Sooner or later many cyclists start looking for a major challenge. For the non-racing cyclist, one of the most popular is long distances. Whether your long distance challenge is 75km or 250km, the right approach will get you to your goal.
Your main objective is to come home in the same state you left, if a bit tired. The key is sustaining your energy.
Everyone gets butterflies before a big ride, but don’t get anxious. This alone will drain you of energy. If you’ve done the preparation, be confident that you’ll make it. Stretch when you start, have a break and finish the ride.
Warm up with a high cadence and maintain this for as long as you feel comfortable. Stay off the big gears in the early parts of the ride. You’ll need this energy in the last stage. Ride within your capabilities – just 1kph too much can break you.
Food is crucial in sustaining energy. What are your normal habits? Eat breakfast before you start? Eat every 50km? Don’t change now. Be careful not to overeat, but also be aware of the warning signs so you don’t go into a hunger flat. That is one of the most debilitating experiences.
Unless you always use them avoid sweets. They give you a quick high, but the following low can be worse than when you ate the first jelly snake. Supplement drinks and energy packs are great pick-me-ups, especially in the last 50-30km of the ride.
You can never be sure what the weather will be like. Wear what you usually would, with a contingency for keeping warm. Arm and leg warmers are great. You can peel them off when you get warm because overheating can do as much damage as being really cold.
Don’t use the big day to break in a new pair of knicks – stick with your most comfy gear. If you have trouble with chafing, use some chamois cream – marvellous stuff!
Rest before, during and after the ride. Get some good sleep in the days before and after the event. Take every opportunity to rest your body and mind during the ride itself. Just be careful not to over-rest your legs when you stop or you’ll find it hard to get back on the bike.
Keep these tips in mind and if you’ve done the training, you’ll finish that big ride comfortably. And nothing beats the feeling of conquering that challenge.
See you on the road soon, God willing. Eddie Barkla
First published in the Bendigo Weekly Friday 17 November 2006