Recovery Rides: How To Cycle For Recovery

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Blasting out intense rides is all well and good, but you need to mix up your routine with recovery rides too. During your rest periods and sleep, your body will repair and make gains. 

Remember that you can still go for a ride without chasing PBs!

If you’re finding that your legs take time to feel good during a ride, you may need to dial it back and go on a couple of recovery rides.

Recovery rides are easy to do and – when done right – they can speed you up on your more intense rides. However, you need to do your recovery rides properly, or you can end up riding slower and inhibiting your recovery.

In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • What Are Recovery Rides?
  • Why Are Recovery Rides Important?
  • When Should You Go For A Recovery Ride?
  • How Long Should A Recovery Ride Be?
  • 7 Ways To Perfect Your Recovery Rides

Ready to learn about the benefits of taking it easy?

Let’s dive in!

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What Are Recovery Rides?

Recovery rides are rides dedicated to taking it easy and just spinning your legs to get the blood flowing. Increasing your blood flow will go a long way to help you recover more quickly.

If you’ve been riding intensely for a few days, you probably feel shattered and might not be too enthusiastic about going for another ride.

You might feel pretty rubbish at the start of a recovery ride, but you’ll feel great by the end once your muscles have had the boost they require!

Why Are Recovery Rides Important?

If you are training hard or racing regularly, you need to incorporate recovery into your workout plan. The hard work you put in while training creates micro-tears in your muscle tissue, which is what you need to become stronger.

Your workouts also deplete your body’s fuel stores while stressing your metabolism above its usual level. During your recovery time, your body repairs itself and becomes stronger so it can do more and work even harder next time.

Therefore, if you don’t add recovery into your schedule, you don’t maximize the benefit from all the hard work you’ve put in.

When you feel like you need to recover, you may think that sitting in front of the TV with your feet up is the best thing to do. There is a time for this, but the problem with sitting down is that it doesn’t get your blood pumping.

Recovery ride cycling will get your blood pumping and loosen up your muscles. Your muscles start to tighten if you don’t stretch them or use them properly.

Recovery rides also prevent your legs from feeling stale the day after a big ride. This is because your body stays in motion while it is resting.

Another benefit of recovery rides is that you can continue riding but without increased strain, which can lead to injury if you are not careful.

Recovery Rides

When You Should Go For A Recovery Ride

You should go on recovery rides once or twice a week, but this depends on how much riding and training you are doing.

Recovery ride cycling should follow two to three days of more intense rides. If you only do one hard ride per week, try to do a recovery ride the following day.

If you do a long ride and find it challenging, slow down to a recovery pace. This is much better than turning around and heading home, as you can turn your ride into a recovery ride or a great zone 2 training session.

How Long Should A Recovery Ride Be?

Your recovery rides should feel pretty easy; in fact, they should feel effortless if you do them right. 

To make sure your recovery rides are spot on, pick the flattest route you can.

You should also keep your ride short, so don’t grind away for hours. Keep them to a maximum of 90 minutes. However, 30 to 45 minutes is usually enough for most people.

Your recovery rides should also be at low intensity. On a scale of 1 to 10, keep it down to a 1 or 2. This should keep your heart rate at around 60 to 65% of its maximum and your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) at about 50%.

When you get back from your recovery rides, your legs will feel fresher and lighter.

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7 Ways To Perfect Your Recovery Rides

#1: Ride Alone

The problem with riding in a group is that you will always try to go faster to keep up or get in front. Therefore, you should head out on your own during recovery rides.

Solo riding is also great for clearing your mind and riding without any pressure. You can stick to your own pace and stay focussed on your recovery. But if you really don’t want to go riding on your own, there are a couple of ways to ride with company.

For example, use the opportunity to ride with your kids or to introduce someone new to cycling. During these times, you won’t be riding hard and fast, as you’ll be giving them tips and enjoying spending time with them and sharing your knowledge.

#2: Record Your Rides

Recovery rides are short and not very dramatic, so you may think that recording them on Strava is a bit pointless.

But in reality, it doesn’t matter; you can label your recovery rides as “Saturday Morning Recovery Ride” or “Just A Little Spin To Keep The Legs Working.” This way, you will be able to keep your Strava data up to date while taking it easy. There is no need to be embarrassed by small efforts; many people record their daily dog walks on Strava!

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#3: Ride A Different Bike

If you have a dusty old retro bike or even a BMX in the garage, why not pump up the tires and lube up the chain for your recovery rides? The great thing about these bikes is that they don’t encourage you to speed up, so you can focus on the slower pace your legs require.

#4: Leave Your Yellow Jersey In The Wardrobe

Opt for more casual clothing instead of going full lycra with your favorite jersey or cycling club outfit. This will remind you that you are intentionally going out with a slower pace in mind.

Leaving your aerodynamic cycling clothes at home will encourage you to go for a leisurely ride around the park rather than reenacting the Tour de France or squeezing in some interval training while you’re out.

#5: Monitor Your Ride

Many cyclists have power meters or heart rate monitors to monitor their performance. They often don’t use them for recovery rides, as they think there is no point.

In fact, the opposite is true, as recovery rides are the perfect time to use them. The real-time data your gadgets produce will let you know if you are overdoing it during your recovery rides.

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#6: Don’t Ride Your Bike

Just because you are a cyclist, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do other things to recover. Sometimes you don’t feel like riding your bike, or the weather is terrible, so why not do something else?

Recovery rides can be substituted for a few leisurely laps of the swimming pool, a gentle yoga session, a dog walk, or an easy run.

These low-intensity cross-training activities will do a similar job to a recovery ride. The break may also do you good and fire your enthusiasm for getting back on the bike in the coming days.

#7: Ride A Stationary Bike

Riding indoors may be preferable to heading back outside for many reasons. Poor weather, lack of time, or a broken bike, to name but a few!

There are many different types of exercise bikes, and you can also set your bike up on a turbo trainer. These are ideal for intense workouts, but they are an excellent option for recovery rides.

Set up a laptop, tablet, or TV in front of your stationary bike and gently pedal while catching up on your favorite show. Doing this is an excellent form of recovery ride cycling while taking your mind off it.

How To Make A Bike Stationary

Now You Know All ABout Recovery Rides

Combining your recovery rides with a good diet and plenty of sleep can speed up your recovery time and improve your cycling performance. The extra blood flow delivers nutrients to your muscles while flushing out any metabolic waste.

These easy rides often clear your mind and help to keep your training on track, stopping you from losing momentum on down days.

Found this article useful? Learn more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Tom is an experienced freelance cycling journalist and mountain biking expert who competed nationally in the junior ranks. Now based in the world-famous mountain biking destination of Morzine in the French Alps, Tom spends his summers shredding off-road trails by bike and his winters on the same mountains on a snowboard.

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