Endurance on long hard rides for time crunched cyclist

Hi guys.

A little bit of background about me. I come from motocross and started cycling about 6 years ago starting with mtb, then gravel, now 90% road. 44 years old. About 69 kilos. Was under 67 before Covid. First started structured training April of 2019. First 20 min FTP test 167. Quickly jumped to 190, then by November was around 240. Stayed there for a long time then started trainer road April 2020. FTP based on 1 hr outdoor NP test of 253. 8 min outdoor ftp test of 265 about 8 weeks ago. Took a 3 week break, now just ending another sustained build. Will test again next week. I’d guess I’m about 270 now. I mostly export my TR and do my training outdoors.

I train solo, and do some group rides when I can.

With 5 kids, my time is limited to 8-9 hrs per week. I do low volume and fill the extra time on Wed and Sundays with mostly Z2 work. Sundays sometimes just a 1.5 hr loop on the drops at high cadence holding 200-220 watts, sometimes fasted.

On rides up to 2 hrs I can go quite hard nearly the entire ride with very quick recovery and nice results. My friends say that my improvement is amazing and I am always in the lead group, often winning the climbs and sometimes even the sprints.

However, on long rides up to 80 miles and 7000 feet climbing or so, my legs really fade around the 3.5 hr mark. I still can do tempo, but I can no longer attack or hold threshold for longer than 10 minutes.

Anything I can do in my training, being time crunched, or do I just accept it and continue to have great 2-3 hr rides? The group rides with my club (which I can only do every couple months without feeling guilty for my wife watching the kids) are typically 4-5 hrs. The guys ride much more than I can.

I still have a great ride, but for the last hour I’m at the front, but just sucking wheel and surviving. Maybe, it’s a change in strategy I need, or nutrition (I primarily drink my food @ 200 calories 50 gr carbs per hour, plenty of salt). Curious to hear others experiences. We have a sub 5hr century planned for November 8 and I don’t want to fade!

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Longer rides are always gonna be a challenge if you are time limited. See if you can add an extra 15 minutes or so over workout during the week. Could end up netting you an extra hour across a week, which will help somewhat.

That said, your best bet will be a change in strategy for the longer rides. Accept that you need to conserve energy and can’t ride the early portions of the ride in the same manner as your 2 hour rides. Ride wheels, don’t challenge for the top of climbs and you’ll find yourself with more energy at the end of the ride. Your training levels should be sufficient to get you through the longer rides if you ride smart.


I do and did a fair few club rides and follow the LV plan as have a full time job and we have two kids so balancing things is difficult.
As @Power13 says don’t challenge and pick your moments. If you know the ride is going to be 5 hours and everyone rides more than you, why are you pulling them along or sprinting. When I first joined our club I was “yeah this is fun, is this as fast as you go…” after a few forays off the front then being passed by the old guard laughing at me it sunk in. I’m a different fish to you as I’m much bigger and wasn’t that good on climbs but I’ve worked and learned. At around 300 FTP now and 94kgs I’m holding my own and can sit on the front into wind but not for all 70 or 80 miles.
Increasing your FTP makes everything below it easier but you still have to measure your effort and choose when to go with the fast lads or just cruise along.
If you can add 15 mins to the end of each workout and consistently train you will see results - takes time and maybe backing off a bit for now on the group rides.
:grin: Just my tuppence.

Have to say TR has helped me massively just to keep up.

And you don’t see G or Froome riding beyond themselves…


I don’t think an extra 15 minutes here and there will do it. There isn’t much substitute for a regular long ride.

You sound like you have been doing great on 8-9 hours.

I’d try to work it out with your wife to do those 3-5 hour rides with greater frequency. Is there anyway to hack the Sunday ride by leaving extra early and getting 3 hours in instead of 1.5?

Two years ago I massively improved my endurance and durability with a polarized base block in the winter. I started at 8 hours per week and ramped up to 13 hours per week over 11 weeks. It was kind of long and boring but it did the trick. After that I went back down to 8-9 hours per week but every Saturday I did our 2 hour group ride and then tacked on extra low intensity work turning it into a 3-4 hour ride. That maintained my endurance fitness pretty well. When covid first hit, the group rides disbanded and a small group I trusted was doing 3-6 hour gravel rides and I did fantastic on those rides.


