Advice for 1st long distance ride?

I’m signed up for the Tour de Cure in Eastern NC. It’s 80 miles a day (160 total) at the end of June. I’ve got a Nimbus 29er with the Schwalbe big apple tire. I figure on averaging maybe 10 mph so I know it will be a long weekend. I’m riding everyday to get ready but would appreciate any advice. Is it possible? Has anyone else done it?

i have never dont that much…sweet jesus thats alot all i have 2 say is stay hydrated and full of quick energy carbs and protiens…and like a coupla pairs of bike shorts

I’ve done it by bicycle the past 4 years. The ride is supported by sag wagons in case I poop out, but I’d hate that to happen. The other complication is that I have diabetes and have to be careful about taking in just the right amount of carbs.

80 miles in a day is a long way. I would recommend doing it on Coker rather than 29er, but that’s just me. Overall, one our long distance tours we average more like 10km/hr including stops. So 80 miles is over 12 hours - and that’s on a Coker. That being said, it is more YOU than the equipment and just remember what Jack Hughes did on his 24" cycle a few years ago: 200 miles in 2 days, 125 miles the first day.

What length cranks are you training with? I assume 100 or 110? That’s great your’re riding everyday (I recommend more like 5-6 out of every 7). How far have you been riding? What’s your longest ride and how did it feel?

Good luck and have fun training!


80 miles on a unicycle is a serious ride, even moreso on a 29er, but it’s certainly possible. What is the terrain like? You certainly want to use 125mm or shorter cranks, and probably 110mm if it’s not too hilly.

Assuming your cardiovascular systems are in decent shape, your big challenge will be simply saddle time. Take a short break every 10 or 15 minutes to let things relax. Definitely invest in an air seat, good cycle shorts, and some sort of anti-chafing lubricant if you haven’t already.

You might be able to average 10mph while on the unicycle, but your elapsed-time average will be slower than that, so you’re probably looking at being on the road for nine or 10 hours per day. You definitely want to do some training rides with that kind of distance, just to see what becomes a problem for you; it might be your back or neck or something else.

Good luck!

Frank (hell on wheel) did the MS 150 on his 29er, so i guess 5 more miles a day is possible. You really do want to train though, if you do too much at once you can seriously damage your muscles and knees. I would also recommend doing it on a coker instead of the 29er, but I guess if thats all you have…

You will get saddle soreness and it will start to really hurt, even with bike shorts (which are a must for this trip). Most of the pain will come from saddle soreness and probably your knees if you are going up/down hills. If you will be descending a lot of hills you should look into getting a brake to save your knees some pain. Take “circulation breaks” every so often and hydrate frequently. Good luck!

Make sure your training includes a few very long rides, to get used to the conditions after your body has done a few tens of thousands of pedal turns.

When using my 29er for speed/distance, I use 102mm cranks. This leads to a very high seat, so make sure it will go high enough to keep your legs comfortably extended. But if you have the option, I would much prefer my Coker with 125s over my 29er with 102s. No contest. If you do the math you’ll fine a gigantic difference in the number of pedal revolutions.

In either case, look for a way to support some of your weight on your hands. My Coker has a handlebar setup that allows me to lean forward some and take some of the weight off, like on a bicycle. This will make a big difference for your crotch.

As always, don’t make any equipment or clothing changes at the last minute unless something breaks. Ride with what you’re used to, and good luck!

Find out what the elevation profile is for the ride, and make sure you factor that in to your training. If there are lots of hills, train on hills more than distance. I trained a ton of distance for the MS-150 last year, but too much of it was flat or small hills. Day 1 gained a vertical mile over the ride, and while I made it, Day 2 was really painful. Fortunately, it was much flatter than Day 1.

If your course is relatively flat, it’s less of an issue. But if you have hills, train bigger on the climbing, and the distance will take care of itself. (Thanks Nathan for that advice…I’ll be following it big time for the MS-150 this year.)

