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  1. #1
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    New rider, legs seem to give out?

    Hi! My name is Richard. I am a 31 year old guy from the high desert in southern california. I am 6ft and needing to lose a few lbs. =) I am 279lbs and have a very large body frame so I look less heavy than I am.

    One a recent vacation I had rode a bike on the Hiawatha trail in Montana / Idaho and decided that biking was for me so I went up town and picked up a mountain bike by KHS.

    This morning after my 3rd day total riding (I have been riding every morning since I got my bike) I find that I was disappointed in my performance. Its not that I was winded or feeling weak in my chest, it was simply that my quads burnt and had no power. Today I had to take many breaks (about 30 sec to 1 minute) to quell the leg pain. When I would stop my legs felt shaky.

    Since I have started riding I even eat better, I have two boiled eggs and a small amount of tuna before I ride. I have had no beer or sodas, and have only one powerade zero and a large ice water on my ride. I drink water all day long.

    Before I began riding I have had very little physical activity in the form of exercise for the last 13 years aside from the occasional hike at a medium pace.


    I am worried tomorrow morning I won't be able to ascend the hill to my house. The sand and dirt make it tough to begin with, but I committed myself to ride everyday hardcore, and I have since I started.


    Basically I wanted to lay out the situation and seek advice from other bikers on how I can improve. I really love riding my bike aside from the leg pain and my butt hurting from the seat LOL!


    Richard

  2. #2
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    Just keep riding. You don't have to do more each and every time out. Take a day off to let your muscles heal and recover.

  3. #3
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    There are 2 things you can do:

    1. Obviously just ride more, it will take time and you will need to make sure that you are stretching and taking breaks between rides for recovery.

    2. Make sure you are changing your riding position while you ride: you should be sitting and spinning an easy gear, then shift up and push a larger gear, then stand and push a larger gear and not in that order. Changing up your gear ratio and position on the bike will fire muscles in different ways allowing you to relax some muscles while using others.

    There is nothing wrong with taking breaks either. Break your ride into sequences where you ride a determined distance or to a landmark, then stop get off your bike, stretch your quads and hamstrings, calves and back, have a drink of water then go to the next destination and repeat. Over time your distances will increase and your flexibility will improve.

    You probably aren't suffering from lack of nutrition on the ride so your food intake seems good, it just takes awhile for muscle strength and memory to build. Keep at it and enjoy.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by quill12 View Post
    Hi! My name is Richard. I am a 31 year old guy from the high desert in southern california. I am 6ft and needing to lose a few lbs. =) I am 279lbs and have a very large body frame so I look less heavy than I am.

    One a recent vacation I had rode a bike on the Hiawatha trail in Montana / Idaho and decided that biking was for me so I went up town and picked up a mountain bike by KHS.

    This morning after my 3rd day total riding (I have been riding every morning since I got my bike) I find that I was disappointed in my performance. Its not that I was winded or feeling weak in my chest, it was simply that my quads burnt and had no power. Today I had to take many breaks (about 30 sec to 1 minute) to quell the leg pain. When I would stop my legs felt shaky.

    Since I have started riding I even eat better, I have two boiled eggs and a small amount of tuna before I ride. I have had no beer or sodas, and have only one powerade zero and a large ice water on my ride. I drink water all day long.

    Before I began riding I have had very little physical activity in the form of exercise for the last 13 years aside from the occasional hike at a medium pace.


    I am worried tomorrow morning I won't be able to ascend the hill to my house. The sand and dirt make it tough to begin with, but I committed myself to ride everyday hardcore, and I have since I started.


    Basically I wanted to lay out the situation and seek advice from other bikers on how I can improve. I really love riding my bike aside from the leg pain and my butt hurting from the seat LOL!


    Richard
    Go easy to start looks like you have two days then a rest day....even after years a rest day once every 7 days is pretty much required....

    Get your butt measured....or a least make sure your sit bones are hitting the saddle in the right place...

