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I'm considering to do a 50-55 km distance on a mixed surface. Mostly asphalt and gravel, maybe even a little bit of sand. Haven't done any training or exercise, basically been sitting at home all day, everyday for years. Don't know why but suddenly had an urge to go on a journey.

My bicycle is quite old, 12 or so years, not in a great condition either but nothing is falling off so far. That wouldn't be my concern though, my concern is will my legs be able to cycle for 50 km in one go without any previous leg training. Is it advisable for me to do this? Will my legs be stiff after the first 10 km? What do you guys think?


Edit I'm 24. Last year I tried a 30 km distance, my legs were gone after 20 and I had to step off my bicycle and walk a bit, as it seemed easier than cycling. That was my only real exercise I've done in a couple of years.

I really have all day and can take as many rests as I want. I'd say I have a solid 8 hours. Is it doable if I go on a gear that doesn't require a lot of push?

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    Why not start with a smaller distance, or at least do a route that has some bail-out points in case you don't feel up to the full 50km? – Nuclear Wang Apr 5 at 13:03
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    Call me overcautious but I would not do 50km on a bike that has been sitting around for a dozen years without having it properly checked and even have some vital parts replaced (tyres, tubes, cables and brake-pads a.o.) – Carel Apr 5 at 14:19
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    @Carel I refuse! Your level of cautiousness is entirely appropriate. 😊 – David Richerby Apr 5 at 14:25
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    You'd do much better trying something like 5 km first - and try to do it without stopping. Don't push hard at all - riding a bicycle non-stop is not as easy as it might seem if your body isn't used to doing it. – Andrew Henle Apr 5 at 15:25
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    Too short for a full answer: in addition to everyone else's points, if you haven't ridden a bike at all in years, you're going to get really saddle-sore pretty quickly. – iamnotmaynard Apr 5 at 17:37
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I think this question is a little more complicated than it appears at first pass. I will demonstrate by answering two forms of the question.

Q1: "Is it possible that, despite not having regular training, I would be able complete a 50km without it being a traumatic event?"

To this question, I say absolutely! Riding on fairly flat pavement at low speeds is not too difficult, so as long as you pace yourself properly, this is totally manageable. Never try to push yourself too hard and stop for snacks every hour and it may even be fairly enjoyable.

Q2: "Is it possible that riding 50km, not having regular training, would be extremely miserable?"

Also yes! If you don't ride often, there are a lot of potentially very unpleasant things that could happen on such a ride. This includes:

(1) Extreme fatigue. If you don't ride regularly, it can be very easy miss-pace yourself. It might not feel like your pushing that hard at 0-10km, but suddenly you can find yourself having trouble keeping the same pace around 15km. That's a real problem when you have 35km more to go!

(2) Very difficult terrain. Riding on flat pavement at a relaxing rate is not so bad. Going up hill at any rate can be pretty taxing, especially if you don't ride much. In my opinion, going over sand is considerable harder than riding up hill. If even 1km of that ride is over sand, for many reasons, I can pretty much guarantee it will not be a pleasant experience. I highly recommend not riding over sand in your first ride. Actually, I highly recommend never riding over sand ever; see next issue. Gravel is somewhere inbetween concrete and sand in terms of physical effort required, also raises probability of sliding out and getting hurt.

(3) Mechanical breakdowns. There's a chance something might happen to your bike. You might get a flat tire, the chain might break, or you might ride it through sand, destroying just about every moving part of the bike. If your bike is well maintained, the probability of this happening on any single 50 km ride is low (assuming you avoid sand), but the probability of this happening on one of 20 such rides is pretty high. For a bike sitting in a garage for years, the probability of this happening on the first 50 km ride is actually quite high.

(4) General discomfort. If you haven't been riding for awhile, getting used to a saddle can be...uncomfortable. Not a big deal is you're going 5km, but really starts adding up around 20km, meaning potentially completely unbearable around 30km, and you've still got 20km to go.

In summary, a 50km ride without practice may go really well and be fun. But there's a lot of potentials for it not to, especially if you're not just a bike nut who hasn't ridden in awhile. As such, I personally would recommend giving it a try, but with a solid backup plan. For example, maybe there's a bus route you can ride along (make sure they allow bikes!), so in case any of those issues come up, you can easily bail out.

Also, do not ride over sand and I would advise avoiding gravel. Finally, get your bike checked at the local bike shop.

