In recent years cycling has become more accessible adding leisure events of a variety of distances. Referred to as sportives, these events provide the opportunity for cyclists to ride a route as a race, a distance challenge or just for fun. Often the front of any of these events becomes a race with groups trailing behind based on ambitions and ability. It has become a fantastic reason to jump on a bike and see some amazing routes around the world. Cycling has become increasingly popular as these cycle events allow for many non racers to have an enjoyable goal to look forward to, often helping to get fit and stay healthy in the process.
For many interested in these events often getting started is the most daunting. Fitness levels and knowledge tend to keep people from taking the plunge and signing up. The reality is these events are for everyone. There’s often plenty of rest stops and there’s groups for individuals of all abilities to tag into. They attract a very welcoming community of cyclists ranging from advanced racers looking for a training ride to those who are looking for the challenge of a lifetime.
To help set your mind at ease and for having a successful and enjoyable Sportive have a look at some of the tips below.
- Time in the saddle
Generally speaking just getting out and building time in the saddle is the best place to start. Gradually building the distance and frequency of your rides over weeks will help build endurance and stamina to complete the route. Unless you have a goal time in mind just riding frequently is as advanced training as you will need to prepare. For longer sportives, longer rides are important so you are accustomed to sitting in the saddle for long periods of time. Even if you are fully fit you need to build up a bit of tolerance to the cycle position or else your experience could be quite uncomfortable.
Spending time on your bike will also help develop your bike handling. Different conditions and situations require practice and experience to handle faster speeds safely. If you are unfamiliar to riding with other cyclists around you try go cycling with some smaller groups to build confidence and skills.
- Get a bike fit
Bike fits from a professional fitter can make a world of difference. If you are comfortable on the bike your experience will be so much more enjoyable and often cost significantly less energy. A proper fit will cost a little money but is one of the best value improvements you can make. You will not regret getting a proper bike fit.
- Prepare for the elements.
Sportives can last quite a bit of time. Weather can change rapidly and you are totally exposed on the bike. Having warm comfortable clothes and a rainproof smock can make a world of difference if you get caught out. Often windchill is the worst part so even a light windproof top can be your saviour. Never assume it’ll stay sunny all day. Don’t forget suncream too as you can be in direct sunlight for hours on end during a summer ride.
Hydration deserves special attention. Always pay attention to the food stop plans. Often there are plenty on route but the distance between them can be important to note. Refill your bottles if they are empty as it could be a longer ride to the next stop than expected especially on a hilly route. Forgetting water bottles is as serious as forgetting your wheels. Always make sure they are packed for the ride. In hot summer months its often worth using some electrolyte solutions in your bottles. They come in powder and tablet form. Often they are much more effective than sports drinks etc. which can be extremely sugary. The ride will become significantly more difficult if dehydration sets in. The amount needed to drink varies from person to person but you should be aiming for at least 500ml per hour and even more if you are a heavy sweater or if it’s a very hot day.
The good news is that if you can ride 50km you’re probably fit enough for 100km. The main difference is nutrition. Longer rides at a steady pace require fuel to be able to go the distance. Shorter rides may not require as many refeeds as longer ones. Hilly routes tend also to require a bit more energy than flat ones. No ride is exactly the same so you need to be prepared. Carbohydrate is the most important nutrient generally. Fruit, Gels, Energy and cereal bars are convenient and easy to consume on the bike. It’s important to try them first to test tolerances and avoid issues on the day. For longer rides it’s important to include more whole and solid foods. Too much sugar can be tough on the stomach so whole foods help keep digestion and gut function stable over the long routes. Simple sandwiches are a good option. Avoid fatty or spicy foods and just keep things simple and light. The general guideline is around 60g of carbohydrate per hour. A simple approach is to have a bite of something every half hour or so. Keep in mind you never really feel hungry when riding so it is important to stay disciplined and remember to nibble and drink regularly even if it’s a small amount.
- Bike Prep
Many sportives have mechanical support but you may be waiting for a while for it to arrive. Most issues barring any crashes are usually simple enough fixes. Make sure you can change a tyre and put a chain back on and you will have covered the most common problems. Always carry a pump or CO2 canister, spare tube and a tyre lever with you as these are the only things you cant really fix a flat without. If you don’t know how to do the above there are plenty of youtube videos that make it simple. A small but big piece of your preparation is a cleaned and lubed chain. Getting the thick grease off and riding with a new coat of lube can make the bike feel so much better and easier to pedal. In terms of tyres inspect for any major cuts in the rubber and if they go through the canvas layer you need to change them for safety. In terms of tyre pressure use the guide on the wheel to get you in the ballpark. There are many guides online with manufacturers. Generally speaking on rougher roads or wetter conditions letting 5psi out from your normal pressure will help with grip and comfort.
A long sportive is nothing to worry about. It can be a long day however, so you do have to have a few things organised beforehand. The list above is all you need to make it through and there’s nothing too complicated to deal with. Use your weekly weekend ride to trial all the bits you need beforehand and learn what works for you. On the day itself the ride will always feel easier than you expect. You’ll have groups to ride in, reducing wind resistance helping you go faster with less effort. The chit chat with other riders can also make a tough climb feel likes it’s over before you even notice.
If you have any questions or want help planning your next big ride do not hesitate to contact us.