Centuries, Randonneurs, Gran Fondos and epic summer rides – helpful information to prepare for an excellent day of riding!

With all the hours we put in through out the year to get ready for a race, more about its one of the most frustrating things to have an issue arise in the race that forces you off the back or causing your race to end shortly.  It is especially frustrating when these issues happen, and you realize that with a little extra preparation, perhaps it would not have happened.

To make sure you are fully prepared for racing, here are a few pointers that one should be taking care of 2-3 days before the race to ensure you and your equipment are fully ready to perform at its best.  If you wait until the day before the race or don’t do these things, will inevitably be less prepared for the event and are likely opening a door for bad luck to enter.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

So here are a few things to do a few days before the race.  You want to avoid waiting for the day before the race to do these, to ensure that you have time to make adjustments or pick up needed parts should you come across any potential issues.

Bike – Double check your equipment a few days before to ensure you have time to fix any issues and pick up spare parts before the shops close before heading to a race.  This both saves you the frustration of messing it at the race, trying to rush to find parts mid event or having to drop out of a race because of mechanical issue that could have been prevented.  It is also important for your own safety as well as others.  With some worn parts if they break/fail it could cause a crash.  Here are some of the main things to check out:

  • Tires are in good condition – replace any tires with big gashes, worn out, or flatting frequently (i.e if you have had a couple of flats lately and the tire has been on there a while, its probably time for a new one.).  If you are on the fence whether you need a new tire(s) or not, just go for a new one if possible.  Put it on before the race, save the “Maybe its still good” tire for some training miles when you are not planning on racing it.
  • Brakes – make sure the pads are in good condition and will not wear down mid race if they are getting close.  If they are questionable, replace them or at least get a spare set of pads to bring with you to the race(especially if you are headed to a stage race).  Also make sure they are tuned properly(not too much space or too little to reduce your braking power).
  • Chain – Clean and make sure its not worn, replace if necessary so you don’t break a chain during the race.
  • Clean the drive train, inspect for worn teeth on the chain rings or cassette.
  • Shifting – make sure bike is shifting properly, replace cables and housing as needed.  This is both to save you the frustration of “ghost shifting”, and also makes it safer to race on – if your drive train is not working properly, it could catch or slip and cause you to lose control and crash.
  • Cleats – make sure they are in good condition, replace as necessary.  Sprinting/attacking on worn cleats and they can break and are more likely to come unclipped when unwanted and cause a crash – one of the worst crashes I have seen was caused by this.
  • Bolts on bike – put a wrench in every bolt.  Make sure your bars, saddle, chain ring bolts etc are properly tightened.  Use a torque wrench when needed to make sure things are not over tightened per their specs.  – p.s. in crits, you do not get a free lap for a mechanical that is preventable, such as bars slipping because they were not tight enough.
  • After making changes to your bike, try to get in a ride on it to make sure any settling of parts, bolts, cable stretch etc has a chance to work itself out and you catch it before the race.  Give one last check over after the ride as well to make sure things are still as set and there are no new issues(Like a new gash in your tire…).  Try to get this ride in before your bike shop closes just in case.

Other needs:

  • Special food needs – if you have any dietary specifics, go shopping on before you leave for a race to make sure your bases are covered before you leave.  Some of the small towns that races are nearest may not have what you need.  You also don’t want to have to be running around doing this when you could be resting if it is a stage race.
  • Same for energy foods – get your drink mixes, in race favorite foods, gels, bars etc ASAP, and don’t count on where you are going to have what you need, chances are they will not.

