How to Train for the 50 Mile Ride for Rwanda

How to Train for the 50 Mile Ride for Rwanda

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So you’ve decided to attempt the 50 Mile Ride.  That’s AWESOME!  And for a great cause.  Maybe this is your first time hitting a big distance, or maybe you’ve done it before and want it to hurt a little less.  Wherever you are in your cycling journey, there are a few key takeaways in this article that will help you get to your goal.  The 50 Mile Ride for Rwanda requires a combination of endurance and speed to complete.  Let’s take a detailed look at the things you should focus on when getting ready to tackle 50 miles.

  1. Spend Time on Your Mountain Bike

This may seem pretty straight forward, but many mountain bikers do a bulk of their training on a road bike or a trainer.  This is good, but riding off road with climbs, downhill sections, single track, and varied terrain requires skill that is hard to build on a road bike or a trainer.  Spending time on your mountain bike will help you develop the technical riding skills and sport specific strength that is required to pedal a mountain bike for 50 miles.

  1. Tempo Rides – Increase Your Threshold

Tempo rides are a great way to develop your threshold capacity on a mountain bike.  These rides should be challenging and the pace should feel fast but sustainable for the duration of the ride.  If you are a data geek and ride with a power or heart rate in mind, tempo rides should be pushing into zone 3.  For the rest of us, you should feel challenged and slightly uncomfortable during the ride.

Your tempo rides should be an hour long without the warm up and cool down.  You can break up the tempo sessions into 10 – 30 minute sections, followed by a slower paced spin for recovery.  So, if we are going out on a 60 min ride, you should warm up for 10 minutes then perform a 20 minute, higher intensity period.  Follow this by a 3-5 minute moving rest period where you are not pushing the pace.  Repeat this process 3 times to hit the hour long target.  Here’s and example:

10 Minute Warm Up


Repeat this 3 times:

20 Minute high intensity tempo effort

5 minute easy spin for recovery


10 Minute cool down spin

You will want to perform this type of ride once a week.

  1. Interval Rides – Short and Fast

Intervals sessions are very important for building climbing strength and pushing out your aerobic capacity (allowing you keep going at a higher heart rate and not feel as fatigued).  As we see it, there are two types of intervals that will help you conquer the 50 mile distance.

Interval efforts should be between 20 seconds and 2 minutes in duration, followed by a 1-2 minute rest period.

You will want to perform each type of ride once a week.

Hill Intervals: Find a hill that takes you 20 seconds – 2 minutes to climb at a good pace. After a 10 – 15 minute warm up, set up at the bottom of the hill and start climbing.  When you reach the top, you shuld be pretty near spent.  Turn around and ride down the hill for recovery.  If this is a short hill, make sure that you have at least 1 minute to fully recover.  Repeat this process 10 – 20 times.  Make sure to do a 10 – 15 minute cooldown ride when you are done.

Flat Intervals: Find a good, somewhat flat stretch of road or trail and start riding. Go easy for 10 – 15 minutes to warm up.  Once you are warmed up, dig in and go HARD for 20 seconds to 2 minutes.  Push hard.  When you finish that hard effort, change to an easy spin for 1 minute.  Repeat this process 10 – 20 times.  Make sure to do a 10 – 15 minute cooldown ride when you are done.

  1. Endurance Rides – Long and Slow

This shouldn’t be a surprise, but you will need to actually do some longer rides to prepare for the distance of 50 miles.  Having some experience with longer distance, the issues that may arise, how to eat, and how to hydrate will be essential for completing the 50 mile distance.

Endurance rides should be long and slow compared to tempo or interval rides.  You should start with a ride distance that is challenging for you now and work up to a distance that is 80% – 90% of the total event distance, or 40 – 45 miles with a similar amount of elevation gain.

You will want to perform this type of ride once a week.  Most people like to do these on the weekends because they take some time.

  1. Do Some Strength Training…Really

Before you accuse us of heresy in the mountain bike world, hear us out.  Strength training is important for all cyclists, especially for mountain bikers.  The bike and terrain handling involved in completing 50 miles on a mountain bike takes strong legs, core strength, strong hips, a strong lower back, and a strong upper body.  Especially your grip.  Anyone who has ridden for that long knows the grip strength struggle is real.

Having a strong body makes handling your bike easier and pedaling for that long less fatiguing.  Here is what you should do.

  1. Squat: Barbell squats help you build overall body strength, especially in the legs and lower back. Read below for a sample weekly workout.
  2. Pullups: Pullups help you hold onto your bike and control the bars on tricky sections.
  3. Bench Press: Lateral pressing motions like the bench press help with arm and shoulder fatigue while in the saddle.
  4. Core: A strong core is essential to keep driving power to the pedals on long rides.


  1. Dial in your Nutrition

Ride day nutrition is very different than day to day nutrition.  And one of the biggest challenges in the endurance world is finding the type of nutrition and supplementation plan that works for you.  Your long endurance training rides serve as the perfect testing environment to dial it in.  You will need to eat more calories and will most likely want to look into carbohydrate gels and hydration supplements.  There are several aid stations along the 50 mile route.  You should also check out the map to see where they are.  You can fill up on water and snacks there.

You need to do the due diligence on your training rides to figure out what works for you.

  1. Pre-Ride the Course

You can check out the route here, and even download maps to strava and Garmin devices that will allow you to pre-ride the course.

Sample Training Week


Hill Intervals:

30 second hill with 1:00 rest in between intervals.  Repeat 20 times.


Strength Training:

Barbell Squats:

Work up to a heavy set of 3 reps, then do 3 sets of 10 reps at a lower weight.

Back Extensions:

Do 3 sets of 10 – 15 reps

Decline Situps:

Do 3 sets of 10 – 15 reps



Tempo Ride:

10 – 15 minute warm up.

3 x 20 minute intervals.  Rest 5 minutes between intervals.

10 – 15 minute cool down.






Flat Intervals:

2 minute intervals.  Rest 1 minute between efforts.  Repeat 10 times.


Strength Training:

Bench Press:

Work up to a heavy set of 3 reps, then do 3 sets of 10 reps at a lower weight.


3 sets until failure.  If you can’t do at least 8 pullups, use the lat pull down or rowing machine instead and do 3 sets of 10 – 15 reps.


Core Circuit: Do 3 sets of this circuit

Planks x 1 minute

Crunches x 30 – 50 reps

Supermans x 20 – 40 reps

Leg Lifts x 10 – 30 reps

Rest 1 minute






Endurance Ride: Do a ride that is between 20 and 45 miles, depending on how close you are to the Rwanda Ride event date.  Make sure the ride has similar elevation gain and terrain.  Test your nutrition and hydration strategies.