Tips for Recovery After Cycle Ride


(advanced recovery position)

When we are training hard, we are stretching the muscles. Improvement comes when we allow the muscles to recover and grow stronger. Recovery is equally as important as the stress of training.

After a particularly hard cycle ride, it’s tempting to shower, sit on the couch and stuff the closest and most convenient food down yourself. This unscientific approach to recovery is pretty easy to follow, but what are the best ways to aid recovery?

10 Tips to Aid Recovery

  1. 10-15, mins of easy pedalling. After a long race, it is good to warm down. ‘Spinning the legs’ helps to remove lactic acid. Avoid temptation to start sprinting when close to the finish. Psychologically, spinning legs helps to signal the end of the ride. I’m always surprised how many people finish a race, ride one mile back to the car and climb off straight away.
  2. Cool Down or Keep Warm. After a long ride and big exertion, the body loses the capacity to self-regulate it’s normal temperature. In cold conditions, you can find yourself quickly cooling down which can harm your muscles and make your more prone to illness.
    On hot days, you will need to do the opposite and cool down. Stay out of the direct sun, and try and cool down. (taking plenty of cool drinks)
  3. Rehydrate. Many athletes underestimate the amount of water needed to rehydrate. I know I’ve done it myself. When you’re exhausted, it can actually be hard work to keep drinking more than usual. If you weigh yourself after a ride, you could see that can easily lose 1-2Kgs – that’s 1-2 Kgs lost in water, and shows you need to drink much more than usual. The thing to bear in mind is that when dehydrated, you may not actually feel as thirsty as you might imagine.
  4. Replace Water and Lost electrolytes. After a particularly hot ride, you will want to include some electrolytes, (salt) in the water that you drink. On particularly hot days, an electrolyte recovery drink is good. I don’t take recovery drinks after every-ride. Mainly after very long hot rides.
  5. Have attractive drinks ready. It is important that you make it as easy as possible to drink. I have 1.5 litre bottles of Evian I carry around after a ride. It sounds silly, but if I have a small cup, I drink less because I can’t be bothered to go to the tap. But, a 1.5 litre bottle is easy to drink. I also have some cool Sparkling Pellegrino mineral water (this is beautiful, though the high magnesium content can cause ‘the runs’.
  6. A homeopathic doctor said one of the best recovery drinks is coconut water – very good at re balancing your body. Milk is also very good (and is often main ingredient in expensive recovery drinks.
  7. Snack immediately on Finishing. Don’t water a couple of hours for main meal of evening. Start eating something as soon as you have finished. If you don’t feel like eating, you could take liquid food – some recovery pack of carbohydrate and protein. After a really long hard ride. I find my body is more sensitive to the quality of food. I like to eat good quality, non-processed food. Perhaps some fruit, malt loaf, bread, recovery bar.
  8. Having a snack on finishing means your body can start the refueling process before you have a more substantial meal. A meal which should have a good balance of carbohydrates and proteins. I will often have some combination of rice / lentils / pasta, vegetables, soya sausages, cheese, eggs. I usually am hungry for some cake as well. If I was really disciplined I might avoid these simple sugars, but I kind of feel I deserve it after a long ride.
  9. Tip: When you drain your body through intense exercises, it is more sensitive to foods that are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ listen to these signals of what your body wants. – It’s as good as listening to a sports nutritionist.
  10. Be Prepared. The temptation is just to concentrate on finishing the ride. However, you then realise you’ve got a long drive home, and you haven’t prepared any recovery food / drinks. The reason I buy recovery bars and drinks, is that they are easy and convenient to put in kit bag and eat/ drink in the car. Otherwise, you end up stopping at a service station and vainly looking at the shelves for something healthy and suitable.

Advanced Recovery Tips


Massage helps recover after long rides. For pro-cyclists this is just part of the job. You can try self-massage remembering to massage towards the heart. This helps remove toxins in the muscles. (see: basic tips for massage)

Ice Baths

There is mixed evidence about the effectiveness of taking cold baths / ice baths after exercise. (does an ice bath speed recovery?) There is some suggestions


After a long hard ride, you need more sleep than usual. You can’t beat sleep for aiding recovery. Often I need to lie down after a long ride. Even if I don’t sleep, lying down helps recovery. After an hour’s rest, I’m less of a zombie and can actually do something useful with the rest of the day.


Upcoming post – how long recovery do you need between hard training rides?


One Response to Tips for Recovery After Cycle Ride

  1. Vignesh (India) January 28, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    Thanks Tejvan…I just completed a 300 kms Brevet as part of a Randonneuring series. this article has helped me. And yes, coconut water is the best drink to have..especially when one rides in hot conditions like we have it here in Pune(India).

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