    Increase volume at about 10 % per week...

  5. #5
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    all good advice above ^ (IMO)

    and just so ya know (in case you haven't figured it out)...mountain biking is really freakin' hard when you first start.

    you'll have about 2 months of 'URGH-I-SUCK' attitude....then it all starts coming together.

    stick with it!
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  6. #6
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    A few comments.

    You're stressing muscles in new ways. Soreness is normal. Don't overdo it at first.

    Eat protein after you ride, not before. The protein will aid muscle recovery and rebuilding. Prior to riding eat complex carbs. These make glucose available to your muscles during the ride. Energy gels right before and during the ride can supply these during the ride.

    Make sure your saddle height is correct. A generally accepted stating point is to have the saddle set so that your leg is straight when your heel is on the pedal and the pedal is at 6 o'clock. When the ball of you foot is on the pedal, it will be slightly bent. This is best for power and knee friendliness. When descending or on technical terrain, lowering the saddle will give you a lower center of balance and get it out of your way as you move around the bike to maintain balance.
    Use it, use it, use it while you still have it.

  7. #7
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    This happens to me when my seat is too low or if my tires are low on air. Have you tried adjusting your seating position to see if it helps?
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  8. #8
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    Don't do it hardcore everyday. Give yourself some rest. If you just have to ride everyday then take an easy ride every couple of days or so. Just a real easy spin, nothing strenuous. You have to let your muscles recover.

    It sounds like your pre ride meal is mostly protein. Get a few carbs in there for long lasting energy. Yeah I know you're trying to drop weight but a few won't hurt. Hydrate well. A sports drink with electrolytes might help your legs as well.

    Most importantly, have a ton of fun.
    build a man a fire keep him warm for a day, set a man on fire keep him warm for the rest of his life.

  9. #9
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    Sounds like you are bonking. Take Clif gel or something similar with you when you ride. Those gels help me out a lot when I am running on empty

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by quill12 View Post
    ...but I committed myself to ride everyday hardcore, and I have since I started...
    Don't do it everyday. Take some days off. You're body needs some time to heal, recover, and get stronger.

  11. #11
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    Everything that could be said essentially has been said. Just have to give you props for getting into it and eating better.

  12. #12
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    Hi everyone, thanks for the replies.

    Rockcrusher: Stretching is a good idea, also an idea I haven't used at all! After my rest day tomorrow I will make sure I get stretching in before and during the ride.

    Jeffscott: I will go in and get my butt measured. I have the stock seat that came on my bike and it seems to be padded, but I'll have to look at what kind of options are out there.

  13. #13
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    Gasp4air: I will try your method on seat adjustment. When I was fitted at the store they didn't mention in the detail you did for seat height. I will look through the nutrition section and find out what I need to add to my shopping list for my pre-ride meal. I think I will stick to the boiled egg and tuna after, I love both of those flavors.

    Queevil: I will try the carbs.

    K.Olsen: I will look into the various gels.


    Thanks everyone for the advice and help.


    Richard

  14. #14
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    Great advice

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    Make sure you are using a low gear, keep your cadence up. Common mistake for newbies to try to push a hard gear.

    Also, how long are your rides? Nutrition and bonking isn't such a big worry unless you're going at least hour or so.

  16. #16
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    Spsoon: My first ride was 52 min. Second ride (Yesterday) was 1h 32 min . Today was 39 mins. My legs were just dead. I had to come home way earlier. I thought I could go 2 hours today.
    Last edited by quill12; 09-16-2011 at 10:11 AM.

  17. #17
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    I use the My Tracks by Google on my old school android phone. Anyone have experience on how accurate it is in terms of the Min/ Max grade during your ride?
    Last edited by quill12; 09-16-2011 at 10:12 AM.

