How to eat on long rides and multi day events

In Training Articles and information on May 4, 2010 at 14:30

Eating on long rides and cycling trips

As a coach, Tour guide and cycling trip organizer, one of the things I get asked the most is about nutrition for big rides.  If you are doing big rides day after day, such as in a stage race or on a cycling trip, nutrition during the rides is very important, however it doesn’t have to be as complicated as some people make it.

White powder

As a Tour Guide, I see many people traveling half way around the world, lugging unbelievable amounts of powdered sports drinks and energy products around with them.  The extra weight some people insist on flying with boggles the mind.  Although all these energy products available on the market obviously do a very good job, it’s important not to get bogged down and dependent on them.


One of the most important things in cycling is being able to adapt.  You have to learn to adapt to different weather conditions, different types of terrain, different riding styles, different temperatures and altitudes, and also different foods, drinks and energy products.  You shouldn’t be so dependent on one specific energy product that you can’t ride your bike for a week without it.  Some people think they aren’t going to cope, won’t be able to make it up the next climb if they don’t have that exact same horrible tasting powdery mix they have at home day after day.  This is merely a psychological dependency.

What’s needed for a long ride

Many people fill their pockets with energy products and gels before a long ride.  There are a few things you need to know before you set off on a long ride.  Long rides and cycling tours/trips usually consist of many hours in the saddle at relatively low intensity.  Gels and simple carbohydrates (basically sugar) are great for short efforts but not prolonged low intensity rides.  If you must take gels with you, keep them for emergencies or for the end of a ride.  The problem with many of these items is that they give you an energy spike, but the spike is short lived.  Your body won’t handle 5+ hours of constant sugar induces energy spikes day after day for a week or 10 days.  What’s important is to eat “real” food regularly.  If you keep your rides within your endurance Heart-Rate zones, and eat regularly, you can theoretically ride all day.  You can’t shovel a load of food down in one go.  Too much oxygen is needed in the digestive process for your body to cope well with digesting a whole meal and pedaling the bike at the same time.  Therefore it’s important to eat small quantities regularly throughout the day, thus ingesting the food your body requires without overloading its oxygen requirements.

Poor man’s Energy Product

You may not find your favorite energy products in the local supermarket when you travel overseas, or to another part of the country.  But there are plenty of alternatives out there.  One of the best energy foods for long rides is the Banana.  Although bananas are slow to digest, unless you are racing, the low intensity of your rides should be fine for banana digestion.  Bananas are available everywhere, they are cheap (way cheaper than a box of energy bars), they are individually wrapped, and the wrapping is biodegradable.  Therefore once you’ve eaten your banana, you can throw the skin into the ditch or the woods and be free of any trash.  Bananas also contain potassium which has been proven to help prevent cramps.  Other simple riding foods include cereal bars (or “granola” bars for the Americans) which are also available in pretty much every small town super-market.  Again individual wrapping is important so that you don’t end up with sticky food in your pockets as you eat small amounts regularly.  Even in stage races, there is always a period of “down-time” in each stage where you can sit up and relax, and eat a banana or cereal bar.  Ideally an energy bar/product is easier assimilated and quicker to digest under the strains and intensities of racing; however if you look at some of the Pro stage races in Africa and Asia, where energy products are often hard to come across, many riders turn to bananas as an energy food alternative.  I remember following an Ivory-Coast National team rider in a UCI stage race in Africa a few years ago as he grabbed a banana from a spectator during a 170km stage.  That’s when I noticed he already had 5 or 6 bananas in his jersey pockets!  I think he must have been stocking some of them for after the stage as food was often limited at the hotels.

Drinking is also obviously very important.  Depending on the weather you may find yourself consuming vast amounts of fluids.  If you are on a trip or heading out for a long ride, always take 2 water bottles.  You never know if you are going to be able to stop to refill, or if you’ll come across water or a store.  And it’s usually best not to force the people you are riding with to stop every 30mins because you only wanted to take one water bottle.  I have frequently seen people show up on trips in the middle of summer with only 1 water bottle for a 100+km ride in the mountains.  Some people don’t like the look of a seat-pack, and prefer to use a water bottle to keep their spare tube and tools in.  Which looks more dorky?  A small saddle pack under the seat of your bike, or a bright red person sitting by the side of the road unable to ride, dehydrated, with one empty water bottle on their bike?  Once again you may not find your favorite energy drink if you are travelling, and there are once more plenty of alternatives out there.  Simple cordial is readily available in most European supermarkets.  High in sugar content, nicely flavored and the choice of many Pro-Tour teams (contrary to what you may think), these sugary drinks that you dilute with water do the job beautifully.  Other alternatives include watering down some orange juice or coke, which you can find in any local store, or get from your hotel in the morning.  Both contain sugars, offer energy and enable your body to assimilate fluids better than straight forward water.

Where are you?