I do believe that only actually DOING long hours in the saddle will help. I have tried regularly doing 2 hr endurance rides fasted to simulate what my body may go through in longer rides as far as depletion goes, which is probably the only reason I can still even do rides of 80-100 miles with a fast group, but it still doesn’t simulate the leg fatigue of spinning and putting out many efforts. I think I just need to go to bed earlier on Saturday nights and try to get out at 5 am with lights. I have never done this. I realize strategy is a big part of it, but my friends and I are competitive and we race every climb, then trade 10 sec pulls on the flats which I enjoy. It’s that last 20-30 miles where I can no longer compete, and they still have good legs.

TR’s Nate did prove that you don’t need to train long to go long but we’re all different. Mind you he probably felt pretty bad towards the end too…

@truep you are a very different fish to me - you’re kicking out just under 4 Watts/kg and i’m kicking out just over 3. So you’re “Le Tour” compared to my Sunday Club ride/Cat 3. :slight_smile: I’m also a decade older.

Well…one of the guys that consistently kicks my ass is 10 years older than me…we both weigh about the same, we both have about the same FTP. The difference is that at 3 hours he’s still pretty fresh…and I’m hurting…! There’s another guy in the club that is stronger than me who does ZERO structured training.
Just a TON of miles every week, and mostly at a fairly mellow pace. Anyhow, this is my recovery week, but starting next week, I’m going to try incorporating a 4 or 5 hour Z2 ride on Sundays.

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I feel the same pain - there’s a couple of retired old blokes in the club - they often get in 300+ mile weeks as they have nothing else to do and although they are older than me and not as fast all out they’re pretty fast pretty much all day, every day and annoyingly humble with it. :slight_smile:

Think the truth comes down to - how much time can you spend riding?

Let us know how the 4/5 hour Z2 works out …

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I think you might be suffering from deficiency in energy. You are only doing 50g per hour. Up to 80 to 90. Have an energy bar say every hour.

I found I was bonking on 50, or when I failled to eat regularly. I upped to 90gm, and was then doing regular 4 and 5 hr rides and even manage the national 12hr Time trial doing 236miles averaging almost 20mph.

3.5 hrs is the classic marathon bonk for a reasonable club runner doing a 4hr. in cycling terms I suspect you are doing the same.

If you are a geek, run a spreadsheet of when you ate (input) and your energy usage (output) and look for teh deficit. I did but I am sad like that.

Energy energy energy… (Just my 2 cents worth)


Thanks man. You could be right. I was doing 75gr and 300 calories per hour on my 2 hr training rides. Before this last ride, when I thought about the cost to do that for 5 hours (about $15 using my powder, and I only ate one cliff bar on my ride), I got cheap and decided to try to cut my nutrition by 1/3 (also because I read on the good old internet that I should be okay…). I will try the next one putting an extra scoop in my bottles and bring more than one bar. I think that, coupled with some more volume will help. My friends were indeed eating much more food than I was.

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As with all advice and ideas on these pages, it was just a suggestion (based on personal experience). I am glad you have something to try out. Importantly, if this is the case, I think you have found your lower limit :slight_smile: That in itself is useful.

To be a cheapo, for the bulk of my rides through the year I use orange juice mixed roughly 1:3 in a 750cc bottle. It is far cheaper than these energy drinks and (check the labels for the mix) contains basically the same carbs. (I think it is also gentler on the teeth). I also use bananas, which again are much cheaper than energy bars and good for potassium. (Just don’t fall over with them in your back p[ocket - they make an awful mess and provide too much amusement to your mates :slight_smile: ). I carry spare energy bars and gels, in a separate pocket or bento box on the top tube, and occasionally use them as well in longer training rides. I have used this approach for years in the bulk of my training. Then I swap to race food in training as the race approaches, (maybe a mix for 2 months out, and then pure race mix 1 month out) to make sure my stomach can handle it and adapt. I usually make sure I know what race foods I can take, well before hand on the basis of “Never try anything new in a race!”.

Let us know how you get on…


What do you put in there? I have a 4kg bag of Maltodexrin that cost me that much.

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If you can’t manage to do longer solo rides as suggested above, maybe another approach would be doing the ride on the trainer. Since there is no coasting or stops your time would be 100% effective and equivalent to a longer ride, and maybe you can spend extra 15-20’ on the training instead of preparing the gear and bike.


I have only been “drinking my food” since maybe last July and using Tailwind. I really like it, but it’s getting expensive. Maybe I should look into Maltodextrin and Electrolyte mix. I used to just carry tons of food, and have really liked being able to do most of my rides without carrying any at all. It was just this rare longer ride, where I ran a bit low at the end. I’m now thinking it was mostly nutritional.