  18. #18
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    Hydrate heavy!
    There....Are... Four...Lights!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by quill12 View Post
    Gasp4air: I will try your method on seat adjustment. When I was fitted at the store they didn't mention in the detail you did for seat height. I will look through the nutrition section and find out what I need to add to my shopping list for my pre-ride meal. I think I will stick to the boiled egg and tuna after, I love both of those flavors.
    Great! Remember, it's a starting point. Don't be afraid to tweak things til you find what works best for you. Remember also that when the trail gets rough and/or point downhill, lowering the saddle is a good idea.

    Also, while switching to carbs before the ride, eat an hour or two before, so the food isn't still in your stomach when you start pedaling. Easy to digest gels and snacks are ok during the ride.

    Good on you for working that body!
    Use it, use it, use it while you still have it.

  20. #20
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    Dude you ride too much. You have to build up to ride everyday. I know it sucks but you need to take days off. I have had the same issue before. You know you need to stay off the bike but the trail just keeps calling.

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    I agree with those that mentioned recovery.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by CHUM View Post
    all good advice above ^ (IMO)

    and just so ya know (in case you haven't figured it out)...mountain biking is really freakin' hard when you first start.

    you'll have about 2 months of 'URGH-I-SUCK' attitude....then it all starts coming together.

    stick with it!
    Thats about right...Took me around 2 months of "ride 20 minutes, stop 10 mintues" to finally get in the mojo of things. 3 years later, its a whole new world for these legs. I only ride 2 maybe 3 times week cause that all the time my wife and daughter will let me play with dirt. So hang in there, your legs will come. Then you will be on here asking why your lungs give up now...

  23. #23
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    The body doesn't get stronger while riding, it gets stronger during recovery.

    Here's how I look at it... While I'm riding (or whatever exercise/work), I'm telling my body what I expect of it. Then, I throw some raw materials (protein, carbs, etc.) at it and rest while it builds the right muscles. If I don't sit back and rest it won't happen, cause during the work phase the muscles are getting torn down.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by chilly79 View Post
    Dude you ride too much. You have to build up to ride everyday. I know it sucks but you need to take days off. I have had the same issue before. You know you need to stay off the bike but the trail just keeps calling.
    +1

    When I got my bike this summer I could barely stay off of it!

  25. #25
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    welcome to bike riding! even after years of riding you will have days when your legs just aren't into it.

    your muscles actually get stronger when resting! let them heal and they come back stronger.

  26. #26
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    Quill12 - thanks for starting this post and congrats for getting into cycling. I just got back into it after too many years of smoking and I'm twice your age with at least twice the aches and pains and probably twice the impatience but advice like these folks posted really helped me get through the first couple of months after I got back into cycling. I'm still nowhere near where I want to be but it's rewarding to see the progress I've made. Set up a routine where you are constantly challenging your comfort level but not to the point where it's not fun anymore. Log your rides so you can refer back to them to reinforce your progress. ride strong, ride long and enjoy.

    PS. One other thought ... drink gatorade or something like that instead of just water to replace some of the electrolytes, etc
    Last edited by robit; 09-17-2011 at 01:21 PM. Reason: add a suggestin

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by quill12 View Post
    I use the My Tracks by Google on my old school android phone. Anyone have experience on how accurate it is in terms of the Min/ Max grade during your ride?
    Yeah I use My Tracks... My Min/Max Grade and Elevation are all messed up. However my phone does not have a Barometric Altimiter built in so it won't be real accurate...
    Everything else works fine though...

    As for your legs killing you...
    Get some RED meat in your diet... The protein will help repair and build muscle.
    I try to ride every other day... That way my body has time to recover.
    In time you will get used to it and you'll be riding 4hr epics!
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  28. #28
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    I think you would really benefit from longer breaks as well, whenever I take new people out on trail I make sure to get in at least a few five minute breaks. It can make the guy who wants to walk back to the parking lot cruise up the hill he swore he couldn't walk 5 minutes ago.

  29. #29
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    Caution;  Merge;  Workers Ahead!