When embarking on a long ride or a trip, think about where you are.  If you are in the high mountains of Colorado, or the Pyrenees, not only are you likely to come across vast changes in weather and temperature, but it may also be many hours of riding between stores, cafes or towns.  Plan ahead, take extra clothing to keep warm and take plenty of water and food.  The extra weight you carry will slow you down far less than dehydration or not eating enough.  Nutrition for long rides is not that complicated.  Adapt to your surroundings, eat and drink regularly and enjoy yourself!


Coaching Services

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2008 at 20:30

Our Philosophy

Train Right

Train Right


At Jetlagsports we emphasize quality over quantity.  Having personally raced at an Elite International level while still putting myself through school, or having to earn money at a “real” job, I have always valued getting as much out of the little time you have, rather than wasting time getting nowhere.  To find out more about our coach, click here.

Cycling is a sport for all to enjoy, so whether you ride once a week with a few friends, or travel the world racing against the world’s best, we want you to get the most out of your cycling and to enjoy yourself.

We approach coaching on two different levels.

1)      Fitness.  This is the usual level  everybody thinks of when you mention the term “coaching”.  Working to improve your endurance and cardiovascular system to basically get stronger on the bike

2)      Skill.  This aspect is too often neglected by the majority of people.  Riding skill and knowledge will improve your cycling more than you think.  You can compensate for a lack of fitness with some good riding skill and experience.  We strive to share our knowledge with you so that can be a better, safer and more efficient rider.  This is usually done on a face to face basis.  Be it individually or in a group, but it is sadly almost impossible to do without personal contact.

With this in mind, we offer two kinds of coaching services. 

–          Coaching Programs” focus on your strength and cardiovascular system and can be done via the internet.  You will get specific workouts to do that are tailored to you as an individual.  These workouts can be Heart Rate or Power Based depending on your own preference.

–          On the road Sessions” focus more on your riding skills.  This may include group riding, positioning within a group or peloton, pedal stroke, cornering, descending techniques as well as actual training skills such as Strength Endurance workouts and intervals.  These are skills you should be able to take home and work on on your own or with friends whilst also incorporating them into your daily training and “Coaching Program”.




How to ride in a group

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2007 at 11:43

Ride like a Pro: Group Ride Rules




Giro d'Italia Stage winner David McKenzie knows how to ride in a group

Giro d'Italia Stage winner David McKenzie knows how to ride in a group



Being strong is one thing, but knowing how to ride is quite another.  Knowing how to ride in a group will increase your own riding enjoyment as well as that of the people you ride with.  Above all it is a matter of safety.  There are a series of basic rules to follow in order to ride properly in a group, and yet it is often surprising how few people know these rules.  Now you might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you, after all, you are a Cat 1 and winner of the Thursday night or Saturday morning World Championships…  Like I said, it’s amazing how many people don’t know how to ride in a group.  If you are new to the sport, this will help you for the next group ride you attend, if you are old to the sport, this should be a useful recap of what you already know.

Rule 1) Not a race: a group ride is NOT a race.  You are not to “Attack” off the front or try to show everyone how strong you are.  That’s what races are for.

Rule 2) Bar-to-Bar: (Fig 1) and this is probably THE most important rule.  Whenever riding in a group you should be riding 2 by 2, side by side (with only a few centimeters between you, you should NOT be able to fit a bus between you and rider beside you) and be perfectly handlebar to handlebar.  Do not at any time sprint ahead and disrupt the flow.  Even if there is a corner coming up, stay side by side and go through the corner like a well oiled machine.  Riding with your bars ahead of the rider beside you is called “half-wheeling” and is a major faux pas.  It is up to you to keep up with the speed of the slower rider next to you.  And for goodness sake, please try to keep to the side of the road, there is no need to take over the whole lane and annoy car drivers.


Fig 1

As with everything, there is an exception to the rule.  If there is an uneven number of riders in the group and you don’t have anyone to ride along side, you should place yourself in between the two riders ahead of you, with your front wheel between their two rear wheels (Fig 2).  This allows the riders behind you to remain bar to bar and to keep the group tightly together.  The riders behind you should ride with their front wheels either side of your rear wheel.  It is not acceptable to sit directly behind the rider ahead of you and leave a gap to your side.  Now before you spark up and say that riding between the wheels of the riders preceding you is unsafe, let me point out, that if everyone is riding bar to bar as they should be, you are guaranteed the space of a handlebar’s width within which to move, which should be ample.  So even if the two rider ahead of you knock into each other you should have plenty of space.  This is a pretty safe place to be. 


