Kip asked me this question on my blog, and so I thought I'd share my reply with a larger audience. This is a good question, worth some discussion, as there is no single answer.
Since I’m new to biking…I need some advice from someone experienced. I’m trying to hit around 20+ miles on the stationary bike most days that I have time. Is that a “normal” distance? What would consider a long ride? I know these terms vary quite a bit…if someone would ask me these questions about running I would have several answers…Just answer them for yourself. My legs are feeling pretty good with the biking…my quads do seem tired most days now, but I plan on resting them when I start running again. Thanks.
My answer would be that 20miles is what I would consider a short distance. Really, for me, anything less that 20miles doesn't feel like training, it is more like commuting, casual or fun riding.
Why is this my answer... well, for me, my long distance race pace is between 18.5-20mph. By long distance I mean over 50miles. And by race pace, I mean all out racing. For shorter distances I would want my race pace to be more like 21-22mph. My endurance pace (when I'm fit) would be more like 17.5mph or so. My sense from looking at splits at local races is that these speeds are certainly fast for the average age grouper, probably top 20%-10%.
So... if I look at these times, speeds, and back them out to distances traveled for an hour or 90 minutes of effort, then I'd say, I'd want to ride about 20 miles for a shorter hard effort.
Now mind you... my race of choice is long distance... and so really I don't feel like I'm getting much value out of less than about an hour of training. Even if I was going to do a speed session, I'd want to work that speed session to be at least 45mins of effort... I think this applies to running or cycling.
I'm curious what other people consider an average distance per cycling session.