One of the trickiest things about pro-level mountain bike racing is that it doesn’t exactly stick to one location. Events take place week in and week out all across North America and unless you’re one of the lucky few getting flown to them, you’re in for quite a bit of driving.
Over the last 6 weeks I’ve driven about 8,500 miles in my van chasing the remaining Pro Cross Country Tour events around the continent. Life on the road can be challenging, but for me, staying fit and competitive is the biggest challenge.
If you’re planning a road trip to a bike race in the future, here are a few tips to keep your legs from turning into mush from the long hours in the car:
Stay away from those gas station nachos. In fact, stay away from every supposedly “edible” item inside of a gas station. Long drives have a tendency of confusing you into thinking these colorful packages contain food but they actually contain a cocktail of fat and chemicals that will stomp out your fitness faster than Smokey the Bear stumbling across a smoldering camp fire.
You probably think I’m going to tell you to drink your body weight in water and then drink more, right? Wrong. I’ve found that most cyclists can over-do it here. While staying hydrated is extremely important, pounding excessive amounts of water the few days leading up to an event is detrimental to performance. Keep your water bottle filled while you’re driving and drink moderately, but if you’re pulling over every 30 minutes to relieve yourself, you’re drinking too much. Check out the book Waterlogged for more info on this fascinating topic.
You could say the evidence is somewhat inconclusive on the effectiveness of compression socks, but my personal experience with them says they’re a must. Any car ride over 2 hours and your legs will have a significant lack of circulation and swelling will begin.
“But Trevor, compression socks are so expensive.”
False! You know the only difference between the old man, $8 pair of compression socks at Walmart and the fancy “endurance” brand, $90 pair of compression socks you find in sporting stores? One is covered in logos.
Pro tip: for fewer odd looks when walking around in public in your new pair of old man, Walmart compression socks, do NOT purchase the “skin color” set. Stick with black.
When it comes to keeping your legs fresh, compression socks alone are not enough. My rule is to get out of the car and move around every 2 hours. I follow this religiously and even if you have to do some jumping jacks in what surely is the exact forest the movie Deliverance was filmed in, your legs will thank you come race day.
If you’re as fortunate as I am to travel with a Kickr and a laptop, a simple AC converter in your car’s 12v outlet is all you need to get some TrainerRoad time in. I’ve done workouts everywhere from Walmart parking lots to desolate truck stops.
Best of luck to you and your own cycling endeavors. I hope these tips help keep your legs a little fresher come race day.