Fig 2

Rule 3) Peeling off:  When you are tired of riding at the front, and you feel it is time for you to go to the back, make sure the rider beside you knows you are tired and want to go back, once you have both established that you are going back, check briefly that there isn’t someone overlapping your back wheel, then both riders slowly and gradually go to the outside and let the group come through the middle.  Do not suddenly veer off to the side in a sudden movement, peel off in a steady and controlled manner. (Fig 3) 


Rule 4) Pulling through:  when the two riders ahead of you peel off, it is your job to come through to the front and pull the group along.  If you do not want to ride at the front because you are tired or less fit that the rest of the guys, then it’s too late to avoid it now.  Once you are in second wheel, you MUST come through to the front.  Do not speed up, and do not get out of the bar-to-bar formation.  Maintaining a steady speed, squeeze through the gap and go to the front (Fig 3).  When the two riders ahead of you peel off, don’t slow down and hesitate and look around as if you don’t know why on earth they would be pulling off to the sides of the group.  Maintain your speed and go straight through without hesitation.


Fig 3


Rule 5) Too tried to go to the front:  If you do not want to go to the front, sit at the back and let the riders coming back from the front of the group get ahead of you.  It is not acceptable to work your way up to the front of the group and then look around acting lost and confused, slowing down because you don’t feel strong enough to be at the front.  If for whatever reason you do find yourself at the front, go through and take what is known as a “token pull”.  You go to the front for a couple seconds, agree with the rider beside you that you are both peeling off, and go to the back.


Rule 6) Gaps:  There should be NO gaps in a group ride.  As soon as see a gap, fill it by riding into the space in a steady and controlled manner.  There is no need to sprint into the space and then have to slam on the breaks, just gradually fill in any gaps as soon as you see them.


French Bouygues Telecome development team ride in an organized group during their pre-season training camp

Rule 7) Moving about in a group:  If you need to go to the back of the group, or need to move out away from the side of road because the road is damaged for example, just steady move in whatever direction you want to go in.  The key to all cycling is to do things gradually and steadily.  Even if there is a rider right next to you as you pull out to the side of the road, if you do it gradually, the other ride will naturally have time to move over with you.  If you do anything sudden you are likely to cause a crash.  This is also very important when “peeling off” and “filling a gap”.


Rule 8 ) Obstacles and hand signals:  Now, this is a very important rule.  In a lot of countries such as the US and Australia, people in group rides have got into the habit of yelling.  I’m not too sure where this habit has come from, so lets set a few records straight.  When you see a hole in the road, it is absolutely NOT acceptable to yell “HOLE” at the top of your voice, then weave around it at the last minute.  It is also inacceptable to yell “SLOWING” when you slow down.  If you can’t see the riders in front of you are slowing down, then maybe you should stick to monopoly on a Sunday afternoon.  All obstacles should be warned of by a simple hand signal.  This does not mean pointing at something for 5 minutes after you have passed it.  When you see an obstacle in the road ahead of you, put your hand down and give a signal that lets the riders behind you know in which direction they should go to avoid it.  Traditionally a quick wave of the hand will suffice.   If you only see the obstacle at last minute, ride through it!  Better to get a flat than to take down the whole group.  On the subject of obstacle, please only point out obstacles that are worth pointing out.  What obstacles are worth pointing out? I hear you cry.  That’s simple.  An obstacle worth pointing out is one that will damage a bike or person behind you.  Please don’t point out manhole cover unless they are deeply set in the road, and don’t point out leaves or small cracks in the road, and certainly don’t point out obstacles in the next lane.


Rule 9) Yelling:  As I have said above, yelling is a big no-no.  You don’t see the Pros riding around Europe on their pre-season training camps yelling “CARRRRRRR… HOLE, GRAVELLLL… RED LIGHTTTTT”.  The problem is this:  when you are more than two riders behind the person yelling, all you can actually yeah is a general “BLURRRRR” being yelled.  So while everyone should be keeping their eyes peeled for general speed changes and obstacles, suddenly the majority of riders are looking around wondering what the obstacle is that has just been yelled out.  No one actually knows if you have just yelled “HOLE” and have not pointed it out, meaning some riders are scanning the ground left right and center looking for an imaginary hole.  Other riders are craning their necks thinking you yelled “CAR”, while yet more riders are looking behind them thinking you yelled “George has a FLAAAT!”   Yelling is strictly forbidden!


Rule 10) Slowing and adjusting speed:  This is probably the biggest crash causer on group rides.  For some reason, when someone slows down ahead of them, a lot of riders jump for their brakes and yank the heck out of them, almost skidding and taking everyone down with them.  You should be riding ever so slightly to the side of the rider in front of you (Fig 1); so when they slow down, you either stop pedaling and start to slightly overlap your front wheel with their rear wheel, or you touch the brakes gradually, once again using the “wheel overlap” as a buffer zone so as not to slow down too suddenly for the riders behind you.


These rules may seem like a bunch of snotty European old school and pointless rules, but they come from very simple principles of general safety for  a group ride.  So stick to them, and spread to the good word to your fellow new-comers to the sport.  For any Pro rider worth his weight in salt, these are not even thought of as “rules”.  They are instinctive and are a natural part of riding.  This may by why some road riders can come across as rude and arrogant.  Ride etiquette is so second nature to them, that in their eyes, the only reason anyone would break them, would be on purpose.