Tips for self-supported, long-distance bike rides

When I first started bike riding as an adult, it was with friends, a few coworkers, and family members on long-distance weekend rallies such as the Collin Classic, and Hotter’n Hell 100. I enjoyed spending the day with friends and family and seeing the countryside of rural Texas. I would studiously watch the Bicycle Stuff calendar and plan the summer of rides. These events were great motivation for me to put in the miles during the week and conquer longer and longer distances.

Wild Ride

After awhile, though, I got tired of paying the fees, putting my bike on a car, driving lots of miles to a start location, and then riding with folks with dubious road handling skills. As I became familiar with CyclingSavvy techniques, my eyes were opened even further to how poor most folks bike handling and traffic skills really are. Since CyclingSavvy gave me the skills to ride comfortably in the city, I started exploring urban Dallas with small groups of friends–rolling straight from my door. Instead of spending money on rally fees and yet another t-shirt, I can buy coffee and snacks wherever I want, and I can make the route as long or as short as I want.

Country Ride

That’s why I’m excited about the Greater Dallas 100 ride. This is a self-supported, self-organized, free ride with only two fixed bits of information: May 18 & Beltline Road. You can pick the direction, length, start time, stop time, break times, etc. The entire loop of Beltline Road is 100 miles, but you can pick any segment you want. But that may be intimidating to some folks who enjoy the mass start and organized break stops of typical summer rallies.

To ease your concerns, here’s some tips for enjoying this ride (and, really, any self-supported ride):

  • Make sure your bike is in good shape.
  • Eat well the night before & have a solid breakfast.
  • Go to the bathroom before you start. 🙂
  • Have a complete emergency kit (CO2 cartridge(s), inflator, spare tube(s), multi-tool). Don’t know how to use a CO2 cartridge? Read this great little guide.
  • Bring some cash, a credit card, your insurance card, and your drivers license.
  • Put a couple quarters in your emergency kit and write down a few phone numbers of friends/family who can help in a pinch.
  • Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. I do not recommend using your phone for GPS tracking because it’s better to have an available charge to look at maps or call for help.
  • Bring your cell phone. I usually pack mine in a little zip lock bag along with my wallet in a back pocket.
  • Pack a few of your favorite energy boosters like gel packs, honey, etc.
    • If you’re feeling adventurous, my buddy Clifford recommended “Feed Zone Portables” to me and I’ve found the recipes to be pretty amazing.
  • Make sure to drink water while riding and know when you need to refill. Don’t let your bottles or Camelbak go dry. I did that once and got stuck too far away from any gas station!
  • Use gas stations and coffee shops as your break stops. There’s LOTS of them and you can buy some water or energy drinks and use the rest room. I’ve put together a map for Greater Dallas 100 with some popular chains along the route.
  • Spend a little time looking at the route on Google Maps. Print out a cue sheet if you need a reference. (I usually print two.. one for taping on to my handle bars, and one to stuff into my saddle bag.)
  • If it’s deep into the heat of summer, get out early and know how long it will take to get home. Might also want some sunblock.
  • Remember that the Dallas light rail system can be a handy way to get back closer to home.

If you’ve never done a self-supported ride like this before, get out and try it with a few friends! Just pick a destination like a coffee shop or brewery and roll. Don’t be hard on yourself if you have to call a friend for support. A few weeks ago I had to call Daniel because I forgot an inflator for my CO2 cartridge. Whoops.

If you don’t have anyone to ride with on the Greater Dallas 100, Mike Keel is organizing a group to leave the Richardson Square Mall at 7am. This is a great way to get to meet folks and enjoy this unique event together. Details for that roll-out are posted here.

Greater Dallas 100

As I mentioned above, I’ve put together a map of the route with all the DART train stations, bike shops, Starbucks, QTs, 7-11s, and Racetracs marked. I’m happy to add any other items to this map if anyone has suggestions. Check the map out here.

Besides logistics questions, you may be concerned about riding on some sections of Beltline Road. This is where skills from CyclingSavvy are especially useful. Since Beltline is a multi-lane road with some higher speed sections, you want to be sure to always ride in a way that makes you most visible to motorists, and to help them make good passing decisions. There’s tons of great information about that in this post on Commute Orlando: Helping Motorists with Lane Positioning. Essentially: ride like you would a motorcycle.

Change Lanes to Pass


Do you have any tips for riding self-supported? Will you be riding the Greater Dallas 100?


  1. If you live in a hilly region, you might need a different gear set than the one you use for local trips. You need lower gears to keep moving for long periods and to carry the weight of all the extra gear. Also, if something starts hurting, STOP riding. Don’t try to push through it. I learned both of these lessons the hard way when I injured my knees and couldn’t walk for a month..

  2. cyclifist (Todd)

    April 25, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Great list of tips, Eliot. Hopefully, I’ll get around to adapting it for the Chicagoland 5 County 5 Quarter Century Challenge Ride I am promoting on facebook.

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