You may have put in hours of training during the run up to your first sportive, but all your good work can be undone if you neglect to prepare your bike, equipment and clothing correctly. Here's a run-down of our essential tips to follow to make your big day run smoothly.
Choose the right gears
Check your gear ratios. Is the cassette right for your style of riding and the event that you’re doing? Would a larger sprocket help you climb a little easier? If you are thinking of changing then give yourself plenty of time to make the swap – ﬁrst checking with your supplier as to whether the derailleur is compatible with the intended ratios. Bear in mind that this could mean getting a new chain as well. Needless to say, it’s as well not to make such changes to your gearing the day before your big ride.
When you’re riding long distances, your closest friend should be the seatpad of your shorts. Treat it accordingly, ensuring that both you and your shorts are cleaned meticulously after every ride. Failure to do so can lead to infection, and that means time off the bike.
Check the indexing of your gears. Make sure that all the changes are smooth, tweaking the adjusters where necessary. Ensure that this is completed a few days prior to your target event.
Wash and sterilise your drinking bottles regularly, particularly if you’ve been using recovery drinks/energy products and the like. It is worth looking for bottles with a cap to cover the spout, although this will make drinking en route a little more awkward. This helps to keep the spout protected from road grime and other unpleasant substances that transfer from the road to your bike and to your mouth – such as manure.
Applying ‘saddle cream’ to the seat of your shorts should cut down friction and soreness. This tends to be very personal, though, and you need to ﬁnd out the appropriate cream for you. There are several types available, but petroleum jelly – like Vaseline – is often found useful. A coating of an antiseptic cream containing cetrimide will prevent infection occurring.
Even in the UK the sun can be quite ﬁerce at times, so remember to apply sun protection, not forgetting to coat your neck, nose and ears as well as exposed limbs. Don’t forget your sunglasses either; these will protect your eyes from dust and insects as well as the glare.
Check your brake pad alignment to ensure you have better and safer braking. The blocks should be slightly toed in at the front so that the block closes on the rim correctly and doesn’t cause any squealing. This correction will improve performance and should give you more conﬁdence when descending.
On longer distance events your hands can take a hammering, so a good pair of close ﬁtting cycling mitts are a must. As well as cushioning the hands when you’re holding the bar, they will stop or reduce the chances of unpleasant grazes should you have an accident.
Study and take a note of the route ahead of event day. It isn’t unheard of for direction signs to have been removed. Even the best modern instruments can fail, or even suggest going the wrong way. And don’t simply rely on following other riders, because they may be lost too. (There’s even the chance that the cyclists you’re following aren’t even riding the same event!)
Have a look at our videos on how to prepare for your first sportive.