Preparing for a cycling event this summer
Spring has arrived and with the warmer weather comes more opportunities to get out and ride. Over the summer, there are many organised rides that are deigned to take the hassle out of tacking a new distance – routes, food and mechanical support are often sorted, so you just need to get on and ride the miles.
If you’d like to challenge yourself to riding a new distance this summer, entering an event is a great motivational tool to get you outside and preparing.
An organised, mass participation ride that takes place on the road is called a sportive, and they have become very popular in recent years. Off-road events are slightly less common, but both Evans Cycles’ RideIt! and Wiggle events (organised by UK cycling events) include MTB specific rides.
Finding an event
There are many organised rides taking place across the country. One high profile event is the London to Brighton ride, which takes place on July 15th and raises money for the British Heart Foundation. This 50 mile route is a popular “first sportive” for people who have never ridden at an event before, and the closed roads course is always swarming with cyclists of every level.
Dan from the Urban Limits Team took part in one of the other massive sportives, Ride London 100, last year (and will be going again this year) but with 4 entries for every place you have to get lucky in the ballot.
If you fancy a finish closer to home, London to Reading is a 40 mile route that promises to deliver a beautiful countryside route and you can still turn up and register on the day for only £20.
The excitement of a high profile ride might not be what you’re seeking, and if you fancy a smaller event that will still offer route planning, feeding stations and support, the Evans Cycles RideIt! Team will visit Reading in June. They will hold an off road ride on 28th June and a sportive on 29th June
There are many other sportive available – the best way to find one near you is to use a tool such as the British Cycling Sportive Calendar, which will help you to filter events.
Preparing to ride
If you’ve entered an event, and it’s going to be your first mass participation ride, the date looming just a few months away could seem daunting. It doesn’t need to be.
Organised rides are often populated by a range of abilities, and some people there on the day will have done no training at all – but putting in some extra miles before your event will make the experience more enjoyable.
These events don’t require you to be super speedy, you just need to be able to ride the distance. Drastically increasing the number of miles you ride a week is rarely a good idea, and can result in an overuse injury – so it’s best to count the free weekends you have to spare before your event, and spread out the increase in mileage over time – putting in one long ride a weekend.
For example, if you have 6 weeks until your ride, and you aim to ride 50 miles, start with a 25 mile ride on the first weekend, and add 5 miles each week to your long ride, until you reach your event.
If you have time between your weekend rides, try to include some shorter rides, such as commutes or turbo training sessions. Including some short hard efforts, such as those we explained in our turbo training piece here will help strengthen your legs, as organisers like to throw some hills in sometimes.
Ride with friends
Finding a group to ride with will help with your motivation. Sky Ride, the British Cycling organisation in charge of encouraging more people to get on their bikes, organise guided rides across the country. Rides vary from 6-30 miles, will always be led by a guide, and every route has information on the speed and difficulty of the ride – you can see what’s going on locally here.
What kit do you need to ride?
You don’t need much more than a roadworthy bike, and comfortable cycling clothes to take on an organised ride. However, a few additions will make the event more enjoyable.
Your cycling wardrobe will be greatly improved if you add some padded cycling shorts – these will make your time in the saddle a lot more pleasant. Cycling specific clothing manufacturers put a lot of work into making the pad fit just right, and adding a layer beneath them renders this useless, so don’t be tempted to wear underwear.
If wearing just tight lycra shorts is not your idea of confidence inspiring clobber, you can get padded liner shorts for men and women – these can be worn underneath comfortable trousers.
Though most events will have mechanics along the route, there won’t be a bike shop and a pump at every corner, so you will need a puncture repair kit, a pump, and the knowledge of how to repair a puncture.
There may be feed stations along the way, but it is also a good idea to have a cycling bidon (water bottle) attached to your bike with a bottle cage, and to take some snacks. Nutrition brands such as High5, SIS and CNP make some great energy products, but cereal bars and bananas are adequate. If you do decide to use sports nutrition, make sure you’ve used the same products in training, so you know if they agree with you.
Get your bike ready
Around two weeks before your ride, it is a good idea to check that your bike is in good condition. Here’s a look at common problems and how to fix them before your ride:
Punctures : Sometimes these just happen, but they will be more common if your tyres are worn. Look over your tyres – if there are any nicks in them that go right through the rubber, you should replace them, as these offer no protection for the inner tube inside. You can get new tyres for around £15 each if you shop around.
Creaking gears : over the course of your sportive ,you can expect a few hills – and you want to be able to use your gears so you can enjoy them. If your gears are clicking, here’s how to index them.
Dodgy brakes : Over time, brake pads wear down on disc, calliper and v-brakes. To assess if yours are worn, hold your hands over the brakes, squeeze them , and try to roll the bike forwards. If it still moves, your brakes need adjusting, or the pads need replacing. Both can be done at home, or the work can be carried out at your local bike shop.
Dirty bike syndrome: Not only will you not feel very dapper, but a dirty bike is also a sqweaky, cumbersome bike. Give your bike a proper clean before your event, it will help you to feel confident on the day, and make shifting and braking smoother.
On the day of your event
You’ve done the hard work now, so it’s time to reap the rewards. Have a good breakfast with lots of carbohydrates, like porridge or peanut butter and jam on toast, and leave with plenty of time to arrive early and calmly, bearing in mind event traffic close to the HQ will be busy. Finally, have a great ride.
PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sizbut/