How Often Should You Take Breaks While Cycling: We asked you


If you are anything like me, a Saturday out cycling is filled with more than one stop at a tea shop or cafe. But when out on a ride, how far you should actually be cycling before taking a break?

In general, cyclists who take a break will do so every 30 miles that they ride. However, not all cyclists will take their breaks this routinely, with some taking breaks each time they get tired, and others not taking a break at all. Some cyclists prefer to plan their breaks on how long they have been cycling rather than how far they have cycled, in this case, the most common time for a break is every 2 hours. The main factors that impact how often cyclists take a break are the route they are cycling, how fast they are cycling, and the level of their experience.

While taking a break from cycling every 30 miles is the most common way of planning breaks, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Throughout the rest of the article, we’ll take a look at the other most popular ways of planning the pattern of your cycling breaks, as well as the factors you need to take into account when deciding which is right for you!

How often should you rest while on a long ride?

When it comes to cycling, I take a break every two or three hours. But I know as well as anyone that personal experience in cycling only takes you so far. To find out more about how often people take breaks when cycling I asked a large group of cyclists.

As you can see, the majority of cyclists we spoke to took a break every 30 miles when cycling. None of the cyclists we spoke to took a break if their ride was less than 30 miles unless they were taking a break when they were tired.

Not all cyclists base their breaks on how far they have cycled, instead, some of the riders we asked based their rests on the time they had been cycling. This break schedule is better suited to certain types of cycling routes, particularly ones with sharp inclines or rough terrain where you might only travel 5 miles in an hour of tough cycling.

Another group that use time spent riding to plan their cycling breaks was beginner cyclists. Beginners often felt more confident planning a trip with the set goals of cycling for one or two hours rather than a set distance before they could take a break.

What factors impact how often you should take a break when cycling?

Personal

As you can see from the poll, one of the main factors that impact how many breaks you take when cycling is people’s personal preference. People tend to fall onto two different sides of the spectrum.

Some people will suggest taking regular breaks, I’ve had people tell me that “sitting in an office chair for hours isn’t good for you, so why would you sit on a bike for that long”.

On the other hand, you have some people who would much rather push on and finish their cycle.

The route

The route you are cycling will also play a part in how many stops you make on your journey.

If your planned route has lots of hills, you’ll be taking a lot more breaks at the top of all your steep climbs.

It’s not just the ascents that make a difference in how many stops you will make. The length of your ride is also an important factor. The longer your route the more breaks people are likely to take.

Finally, the locations you pass on your route will make a difference, cycling is as much for fun as it is for sport! Stop for coffee, a beer, or lunch if you see somewhere that takes your eye!

Weather

The weather plays a large role in how often you will be taking a break!

On warmer days, you will be more likely to take a break for a drink or to grab a breather in the shade.

On the other hand, if riding in cold weather you should try and take fewer breaks. When it was colder, it will take less time for your muscles to “cool down”, and you have more chance of an injury immediately after taking a break if you don’t warm up again properly.

Riding experience

Riding ability and experience also will play a part.

You will have to take fewer breaks if you are able to eat and drink while you are cycling. You need to have a snack at least every 45 mins to avoid running out of energy while you ride.

Obviously, if you have to pull over and take a break each time you want to eat, you’re going to be taking more breaks.

Fitness will also play an impact in how often you take a break. The less fit you are the more breaks you will need to take.

Pace

This one is a simple one, riding faster means more breaks. If you are doing interval training with short sprints, you won’t be able to last as long as you do if you are doing a long slow cycle.

The type of cycling

Certain types of cycling lend themselves to specific ways of planning your breaks, specifically bikepacking, bicycle touring, and bike races.

Touring & Bikepacking

Typically in bike touring or bikepacking you will take breaks more frequently than in other types of riding.

This is because bikepacking and touring are more aimed at “the journey” rather than the destination. In these types of rides, people will travel at a slower pace and take a lot more breaks

The number of breaks you take when bikepacking will also based on the terrain you are cycling on. Bikepacking is a very varied hobby, some people cycle on roads and fire tracks whereas others will be cycling on mountain bike single track.

Racing

If you are in a racing event, the number of breaks you take will also be different. Which type of event you are in will also make a difference.

Some events are scored on your “total elapsed time”. In these events, you will want to try and take fewer breaks. This is because any time you spend breaking counts towards your total time.

For other types of races, only a portion of the course will actually be timed (for example some races will only time you during the climbs). Apart from these specific sections, as long as you finish before the course cut-off time, then you can take as many breaks as you want. And in fact, you’ll likely want to add in more breaks so you can be at your peak for the timed sections.

Some events will even force you to have some breaks by having you check in at certain points.

How long should your breaks on a bike ride be?

There are three main categories that cycling breaks will fall into.

Extended breaks

Extended breaks are those lasting more than 15 minutes. This is the type of break you will have when you are stopping for lunch or coffee.

When you are taking a break for longer than 15 minutes you will want to make sure you warm up again before you start. Breaks this long give your muscles a chance to cool down and you are most prone to accidents in the first 30 minutesof cycling after taking a break.

Short breaks (Shorter than 15 minutes)

This will be the most common type of break the general cyclist will take.

oftnbe planned midway through a longer cycle, this is the type of stop where you can pop to the toilet, have a drink, stretch out and fill up your water bottle.

Make sure to keep these types of stops short to ensure your muscle don’t cool down too much or you become stiff.

Rolling stops

This is a common way more experienced cyclists may take a break. Letting themselves roll on a large descent or pedaling in very low gear is a good way to grab a drink or snack without having to make a proper stop.

What happens if I cycle too much without a break?

While taking a break on a long cycle isn’t necessary, if you cycle for too long, particularly when you are tired or worn out, it can cause a few problems.

Firstly, the longer you cycle without a break the more at risk of injury you are. Cycling, when tired or in need of a break, makes you more prone to accidents which can result in you hurting yourself, but you are also more prone to pulling a muscle even if you don’t all off! Not only are you at risk of physical injury but pushing yourself too hard can lead to mental fatigue which can lead you to “hit the wall”.

The other issue with pushing yourself too far is that you may ruin your nutrition. If you push too far and end up binge eating some carbohydrates, you can feel very sluggish and it can hamper any more riding you do afterward.

Overall

As you can see, taking a break while out on a cycle is a very variable choice. Some people will take a break every hour and others will not take a break on a 100-mile bike ride!

What matters is listening to your body and making sure to take enough time on your cycle to remember why cycling is fun!

Mark Holmes

30-year-old doctor with an interest in cycling, bikepacking, and statistics.

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