Summer might be almost over but there are still plenty of rides coming up, so we’ve put together a guide for you to get the most out of your next BIG ride. We’ve broken it down into before, during and after so you know what to focus on and when.
First things first, do the training – the pros don’t go out there and ride 100+km without any training, so what makes you think you can? A training programme that gradually builds your endurance and gets you used to similar terrain is the way to go.
Once you know your body is up to it, make sure your bike is too. While many rides have some mechanical support you don’t want to be the dumb bunny on the side of the road waiting for the mechanic to come and help while everyone else flies past . Make sure your bike is in tip-top shape BEFORE you start the ride.
You’ve done the training and your body & bike are prepared, now you need to make sure that you’ve got the fuel in the tank.
Fuelling & Hydration
While most big rides provide refreshment stations along the route its best not to leave these things to chance. You may find that the food provided either doesn’t suit you or all the good stuff has gone by the time you get there.
So, what do you need to fuel that body & make it to the end of the ride?
A good source of carbohydrate that is easily digestible is the starting point. Gels and bars fulfil this requirement perfectly. But beware, not all products are created equal and not every product will work for you. Experiment with different combinations BEFORE the ride and find out what works for you. As for hydration, water is essential but you’ll also benefit from an energy drink that replaces the electrolytes and minerals that you lose during strenuous exercise. This becomes increasingly important on hot days. Energy drinks also assist in supplying some of your carbohydrate needs.
Riding defensively will ensure you get through the ride in one piece. Make sure that you give others room – don’t ride so close that you don’t have time to react to another rider’s change in speed or that you spook less confident riders when passing. Maintain a safe distance from other riders, particularly when climbing – you don’t know if others are capable of climbing at your speed and if they’re not, they may falter and bring you down with them.
Look after yourself and your mates
Make sure you indicate obstacles to those riding behind you, if you see something unsafe about to happen, alert others to the danger, if you see someone in distress give them a hand. It’s all common sense really but when fatigue sets in, common is often the first sense we lose.
Allow plenty of time to complete the ride – know your strengths and weaknesses
Know the route
Upload it to your GPS or print a copy and keep it in your jersey pocket just in case.
Dress for success
Make sure you dress for the forecast weather conditions. Layering is the best way to be prepared for all possible weather conditions – lightweight layers are easily shed if necessary and stashed away in a bag or pocket. Many big rides start before sunrise so having a lightweight jacket will keep you warm until the sun comes up.
Speaking of sun, remember to protect your skin from the sun. Rather than having to re-apply sunscreen when you sweat it off, it may be more practical to invest in sunshield arms and legs or a long-sleeve jersey that will wick away sweat while offering UV protection.
Finally, enjoy the experience. It’s not every day that you get to ride with hundreds of other cyclists or ride the same route as the pro peloton.
Pat yourself on the back for completing the ride then make sure you stretch (and take a recovery drink while you’re at it so you’re ready to ride another day).