PS: Learn to EAT while you are riding. It is not as easy as it sounds. Getting out a clif bar, unwrapping it without losing your focus (hint, unwrap them first and put them in those little half-size ziploc bags…easier to open), then choking it down while breathing hard and maintaining cadence is a challenge. And with that kind of distance, you will HAVE to eat while riding. Practice for it! Think about a variety of foods and how to stash them on your person where you can access them easily. Protein/Carb mixes like clif bars are good, but consider some dried fruit (mangos!) and other supplements to mix things up. I never eat chocolate, but the best bar I brought last year was a 3 Musketeers. I downed that baby when I was hitting the wall into a headwind the last 10 miles, and it brought me home.

Good Luck!

Your NC route probably has similar terrain as the VA route I took. BTW, I rode on a 700c skinny road tire closer to 27", with 125 cranks (I think anything less on the hills of the tidewater region would be too short. I managed to make it up every hill, and passed some bikes doing so, but some were a challenge). Like other’s have said, train on similar terrain, I lived in Charlottesville at the time, which was just a bit more hilly than my MS-150 route.

If you want to keep up with the bikes (certainly not the fastest bikes, but at least somewhere in the middle) take really short breaks at the designated rest stops, like maybe 5 minutes at the most. A lot of the bikers take breaks as long as 30 minutes. I paced with many by being passed after one rest stop, but then leaving the next one before them, and so on. My first day I averaged just over 11 mph, the second day 9 mph (finishing third to last in front of two 60+ women).

By far the biggest trial is saddle soreness. I also remember some crazy pain in some tendons around my ankles (that might have been due to the toe-clips, which I still use, but don’t necessarily endorse). I actually didn’t feel that tired by the end, the saddle soreness pretty much consumes your being.

I do remember getting weird emotional mood swings about 3/4 into the ride, like wanting to burst into tears when I saw a dead skunk on the road, or laughing out loud at some random thought that wasn’t really funny. Not sure if that was endorphines, fatigue, or hours alone with my thoughts, probably a combination. Good luck!

Thanks for all the feedback

Many thanks for all the advice and pointers. Some good info here. For those interested:

  1. I’m doing the ride because I am diabetic and having just started unicycling since the last Tour de Cure, it feels like the right thing to do.
  2. The unicycle is the stock Nimbus 29er from UDC with 125 mm cranks and standard KH seat. I’ll take the advice to get shorter cranks, the airseat, and look into some kind of arm support. I’ll also practice eating while riding.
  3. Would have gotten the coker, but decided on the Nimbus because it’s the biggest wheel to fit in my car’s trunk and it’s easier for me around the neighborhood and town for all the times other than this long tour.
  4. Tour de Cure route goes from central NC northwards into Virginia and then loops back to the starting place. Probably rolling hills but, the organizers say it’s mildly downhill the whole way :roll_eyes:
  5. Don’t know if the ride organizers will wait for me to do a 9+ hr day, if I can even make it. Think I’ll be proud if I can do 50 miles each day, and if I go farther that will be great.

Thanks again for all the feedback. I’ll post the status of my training over the weeks leading up to the Tour.

good luck. i would do it but i don’t have nothing to do it own. maybe next year. i need a 28" ,29" or a coker(witch i want badly).

We usually deal with this problem by asking the event organisers if we can leave earlier than every one else. It can mean some pretty early morning race starts but has a couple of advantages.

  • You don’t feel as pressured when you know you have more time up your sleave, allowing you to pick your own pace that your body can handle.

  • If anything does go wrong you know that in the not too distant future people will be passing you who can help.

Usually event organisers are pretty helpful and are happy for us to leave an hour or two earlier.

Another recommendation that no one seems to have mentioned yet: see if you can persuade other unicyclists (or two wheelers) to ride with you. Long distance riding can be pyschologically demanding and it is easier to cope if you have someone riding beside you. It doesn’t have to be the same person the entire time, if you have friends who are happy to ride even part of the way with you that can help. It is especially helpful to have encouraging support for the last part of the ride where you feel like giving up.

I would stick with the 125mm cranks if the terrain is somewhat similar to the ride that Frank did.

I think that’s absolutely the right way to think about it. There was a recommendation above about limiting your breaks, etc., but if you’re really wanting to make the full ride, I’d instead try the advice about getting an earlier start time.

