As cyclists here in Colorado, we are extremely fortunate to have so many organized rides to choose from throughout the season—races, gran fondos, tours, bucket-list event rides, and more. We at Velofix have enjoyed providing mechanical support for a number of such events over the past few years and, time and time again, we have seen people faced with the threat of having to abandon their ride due to suboptimal planning. As such, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the things we have seen and the lessons we have learned.
Selecting The Right Ride(s)
With so many great events to choose from right in our backyard, even picking the right one(s) for you can feel a bit overwhelming. Things to consider include:
- Location. Do you want to travel to a different part of the state and make a multi-day adventure and vacation out of it, or do you just want to do something closer to home and sleep in your own bed before and after?
- Duration. Many, but not all, events offer multiple routes and distances. The key is to challenge yourself but also try to be realistic about your fitness level. If you get in over your head, things can quickly go from enjoyable to miserable—see my post on Embracing the Pain.
- Terrain. How much elevation is gained? Do you like climbing or would you prefer something flatter.
- Degree of rider support. How well supported is the ride and how self-sufficient are you comfortable being? How much distance is between aid stations? How long will it take you to get to each one? What amenities are available at each aid station? Is there SAG support available? What about medical support, especially if you have a particular medical condition or concern? All things to research before making your selection.
- Do proceeds from the event benefit a cause that you believe in? Many rides donate all or a portion of their proceeds to a good cause. Picking an event that supports a cause that you believe in will make training more enjoyable, and pushing through the challenging points of the ride more tolerable. Furthermore, there is a great level of camaraderie that is felt among riders that are all “in it together” for a common cause.
It is absolutely a good idea to challenge yourself. Set your goals high and work hard to achieve them. However, also be realistic about your fitness level. We have seen countless people pull their bikes out of the garage for the first time all season and intend to complete a century-plus with plenty of climbing at high altitude. That plan can work for a fortunate few, but as often than not we have seen it end up making the ride more of a burden than a joy. The more you are able to train, the better. If you are able to comfortably complete a training ride that covers at least 75% of the event distance, you should be good to go for the event. It will likely still be difficult—and gratifying to complete—but not (too) miserable.
Getting Your Bike Ready
This is the one that we see most commonly, and what prompted me to write this piece. (Admittedly, since we operate a small fleet of mobile bike shops, we are probably also a bit jaded.) When we are providing mechanical support at an event, we are of course more than happy to help any and all riders that need us. However, we get just as much satisfaction from seeing people ride past our van with a smile and a wave, thanking us for being there but not needing our services, because they made sure their bike was working its best before the ride. I would say that about 80% of the mechanical issues we see on course could be avoided with a little preparation. Bikes need love, and getting yours checked over and tuned up by a trained professional prior to a big event is the best way to ensure your safety and enjoyment out there.
Bring The Right Gear
- Clothing. Be prepared when it comes to the clothing you bring. We all know that the weather (especially in the mountains) can change in an instant. One moment’s sunshine can turn to the next moment’s hailstorm. Have gear that packs tightly into a jersey pocket, but be prepared.
- Nutrition & Hydration. How much distance is between those aid stations and how well will they be stocked when you get there? On longer rides, you should be taking in nutrition of some nature at least hourly. If the aid stations are further away from one another than that, then be prepared with what you need. For hydration, plan to drink regularly in order to fend off dehydration, the dreaded bonk, and potentially other medical issues. If it is going to take you more than an hour to get from one aid station to the next, plan on having a second bottle ready to go. **Note that specific caloric and fluid intake recommendations are tremendously variable based on ambient temperature, body size, effort, etc., and a detailed discussion is well outside the scope of this blog. As a very general guideline, however, plan to take in approximately 100 calories (including 30-50 grams of carbohydrate) and at least one 500ml bottle per hour (though in hot temperatures or with harder efforts your specific needs could easily be 100% to 200% higher than this).
- Other Gear. This one is pretty all encompassing but I wanted to include a list of several items that we see people either forget or need replaced time and time again:
- Shoes – don’t forget them.
- Helmet – don’t forget it.
- Cleats – check yours and make sure they aren’t worn out. At nearly every event we support, we get the complaint from multiple people that their cleats suddenly won’t stay attached to their pedals. It is usually because the cleats are completely worn out.
- Spare tube and CO2 or pump – plan to have these items with you even if you don’t know how to change a tire. There are sure to be plenty of people out on the road that will be happy to stop and help you, but they are sometimes a little more hesitant to give you their last tube or CO2 cartridge for fear that they will then get stranded a few miles down the road.
- Sunscreen – yep.
- Chamois Butter – no explanation needed.
There are still several great cycling events to enjoy this season. Get out, have fun, and maybe even support a great cause. And give us a wave as you ride by our van with a smile on your face!
Trent Newcomer is a veterinarian and the franchise owner of Velofix Colorado, a mobile bike shop operation that serves the Front Range, from Fort Collins to the entire Denver metro area. Book a bike service appointment and have them roll up to your home or business at velofix.com.