With summer so close you can taste it, many of us will be looking forward to the challenge of a long day in the saddle. It goes without saying that training is key to success, but when it comes to the big day what else can you do to make sure everything goes off without a hitch?
This is something I’ve been thinking about as I prepare to Chase the Sun on my longest ride yet. On June 20th I’ll be taking advantage of the long daylight hours and riding 140 miles in one day, seeing the sun rise in Sandbanks, Poole and set in Bude, Cornwall in aid of Solent Mind.
Here’s some of my top tips learned from years of trial and error:
All that training you've put in will no doubt have taken its toll on your bike. Show your beloved steed a bit of love for those endless hours it's carried you so far.
A regular cleaning routine and a little light maintenance means you'll identify problems before they start to affect performance or safety. British Cycling's 'M-Check' is so easy to remember and a great habit to get into before every ride. Check out the BC 'Insight Zone' and the GCN Channel on Youtube for more easy-to-follow videos on cleaning, maintenance, technique on the bike and more.
A lot of jobs can be done easily at home but if in any doubt, pay your local bike shop a visit. Bear in mind that during the summer there can be a waiting list for workshop services so give yourself at least two weeks before the big day.
- Multi-tool Pump/CO2 dispenser and canisters
- Inner tube
- Puncture-repair kit
Whatever you wear, there's one golden rule: NEVER wear something brand new for a long ride. By the time the big day arrives, you should be confident that your outfit fits properly and comfortably. There's nothing worse than finding out with 60 miles to go that you have cut off all circulation in your legs.
It's a matter of personal preference, but I always choose bib shorts with a built-in chamois to provide a nice bit of cushion.
I opt for a full-zip jersey with plenty of pockets at the back so that I can carry snacks, phone, money and keys. The full-zip makes it easier to respond when nature calls. I always team it up with a base-layer, even in summer. A light sleeveless base layer helps to regulate temperature and keep sweat away from the skin. A merino long-sleeved base layer helps to trap in warmth on cooler days.
It's a matter of personal preference, but I always choose bib shorts with a built-in chamois to provide a nice bit of cushion. You'll also be glad of a bit of draft-exclusion if it gets chilly.
Speaking of chills, we are actually really lucky in this country. Whilst others might endure long days of endless sunshine, we can benefit from the experience of as many as three seasons in one day! This opens up endless possibilities for accessorising. Arm and leg warmers are great for a bit of extra warmth in the morning but if the sun comes out later they are easily stashed in jersey pockets. You can also find a variety of lightweight rain-capes and gilets available that can also neatly tuck away.
Whatever the weather, don't forget your shades. As well as providing UV protection (yes still important even on cloudy days) they'll protect your eyes from bugs, dust, rain and road spray. Oh and you'll look pro. Bonus style-points if you add in a cap under your helmet for added bug and weather protection.
Finally, make sure you have some decent mitts that you've tried and tested. On our wonderful British roads your poor hands will take a beating so padding is essential. A snug fit is preferable; the less movement, the less the chance of rubbing seams. If it turns out cold, frozen fingers can make it difficult to switch gears (and can be pretty painful) so it's worth having some decent thermal gloves on standby just in case.
On-the-day clothing essentials
- Your favorite outfit (obviously)
- Appropriate eyewear
- Rain cape and/or gillet and/or arm/leg warmers as appropriate (determined by weather forecast)!
Personal care (ahem)
Prevention is better than the cure and a good chamois cream will contain antibacterial agents and help to reduce friction between your shorts and your..erm...delicate bits
There are a few extra 'personal care' items you might want to chuck into your kit-bag though. Number one is a sun cream with a decent SPF. You'll probably have your favorite brand but please consider how it will react to sweat or rain; many brands now make sweat-proof varieties that will stay put if the weather gets hot.
Another lotion you might want to consider is chamois cream. Unfortunately, on long rides saddle sores are always a possibility and a really bad one can mean time off the bike to recover. Prevention is better than the cure and a good chamois cream will contain antibacterial agents and help to reduce friction between your shorts and your..erm...delicate bits.
Before and after your ride, there's a massive range of creams and potions on offer to treat those hard-working muscles, from warming embrocation (lovely in cold conditions) to high-tech amino acid recovery creams.
It's also worth considering sports massage. Ask your cycling buddies if they can recommend someone local and don't be afraid to try a few and find one that suits.
Lastly, the humble lip-balm deserves a mention. It's small enough to slip into a jersey pocket and for me it's a creature-comfort that I never ride without. Dry, chapped lips are inevitable when you're out in the elements all day. No fun!
