Sportives are organised, mass-participation cycle events – in the UK they are run as completely non-competitive rides, through in some parts of the world they are considered races.
If you’re new to cycling, a sportive of 25 or 50 miles could seem an intimidating challenge, but with a little training and the right kit, the miles will pass by like the breeze on those lovely (hopefully) sunny days.
What training should I do for my first sportive?
To be ready for a ride of around 50 miles, it’s best if you’ve ridden a couple of rides of this length, or nearly this length, before the big day. Though you can get through the miles without doing longer training rides, you will enjoy yourself more if this isn’t new territory.
If you’ve never ridden the distance before, a good way to rack up the mileage is to set aside a few weekends before your event to gradually increase your mileage. To get this right, the best thing you can do is get your calendar out, and plot the days you have available for a longer ride. Pick out those days, and pledge to yourself you will ride a given distance that day. If you are quite a new rider, increase the length of your rides gradually, for example in increments of 5 miles.
Between those long rides, any shorter sessions you can fit into your life will definitely help you out. Making an effort to include some hills in those rides is also a good idea, as lots of sportives will include a couple of challenges on the way. If you commute to work, this is a great way of adding some miles.
Here are 2 sessions that will really help make your legs stronger:
Warm up for minutes with easy riding
Find a hill 3 minutes long, and ride up it quite hard (so you’re breathing heavily, but can talk), then ride down
Ride back up the hill a but harder (so you’re breathing hard, and can’t talk in sentences), then ride down
Ride back up again as hard as you can (so you can’t really talk!), then ride down
Spin home easily
Cadence interval session:
Warm up with 10 minutes riding
Ride with fast cadence for 5 minutes, then easy for 5 minutes – do this 5 times
Warm down with a gentle ride home (or to work!)
Entering other organised rides is a great way to motivate yourself to get out and ride – and we host RideIt! sportives and off-road rides throughout the year, all over the country. Rides vary from 15 – 115 miles – so take a look and find one that suits you.
What cycling clothing do I need for a charity ride?
You don’t need “all the gear” for your sportive, but a couple of items will make a really big difference.
Firstly – padded cycling shorts will save your derriere. You should wear these without underwear – as wearing something underneath them will defeat all the clever design that has gone into them. If you feel a bit uncomfortable in tight lycra (it’s fine, plenty of people do!) you can get padded liner shorts for men and women which go underneath your normal sports clothes.
There are plenty of other pieces of cycling clothing which can help make your ride more comfortable, but they aren’t essential.
What should I take with me on my ride?
Well maintained tyres should mean that punctures are not a very frequent experience. However – they do happen. Therefore, it’s important you take a puncture repair kit, a pump, and the knowledge of how to change a puncture.
Here’s a video guide:
It’s also a good idea to have a water bottle attached to your bike with a bottle cage, so you can stay hydrated. You will be burning calories as you go, too – so some energy drinks, bars or gels will keep you going. To replace salts lost through swear and fight off cramp, look for drinks with electrolytes in them, for an energy boost, think carbs, and for recovery after your ride, look for a carb/protein mix.
How should I prepare my bike for the ride?
You will have more fun on your ride if your bike is in good working order. We’ve provided Dr Bike Mechanic stands at the start of the BHF London to Brighton ride for years, and we’ve seen a few clunkers that probably weren’t so fun to ride.
Here’s are some things to check around a week before your ride, giving you enough time to fix any issues:
- Do your brakes work? If your brakes aren’t stopping you quickly when you ask them to, there could be a couple of reasons, and most of them are easy to fix. You may need new brake pads, or the cables might need adjusting slightly. We can fix this for you at any of our stores, but you will need to book your bike in so leave plenty of time.
- Are your tyres in good nic? Any cuts or sharp objects in your tyres can lead to more punctures than you’d like. Check your tyres for wear, and buy new ones if needed.
- Do your gears jump, skip, or get stuck? Hopefully you’ve ridden the bike a little but before now. If the gears don’t change smoothly, meaning one click of the lever signals the desired changes – then they probably need a bit of work. Clunky gears are usually simple to fix, so pop into a store to book a service.
- Is there crud or grime in the transmission? Take some time to clean your bike, to get any grit or grime out the cassette, derailleurs and chain – a clean bike is a smooth bike.
On the day
Start preparing for your day the night before. Get your kit ready, and get a good kip. In the morning, have a good breakfast with some carbohydrates, such as porridge with honey, or jam on toast. Leave for the event in plenty of time, accounting for traffic around the start – and finally, most importantly – Enjoy the Ride.