I was doing fasted trainer rides once a week earlier this year, as a buddy suggested that it would help to train my body to put out power when already depleted (as at the end of a long ride). It definitely helped as I was doing 60 mile rides strong the entire ride, when my TR training rides were never more than 25-30. This last one was 78 miles, 7330 feet of climbing and the last 20 miles, I was hurting!

Thanks Phil. I really appreciate the advice. I’m going to look into that. I had finally gotten the guts to race this year with 19 planned. Only got to do one in February, so it sounds like something for me to follow for next year!

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Good, glad that a random thought helped. Presumably you can train over winter with more carbs. Let us know how you get on. Are you UK based? What sort of races are you planning?

I’m about 20 miles south of Los Angeles, CA. I’m going to test out your recommendations on Sunday with a 60 mile <3 hour ride in a paceline with 9 buddies. My plan is to bring 3 bottles of water, drinking 1 bottle per hour (think that is sufficient in moderate heat?). I will eat a big breakfast. The first bottle will be just water and electrolytes, plus I will eat 1 gel. 2nd hour will be a bottle filled with 300 calories, electrolytes, and 75gr carbs plus 1 gel (100 calories, 25 gr carbs). 3rd hour will be the same. If this works out well, I think that will be my strategy for the <5 hr century (which they want to shoot for 4.5 hrs). They are thinking 1-3 min pulls and rotate. Sounds reasonable. As for races, this may surprise you, but I had been planning on a bunch of Single Speed MTB XC races which are typically under 2 hours. I had also signed up for a gravel race of 60 miles 6000 feet. Other than that, I enjoy doing gran fondo century rides. Hope it opens back up next year. I’d like to try a rolling road race. I train mostly on an outdoor crit track, but racing tight starting in CAT5 still scares me, probably from watching too many youtube videos! A lot of riders can’t seem to hold their lines, nor hold a tight corner. Coming from a 20+ year motorcycle (road and motocross) background, thankfully - that isn’t one of my weaknesses.

@truep sonme thoughts. You don’t say if that is 500cc or 750 for a bottle. I aim for 500cc an hour.

Also I would not do it that way around. The reason is that you are relying on water and a gel first off… then adding carbs… after you are depleted… hoping they will top up…

I think a better strategy would be 80-90gm per hour… consistently. That way you are never getting into depletion…

So I would do Every hour (feeding on 20mins or 30 mins)

  1. At least 500cc water,
  2. 90gm carbs consisting of
    a) energy drink c45g in 500cc
    b) whole energy bar (45gm) (Perhaps taken in two halves)

What I do is one of:
a) Drink every 20 mins, Banana or energy bar on the hour
b) Drink every 30 mins, and eat half an energy bar at same time…
c) As (b) and add a gel every 2 hrs or when I feel I need a top up.

My game is time trialling… anything from 10m to 12 hrs. For 10s and 25s I drink and gel beforehand… and take nothing (its a waste aero-wise and sitting up eatling/drinking). I have trained not to need it.
(when I did ironman I never drank when swim training for 1-2 hrs, as i would not have water to drink in a race).

For TTs of 50m and 100m and 12hrs you have my approach. 90gm and 500cc an hour (with top ups of gels as I feel I need it). On hot days take more water. That works for 100s (4:20-4:30 ish), and worked for the 12 hrs. For the hilly 100m sportives I have done, my feeding startegy is the same, though I would dring every 20mins as it is easier and less of an impediment.

Just my two cents worth. Experiment and see how it goes. Most of all record what you are doing and look back the results… Good luck with the races… sounds like you have a plan…

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Thanks Phil. I will take your advice on Sunday! I will eat regularly from the start. My energy bars only have 25gr carbs (Clif bars my wife buys in bulk), so I’m thinking I can put 50 grams of carbs in my bottle, drink every 20 min, one 500ml per hour and eat a bar and a banana each hour. That should get me 90gr per hour. I’ll bring 3 gels to top off just in case. I’ll shop around for bars with more carbs. Or maybe I’ll put 75 gr carbs in my bottle and eat a banana every hour. We have a couple training rides to experiment and I’ll be sure to document it. Either way, I’ll give a report here.

I have 12 miles of commute to and from the ride so at 84 total miles it should be a decent test.

I miss doing the gran Fondo SAG supported rides. Never worried about nutrition, just ate like a pig at every stop, as I have a strong stomach.

Thanks so much for your tips. I value your vast experience!