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So, I'm 18, have been riding my bike for years, and I was wondering how far I should be able to ride. Originally, I just used my road bike to ride from and to work, four miles each way. In the last month or so, I've been riding after work, an average of 12 miles a day, at 14 or so miles an hour. Should I be riding further, faster? Or possibly going slowly for much further? How can I determine the best workout? My goal is eventually to be able to bike 80 miles or so, and I'll see where I go after that.

Here's an eBay link to the bike I'm on

eBay road bike

54cm Aluminum Road Racing Bicycle - Black 21 Speed Shimano 22lbs

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    Certainly, with practice, a healthy 18-year-old should be able to do 80-100 miles a day on good roads and reasonably flat terrain. You do, of course, need to eat and drink something along the way, for that sort of distance. (And beware of sunburn!) – Daniel R Hicks Dec 14 '15 at 15:04
  • @DanielRHicks well, I live in Sierra Vista, arizona, and it's mildly hilly. How much should I drink per hour? Is there an amount my body needs/uses per hour? – Hellreaver Dec 14 '15 at 15:06
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    Don't think anyone so far has mentioned nutrition, As you ride further and longer, make sure you gen up on this. There's nothing to stop you riding all day, easily over 80 miles, provided you keep yourself topped up. – PeteH Dec 14 '15 at 17:59
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    I fixed the link, it was ebay via a tracker but was mangled anyway. And added the image. That way it'll still be useful in a week when the listing ends. – Móż Dec 15 '15 at 2:32
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    For multiple hour tours (3+), a proper "sports drink" (made for endurance sports) really helped me. That stuff can keep you on your feet all day even if you don't eat enough (and I find it kind of hard to eat a lot just before/during hard exercise; makes me puke). – Nobody Sep 6 '16 at 14:35
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Answer: as far as you need to and want to. 20 miles with rest breaks should be a good starting target.

I did this - my first "big" ride a year ago was 20 km total, and it completely exhausted me. A year later I'm doing a 116 km ride.

The best technique is many little steps. Pick places that are ~10 miles away and do a round trip, stopping in the middle for a drink and snack. Then up the distance after a 4-6 weeks or forgo the stop in the middle.

Also do a "scenic tour" when coming home from work. I do 3km to work, and 10~20km on the way back. I prefer to have a calm ride to work and do the exercise on the way home.

Track your rides with something like http://strava.com/ Run the app on a fancyphone and it will keep all your records for you like average speed and best time on segments. Stats and leaderboards are a good motivation.

Make your rides useful - if you need to go somewhere for a purpose, allow the time to ride rather than drive. Exception being if you need to be presentable/not sweaty.

Make your rides safe. Avoid the scary roads, have bright clothes, lights etc.

Remember its not just distance. You should spend time grinding up your local hills, and whizzing down them too.

Set yourself significant goals with rewards. I started with a MTB, bought a real (used) road bike on completion of an event, and now I'm preparing for Le Race, which is 100 km with ~4km vertical. When I complete that I'll consider buying a brand new road bike.

All this can help you increase your distance and speed and decrease your recovery times.

  • I do track myself via strava. Here's a link: strava.com/athletes/12316962 I often don't know how far or how fast I go, as my phone dies for seemingly no reason. Even now, it's at 10% after charing it all night, and I find its too big of a hassle to charge it, wait for it to charge and then grab it before I go out. – Hellreaver Dec 14 '15 at 20:02
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    @Hellreaver Consider a USB battery - I have a 9000 mAh one that runs the phone for ~10 hours. Downside is the extra weight and size, and the cable between the two. – Criggie Dec 14 '15 at 22:28
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    @Hellreaver That last ride looks excellent - top speed of 37 km/h == ~20 miles per hour. Based on your location, there will be some climbs to the south west, and a "long road route" around the airport to the north-west. Work up to them over time. – Criggie Dec 14 '15 at 22:34
  • I have a 13000 mAh battery, but it's quite inconvenient to charge it while I ride. (Or even to carry it) – Hellreaver Dec 14 '15 at 23:19
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    @Hellreaver that sounds like a new question. Ask it and I'll answer what I do, and delete these comments. – Criggie Dec 15 '15 at 3:38
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Range depends on fitness and training, of course, but the actual mileage depends on the bike, the terrain, your speed, and how many breaks you take.

