Cold, Wet, Tired and Hungry…What to avoid when cycling

The more that people cycle and broaden their horizons, the more they will experience different conditions to ride in and invariably different emotions along the way.

For those who love cycling, have competed or simply love to test themselves by riding further/faster/higher, the inevitable experience of ‘bonking’ may have crept up and ruined rides…often far from home.

When out, the 4 main conditions that can truly ruin a ride are being cold, wet, tired and hungry.

As cyclists, everyone is aware of these conditions and plans accordingly to avoid any unnecessary issues. For example…

…the sky is looking a bit gloomy…better pack a jacket and gloves on the ride and not just risk it.

…gonna be a big ride today…I had better make sure I have some extra energy bars with me and full water bottles.

However, all best laid plans can quickly fall by the way side. It is not always the end of a ride if one of these conditions happens to creep up. If you often ride in winter, then it is to be expected that you will be colder than in the other months that you ride and dressing appropriately can avoid any major issues. It is when several of these issues are combined that makes a huge impact on ride quality and performance.

In my experience, when any 2 of these issues arise it is important to be extra vigilant and ensure neither of the other 2 start to creep in to join. Being cold and wet, isn’t necessarily unpleasant, providing you are full of energy and enjoying the ride. However, reach in your back pocket and try to take out that chocolate bar that you had saved and realise its gone, can soon turn the ride on its head. Cold, Wet and Hungry! BAD!

It is vital to address these situations when they start to arise, rather than when it is too late, especially when embarking on larger rides. (For this, I don’t ever have a time or distance in mind for larger ride, as it varies for different people).

My Top Tips to AVOID the dreaded 4 conditions…

  • Dress appropriately and always take extra layers to put on during the ride. Don’t start out in everything, as if the weather turns you have nothing to save you. Even the smallest items can make a different. Silk glove liners, neck warmers and under hats are all very small items that make a big difference. It is usually the head and arms that get cold first, with body and legs following. These items can be packed into a small zip lock bag and stashed in a pocket or saddle bag to stay dry.
  • A small packable gilet will save you in all but the worst down pours. It will stop your front and back being soaked and can be ridden in all the time. If it is hot, then simply riding with it unzipped will mean that it feels like you aren’t wearing one at all.
  • Many people ride early in the morning when being tired is a natural feeling. It is important to just pace yourself and ensure that your body has woken up naturally before being thrashed. When out on longer rides and the feeling of lethargy creeps in, then stop to take in food, water and coffee for a perk. It will help you enjoy the rest of the ride
  • Like clothing…emergency food may seem silly until you need it. A few sweets, squares of chocolate or nuts can be all that is needed to get you home. Try packing these away somewhere safe. If you don’t need them, they will be there next time and if you do, you will be very grateful for them.
  • It is important to plan your intake of food and water correctly through the ride. Even if it is cold, it is necessary to be consuming 500-750ml of water an hour and in hot conditions even more. I try to aim to eat something at least once an hour, even if that is just half a cereal bar or a few nuts or sweets. You will have to find out what works best, as some people swear by ham and cheese and others just crave a sweet taste.

 

There are obviously the opposite conditions which can also have detrimental effects on performance, however, these can be (at least in most places with correct planning) be avoided. Overheating, dehydration and even over eating can lead to serious health effects and should be avoided at all costs.

The most important thing is to try and look after yourself when you are out. Take everything that you will need and try and encourage others to do the same and be self sufficient, then if something goes wrong or conditions change, people aren’t left looking to one person for help.

1 condition … tolerable

2 conditions… bad…try to remedy at least one.

3 conditions…sort this out sharpish!

All 4 conditions…very bad news this isn’t going to be pleasant.

It is always good to find your limits, but in the safest way possible. Use your head and think about your ride and your body will thank you.

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UCI Amateur World Cycling Tour

Charly GaulGaby and I have just signed up to race in a 3 day event in the Trento Region of Italy. It will involve an individual Time Trial and 140km (4000m vertical) road race.