    Quote Originally Posted by quill12 View Post
    Spsoon: My first ride was 52 min. Second ride (Yesterday) was 1h 32 min . Today was 39 mins. My legs were just dead. I had to come home way earlier. I thought I could go 2 hours today.
    That's way too much for a rank beginner. You did your legs in on the 1h 32 min ride not the 39 min ride. Recovery is key!

    FYI when I started I rode about 10 mins 3 times a week. Yeah it sucked driving a 1/2 hour to ride for 10 mins but it was the right thing to do. Each week I would double it. Also I would avoid big climbs.

    Fast forward to today....a 4 hr ride complete big climbs and technical trails are typical for me. I usually don't take breaks now, other than the occasional nature call. I hydrate and snack on the go. Unfortunately it's still very hard. My legs are weak then next day and I'm tired but it feels good, and I'm down 51#'s.

    Point is....slow down enjoy the ride and recover. "Mountain biking is not a destination it's a journey"(stolen from a recent MTBR post).

    Oh one other thing...find a training partner. Makes a big difference.
    Last edited by Metalhack; 09-18-2011 at 10:36 AM.

  30. #30
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    Awesome advice from everyone.

    I did a short ride today, only a few miles but still a decent workout. The mailbox is about 2 miles round trip form the house, so it works well. Some decent sand and incline also. It is nice living on dirt roads but I still want to get deeper into the local mountains.

  31. #31
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    I feel your pain, literally. I was once a pretty hardcore MTB'r, but I had about 6 years off from serious riding. I'm now getting back into it (with a new Fuel EX ) and my legs have been screaming. I know it's only a matter of time before it gets better.
    Everyone here is giving some great advice, though I would like to add one thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by quill12 View Post
    I have had no beer or sodas, and have only one powerade zero and a large ice water on my ride. I drink water all day long.
    A post-ride beer or two can actually be beneficial. In addition to the alcohol easing your aches, it can help your body retain water better. It also helps replace lost carbohydrates and calories. Obviously you don't want to overdo it, but one or two is just fine.

  32. #32
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    So the alcohol won't undo the good eating I have been doing? That is good.

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  34. #34
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    Nevermind good for the body, it's good for the soul.

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    Quote Originally Posted by K. Olsen View Post
    Sounds like you are bonking. Take Clif gel or something similar with you when you ride. Those gels help me out a lot when I am running on empty
    the OP didn't say how long he was going for, but if i had to guess...being a beginner in the mountain biking sense and physical sense, it's not too much over an hour. and in that case, i don't think gels or sugary stuff is worthwhile.

    you'll have plenty of carbs stored away in your system to go for a pretty long time. no need to add more. feeling tired and needing to rest is just part of the process and part of what it takes to get fit and stay fit.

    i've been riding for years and can still make my legs burn like crazy and have my body be screaming at me to stop and take a breather....which i do occasionally, or i tell it to shut the hell up and keep going. one of the first long rides i did years ago, i was so tired near the end i literally stopped and fell asleep in a field for an hour on the side of the road about 3 miles from my house. i was young and lifted weighs and played basketball....but wasn't fit enough to pedal a bicycle for 6 hours.

    point is....it's okay to stress your body. that's how you adapt. but you also need adequate rest so your body has time to rebuild the muscle you broke down.

  36. #36
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    Nomit: Before I go riding, I now eat 2 pieces of whole wheat /flax bread with peanut butter and banana on it. When I get back, I will eat one boiled egg and a can of tuna with olive oil mayo and no relish in it.

    I hear you are supposed to eat this 2 hours before your ride so it is out of the stomach. So I try to stick by that.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gasp4Air View Post
    A few comments.