On the MS-150 last year, there was a hard stop at 5pm, and they’d sweep everyone not finished by then. I guess I could have tried to start early, but I really wanted to do the “Big Start”, and the team I was riding on got to go first. To me it was worth it. I started the first day hell bent on making the full 75 miles, but realized pretty quickly the only way I’d make it was to really cut short the rest stops. But I was also getting approached a lot at the rest stops…lots of bikers interested in learning more about the uni, how it worked on the downhills, etc… So I had to choose between being a uni ambassador, and being the uni guy that was in too much of a hurry to talk to people. I settled for 61 instead of 75, had a great time doing it, and still crossed the finish on my own instead of in the back of the sweeper car.

A Big Apple is Big- you’re not going to go a lot slower than a Coker as you’ll be able to pedal faster. I’d go for 110mm cranks if it’s hilly or 100mm if it’s flat. You’ll find the shorter cranks are more comfortable over long distances- there is less leg movement and hence fatigue, and also less chafing and saddle soreness from the constant bouncing up and down movements from longer cranks.

Get a reasonable sized camelbak, bring lot’s of food (make sure theres variety) and try to pace yourself. It’s not worth going really fast and then cramping or taking a 15min rest break.

Do lot’s of long distance riding so you get your eating/insulin regime figured out well beforehand (you’re a Type I diabetic right?). But you probably know that better than anyone. You definitely don’t want to bonk and run out of food (as I’ve done many times).

Good luck,


make sure you train with exactly the same equipment as you will be riding with (crank size especially) If it was that long of a ride, and mostly on the road, I would start practicing with 102’s. The thing with short cranks is not only the speed increase, but your legs move alot less, your knees bend a lot less. IF you come up to hills or something that you can’t do because your cranks are too short, use that time to get off and walk for a bit, stretch out a different muscle group at the same time. People mention taking a break ever now and again, make sure you keep walking during that break as it feels great, and you can get back on more relieved…for about a minute!

I switched to shorter cranks the day of a long ride and it was quite painful, excruciatingly so.

I also carry a tensor-bandage for each leg in my camelback, once you are 3-4 hours into a ride and the part of your quads right above the knee start locking up and becoming painful, wrapping them up makes a huge difference (the difference is going form being painful to pedal to being not painful to pedal)

I always put two bladders in my camel back (not neccesarily two full bladders) one of water, one of a sports drink, both hoses coming out and you can take your choice of drink with each sip.

I found an electolite drink (just powder you throw in some water and drink before you go) also makes a huge difference in pain-deferrance.

Sunscreen before you go, you will be outside for all day long!

MP3 with lots of tunes!


Someone mentioned “hitting the wall” and “bonking” earlier in this thread. There is a marvelous product in bike shops called Gu. It’s gotten my wife through a couple century rides on her bike. She describes it like getting “sugar injected in your veins”.

The few times I’ve tried it I’ve noticed a perciptible increase in energy that has allowed me to finish a challeging ride.

Best of luck! That sounds like a very ambitious ride.

Ditto to everything Ken says. 100mm cranks will feel awesome as long as the hills are small - otherwise use 110/114mm. Only use 125mm if there are crazy steep ones which it doesn’t sound like there are.


One more vote for the 125s being too long for a 29er. Also a vote in favor of the Big Apple tire. Yes it’s fat, but it also gives a nice, smooth ride. This matters a lot more unless you’re trying to set speed records or win races!

Be sure to practice with the foods/hydration/insulin ahead of time to find out what works for you. Some people do great with regular food, while others like the bars and gels. I actually like the Power Bar-brand Power Gel (I think that’s what it’s called). I hate Power Bars, but the gel is good stuff. Especially if you had a history of eating glue back in kindergarten. :slight_smile:

Gels and bars are not a substitute for a real meal or two along the way, they are for in between.

from experience of my first long distance ride

DON"T wear levis ‘twisted to fit’ jeans, they may say they are great to move in but thats a load of bollocks they give you major saddle sore, curse them! i vowed never to wear jeans again and i havn’t since :stuck_out_tongue: