More than 60% of mountain bikers tend to only go for one or 2 hour rides and only 30-40% are riding for longer periods of time. From my experience, the most enjoyable rides are the longer ones, more than 4 hours or even two-thirds of the day.
In this article, I will tell you all that I learned from my long rides and what I wish I knew before each ride. Most of the tips I will give you were learned by experience and some of them were learned the hard way. So let’s start:
1. Make a Basic Bike Check
Before every long ride, it is mandatory to check your bike for problems, it is very unpleasant to have your bike break on you in the middle of a longer ride.
What to check:
- Tire pressure: Make sure you have the right pressure for your weight and the terrain on which you will ride.
- Chain lubrication: Make sure your chain is properly cleaned and lubricated, you don’t want extra stress on your cassette or a broken chain.
- Check your break: If you need to push hard the level of your hydraulic breaks to hold then you need to bleed them. Make sure your braking pads are in good shape.
- Visual check: Check the frame for cracks.
- Check bolts: Check to see if all your bolts are tightened.
After you have checked all the above you know that you can rely on your bike and the chance of her breaking down during the ride is very slim.
2. Pack The Right Tools
Often I needed to adjust something or change the tire pressure (I needed more traction or loss of tire pressure), so on every ride, I packed:
- A good multitool: Readjusting break levels, tightening some bolts, etc.
- Hand air pump: Sometimes you need to pump more pressure.
3. Be Prepared for a Flat Tire
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be alone far away and to see that your tire is losing pressure fast. If you don’t have a flat tire repair kit with you this ride will become very frustrating.
So always have with you a spare camera if you don’t run tubeless, and a flat tire repair kit.
If you run tubeless tires pack with you a tubeless repair kit.
4. Plan Your Route (Get a GPS)
Plan your route ahead so you will not be left guessing when riding.
Use a good GPS like the Garmin Explorer to guide you so you don’t get lost. You can use apps like Komoot to plan your ride then upload it to your Garmin and you are good to go.
I know that a bike GPS is a big investment but it helped me a lot to find new trails and I never get lost with it. Being able to plan the ride ahead and then just follow the GPS is a big improvement that will make your long rides more enjoyable.
5. Good Hydration Is the Key
Good hydration is needed even on shorter rides, on longer rides it is mandatory. I usually drink at least a 500 ml bottle of water for every hour of riding.
Pack more than one water bottle and refill them at any opportunity, a good option here is a camelback backpack.
If you ride in extreme heat or in sunny conditions it is recommended that you put an electrolyte tablet in your water bottle, this will help you recover the electrolytes lost due to the heat. Believe me, you won’t regret it.
6. Pack Snacks
If you plan to ride for a couple of hours it is very important to pack some snacks to refuel yourself. Some sandwiches will do the job just right but energy bars are a good idea two.
I like to pack two peanut butter sandwiches with banana slices in between, it is a delicious snack and a good fuel replenishment option.
If you feel really depleted it is good to have a sugary snack, here you can get away by eating your favorite chocolate bar or your favorite soda drink (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, etc.). So it is a good idea to pack a chocolate bar (Snickers, Mars, etc.) or a dose of soda.
7. Get a Comfortable Saddle
The saddle is the main contact point between your body and the bike and this makes it one of the most important bike components when it comes to comfort.
For does of us, who do not compete we can afford to get a heavier saddle. So getting o saddle with more gel padding is growing to benefit your longer rides and will increase your compost level.
If bike weight is very important to you then you need to get used to harder saddles that have a lower weight.
8. Get a Comfortable MTB Shammy
Having a comfortable saddle is not enough, to really enjoy the longer rides you need a comfortable MTB shammy that fits you well.
The shammy is the padded part inside your shorts that is in between your bottom and the saddle, most MTB shorts will have a shammy included. Be aware that a shammy can come with a single layer of foam or multiple layers.
More expensive ones will have an antibacterial layer and will be better designed for comfort. I believe you get what you pay for, so don’t be cheap here.
On shorter rides, I don’t even wear my shammy, but on longer rides, it makes a big difference.
9. Get Comfortable MTB Grips
The second contact point between your body and the bike is the handlebar grips. I tried a lot of grips and for me, the best ones were those made from foam.
Foam grips tend to have a bigger outer diameter and are softer than rubber grips and this makes them more comfortable for longer rides. One more thing you need to be aware of is to get grips that are lock-on so they don’t rotate on your handlebars on more technical parts of your ride.
Do not underestimate grips, they are very important for your comfort and to avoid hand soreness.
10. Get comfortable MTB gloves
Mtb gloves are one of the more overlooked things by new mountain bikers. But when it comes to long rides they are very important because your hands get sweaty and you lose grip on the handlebars.
Good MTB grips will maintain a good grip even when you sweat so you will not be forced to squeeze harder the handlebars.
If you lose grip your hands will fatigue more quickly and this will reduce the level of comfort when riding for long periods of time. Gel-padded gloves are far more comfortable than the standard ones, don’t be cheap it is for your benefit.
11. Pass Yourself
Do not forget this is a marathon, not a sprint, do not force yourself at the beginning of the ride so you can ride longer. If you ride at a more relaxed pass your body can use fat cells as fuel but if you push yourself the body needs energy fast so it will consume the glycogen stored in the muscle fibers.
If you ride too hard the reserves of glycogen will deplete and your muscles will start to hurt, this can make the ride very unpleasant.
If you ride at a lower pass your body will consume more fat and when the more difficult sections of the ride come you will still have enough glycogen to push hard.
12. Rest When You Need To
If you feel too depleted to ride, don’t walk aside your bike, it is easier to ride at a lower gear. The effort you make by walking beside your bike is greater than riding at a very low speed.
When you are so tired that you feel that you can’t ride anymore take a break and rest, it is far better than walking beside your bike. When you rest your body will oxygenate and regulate its temperature and after a couple of minutes you will be able to ride again.
13. Ride With Friends
Riding with friends is more fun because you have a conversation buddy. If you want to be able to talk with your friend you need to maintain a lower pass so you don’t deplete too quickly the glycogen stored in your muscles.
Let us not forget that you will have a helping hand if something goes wrong with your bike, and this is not a small thing.
What Is Considered a Long Mtb Ride?
As a general rule, 50+ miles is considered a long ride on the road but on the trails is better to judge based on time because the terrain is more difficult to ride and every trail is different. A long trail ride is considered to be 3+ hours, this can be anywhere between 18-26 miles.
Many riders will consider a 2+ hour ride on trails to be a long ride, this is highly dependent on your fitness level, if you are out of shape even an hour ride may be too much for you.
Are Mountain Bikes Good for Long Rides?
Mountain bikes are tough and reliable bikes that can handle almost anything you use them for. Their toughness and comfort make them a good choice for longer rides and because they can handle any type of terrain they are perfect for any rides that include unpaved sections.
Because mountain bikes are comfortable and can take a bitting they have become one of the most popular bike types, you can use them for almost any type of ride.
If you want to learn more about all the pros and cons of using mountain bikes for long rides, read this article!
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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.