This is a sponsored article, brought to you in association with the British Heart Foundation.
If you’ve set your sights on tackling a big ride this year — like one of the British Heart Foundation events — but are only used to quick blasts around local trails, it’ll help to be prepared for the different effort levels and general riding experience awaiting you.
So, in collaboration with MBUK’s resident Big Ride expert Max Darkins, we’ve got some pre-big-ride hints and tips to make things easier and more enjoyable ahead of the big day.
Pre-ride checks and set up
A big day in the saddle is tougher on bike and body, so considered bike set-up and checks are crucial.
On top of the usual pre-ride checks (tyres, spokes, gears, etc.) ensure there’s enough life left in your brake pads.
Check the chain’s condition. A chain checker is a cheap, simple tool to use and could save you gear problems on the day and money in the long term.
Ensure contact points (saddle, bar, pedals) are comfy. Padded Lycra shorts are a good idea, pedals with bigger platforms and stiff-soled shoes reduce hot spots on your feet, while ergonomic grips can help with hand fatigue.
Raising your bar height, by swapping headset spacers to under the stem, lessens the weight on your arms and can reduce back fatigue.
Find the optimum saddle height; when you’re sat down, with one leg extended and your heel on the pedal, the leg should be almost straight.
Stretches and exercises
Good flexibility and core strength are crucial to power delivery and rider comfort on long rides.
Routinely stretch at least a couple of times a week. Hamstring and calf stretches are vital and ‘the plank’ is great for developing core strength.
Do yoga classes/positions such as Down Dog, Pigeon, Upward Dog, Cat-Cow and the Lunge.
On the day, do some gentle riding to warm and stretch the muscles before the event. During the ride, regularly move around and stretch (arms, legs, neck and back). This can be done on the bike, but only when safe to do so.
- 8 stretches to improve your flexibility and cycling performance
- Quick exercises to build your strength for cycling
Do multiple laps of a short route if you’re unsure about taking on a big loop.
Add some extra climbs to your usual rides and ride out of the saddle to help build power.
Add easy miles at the start/end of your usual ride, to increase the distance.
Gear down and keep your heart rate down — you should be able to speak in sentences without gasping for air.
Try fasted rides. Ride at moderate intensity for around 90 minutes in the morning, before eating breakfast, just consuming water. This increases fat metabolism, enabling you to burn fat to release energy when carbohydrate stores are limited.
Do some rides with the exact kit and foods you’ll be riding with on the day of the event.
There’s usually a good level of support available before, during and after an event, including free food and drink, medics and mechanics. This aids being able to travel light. Do check exactly what will be provided though, because it varies at each event. You should aim to carry:
- At least 1-litre of water and some food, such as energy bars or flapjacks
- Essential tools, such as an inner tube, puncture repair kit, pump, multi-tool, chain master link and spare rear mech hanger
- A water/windproof layer to pull on if needed
Note: Helmets may not be compulsory by law, but many organisers will insist that you wear one if you’re taking part in their event.
Getting out on your bike more and preparing for big rides or events is a great way to improve your fitness and strengthen your heart, without any boring gym sessions. Gradually build the length and intensity of your rides for the best results.
- Milton Keynes bike ride — Sunday 8 July
- South Downs Way — Saturday 14 July
- South Coast bike ride — Sunday 29 July