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Taking care of those marginal gains

You might not be taking part in the Tour de France but it is well worth taking a little extra care before embarking on your cycling adventure. So here are a few well worn tips to ensure that your trip turns out exceeds your expectations.

1) Make sure you are fuelled and ready to go

Try and eat the right sort of stuff before you go. We are not going on a marathon but we might be cycling a little bit further than you are normally used to. You will be burning more calories than you might normally do so it is quite important that you fuel up with the ride in mind. A 250 mile bike ride will burn about 15,000 calories in all and you might not necessarily want to lose the equivalent in body weight so make sure you up the fuel intake before-hand, during and when you stop. A few more carbs the night or two before isn’t a bad idea, but make sure to get a good night’s rest. For breakfast, include some simple carbs and a bit of protein e.g. oatmeal with fruit and nuts or a small plate of pancakes and scrambled eggs. Try and bank about 2000 calories before the off.

2) Drink loads of water & practice it

As water is lost through sweat, regular hydration is essential to keep the body cool. Liquids also assist in moving calories and nutrients into the bloodstream. Nutrients and oxygen can then be delivered to the working muscles. Furthermore, water helps cushion and lubricate the tissues and joints you use while riding. To get in the habit of hydrating, build it into your training to drink every 10-15 minutes. If adding calories or electrolytes with sports tabs, consider also bringing plain water as the sweetness may become cloying later on. Dried vomit on your tour jersey is not a good look.

3) Be prepared

Try and get out between 2-4 times a week. Each ride should focus on strengthening a different area. One ride should include some intensity such as completing a long climb, joining a group ride or mixing in some interval training.

The other rides should be lower intensity and focus on aerobic development, building endurance and going the distance. While strengthening different areas is important, completing a long ride (at least 75-80% of the distance of the actual ride) at least once is strongly recommended. For example if you are riding a century 100-mile ride, try to go 80 miles about 3 weeks out. From the time you start training, plan to add about 5 miles each week to your longest ride the week prior.

4) Get your kit ready

You have lots of moving parts under pressure and sometimes they break-so be prepared. Get your bike serviced prior to departing in order to mitigate the risk. Make sure you have some basic tools with you before you go - tyre levers, inner tubes, a spare tyre, a pump (that works), a chain repairer and maybe some utility tools. Make sure your brakes are in good working order and that you have a saddle that isn’t going to punish you after the first 50 miles – anti-chafing cream is not a bad idea. Don’t forget to take 5-10 minutes warming up and gently stretching before mounting up.

5) Dress for success

As we all know, a helmet tops the safety list in terms of importance. Aside from that, a quality pair of cycling shorts/long johns is going to have a big impact on your overall comfort. Don’t go cheap here it is a false economy and they are a crucial piece of clothing. After all you wouldn’t consider cycling 100 miles with a piece of sandpaper down your pants which might have a similar effect to getting the wrong pair of shorts. Wear Lycra shorts with a synthetic chamois pad.

Up top, zip-up cycle jerseys are great for their moisture-wicking qualities to keep you cool. Also, the easily accessible rear pockets make it convenient to store snacks or mobile phone. If the weather is unpredictable, cooler or even rainy (e.g. Northern France), pack layers including a lightweight rain shell. A key feature to look for in jackets is underarm vents to allow for nice airflow. Additional items may include arm and knee warmers or a light wind vest. Make sure all of the clothing you plan to wear is made of synthetic athletic fabrics. Avoid cotton at all costs.

Happy cycling

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