Article by James Lilley. January ’17.
In this post, I aim to tell new members what they need to bring, wear and eat on club rides. We don’t enforce these points. We just want to help you enjoy the miles. Even experienced riders can get caught out once they start doing longer club rides. (I know I was!)
What to bring
“Wheelers’ rides are great! Everyone is SO friendly that I won’t even need to bring a pump or inner tube. Another rider will just have one, right?”
Sure, we’re a friendly bunch–I’ve helped and been helped on countless club rides–but you’ve always got to bring the basics to ensure you’re covered. Other members and ride leaders will always be there to help, but you need to make sure you have the relevant kit to cover your own back.
Even if you’re unsure about how to change a tube, bring one. If it’s your first foray into longer distances and you think you won’t get hungry, bring something just in case.
Essential gear for every ride:
- 1 x inner tube (more if you’re prone to punctures)
- 2 x tyre levers
- Pump or CO2 canisters
- Next of kin details (Please complete these on your Wheelers’ membership card)
- Details of any medication you are on
- Mobile phone
- Cash (£5-10 should do)
- Gel or similar snack
- Multi-tool (optional but I always have one).
Kit for longer rides (65+ miles)
- 2 x inner tubes
- 1 x large bottle or 2 x average-sized bottles
- More food!
- Spare chain links and chain tool (optional but handy)
- Gaffer tape (a small roll of insulating tape can fix anything)
- Spare Allen Keys (IKEA furniture ones are great for this)
- Tube patches (I don’t normally like using them on road bikes, but they’re handy)
- Sun cream (for the odd hour of sunshine we get in the summer)
- Cable ties (they’ll fix anything the gaffa tape can’t).
Of course, there are plenty more options, but that lot should see you through a bad day! During winter, we also recommend mudguards and lights.
Where to store it all?
You’re probably thinking you need a suitcase for all the above, but you’d be wrong! I can store all the kit I need on a ride in my jersey pockets: I simply put it all in sandwich bags (job, jobbed).
But some riders don’t like full pockets. If that’s you, use saddle bags, or containers that fit in a bottle cage; there are loads of options out there.
What to wear
You could fill a whole book on what to wear when cycling, so here are the basics:
- You might not like lycra; however, it’s the best stuff for the job (stay comfy).
- Make use of the Wheelers’ kit shop and all its options.
- Work out where you get cold. Different riders feel cold in different places when winter sets in. Most riders feel the chill in their feet and hands. No problem. Decent thermal gloves, socks and overshoes help sort it out. Don’t be afraid to ask other riders what they recommend. (Go on, just ask us on Facebook.)
- When it rains, the trick is to stay warm even if you can’t stay dry. If I wear a fully waterproof top, I’ll end up wetter on the inside than the outside. Instead, I aim for a showerproof top layer with several layers of clothes underneath. Ironically, the coldest I’ve ever been was during a torrential summer downpour!
- Buy winter kit in summer and summer in winter to save money!
- Look out for the Aldi Cycle special days, along with the PlanetX flash sales.
- Make use of local shops: most offer a 10% discount to Wheelers’ members.
- Factor in wind-chill. It may not feel cold on your patio, but it will at the top of Hackpen Hill. Windproof tops and gillets are ace.
- It’s always better to be a bit too warm than too cold (in my opinion).
Don’t forget, if you need specific advice, just email the club using firstname.lastname@example.org or post on the club’s Facebook page.
What to eat
You always remember your first bonk. Hold on. What’s a bonk? Active.com says:
Perhaps a complete bonk can be described as total glycogen depletion from the muscles and liver. Glycogen is the primary fuel source for endurance athletes. This severe glycogen depletion does not occur during short duration, high intensity efforts, rather it occurs during continuous exercise at some 70- to 85-percent of VO2 max that is sustained for periods of more than about two hours.
In simple terms, your body can store two to three hours of energy. Once this has gone, you’ll feel weak, shaky, and every pedal stroke becomes harder until you’ll need to stop.
I remember bonking at the end of one of my first Wheelers’ rides–Cricklade High Street felt like Mount Everest. I remember thinking, “If I have to stop at the mini roundabout, I won’t be able to get going again!”
Even last summer, when I was riding up to 200 miles a week, I got caught out on an evening ride. First my hands started shaking. (That’s when I know I’ve got 20 minutes before I fully bonk.) Riding down Day House Lane, my whole body started to shake. I coasted into the Coate Shell garage and could barely walk. Two bottles of Lucozade and two Snickers bars later, I was back to full pace.
Some riders are affected by fatigue more and quicker than others. Generally speaking, the longer the distance, the more you have to pay attention to food and drink.
Anyway, enough anecdotes for now! On a standard 50-mile club ride, I have a:
- decent meal night before
- decent breakfast (muesli, toast and three espressos in case you are wondering)
- cake, banana or something similar at the halfway stop.
Once I hit 60 miles, I start eating every hour. If it’s a 100-mile ride, I really start to pay attention to what I eat as I know 80-miles-plus is prime bonk territory.
Gels. What are they?
Love them or hate them, they get the job done and don’t take up much space. Here’s a handy comparison of gels from Cycling Weekly.
Gels are well worth trying if you’re a new rider. If you feel like you’re starting to bonk–now you know what that means–a gel every 30 minutes will help see you home.
Quick tips! It’s worth trying new gels nearer to home, just in case you find they don’t work for you. Otherwise you’ll learn that the hard way. Flapjacks and Soreen loafs are great alternatives, but are harder to eat on the move.
Look out for future posts guides over the next few weeks.