If we finish in the top 25% of the field, we are then eligible to race in the UCI World Cycling Championship, competing against the best in the world in Ljubljana, Slovenia around a month later, and just after we finish the Transcontinental Race to Istanbul.

This is a really exciting prospect for us, finding out how we stack up against the best amateur racers in the world.

Any tips, or advice would be most appreciated on how to maintain our level over the next 2 months as well as any tactics (apart from pedal fast).

Ben

 

Women’s only events- will they take off ??

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Most cycling events are held as opens, usually dominated by men with a few women in the mix. Making the experience of an event completely different between genders. As a man competing when you cross the start line its full speed from the word go and often the first part of the event will be the most intense as you want to catch a group that is going to be pedaling at your level- if you miss the good groups there is a good chance that you wont be able to catch them. Once you have found your group everything settles down a bit and spreads out. The group will then work together taking it in turns to lead and work there way around the course and finishing with a sprint for the line.

For Women the start is similar you also need to find your group, but once you have you can relax. Often, once you have got in to a group you are looked after by the men you can sit and draft on the flats and aren’t often expected to have your turn up front in the wind. What often separates the level of ladies is the climbs, you have to climb yourself and keep up with the group in order to not be dropped. Don’t get me wrong events for women are still hard, you are still exhausted when you cross the finish but to an extent you feel looked after.

So what happens when there are no men ….
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2 weeks ago at Vercors myself and about 150 other women lined up ready to take on the challenge Vercors, 120km rolling route with one main climb. The start felt quite mellow compared with the larger mixed events but I think this was more to do with a smaller number of participants. We were lead out by a team of motorbikes through the town after about 3km they sped off ahead and we were off. I had pre race nerves on the start line and was now full of adrenalin an ready to give it my all. But nothing happened no one sped up, no one attacked, everyone maintained their pace and started up the first climb. I was completely thrown off having never done an all female event before, tactically I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t make a move and stayed with the front group waiting to see what would happen. For me I found the pace frustrating which meant a few times I started to pedal but that meant leading. I was then worried that I was going to be tiring my self out whilst everyone else sat behind so i tried to pull out to the right to let someone else come through, it didn’t happen no one came through.

So for the first 30km I was on and off the front, tossing a coin in my head trying to decide whether to stay where I was and wait for someone to take control of the race or whether that should be me?

We then headed into a small village down a decent, the course was weaving through the national park so the roads were quite narrow and a bit rough. we all started rolling over a series of speed bumps and grates closely packed together. That was it I felt something touch my back wheel, i jolted forward over my bars, wobbled, tried to get my balance back, didn’t…. I had 2 seconds where I remember thinking Sh*t here I go. Smash down to the left then bounced over onto the right and skidded down the road.

I crawled to the side of the road and up onto the pavement to get out of the way of the cyclists coming through. I laid on the pavement absolutely gutted- not getting to find out how the rest of the event would go, worried that part if not all of my bike would be written off and becoming more and more conscious that I was missing quite a bit of skin.

The medical team came did there initial checks making sure nothing was broken and that my head was ok. Then they picked me up put me inside the ambulance and began cleaning my wounds. Anyone who had ever had road rash will no how much this STINGS, they have to make sure that the area is disinfected and all the gravel is removed before they can get it covered up.

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Thankfully one of my friends who was supporting his wife in the event was in the town and saw me come off. Once I was out of the ambulance they gave me a lift back to the campsite. I wanted to show my support despite not finishing to the other ladies in the events so with the help of Ben I slowly limped down to the finish line to watch everyone come in. The first lady came in at 4hours 07 Minuits. Fast. Around 30kmh. That means the pace must have shot up, most likely someone attacking up the climb and pulling off forming a fast group. Most of the ladies were coming over the line either in small groups, pairs of quite often alone.

Each lady was presented with a rose a glass of fizz for finishing. The atmosphere in the village was buzzing, it was an awesome event to be part of the sense of achievement amount the women was huge. I think events like this are really important in the development of women’s cycling and hope to get the change to take part in something similar again in the future.

I can’t wait for the next one to show what I’ve got.