Cycling is amongst the most enjoyable sports. Whether you cycle as a hobby or are on the route to becoming a professional cyclist, cycling has many benefits. It is a healthy physical activity that allows you to relax in the open wind as you cycle to beautiful destinations.
People take part in cycling races for different purposes. Some race to test their stamina and skills, some participate in this sport as professionals, and some take part just for fun. Whatever your motive might be, if it’s your first time participating in a cycling race, you must have many questions in mind.
You need to prepare not only your body and mind but also your bicycle for the race. Here are five pro tips to help you prepare for your first-ever cycling race.
1. Check Your Cycle
Of course, your bicycle is the most important thing here. Sometimes it’s the bicycle that makes all the difference. Firstly, determine the race you want to participate in and then get a bicycle according to it. Depending on the race, you might need a mountain bike, road bike, gravel, or cyclocross bike. Secondly, you must ensure that your cycle is in perfect condition. Before you go on a race, check your bike for any wear and tear. Clean and degrease it. Check the wheels of the bike to see if there are any loose spokes. Checking the condition of the tires and air pressure is also very crucial.
Moreover, you need to make sure that the pedals are in good condition. You must know how to change bike pedals in case your bike’s pedals are loose or you are having a hard time adjusting your feet on them. To win the race, you need a good grip on the pedals. Contact points like pedals, bar-tape, saddle, etc., are significant when it comes to riding comfortably for long intervals. Make sure to check the brakes and drivetrain and ensure headset functionality.
2. Pack the Right Gear and Food
Needless to say, the night before the race is as important as the race itself. This is the perfect time to pack everything you will need, from appropriate gear to water and food. To pack the proper gear, you must know the possible weather situation to pack accordingly. Make a checklist with the following items: helmet, cycling top, shoes, socks, bib shorts, gloves, etc. If the expected weather conditions are unfavorable, it’s wise to pack a jacket and overshoes. Don’t forget to pack your racing license.
Also, prepare your water bottles, energy bars, gels, etc., the night before the race. The quantity of these necessary items depends on the duration of your race. If the length of your race is around one-hour, one bottle of water and gel might suffice. But if your race exceeds the one-hour limit, you might need to eat and drink approximately 500 calories every hour.
3. Complete a Group Ride
Just like you can’t appear in an exam without attending the classes, don’t go on your first ever cycling race without joining a cycling group and completing a group ride. Riding solo is a great experience, but riding in a group is even better. It prepares you for what to expect when participating in a race. You must complete a group ride by joining a cycling club. It has many benefits. First, you get to gain more knowledge and experience about the sport. Second, with a cycling club, you will get to explore different routes and ride with groups at different speeds.
Moreover, it will serve as a rehearsal for your actual race. There are fewer people in a riding group compared to an actual race, but you will get an idea of how it will feel during the race when you are surrounded by many cyclists all clustered together. You will learn how to navigate with such a crowd. You will know your strengths and weaknesses. Riding with a group prepares you for the mental and physical demands of the race. You will never understand these aspects if you only train solo.
4. Don’t Over-Train
Practice indeed makes a person perfect, but this doesn’t mean you need to overburden yourself. It takes at least eight weeks of intense training to prepare for your first cycling race. After training for eight weeks, you will be as ready for the race as you can be, so don’t push yourself beyond limits. The important thing is to train for just the right amount, not more, not less. Training too much will only lead to burnout.
The biggest part of showing up for a race is to show up rested and ready. You must begin reducing your training gradually a week before the race. Don’t skip working out totally; make some short hard efforts, but you must cut back on total mileage. One day before your race, you should go on a short ride, almost up to an hour, with three to four openers. This way, you will feel ready to take on the bigger challenge the next day.
5. Arrive Before Time
On the day of the race, the last thing you want is to stress out over some minor problems like waiting too long in the registration line while you need to take a bathroom break. Start your day early, have a healthy breakfast, and arrive at least an hour before the race starts. This way, you will have enough time to register, take a bathroom break, and most importantly, get time to warm up.
A warm-up right before the race will enable you to find if there are any obstacles, sudden turns, or any other issues on the track. You will get to test your bicycle’s functionality. Warming up will make you feel more confident and ready to give it your hundred percent in the race.
Cycling is an amazing sport. Participating in a cycling race is a perfect way to up your cycling skills and find a community with like-minded people. However, for your first cycling race, you need to prepare thoroughly. These five tips above will help you prepare for your first cycling race, so follow them and just have fun!