Route Director of Deloitte Ride Across Britain and Dulux London Revolution, Andy Cook looks at the 10 mistakes people make when training for a multi-day cycling event.
1.Not pacing correctly
It’s not uncommon for people cycling a multi-day event to go to hard and use up too much energy on day one. Unless you’re a pro, chances are you’ve signed up to a multi-day event to test your ability and most importantly, to have fun. Cycling like this is all about riding at a sustainable and comfortable pace, using energy sparingly. Cycling is as much about saving energy as it is about using it! When I’m coaching, I often use the phrase “Ride comfortably hard NOT hardly comfortable’.
2.Not enough back to back riding
My experience managing cyclists taking part in the iconic nine-day Deloitte Ride Across Britain event is that riders often have not completed enough, if any, “back to back” riding. It’s very important that as a cyclist taking on a multi-day event, you get your body used to getting back in the saddle the next day and simply, being able to cycle when you have tired legs and a lack of energy. The more you do it the easier it will get. It’s not being used to sitting in your saddle for lengthy periods of time. As any new rider will tell you, getting comfortable in your saddle can take some wearing in! Do not turn up at a multi-day event without having already included multiple big rides (4-6 hours) in your training schedule.
3.Waiting to eat/drink until you feel hungry/thirsty
One of the most important things you will ever learn when cycling is how to fuel yourself effectively. On multi-day events you need to ride at an intensity you can sustain over the course of the event. One big mistake we see is people not refuelling correctly. You should never wait until you are hungry to eat. Nor should you wait until you are thirsty to drink, by that point it will be too late and you risk running out of energy or ‘bonking’, as it’s more fondly known in the cycling world. Eat and drink little and often to ensure you replace the calories you are burning.
Every cyclist differs in what they like to eat whilst out on their bike but it should always be good quality with a balance of carbohydrate (70g-80g an hour) to replace glycogen stores, but also protein to help with muscle recovery. Hydration is also very important, and many people opt for an electrolyte drink/tablets as well as water to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat.
4.Not testing out your kit/bike before the event
We see far too many people turning up at multi-day events on new bikes that have not been fitted correctly or wearing new cycling kit that they haven’t already tested out. The problem with this is that you really do need to be as comfortable as possible on the bike. It’s not a position your body falls into naturally and so it takes some getting used to. If your bike has not been fitted correctly this can put extra pressure and strain on parts of the body including your neck, shoulders and back which eventually, will turn your cycling experience into a bit of a nightmare. Bike fits are quick and easy to book so I would highly recommend getting one at least six weeks before your multi-day event. Equally, make sure you test new kit in training to ensure it fits correctly, doesn’t annoy you by riding up, doesn’t rub etc.
5.Bringing too much on the bike
I always advise people to pack only the essentials. We do see a lot of people turning up at events with far too much stuff which they end up having to lug around everywhere. More importantly, if the event you have signed up to has hills, you will want to be as light as possible to make it as easy as possible to get to the top!
6.Not respecting the challenge
Multi-day cycling events should not be undertaken lightly. They are demanding on the body and require a good base level of fitness and enough training beforehand if you are going to cross the finish line. Of course, if you get your training and preparation correct you will have an amazing experience. I would recommend searching for a local cycling club in your area that you can join to help give you additional incentive to get out each week and ride. You can also find some pretty decent training plans online so do your research and find what works for you.
Padded cycling shorts are designed to be worn with the padded insert next to the skin. Less is more when it comes to cycling and whether you’re male or female, wearing underwear underneath your padded cycling shorts will increase the risk of rubbing and sores thanks to the additional material and seams. Lots of padded cycling shorts today also have pads that are specifically designed to clear away sweat, as well as being made of anti-bacterial material which can help prevent infection if you are unlucky enough to get a saddle sore.
8.Not servicing your bike before an event
Even if there isn’t anything noticeably wrong with your bike, it is always worth sending it in for a service before your event to make sure there are no underlying problems and to have a general tune up to make the bike as efficient as possible. You do not want to be wasting energy while you are on your bike. We have seen people turn up on a bike that hasn’t been serviced to find that on day two or three, the brakes suddenly don’t work as well, or the chain is overstretched. All these problems can put a dampener on your experience and worst of all, have the potential to put an end to your event.
9.Not checking the weather forecast
It’s important that you check the weather and know the terrain you will be riding on so that you can pack the appropriate kit. Ideally, you will pack for all weather eventualities because cycling kit is designed to be squeezed into small bags to allow for multi-day riding where the weather does vary. The worst thing you can be is too hot or too cold while out on your bike. Prevent this by packing a wind jacket, arm and leg warmers, a waterproof if there’s a chance of rain. Your temperature on the bike can change quickly, for example, you may get hot and sweaty climbing a mountain but at the top it’s likely to be much cooler. On the descent the wind picks up and it can become very chilly indeed!
10.Trying sports nutrition products for the first time at an event
This is always a bad idea because you don’t know how your body will react to that particular product. Without being overly graphic, if energy gels have not been part of your training nutrition plan, for example, I would strongly advise against trying them for the first time at your event otherwise you can quickly find yourself with an upset stomach and with no toilet in sight! It’s all about trial and error during your training period. Figure out which products you like the taste of, which give you enough energy to ride over long periods and importantly, which products/foods you can stomach eating over and over again because let’s face it, space is limited on your bike.
Andy Cook is a lifelong cyclist who was fortunate enough to ride for GB, won a few national medals and held British records on a tandem with his wife Jacqui herself a lifelong cyclist. Andy worked for British Cycling from 2005 and created the guidelines associated with the management and organisation of non-competitive cycling events in the UK. Andy was previously the National Chairman of Cycling UK and is currently Chairman of British Cycling South Region. Andy has ridden in excess of 350,000 miles in his lifetime and his a British Cycling club coach and commissare. Andy is the co-founder of Andy Cook Cycling with Jacqui.