    Eat protein after you ride, not before. The protein will aid muscle recovery and rebuilding. Prior to riding eat complex carbs. These make glucose available to your muscles during the ride. Energy gels right before and during the ride can supply these during the ride.
    Never knew this. Have the same issue as the OP. Thanks for the advice

  38. #38
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    Since you're just starting out, you definitely need to give your body/legs a break to let it fully recover before going on another ride. I've been riding on and off for a good 15 years, and I was off a bike for 4 years and just recently got back into riding again.

    I remembered I did a pretty long ride the first day..... then I went back out riding again the day after and my legs just didn't "work" anymore. Note that I go to the gym everyday and I'm quite in shape too. I ended up having to take a 4-5 day break before I felt fully recovered to do a full ride.

    Gradually ease into it, and eventually you'll be able to ride a lot longer/faster with shorter recovery time needed.

  39. #39
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    Great tips -
    I've been suffering the same problems, I wasn't aware of how the muscles work, thanks!!!

  40. #40
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    Make sure your seat is up enough... You want your legs to be almost straight out in the bottom of a pedal stroke without having to wiggle your hips to reach the pedals.

    Spend some time on this.

  41. #41
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    Lot of good stuff in here...

    Another way to help is to update your ride!! Welcome to the expensive world of mountain biking.

  42. #42
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    For rides under an hour I wouldn't eat any different (or more) than your regular meals and I wouldn't worry about any snacks or gels for during the ride. The comments on carbs before and protein after is good and something to keep in mind for the longer rides. A little protien after an hour ride would be good and help with recovery and building. 2hour + rides need refueling during the ride and more protien afterwards.

    Days off like many have said is the biggest thing. I ride with guys that have ridden for 20+ years. They all take 1 day or maybe 2 days off each week. Then about every 3 months will take a 4 day stretch off.

    No matter how long you have been riding, your legs will be tired. As your conditioning improves you just go faster and farther, to get the same burn.

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    i know stretching has been said, but i just want to emphasize it. when i started i would have a terrible burning when i would be climbing, but a couple minutes of a break, and iwould be good to go. i would end up stopping at the top of every hill practically.

    i started stretching a bit before i walk out my door, and then a good stretch at the trailhead, and usually after the first climb i will stretch my legs out a bit more, with focusing on my hamstrings all of those times. it takes a while for me to get them feeling completely right, but once they are loose it is so much more pleasant to be riding around.

  44. #44
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    If you have to haul a geared drivetrain up a hill anyway, use it to your advantage.

    I was on a road ride on a loaner bike on Sunday. The guy who lent it to me likes tall gears, so it had a 53/39 crank and a 13-21t cassette, or something along those lines. I usually spin up most of a road climb, and only get out of the saddle for the hard bits or to really make my point on the way over the top. Having to get out of the saddle for most of each climb was hard! By the end of the ride, my legs were zapped. I could still get out front and make the pace on the flats, but I had to do the climbs relatively slowly.

    The point being, spin your cranks as fast as you can without bouncing all over the place. The lowest useful gear, for any given speed, is the most efficient. Or the second most efficient anyway - sometimes people can still use one gear lower than their best. Work on a fast spin, though, without a sense of distinct efforts on each pedal stroke.

    And take rest days. Like a lot of people have said. You can go riding if you want. Just ride easy. A day off the bike once a week is still good.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  45. #45
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    Great reading!, thanks again guys...

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    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocop View Post
    Just keep riding. You don't have to do more each and every time out. Take a day off to let your muscles heal and recover.
    I had the same feeling a week into my rides. I went heavy on the protein and just kept riding. It went away after about a week and it has never returned. In fact i can ride all day and not feel a sore muscle the next day.

