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Home » Cycling » Cycling and Rest Days; Ridin’ Ain’t Runnin’, and Other Brilliant Colloquialisms on Taking Time Out of the Saddle. I’ll Taper when I’m Dead.

Cycling and Rest Days; Ridin’ Ain’t Runnin’, and Other Brilliant Colloquialisms on Taking Time Out of the Saddle. I’ll Taper when I’m Dead.

Ridin’ ain’t Runnin’, it’s plain and simple.  When I was a runner, I wasn’t cool with the whole “running every day” thing.  I never worked up to being comfortable with running two days in a row, let alone four or five days a week.  Right or wrong, I needed the recovery time.  Cycling was different though.  Without the constant jarring, I could ride and recover in less than 24 hours.  I went from running three days a week to running three days and riding five.

Then I moved away from running because I didn’t love it like I did cycling and that five days bumped to six.  I was still suffering under the delusion, fueled by “the internet” and/or “society”, that rest days were absolutely necessary for the cyclist…  The thing that chapped my butt was that pro cyclists could ride every day for three weeks at ridiculously high levels.  If they can do it dammit, don’t tell me I can’t at much slower speeds.

That reality was the impetus for experiments geared at how I could ride daily without having to spend time polishing the couch with my butt.  “The internet” wasn’t much help because it seemed everyone believed that time must be taken off, whether to “realize the benefits of the effort” or to let the body recharge.

As an ex-drunk, it shouldn’t come as a shock that I have a bit of a problem with suggestions that fit me into a mold to be stamped out as a carbon fiber copy of a fitness geek.  I wanted to ride every day, and if they can do it, dammit, you better believe I can.

So year one was two days off a week, maybe just one on occasion.  I was running still, so taking time off made sense.  Year two was one day a week off.  That went well but I had some troubles here and there.  Year three was two days a week off.  That felt good but I got itchy on that second day off – this was the year that I really went through my “don’t tell me what to do, Internet” rest rebellion.  Year four was the big change.  I went more than two months on one day of rest.  I went a month with no days off.  I rode more than 1,000 miles in that month.  No injuries, no niggles – at an average faster than most people only dream of riding at.

My trick was short active recovery rides after work with my wife.  Slow speed, high cadence, very easy on the legs, 16-20 miles at a 16-17 mph pace.  I was doing three hard rides a week (Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday) and riding with my wife the other four but we were upping the miles and the pace on Friday).

This year, because my wife has gone from a 16.5 – 17.5 mph average being a good day to 18.5, my recovery ride pace might increase just a little bit… but my wife is on the same plan.  She’s gone more than a week now without a day off.  We just worked her recovery ride schedule out the other day.  She’s only in her second year of serious cycling and she’s riding at a pace that would make a lot of guys jealous – 18.5 – 19.5 average is a good day in the saddle.

Last year my choice to limit days off last year culminated in a big four-day, 385 mile ride from Lansing, Michigan to Mackinaw City… three 100+ miles a day and 72 on the fourth at max effort all three days (19.5 avg, 19.5 avg, 19 avg, 21.5 avg.) and while I was definitely feeling it on the third day and tired on the fourth, I finished strong and with a smile on my face – and I’m doing even better this year.  I’m working on 21 days in a row now and as long as I maintain an aggressive “Active Recovery Ride” strategy, I don’t see any reason for days off.  I’ll have no problem hitting 50 days in a row.  Cycling ain’t running…  I’ll taper when I’m dead.


  1. I agree I would rather do a active recovery day than a off day. If my legs are tired from cycling and running, I just go to the pool and swim, take the family on our bikes for a 10 to 15 easy spin to ice cream shop or take the dogs on a long walk in the park 5 miles or so.

  2. Tony says:

    This is an old man complaining about speed again. I hope you and your wife are getting some weight work in or something to strengthen your bones. Biking is great cardio, but doesn’t do anything positive for bone strength. Riding at speeds you will have some possible bone-breaking falls.

    • bgddyjim says:

      We are a walking, hiking, running (though not regularly anymore), basketball playing, active family. We have nothing to worry about. As far as the possibility of a fall goes, walking out of the house in the morning carries a possibility of a bone-breaking fall. I’m young enough I’ll heal. I’ve got 30 years before I have to worry about that. I appreciate your concern though.

  3. This post made me laugh – of course if others can do it then of course I can. I understand that perfectly. Maybe can do it even better. Maybe.

  4. zoeforman says:

    Great funny insight into how we view rest days !

  5. MJ Ray says:

    Just a small note to remind you that three week races have two or three “rest days” in them, plus the riders who aren’t GC contenders or good time trialers will treat the two or the individual time trials as “easy” days too. They’re still riding, but not at quite their usual intensity.

    And closed roads – blazing through red lights and stop lines, not anticipating every plonker motorist who may fail to yield – helps add a bit to most average speeds, too!

    • bgddyjim says:

      You are absolutely right MJ and while I normally make it a point to add your second point (about closed roads) to most of my posts about average speed, I didn’t in this one.

      The rest days at the pro level are another story though. While it is deemed a rest day, most, if not all, of the pros will spend three or more hours on the trainer to “keep their legs”. In other words, their day off includes three hours on the bike.

      Thanks for commenting my friend.

  6. […] last week is, I suppose, a taper week. As Jim of Fit Recovery would say, “I’ll taper when I’m dead“. Which seems a bit hardcore for me. Plus, I’m a bit of an eejit for a plan, not least […]

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