Recovery Starts On The Bike
The recovery process actually begins while you're still out cycling. If you are struggling during your ride due to running out of energy, then in turn it will take you longer to recover. It's absolutely crucial to take breaks while cycling AND ensure you bring plenty of water, electrolytes, and high energy snacks.
Hydration starts two days before any ride, it's best to start preparation early. And even if you try to stay hydrated while riding, you will still lose more fluid than you have consumed. If you are going on a ride longer than an hour it's important to drink around 1 bottle an hour and eat one snack per hour. However, this won't help if you are dehydrated to begin with.
The jury is out on this one, but I put it in the same category as massage. Stretching for some is a great way to feel loose and prevent injuries after a ride. If you've just finished a ride through the rain and are soaked to the skin and cold, take a shower before stretching, as it's important to be warm to reap the full benefits. If you stretch every ride you'll find the next day you'll have less muscle soreness and an increase in range of motion.
As stated earlier, massage is also an excellent way to promote recovery. Some people opt to do at home massages, with rollers and other equipment. This method is absolutely find, however, there is one major guideline. The MOST important thing is to do it for enough time, minimum 15 minutes!
Active VS Passive Recovery
Passive recovery is the lazy man's recovery. It involves putting your feet up and taking a day off. However, this is not the best way to recover. Active recovery is the process of doing some light exercise the day after a ride, for example a slow bike ride at a low heart beat/wattage. The important thing to remember with active recovery is that you're not taking part in an endurance test.
Cleaning Your Bike
It's important to remember that it isn't just you who needs post ride recovery, your bike does too! Take 15-30 minutes once or twice a week to give your bike a thorough clean. You will be happy in the long run!