WTH is Base Miles?
Tis the season: “We’re riding base miles today”.
There’s a good chance you aren’t. Don’t worry, I won’t go on a rant about how group rides aren’t great for improving endurance performance; you’re all on top of that by now!
What is Base Miles?
Base Miles is where you get tired from the duration of the ride as opposed to the intensity of the ride.
Ideally the ride is longer than most of your normal training rides. If you’re riding 1.5 hours during a weekly session, your weekend rides are 3 hours, or even 4 hours if you can get out for that long.
If you’re a Cat 1 or 2, you will benefit massively from 5 hour rides.
You are riding in Zone 2 (55-75% FTP) with consistent pedaling, so as to avoid coasting in Zone 1.
The effect of this pedaling creates stress on your cardiovascular and muscular system that will bring about massive benefit for your aerobic capacity. There is no substitute for long rides, and getting 2-3 of these in during a month’s time will catapult you to the next level of cycling.
If you can’t get the longer ride in, you need to bank on your consistent 2.5-3 hour weekend rides.
(Endurance Sports: There are no shortcuts!)
This workout doesn’t sound hard and it isn’t sexy, but wait until you get 60% through the ride and you really start feeling the fatigue.
This is a different tired feeling than when you go out and crush a group ride. That’s more of a neuromuscular tiredness or stress, whereas this base miles stress is simply from the duration of the ride.
I’ve been training for Tour of Southland in New Zealand, and when I go on these 5-6 hour endurance rides, it takes everything possible in the last 30 minutes to complete these when I’m not 100% fresh. I’m changing cadence, I’m sitting, then standing, all whilst trying to keep it pinned at 70-75% FTP. There will definitely be a large chunk of low tempo riding in this since your power meter will drift above and below that exact percentage, but with practice you can get close.
Below is an image of my 7% base miles ride. If you need help understanding the images, give a quick listen to this audio file that describes them.
Below is a group ride with a SHIZALOAD of coasting, and then the second half alone, building my endurance capabilities.
The group ride was fun, but really poor for training. Hey, there are trade offs in life. I don’t want you to give up the group ride for the social aspect, but I just want you to be cognizant of the effect it has on your training.
Riding in the Winter
Winter is the time to build a foundation and play the long game. There are no, or very few, races and weekend rides out of town, which leaves tons of time to WORK ON YOU.
Consider a building: it can only be build so high dependent on it’s base, amongst other things, but let’s keep the analogy simple.
If you only have a couple base rides in, when you go to stack rides with higher intensity on top (sweet spot, threshold, VO2Max), your system can only handle so much stimulus before it begins to topple.
The bigger the base, the more you can handle when the race season nears and you go through your traditionally termed BUILD Phase.
While you are building this massive skyscraper on the weekend, with the dark hours of the work week looming, this is a great time to utilize the gym. You can accomplish SO MUCH in under 1 hour.
Also, your trainer rides do not need to be more than 1 hour.
I raced the Pro/1 Tour of the Battenkill on a steady diet of 3 hours during the week and 6-10 hours on the weekend. The rides were more in the 6 hour range because it was a horrible winter.
Granted that I had a massive base from years prior, I went in with a small match book and small base and still got 3rd place! The long winter months of the northeast don’t have to kill your Spring Slaycation.
This is hard to quantify because we’re looking at the cellular level of the athlete. We talked about this earlier in 2019 in this blog.
There’s no metric in WKO4 or Xert or Golden Cheetah or whatever software you’re using to tell when you’re recruiting fast twitch fibers to ride at endurance.
These building blocks allow you to add the sprinkles of high intensity on top, where your body takes this stress and absorbs it, as opposed to just gets a beat down. Listen to the analogy in the video of what it would be like if your untrained non-cyclist friend magically could perform just ONE 1-minute effort like you can…they’d be crushed. That’s the extrapolated version of what happens when there’s no base.
These long rides create a durability in an athlete that ALLOWS you to THEN GO AFTER THE REPEATABILITY.
Building repeatability isn’t about just doing more intervals in the summer. It’s about building the base in the winter.
Watch the video below and let us know what questions you may have so that you come out CRUSHING in the spring…not only with speed, but with the ability to grow as a cyclist in terms of durability and repeatability.
When should you be working on Base Miles / Endurance Riding? 12 months out of the year.