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.