One way to increase your range is to put forth more effort into your ride to work by going faster. Another way is to gradually increase your distance per day.

In addition to fitness and training, you can increase range by moving to a more efficient bike and/or tires. For example, you may be able to add more air to your tires, move to thinner or smoother tires (from 2.25x26 to 1.75x26, for example), keep your chain lubed, or even move from a mountain bike to a road bike.

As you get into longer rides, you can extend your range by taking occasional breaks and maintaining a comfortable speed. On a multi-hour ride you can pace yourself properly and go a lot farther.

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Take it in steps. If you can do 12 miles now, think about how tired you are at the end of it. You should have a feeling whether you could just do it again, or sit and have a snack and do it again, or have lunch and do it again. Just try it. Plot a route 18-20 miles and try that. See how easy it feels, then lengthen it more. For 80-100 miles you will be riding all day, so you need an exertion level that you can maintain for that long. If you can ride two hours and feel like you could ride two more at the same pace, that is probably good for all day.

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If you are OK after a 14 mile ride and can ride it again the next day then you can extend your distance and/or speed. What you can do on the bike gauge by your breath - if you are panting that is exertion you cannot maintain for a long distance. On a longer ride (like more than 1 hour) you should be breathing hard but still able to carry on a conversation. On a longer ride if you need to slow down on the later stages then pace yourself back early. Ride hard enough that you get off the bike a bit spent but not so hard that you cannot recover overnight.

OP had a question on max exertion. At 18 I am surprised your body is not more familiar with max VO2 (volume of oxygen). With age and lack of practice it goes away. I started CX racing last year and very fit but coming in mid pack and riders in front of me were just totally spent and would take minutes to recover and I would just walk it off. I asked one of the top riders and he said do wind sprints. You need to train your body to max out. He said he did wind sprints 3-4 days a week. I added it to my training and was able to time an anaerobic sprint at the end and pick up a spot of two. Even on a ride you you many go anaerobic on a climb and recover coasting down.

  • How well should I be able to converse? I can hold a conversation when exercising my hardest, but not very effectively. – Hellreaver Dec 14 '15 at 15:30
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    If you can hold a conversation when exercising your hardest then your max VO2 is not normal. At max you should be able to go to max lung capacity. They are called wind sprints for a reason. If you cannot go to max lung capacity then you need to do some internal training. Even long distance riders and runners will do some interval training. – paparazzo Dec 14 '15 at 17:07
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12 miles at 14mph seems like a very respectable speed and distance, but you can definitely do more distance. However you should know that as you increase distance your speed may decrease. Don't be put off if you find your speed is lower overall.

A lot depends on how often you ride, you should aim to do what's comfortable, then a little bit more. And also you don't need to ride everyday, but should include some rest days in your schedule, in order to restore your reserves.

For example, if you don't ride for a week, but eat plenty of carbs, you will find that the next time you ride you will feel like you have an abundance of energy because you have restored your bodies reserves. The point is to rest if you feel tired, don't push yourself TOO hard, but do push yourself to just outside what is comfortable. You should enjoy the ride, not feel like you can't be bothered. If you're not enjoying it, take a rest day or two or three, or whatever is needed to get enthusiasm back. You should feel like you WANT to push a bit harder, and bit by bit increase your distance.

During rides you can lose a lot of electrolytes (salt and minerals) through sweat, and drinking water isn't the best solution as it doesn't contain any electrolytes (salt) to help replace what was lost. You can put a little salt in your water, eat food like bananas. If you feel dehydrated, you need to restore your electrolyte levels, not just drink plain water. Milk contains a lot of what you need (http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2010/09/08/milk-does-a-body-good-especially-athletes)

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I hadn't really done any exercise in 10 years... bought a hybrid bike to commute (struggled ... so set myself a physical fitness target (Paris to Rome).

I started two months ago, and now cycle 3 times a week, 40 miles (avg 15mph) during the week and up to 80 miles on weekends (avg 12 mph) (continuously - not different rides). That with my commute means I ride circa 150-200 miles per week.

From what I've learnt, everyone is different. Its about pushing the limit - not breaking it! Take your long rides easily and mentally and physically prepare for the task. Eat right, rest right, and stay hydrated!

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