read that glycogen depletes at around the 2-hour mark, whereas my longest continuous ride to date has has been only 80 minutes.

  • 3
    Chris, that's only barely more than riding to work and straight back home again. Assuming you already wear cycling knicks and have a water bottle and puncture kit, I can't see any need to worry. I regularly jump from 10km each way every day to 100km/day cycle touring with no training or body prep (my preparation is all about getting my bike and camping gear ready). The first day or two are a bit lazy (60-80km) but after that I just ride. Admittedly a big day at the start of the tour is 120km, and a month or two later it's 200km, but 50km... just make sure you have breakfast before you start.
    – Мסž
    Apr 24, 2011 at 11:40
  • 1
    See also Diet - What should one eat while cycling?.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 24, 2011 at 14:14
  • @moz I don't have cycling knicks nor have a water bottle nor puncture kit (I don't think I need a puncture kit: it'll be a well-supported ride). Also 50 km in a day wouldn't worry me. I think we're supposed to finish it all in one go though, in the morning, then they reopen the road to cars.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 24, 2011 at 14:20
  • 2
    I took a look at the ride route online. It looks as if the organization is providing food and rest stops. With your daily commute, you should have no problem with this ride, especially if you eat and drink at each rest stop. "Water, fresh fruit and healthy snacks are provided at each of the rest stations, and at the finish line."
    – user313
    Apr 25, 2011 at 2:04
  • 3
    You know that cycling advocacy is making some headway when they can shut down the DVP for a charity ride.
    – Kibbee
    Mar 22, 2013 at 16:18

5 Answers 5


50km isn't that enormous of a distance - and especially for someone who does 18km twice a day. It sounds like your current pace would have you completing that in about three hours. I'd bring a snack or two if you're worried about being peckish, but unless you're going all-out for a personal record or you skip breakfast you should have no issues. Just keep turning the pedals, make sure you drink some water, and feel free to take a 5-minute stretch and snack break if you're feeling tired.

  • My normal ride is just over an hour. I suppose this one will be about four hours, so definitely a 'personal record'.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 24, 2011 at 13:32
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    I mean in terms of pace. You'll use more energy and burn more calories if you try to hammer out a fast time.
    – lantius
    Apr 25, 2011 at 4:18
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    @ChrisW: 50k is not that problematic with your total ODO. I wouldn't worry too much about distance. But your pace is obviously rather low. If you'll participate on that event, be prepared that speeds may be higher than your average. This means that you won't need 4 hours for the ride. You'll see. You'll feel quite some adrenaline at start. Which is good. First 1/4 of the way will just slip away in a short time. Make sure you drink every 15 minutes. May 20, 2011 at 15:10

This link "Quick note: Eating is the key to long distance biking" says,

If you don't eat, you have an hour, maybe two, of energy stored up.

Fortunately it's prescriptive too, saying,

And what should these calories be? Well, something easy on your stomach and fairly light. There are special sporting-related products that are generally right around 100 calories and super-easy on your stomach, but you don't have to go overboard. A piece of fruit or some candy or even a can of soda will work just fine. Just try to keep it around 100-200 calories maximum per hour.

... so that answers that: only about 100-200 calories an hour. Apparently you don't try to to keep up with the approx 500 calorie/hour rate at which you're expending calories.

As for what, this recommends bike-specific stuff based on maltodextrin, brand name "Hammer", and says that the body can't absorb more than 200-300 calories an hour - but that's for a multi-day ride.

Whereas this recommends:

  • Junk food (donuts, gummi bears, etc.)
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts (or peanuts)
  • Olives (salty, light-weight, and high-calorie: though I'll guess slow to absorb)
  • A Subway sandwich but without any hot/spicy components
  • Ice tea (sugar and caffeine)
  • Fruit (bananas, banana chips, fig bars)
  • Cereal bars

To answer the "how much to drink?" question:

  • This says, that 'one litre per hour' is on the high side, that that's for endurance not recreational rides.
  • This says 16 oz / 45 minutes (~ 0.63 l/h).
  • This says 28 oz / hour (~ 0.83 l/h).
  • This says a couple of big swallows every 15 minutes.