  47. #47
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    Richard, I just started riding MTB's in June this year. I am 6'3, and was 262 when I started, but am now down to 246, with plans to stop around 220. I'm also a lot older than you, so you can do this too. You will lose the weight if you combine the riding with eating better. Lots of good advice above. Eat Carbs before a long ride, not protiens. Hydrate BEFORE you get thirsty. As many have mentioned, take a day off! I just got back in town from riding the Cannell Plunge with extra mileage, and rode 33.5 miles of Mountain in one day. It was BRUTAL. Usually, I do not get sore from long rides here in So-Cal, but this ride was extreme, so I feel your pain in the legs so to speak. I did not ride yesterday as we traveled home from kernville, nor today, so I took two days in a row as my calves and quads are pretty sore from this ride, not to mention I am beat up from a fall on the Plunge.

    Do not stress over taking a day or even two in a row totally off. Your muscle needs to recover! Get plenty of sleep too. Be careful not to overdue your rides, as you are a big guy, and you need to build up your cardio while taking care of your heart. Be safe, listen to your body, and make slow steady increases in your rides combined with eating lean protiens and complex carbs. And you should be drinking lots of water. Gatorage is only needed after an hour or so into a long ride, not for short one hr rides. On this trip, I consumed 4-5 liters of water, and 2 liters of Gatorade. When you ride for 10 hours you simply must to do this. Perhaps we can ride sometime as I also ride up Blue Ridge near Wrightwood all the time. Good job on your riding!!!

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by quill12 View Post
    I use the My Tracks by Google on my old school android phone. Anyone have experience on how accurate it is in terms of the Min/ Max grade during your ride?

    I've used it for hiking quite a bit, and it has been pretty accurate. I've climbed a few mountains in north GA and the elevation change was very accurate.

    To add to what someone said above, eat a few carbs prior to riding, not protein. Eat some granola or oatmeal about 20-30 minutes prior to climbing on your bike, and eat the boiled eggs and tuna after you get back. That way, the carbs boost your energy and the protein is stored for muscle growth after your workout.

    Try changing up the cadence regularly. That not only allows you some easier peddling, but it changes your muscle use from fast twitch to slow twitch, which will exponentially increase your endurance over time. I'm newer to mountain biking, but the same goes for hiking or any other activity. Change your muscle use regularly to make you more efficient no matter what the terrain.

    Good luck, and congratulations on taking care of yourself. Getting started is the hardest thing to do. We're only given one body and one life. Congrats on taking care of yours.

  49. #49
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    whats helped me in a huge way is a energy gel, right b4 riding

  50. #50
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    All great tips as I am just starting out. I am actually starting out by jumping right into the traffic and just started riding to work (12 miles each way). I am dead exhausted at the end of the day but my co-workers who also ride to work say it just gets easier. They not only ride to work...but when they get home they switch bikes and ride trails for an hour or so. That is what I wish to do fairly soon.

  51. #51
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    Welcome to the sport! It's nice to see your from the High Desert, I'm in Hesperia, where are you from?

    All that aside, just keep at it man! I was once at 6'2" 280 pounds and now I'm down to 240, and that was just in a matter of 6 months or so. When I first started exercising I was doing an hour on the elliptical at the gym. I had a very difficult time doing not quite 5 miles (the first week I averaged 4.7 miles) but after a few weeks going every single day I was able to work up to doing 8 miles on the elliptical in one hour! Diet is very important but understanding it's not going to happen overnight is even more important cause if you get discouraged then it makes it hard to push yourself to go farther, faster. Lean protein, low fats, and lots and lots of water will make you lose weight faster and strengthen muscles. And less weight and more strength turns into easier climbs and less exhaustion on your rides!

    We'll have to get together sometime and hit the trails.

  52. #52
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    Really good information here, especially for a newbie like myself.

    I'm debating whether to jump into riding tomorrow by riding home from work in the afternoon, mostly all downhill on a trail for about 10 miles. Not sure if I'd be biting off more than I can chew. I'm not way out of shape but I'm out of shape.

  53. #53
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    Do it.

    Just go at your own pace. The great thing about cycling is that if you need to take a break, you're already sitting on your butt.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  54. #54
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    My first ride in several years was a 20 something mile ride on a 10 yo walmart bike. Now its like cutting through butter.

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