Things to do for your legs/body to ensure its ready-

  • Right before a race is most likely not the day for the hardest workout in the world.  A hard workout a few days before can be good, but it depends on the rider and the race. An easy ride with leg openers(Some short intervals, but nothing too hard that will make you too tired before the race) is good the day before a race.  You cant cram miles/intensity in for a race in the final days before it.
  • Keep hydrated, focus on good nutrition and getting the best rest as possible.  Going into the weekend rested and hydrated is important.  You can become chronically dehydrated, so working on keeping your hydration levels up in the days leading up to the race is important.
  • Try to keep off your feet when possible, avoid weight lifting in the 3 days before a race if you are lifting weights.
  • Foam roller, the stick, getting a massage are all great tools to help prep the legs in the days leading up to a race.  Avoid deep work – use all these tools lightly, it should be the feel good kind of work, not the deep working out all the tension from training in the last 2 months kind of work – that will make you feel sluggish at a race and hinder performance.
  • Eat well!  I find the way I eat the day before a race is as important as what I eat in the race
  • Try to tie off any nagging stressors before leaving if you can so its not in the back of your head during the race weekend, allowing you to focus on racing well and good recovery, not worrying about something you have to do as soon as you get back home.

And a few other notes on things to bring to races to have in your heads now and while thinking about planning:

  • Bring extra food, and a gallon of water(at least!).  You will not complain about having too much food or water with you.  You will complain if you run out of either one. Many race venues are not anywhere near any running water!  Bring a gallon jug of water with you!
  • A warm jacket goes a long ways in early season racing.  Bring your warmest winter puffy you have.  Long underwear under your pants can be good too.  Keeping warm vs kinda cold is going to improve your recovery.
  • Pillow!  Bring your own pillow if you are staying overnight anywhere for a race.  You are used to it and will sleep better likely than if you are in a new bed and have a new pillow as well.  It is also nice for driving around and trying to nap on the road if you get the chance to split driving shits.

The list can go on for things to take care of in the days leading up to a race, but these are the main ones.  Hopefully you will find these tips helpful in your race p
Now that the days are getting longer and filled with sun in the Pacific Northwest, clinic
people are starting to get out for long rides with friends and fill their calendars up with big events – getting out away from it all with nothing but a bike and good friends. Whether you are looking at centuries, try gran fondos, valeologist
touring or just long rides in with teammates and friends it is important to be sure to take some basic preparations to ensure you have successful rides and are well prepared.

 

The first thing you should do is be sure you have the proper bike fit – this is going to be very important both for comfort on the bike, as well as ensuring efficient and sustainable body mechanics. Injury can arrive through incorrect positioning on the bike, causing issues such as: increased stress through joints, hindered ranges of motion, or awkward body angles that will lead to injury. A lot of people have a basic fit when they first purchase their bike, which typically consists of measuring tape and old fashioned eyeballing of a rider on one’s bike. This can be a  good way of getting you in the ballpark for frame size, but if that’s all that’s been done it may not be enough to address issues more specific to how your body works with your bike. Some commonly missed issues include: individual range of motion, bone length discrepancies, muscle imbalances, past injury considerations and pedaling inefficiencies. Getting a fit from a physical therapist (like our fit guru Russell Cree, who works with a wide range of riders using state of the art tech) can really make the difference between completing some big miles and avoiding injury. Using tools that takes your pedaling mechanics into account, and not just a static fit (sitting on the bike and looking at angles while not in motion), is especially helpful.

 

Make sure your bike is ready for a big day away from bike shops!

Some major parts to check include: chain and cassette wear, brake pads, cleats on your shoes, tires and rims. A general lookover to ensure there are no new damages to the frame is highly recommended. Problems such as fatigue cracks, dents, or other major issues are rare, but are certainly something to keep an eye out for! Be sure you have allocated time to replace anything that needs to be fixed before the event. Make certain to keep tabs of these potentialities starting a few weeks out if needed! If you are unsure of the safety or state of anything on your bike, take it into a shop to have it checked out and replace items as needed. You’ll want to have a couple of rides on your bike after making any maintenance to be sure your bike is in solid condition (before taking it into an event or finding yourself miles away from help…).