  • You forgot mention the incredibly sore muscles! – Daniel R Hicks Apr 8 at 1:31
  • There is no sand on my selected route but about 50% of it is on gravel, i would like to call it a washboard gravel because it has these wavelike ridges and it's quite shaky. Been on this route once before but only did 30 km. The seat issue is real, crotch was hurting after 20 km and the last 10 were a real grind. Even tho the seat was big and foamy, the kind of seat old women have on their bikes, it still hurt. Perhaps big and soft isn't the right way to go here? I also have a typical BMX seat that i can use, should i opt for that one instead? Seems like it would feel worse to be honest. – endofroad Apr 9 at 12:23
  • @endofroad That kind of gravel sounds really energy-sapping. Definitely don't try to ride any distance at all on a BMX -- they're designed for short rides where you barely use the saddle. Big foamy saddles are usually much less comfortable than they look, as you discovered. – David Richerby Apr 9 at 16:17
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A fit person can do 50km without too much difficulty, though they'll probably be sore from the effort if they don't cycle much, just because cycling uses different muscles to, say, running. It wouldn't be easy, but it wouldn't be too hard.

It sounds like you're not very fit. If you were determined, you could probably make it around 50km but I doubt it would be enjoyable at all. I suggest that you start with shorter distances. Try riding 10km and see how that feels. Once you can ride 20-25km fairly comfortably, doing 50km will be a nice challenge: not easy but an achievable goal that you can look back on with pride. Note that gravel and especially sand are more work to ride on than the equivalent distance on the road.

Since your bike's not been used for a while, you should get a bike shop to check it over. Depending on how much it was used and how it's been stored, it might need things like a new chain, new cables and new brake blocks. Possibly new tyres if they're in bad shape.

If you're going far from home, make sure you know how to repair a puncture (bring a spare inner tube so you don't have to use patches unless you puncture twice) and that you have a way of getting back if everything goes wrong. Rather than cycling to somewhere 25km away and then coming back, consider arranging your ride as more of a circle so there's a shorter route home if things don't go well.

Make sure you bring water and snacks with you, since your first 50km will probably take at least three hours.

  • Lets say my legs get wasted after 20 km, how long would i need to rest them before i can get back on my bicycle again and continue? – endofroad Apr 5 at 14:49
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    @endofroad No idea -- it depends on how your body reacts to physical exertion. But if you're exhausted after 20km, you really won't want to do another 20km and then another 10km after that. And, unless you rest long enough that you're as fresh as you were when you set off (i.e., at least a day), you're not going to manage another 20km without getting exhausted and having to stop again. – David Richerby Apr 5 at 14:54
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    @endofroad If you need to ask how long it will take for you to recuperate after a 20km ride, you aren't ready for a 50km ride. – chepner Apr 5 at 16:04
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    Three hours plus at least an hour for breaks, more likely two hours. I'd plan time for at least 2 to 4 breaks on such a trip if I were new to biking. When I was a kid and my family went on biking journeys, we'd get an average about 10km/h including the breaks. We took our time, and we had fun with it because we didn't have much of a pressure to be quick. And that's the most important part: Always bike in a way so that it's fun for you. If you overdo it, you'll loose the fun, and consequently the interest to continue. Otherwise, this answer is spot on :-) – cmaster Apr 5 at 20:58
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    Oh, and you might want to add this to your answer: Check that the saddle is high enough, or more generally, check whether the bike fits the rider. But saddle height is by far the most important imho. A saddle hight that allows the feet to reach the ground when seated feels like riding up a slope constantly, it really hurts the speed you can sustain. The correct height is when the forefoot is just able to reach the pedal comfortably throughout the entire stroke. – cmaster Apr 5 at 21:12
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It's probably not a great idea. Start with a shorter route and see how you do. Pick a flat route without hills. Make sure you have a bail out and a way to get home (public transport, a friend, Uber etc.).

You probably should get a bike shop to have a look over your bike for any issues, you don't want to get stranded by something going wrong or have any safety issues.

How far and fast a new cyclist can go depends on a number of factors - how old they are, if they are overweight and by how much, genetic disposition, whether they were fit before becoming inactive.

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To answer your questions -

  • "Is it possible to do 50 km distance without any previous training? - Yes, it is possible, assuming by no previous training you mean cycling training. If a person has been active in running or other aerobic activity using their legs it is possible to ride 50 km without any previous bicycle training. In your situation it may be possible but it is less likely.
  • "Is it advisable for me to do this" - No, it is not advisable.
  • Will my legs be stiff after the first 10 km? - Yes, your legs will be stiff.

All that aside, cycling is great fun.
You've had an urge to go riding - you should act on that, but ease into it. It's better to have several short rides with a positive. experience than one big one that wipes you out.

Argenti offers some great advice and there are lots of articles on how to ease into cycling.

Here is an example of a beginner's cycling plan.

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I can share my own experience.

When I was young, maybe around twenty, I went on a 50-60 km bicycle trip without previous training. Of course I had occasionally used a bicycle before.