One of those articles also says that you thirst after dehydrating 1% and suffer when you drop 5%. I weigh 77 kg so I suppose I'm 46 litres of water, so 1% is about half a litre. If I don't drink when riding then (if I ought to be replenishing up to a litre an hour) that predicts that I'd be thirsty (1%) within 1/2 hour or an hour, and suffering (5%) within 2 1/2 to 4 hours.

This says that "Sports drinks have low-sodium levels in order to be appetizing to the general public" and suggests 500 to 700 mg of sodium per litre. Salt is 40% sodium, so that's 1.2 to 1.8 grams of salt per litre.

1.2 g salt is about 1/2 cc or 1/5 tsp (per litre of water), which is less than I'd imagined.

  • wdypdx22 suggested Clif bars as a ride snack.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 25, 2011 at 11:31
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    And also said any energy bar of choice. For a 50km supported ride in relatively easy terrain, you really don't need to be terribly concerned about ride nutrition. You really don't need gels and powders for a ride this short and if you go with the Hammer Nutrition products just stick to the Hammer bars. And, you're getting all the training you need with your daily commute.
    – user313
    Apr 25, 2011 at 15:15
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    For hydration, just sip through a large water bottle every hour which is typically in the neighborhood of .7 l/h. If a hot day, a bit more. On the other hand, don't gulp down an entire bottle every hour. But seriously, you're going to do just great! Your ride has 4 supported rest stops along the way, so there's no way that you're going to need to worry about glycogen depletion or dehydration.
    – user313
    Apr 25, 2011 at 16:18

Based on the answers provided thus far....

- Moz suggests:_ Cycling knicks, water bottles, and a puncture kit. Excellent advice. And, I assume that Moz means padded cycling shorts. The puncture kit is also good advice since you might get a flat between stops. Water bottles? Seriously, who can cycle without water bottles? - The test ride: Equip yourself with some calories and at least 2 water bottles and the puncture kit. The puncture kit is good since no one will be out there to help you on the test ride. - The ride. You have no worries.

And @Chris -- You're already building up endurance miles. You'll be fine. You'll sail through the 50K with no problems. The 50K Ride is not "long distance".

Anyhow, the real answer depends upon your current cycling fitness level. So, the real answer will be quite different between a beginner, vs, a fitness-cyclist coming out of the winter doldrum, vs, a racer; and etc...

The ride you intend to do in June is a supported 50k ride. I looked at your ride map and there are 4 rest stops along the way. You really don't need to worry much about hydration or consuming enough calories. Take advantage of the rest stops and you'll be totally fine. You already have a good start with your daily commute. My guess is that you'll do much better than you think, since you won't need to worry about stop-lights, etc.

  • "Seriously, who can cycle without water bottles?" - Someone who's never ridden more than 75 minutes, and (so far) always at temperatures below a maximum of about 15C.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 28, 2011 at 0:12
  • Well, thanks. I'd better get some. The weather's changing, getting hotter. Today's the first day that I found riding in jeans seemed a little too warm.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 28, 2011 at 1:47

Just prepare properly the day before. Drink loads of fluid (water) and eat some carbs (pasta etc) with chicken and vegetables. For breakfast, eat brown bread with loads of jam, some porridge and tea/coffee with sugar. 45 minutes before cycle eat a banana and you should be continuously drinking (sipping) water. During the cycle eat a small bar (energy from chocolate) and some fluid. You will be grand and enjoy the cycle.


30 miles isn't enough that you should be worrying about eating and drinking. Even at a slow, sustained 15mph, just bring a bottle of gatorade and a bottle of water. Drink gatorade the first hour, then water the second (the ride will be over by the time you'd feel any extra energy from the second bottle).

Maybe have a small snack beforehand. A granola bar or something else that's light.

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