 

It is important to have a base level knowledge of how to fix some common issues like flat tires, and minor gear adjustments. Remember to bring a few tools with you to help fix these things. Here are a few items to have with you on every ride:

 

  • Spare inner tube(Or a couple!)
  • Patch kit(in addition to the tube!!!)
  • Multi tool
  • Tire levers
  • pump/CO2(extra CO2 cartridges if you use these)

 

The longer the event, the longer the list of extra supplies will grow. If you are planning on being out on gravel roads, more tools/flat repair parts are crucial. Multi day event? Bring a spare tire, cables, chain pin/missing link. If you are part of a supported ride, some items may be provided to you, but ultimately self reliance is key. If it is a ride with a group, coordinate with teammates to ensure everything’s covered – for larger more random items (Like a spare tire), you can plan to share resources as needed and distribute the items across the group.

 

Though it’s not ideal, it’s okay if you don’t have the knowledge to do all possible repairs – if you have the right tools and equipment for a roadside fix, someone else may be able to come to your aid. It is good to have your cell phone with you for any emergencies, but many times you may be without a signal so try to avoid relying on it for more common roadside fixes.

 

Its also important to have good skin, eye protection and appropriate clothing. Check the Weather, and always bring more than you might need to the start. You may not likely need arm warmers for a summer Gran Fondo, but they should make it into your bag in case it happens to be chilly at the start. You should have an array of arm warmers, knee warmers, base layer, wind vest/jacket, knee warmers and other clothing options along with you even if you do not expect to need it – better to have it and not need it, than be left wishing you brought it with you. Sunscreen is important to make sure you don’t get burned out there! Sunglasses are also important, not only for the sun protection, but to ensure nothing flies into your eyes. Having a selection of lenses for different conditions is a great to have and be ready to swap as needed. Pack your bag the day before your event to make sure you get it all. Make a list and check things off as you put it in your bag. Don’t forget your shoes and helmet!

 

When it comes to routes, you should have some decent knowledge of the roads you will be on. Look at a map before you go. Some people will print off a small map and bring it along. Know the names of the roads and what the turns are. It’s never good to just rely on support people or ride partners, – you may get separated during the ride or they may also be unsure of the route. There have been instances where even the lead car in races have missed a correct turn and taken riders off course, so it’s always smart to know where you are going and how to get back to the start.

 

Being well fuelled is a priority for any ride. A good rule of thumb is 300-400 calories per hour, and one water bottle per hour. This is going to fluctuate depending on the individual and conditions, but is a great starting point. It can be great to talk with a coach for more specific numbers to ensure you are fuelled right for your event, as a number of personal factors affect the amount needed. Eat foods on big events that you have tried out in training. You don’t want to wait until an important goal event to try a new product only to discover it gives you stomach issues. Many supported rides have aid stations along the way. Regardless, it is still good to be as self sufficient as possible to ensure what you consume on the ride is is agreeable with your body chemistry. There are a lot of products to choose from out there, so look around and try out several items to see which make you feel the best on the bike. It’s also good to make sure you try them under different conditions as well – something that may go down well in January, when it’s cold and rainy, may not be as tasty to you on a hot July day. Sometimes basic food like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches go down best, and sports marketed energy bars are great and convenient for a lot of situations, but don’t be afraid to experiment with everyday food items to see what you like best.

 

Training

This is the last, but ultimately the most important factor in ensuring successful rides. Nothing beats getting in some miles, structured intensity, and rest periods to ensure you are setting yourself up for a successful event. If you’re planning a big event in August, you want to be sure you are preparing in advance; getting the right kind of distance and intensity to build up to an important event. Keep posted to current training tips, talk to friends and other riders about courses and what to expect, and get in touch with professionals when needed to make sure you are setting yourself up for success. This is a never ending topic and coaches spend hours setting up the right plan and approach for individuals and their goals. At the very least, you should strive to get in similar distances and course work before attempting a big ride to ensure you build up to it and know what to expect.

 

Hopefully this helps prepare you for your big summer events, and feel free to drop us a line if questions pop up. Allons-y!

 

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