After about 20 km my legs started to cramp and I was forced to make some short stops (5-10 min) to recover.

So I was able to finish my trip, but it was hard.

Another time (maybe 10 years later) I did a 90 km trip. Before this I had used my bicycle almost every day (5-10 km).

So I did this 90 km trip (which took me almost all day) and I didn't have any problems except sunburn on my legs and arms.

Conclusion: it's possible to make a long trip without training if you can stop and rest at any time, but it would be much easier if you had some training first.

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My friend did 60 km previous weekend but he says it was a tough day. He does not exactly train but he is quite frequent casual rider. I would only take the challenge if it is possible to end the ride at few places along the route (at train stations, etc). You may also need to do this because of your old bike failing rather than you.

While the riding itself will probably take 5 hours at most, you may need to rest multiple times so start early and be sure lights are working.

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My 88 year old mother cycles 10 km in one hour, goes shopping, and cycles back in another hour. Any healthy adult should be able to cycle 50 km in eight hours, assuming the route is not hilly.

Just go in stretches of 10 km, then take a break. E.g.:

  • 10 km
  • 30 min break
  • 10 km
  • 30 min break
  • 10 km
  • 90 min break
  • 10 km
  • 30 min break
  • 10 km

That's 50 km in 5 hours plus 3 hours of breaks. You'll likely be drop-dead tired at the end of the day and sore on the next, but you should be able to do it if you really want.

As for the bike, blow the tires and see if they hold the air for 24 hours, check the brakes, and you should be fine. Bikes don't suddenly break apart from not being used.

Don't forget to take enough to drink (3 liters minimum if it's warm, more if it's hot) and food with calories. Fruit is great, especially bananas. You should expect to be really hungry after half a day for something like a big plate of noodles. Don't eat "heavy" food that will make you tired (e.g. pizza with lots of cheese), or you won't be able to go on after lunch.

Tale a mobile phone to get help if you plan to leave busy roads.

Have fun.

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Hills matter. 30 km can be a lot of different levels of effort, cuz the hills. Traffic can also make it somewhat more stressful. If you just inflate your tires and go, you'll probably be fine, if the hills are moderate and the traffic light. You should be prepared for some flat tires, and there's a fair chance you'll break a chain or do something worse, so you'll need a plan to get yourself and your bike back home if plan (a) fails.

Your legs won't be sore until the next day, and they'll be worse the day after that -- that's really what you'll get for being undertrained.

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    If you just inflate your tires and go, you'll probably be fine Huh? What do you base that on? Have you ever tried to ride a bike any distance at all after years of "[h]aven't done any training or exercise, basically been sitting at home all day, everyday for years." I don't think it's reasonable to expect someone who literally hasn't done any exercise for years to be able to pedal a bicycle for the three+ hours it's going to take to go 50+ km. – Andrew Henle Apr 5 at 19:27
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    And have you ever ridden a bike that hasn't been touched for more than a decade? (Regardless of how fresh you were at the time.) And, heck, I get sore much faster than the next day if I go for a hard ride. – David Richerby Apr 5 at 19:33
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    I suspect OP is after the adventure of a ride, not the adventure of a failed ride. A bike safety check beforehand is pragmatic, and strongly recommended. A careful run through sustrans.org.uk/what-you-can-do/cycling/your-bike/… should show up any severe problems. – Criggie Apr 6 at 21:04
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Ok, I just joined this community to say I made 50km on a bike with my father when I was 12 years old without any training before.

EDIT: I'm 36 years old now and 93 kg, 176cm so a little bit overweight. It was quite easy back then. We biked back the next day. I use my bike nowadays not more than 10 times a year. I never tried 50km again but when I bike now, I don't even feel significantly tired after 20km despite low frequency of rides and carrying extra 20kg (namely my daughter in a child seat).

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    Great work. Could you expand your answer using edit? How old are you now? Is your fitness level similar to OPs? (ie relatively low) and could you do the same thing at your current age ? – Criggie Apr 6 at 21:03
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    OK but most 12-year-olds run around and play outside and are fitter than a 24-year-old who says they've done no exercise in years. – David Richerby Apr 7 at 18:46
  • @DavidRicherby maybe it's different in some counties but where I stand physical excercises are mandatory also at the university, so I'm surprised that 24 years old person is just sitting still all the time. – ElmoVanKielmo Apr 7 at 22:28
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    @ElmoVanKielmo I've never heard of such a thing in the UK or US. – David Richerby Apr 7 at 22:36
  • @DavidRicherby it's a standard in Poland. Besides forget about me being 12 years old. My father was biking with me and he was 46. – ElmoVanKielmo Apr 7 at 22:38

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