Ten Top Tips for Tourists
For what it might be worth to you these are our top training tips for preparing for big tour rides – and most of them come from our serious and silly experiences over the last 4 years!
1. Find a Friend
In our experience, the most important element of any training regime is to have one or many training partners. Even if that friend is a crazy Viking who just wants to rape, pillage and eat cake, it’s worth it. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to do this sort of stuff on your own, but it is harder and definitely not as much fun!
2. Get Covered in Oil
You must start out with a properly maintained bike – but be warned, even the smallest amount of cycling maintenance seems to result in being covered with grease, dirt, tyre dust – and the chances are that you will start ‘tinkering’ in the new shirt that your partner bought for your birthday, the tinkering will result in oil and grease on your new shirt, your partner will give you the silent treatment for 3 days and will then glare constantly as she is trying to get the oil out of your new shirt, and want to bring it up at every dinner party – but anyway, let’s not be angry, let’s just get our bikes into a really good running condition shall we?
3. Wear and Tear
There are 3 main components that we have found wear out and can catch you by surprise; Tyres, Brakes and Chains;
Tyres: in our experience, should last anywhere between 1,000 and 2,500 miles. Conventional wisdom will tell you that this is about the tyre quality. Whilst I’m sure that’s true, we’ve found that it’s actually more about the road quality – but carefully checking tyres for debris before or after every ride (especially when it’s been ridden in the rain) can definitely help tyre life.
Brakes: this is obvious but just check your brake pads regularly. What might not be quite so obvious is that most wheels (onto which the brake pads press) also have a thin groove in them which is usually coloured black or dark grey. When this line disappears, the groove is gone and the wheel wall may be getting too thin – again worth checking regularly.
Chain: Same as tyres, depends on a few different things, but between 1,000 and 3,000 miles. Certainly worth checking every season and probably replacing every other season. Wear on the chain can affect the life of your gear cassette, so if in doubt, get it changed!
4. Make Yourself ‘Appy
This stupid pun just tries to point you to getting sorted with an app and device that will allow you to track your achievements.
And there are loads to choose from; Garmin, Mapmyride, Strava to name just a few. Your choice will depend on whether you just want a recording device or whether you think you might want a satnav capability – but check our online for reviews.
But be ready for the ‘App Wars’
The rivalry between different app users is almost as intense as the tension between mud-huggers and lycra-lovers, which is almost as intense as the animosity between skiers and snowboarders, which is almost as intense as the battle between the Empire and the Rebellion, which is almost ….. well, you get the point!!
Chose one tool, then stick with it because it is really motivational to be able to track and monitor your progress.
5. Get Properly Dressed – useful rules
Padded shorts are good – underwear under padded shorts is not good (no-one ever tells you that, but it is fundamental to minimising that friction rash).
Butt’r Creams are good – applying to your shorts is much easier and hygienic than applying to your sensitive bits!
6. F. T. P. is P. T. F.
You’ve got a training buddy, a well maintained bike, and a device/app combo which works for you – now it’s nearly time to get out on the road – but wait, where are you going to go?
It may seem obvious but plan your route(s). The route(s) you will want to take at the start of your training regime will be very different to what you will be able to tackle at the end – but build in some challenge.
Perhaps a plan that includes flat riding to begin with and then building up to tackling small, then large hills might work well.
A good rule of thumb is to plan for what you feel comfortable doing as a ride plus 10-20%. For example, if you fancy a 25 mile ride, plan a 30 mile ride instead.
7. Carbing Up
Okay, time for a bit of ‘sensitive self-disclosure’ as the Americans like to put it – Oblivion Tourists are generally not athletes – we don’t look like athletes, behave like athletes, though we have on occasions performed like athletes. There are some exceptions within our community who are at more of an elite level, of course, but they are few and far between (and getting slower).
The reason for getting that out up front is that, whilst there is a plethora of information available about managing your food / drink intake before, during and after your rides, our experience is that your body will be best served by keeping your diet as close as possible to what you would normally eat.
That doesn’t mean you are going to take a roast dinner and a bottle of red with you on your ride – but it also doesn’t mean that you should eat seven bananas because you have heard that they are good for you!! (Read up on potassium overload).
What I mean is don’t carb up!
At an elite level diet is tightly controlled, but as an amateur rider carbing up is much more likely to make you put on weight – and be careful with that big piece of chocolate cake – a rapid sugar boost can give you just as much cycling problem by almost overloading your system!!
A very experienced rider told me that, for longer rides (2 hours plus), to get into the habit of taking a small drink (say, 2 mouthfuls of liquid) every 15 minutes and a small amount of food (perhaps 1/3rd or half of a cereal bar) every 30 mins.
This has worked great for many Oblivion Tourists and just ensures that there is a small but regular flow of liquid and food into the body’s system. This is also reasonably easy to adjust if the challenges get tougher and more energy is required.
One associated useful tip we’ve had is to drink hydration and to eat energy. Whilst they are undoubtedly really good, the problem we’ve found with energy drinks is that if you drink them all day, they are so sweet and sickly that you end up feeling queasy. Our approach tends to be to drink water with a fast hydration tablet in it, and then to eat cereal bars, fruit & nut mix etc for energy.
But experiment until you find out what works for you!
8. Getting in the miles
The most common reason for not training is “I don’t have time” – but there are a couple of useful things to remember here that might help:
Events – this can be intimidating, but there are some fantastic rides now organised by companies like; Evans, Wiggle, Discover Adventure, Human Events. Also many charities now organise their own events (for example, we are big fans of the 3 Counties Cycle Ride organised by the Rotary Club of Bracknell). Getting a schedule of booked events can be a great way to get a plan kick-started and to make sure you make time for some great training.
Hills v Flat – It’s worth bearing in mind that 1 hour on the hills is worth 2 or 3 hours on the flat! If you are tight on time, find some hills! This is no real substitute with getting your body ‘preped’ for long days sitting on a 2 inch wide razor blade, but it all helps!!
9. Too Slow
Let’s get one thing straight – your bike is actually fairly unlikely to be the limiting factor on how fast or slow you go, especially uphill where gravity is also trying mercilessly to slow you down. Sure elite riders will tend to have very swish expensive bikes, but consider this:
A basic bike might weigh 10kgs. A posh carbon bike might weigh 8kgs.
Upgrading gives you a 20% saving in weight – hurrah!
But now stick a 14 stone (90kg) rider onto that bike.
Suddenly, it is clear that when you compare the 90kg rider + 10kg bike to the 90kg rider + 8kg bike there is now only a 2% difference in weight – and that 2% change could have cost £2,000 to generate!
Put an 80kg rider on that 10kg bike and do the maths – 10% difference.
Conclusion – to go faster, lose weight!!
Obviously this is intentionally simplistic, but it does make the point fairly clearly, that the bike is unlikely to be the limiting factor in your early days!
10. Enjoyment or Endurance
A final, really important point – There is no way to short-circuit this, the more training you put it, then more you will enjoy the big ride.
If you don’t make time to get yourself properly prepared and do the training, then you’ll probably still be able to do the ride because you are tough and determined – but it will be more about survival and endurance, than it will be about enjoying the experience!
.. and you want to enjoy the ride, don’t you!!