The most famous road cycling event in the world is currently pedalling its way round France. From the leader, resplendent in that most coveted piece of cycling clothing, the famous yellow jersey, right down to the ‘lantern rouge’ at the back, every single entrant is a world-class cyclist. It all seems a long way from recreational cycling – but there are some things that apply to everyone on two wheels.
1) Winding down
Some post-stage interviews on the Tour de France show the cyclist on a stationary bike, still pedalling. Why on earth does he want to keep cycling after racing for about 150 kilometres? The answer is that he finished the stage at top speed to get the best placing, and so he needs to disperse the lactic acid build up in his legs by gradually slowing down. If you don’t have an interviewer waiting or a big race finish, slow down in the last few kilometres of your ride so that you arrive with muscles relaxed and heart rate back almost to normal.
2) Choose the right parts
Unless you are a very serious multi-disciplinary cyclist, you probably don’t have more than one bike, and can’t switch between a lightweight time-trial machine and one built for road endurance. However you can make sure that you have the right bike and the right parts for that bike. Take a look at the range of parts from SRAM – they provide kit optimised for different types of cycling and designed to cope with different demands.
3) Dress for the conditions
The correct cycling clothing will make all the difference to enjoying your ride. The Tour de France cyclists are almost all wearing bib shorts, such as those from 2XU or Skins, so no chance of a chilly lower back when in the tuck and hurtling downhill. You will also see that their cycling clothing changes for different days; time trial involves high tech helmets and aerodynamic shoes, while mountain stages call for more weatherproof gear. If the forecast is changeable, some lightweight accessories such as Pearl Izumi’s arm warmers and ‘sun knees’ can make all the difference to comfort.
4) Have a support crew
It is unlikely that you have (or would want!) a support car following you on your day out, however nice it would be to change a wheel rather than have to fix a puncture. So support yourself and put a few essential items in a lightweight pannier. These could include an extra layer of cycling clothing, some high-energy food, a small tool set, your puncture repair kit, a spare inner tube and so on. If you are cycling alone, make sure that someone has a rough idea of your route and an expected time for you to return; and knows what to do if you are late. Finally, make sure that your mobile phone is charged and has credit.
Finally, borrow some Tour de France style – you might be warming down, but you can still finish your ride with a flourish. Make sure that cycling clothing is zipped up, that you have a big smile on your face and give a wave to the crowd!