- Chamois creme
- SPF Lip balm
- Recovery products
Almost every cyclist can tell you a tale of when they hit 'the wall,' suffered the almighty 'bonk' and met the 'man with the hammer.' It might happen to you or it might still be an experience to come. Don't let it ruin your big day.
Experiment with what works; I mainly rely on gels but some people find they don't sit well in their stomachs and might pack cereal bars instead.
Nutrition strategy is different for everybody and will take a while to get right. I didn't even think about it till a fateful day on the Isle of Wight when I ended up throwing my helmet and collapsing at the roadside in tears. Yes when you run out of gas you'll be surprised at the total emotional meltdown that can ensue.
Whatever you choose, carry more than you think you'll need in your jersey pockets and practice eating on-the-move
A quick Google-search will reveal a wealth of wisdom and there's arguments for and against gels, bars, bananas,raw snacks, Haribo, flapjacks, fruits, nuts but really it's up to you. Experiment with what works; I mainly rely on gels but some people find they don't sit well in their stomachs and might pack cereal bars instead. Also, check the label if you're taking pre-made products. For example, cheaper gels may be a false economy as they often contain fewer calories. Calories mean energy so more is better! A lot of products also contain caffeine which can be used strategically but some will prefer to avoid it altogether.
Whatever you choose, carry more than you think you'll need in your jersey pockets and practice eating on-the-move; you'll be thankful for not needing to stop to refuel every time. Don't rely on feed stations, especially if they're serving up unfamiliar products.
As well as your nutrition during the event, think about before and after. Fueling up starts in the days before but consider loading up on nutrient-rich carbs rather than white bread and pasta. There's a lot of brilliant cook-books out there; I like Dimension Data, chef Hannah Grant's easy-to-follow recipes, and also check out the Feed Zone Cookbook series and Velo Chef (particularly for Henrick Orre's brilliantly easy and delicious rye bread).
For me, instant porridge is one of the most revolutionary culinary inventions of our time...
If you're away from home, check online in advance for restaurants serving your kind of food and take the stress out of trailing around the streets in an unfamiliar town the night before. Will the hotel kitchen be open early enough? If not, make sure you have enough to make your favourite breakfast in your room. For me, instant porridge is one of the most revolutionary culinary inventions of our time.
One more thing (perhaps the most important): stay hydrated! If you leave it until you feel thirsty you've left it too late. Even if it's cold you'll need to drink regularly! I always fill one bidon with plain water and the other contains a hydration drink such as Nuun for electrolytes and a bit of flavour.
- Breakfast products, if needed.
- Water and whatever other drinks take your fancy (non alcoholic of course).
- Tried-and-tested pocket-sized snacks.
Nobody sets out planning to have an accident, but it's important to prepare for the unexpected.
Although you might think you have enough daylight, it's a good idea to carry a pair of lights just in case.
If your big challenge is an organised event, chances are that there's space on your race numbers to write details of an 'In Case of Emergency' (ICE) contact - don't forget to fill it in.
If your event is lower-key or you're riding self-supported (or in fact on any training ride), make sure you have ICE details accessible somewhere on your person. There's many mobile apps available for this purpose or consider wearing ID jewellery such as the One Life ID.
For minor incidents, smaller items such as plasters and anti-septic cream will easily tuck into your saddle bag so you can patch yourself up and get on your way.
Although you might think you have enough daylight, it's a good idea to carry a pair of lights just in case. There's some really good compact ones available now that you can even recharge from USB, so no need to remember to buy batteries and you will have the peace of mind that you will be seen by drivers if the skies cloud over or your day runs longer than expected.
Make sure you have a full charge on your phone, some money and maybe even a credit card in case you need to call in help.
Don't get lost! Make sure you take a navigation device and ideally a paper map as backup if you're in unfamiliar territory. Some cycle computers will even beam real-time information on your whereabouts back to loved ones; well worth looking into if you train alone.
Make sure you have a full charge on your phone, some money and maybe even a credit card in case you need to call in help. There's plenty of water-proof wallets on the market to keep your valuables safe or a sandwich bag will do just as well. Also, for longer rides and multi-day events, consider taking a small power bank to recharge gadgets as you go.
- ICE contact details
- Phone with full charge (and possibly a charging device depending on the length of your challenge)
- Navigation device and/or maps
- Medical supplies (plasters, anti-septic lotion etc)
- Money and cards in a waterproof wallet or bag
- Lights (white for front, red for rear)
Good luck on your challenge and please feel free to sponsor me as I Chase the Sun and help support the excellent work that Solent Mind do to support and empower people with mental health problems in the Hampshire area.
VeloVixen says: Sponsor Nassrin on her big ride here.
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