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Five key ingredients of the perfect training ride

I'm training for the 2021 Olympics. Here are my five tips for cyclists of any level to get the perfect training ride.

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Motivation to train can be hard to come by in the Covid era. For me, with the Tokyo Olympics as a target, it was initially easy to execute the training plan. But then weather, the continuing Covid situation, and the absence of group rides made things tough. I started to struggle with motivation, particularly for the long endurance rides.

So I shifted my mindset. Athletes need goals and plans — or at least this athlete does. For every long-endurance ride I had in my schedule, I turned it into an opportunity to be creative with setting goals. I prioritized these rides and termed them my “Perfect Training Rides.” But the secret here is that it wasn’t difficult to make them perfect. I developed a recipe that worked for me and I hope it will help spark some motivation for you, too, for those long days in the saddle.

Pick the good day

The first key ingredient of the perfect training ride is to pick the good day. Elements of the good day are:

  • the weather
  • time and the ability to prioritize your ride

Look ahead at the weather forecast and try and plan your ride for when the weather looks to be the nicest. Or at least plan your ride to happen during the warmest/driest part of the day. Then try and plan ahead so you can block out your calendar and make your ride the most important thing for that day.

Pick your bike

The second key ingredient for success is to pick your ride. I am incredibly fortunate to have a quiver of tools to help me execute my training goals. Which means I have road, gravel, and mountain bikes to choose from. Most often in the winter I’m out on my gravel bike. The gravel bike allows me to navigate variable road conditions, cover some distance, and spend some time on dirt as this increases my happiness significantly. Make sure whatever type of bike you’re on is prepared for minimal pre-ride dilly-dallying and maximum riding enjoyment. Get that thing pumped, charged, lubed, and ready to go.

Plan a route — with a goal, a destination, and a bonus

The Gold Hill Store above Boulder, Colorado is always a great destination. Photo: Allen Krughoff

The foundational ingredient for the perfect training ride is to plan a route that is challenging, rewarding, and fun. The route should include a goal — something that you can focus on and can feel a sense of accomplishment when you achieve it. A climb, a distance target, a speed target, etc., are all good goals to incorporate into a ride route.

The route should include a destination, a place that you can visualize arriving at. This provides mental motivation, helps break the ride up, and can be an opportunity to stop and grab a treat to fuel the ride back home!

After reaching my destination, I love to add on an element of adventure and give myself a bonus challenge. My bonus challenges vary from riding up an exceptionally steep climb to hit an elevation target, riding up a section of techy singletrack trail on my gravel bike, or sending it down a descent with as much style as possible (think drifting corners, getting some air, #huckyeah type of style).

Be prepared

In order for all these ingredients to come together, you need to be prepared, even over-prepared. No excuses on this training ride! Make sure your bike is good to go, you have all the snacks, and you have the tools you may need to fix any mishaps. It’s also critical to be dressed appropriately, and bring extra layers. For example, most of my perfect training rides when it’s cold require at least two sets of gloves; one pair for the ride up, and another pair for the ride down.

Enjoy the adventure

What makes the perfect training ride effective and valuable for me is that it allows me to feel successful by incorporating unconventional goals and challenges. I really do feel like I am writing a choose-your-own-adventure story every ride and I get excited to try different routes, attempt different kinds of challenges, and add some variety to my training. Other days of the week I typically have more structured training where I am focused on power, cadence, kilojoules, etc. On my perfect training ride, though, I truly get to see what I am capable of beyond just metrics.

Photo: Allen Krughoff