Joe Grubbs was not a bike rider. Although he ran, hiked, and occasionally hit the gym, the 35-year-old didn't even own a bike. But when Grubbs promised his brother they would do the two-day, 160km Bike MS Coastal Challenge together in October 2015, he suddenly became an expert in how a newbie bike rider can prepare for his first long-distance cycling event.

By the time he was done pedalling from Los Angeles to Ventura and back in a heat wave, he had gained key insights that he could put to use on his new job: Manager of Bike MS for the Southern California and Nevada chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

MS rides are popular entry points to cycling for beginners like Grubbs. And in Australia there are rides such as the MS Sydney to the Gong and the Brissie to the Bay - which this year also introduced a 160km course for the committed fundraising cyclist.

To help rookies handle the rigours of a long ride such as that, we talked with a panel of experts who have participated. Here's what they said:


The goal: Build up to a long ride. “If you gradually work up to a three-hour ride, that means you can do four, five, or six hours,” says Dean Phillips, a bike shop owner and 2015-2016 World Masters Pursuit champion. Phillips' sister, Marleigh Phillips Brown, stopped the progression of her MS with drugs developed in part by the rides’ funding. Many MS ride vets advise targeting 70 to 75 per cent of the event’s distance. The methodical three or four-month buildup will get your legs in shape, help dial in a diet, and accommodate body, butt, and hands to cycling’s odd leaned-forward position.

Grubbs started with a 16km loop in a nearby park and grew it to 20, 30, 45, topping out at 75km, which was 75 percent of his event’s longest day of 100km. (If you're working toward a 160km ride, aim for going at least 120km in training.)

If you’ve never been on a bike, immerse yourself says Ed Korb, a Bosch e-bike brand ambassador and cycling instructor at the Southern California REI Outdoor School. Besides training rides, go to spin class, mountain bike with your neighbour, ride a beach cruiser. Whatever helps get you used to riding.