This upcoming weekend, I, and 249 others, will ride 100 miles as part of MEC’s inaugural Muskoka ride. It will be a long day in the saddle featuring great ride support and views of evergreen trees and rocky outcrops of Canadian Shield. One of my fellow riders will be Michael Barry. I figured the former pro rider and experienced group-ride leader (this past June, he led a tour over gravel roads in the Catalan countryside) would have some tips for a successful century ride. Here’s his advice, which will help you no matter the length of your next big event.
Prep your equipment in advance
While events often offer some mechanical support, you shouldn’t show up with skipping gears with the hope that someone will be around to fix the issue. “Make sure your bike is in good shape,” Barry says. “The gears should work well and the tires should be in good condition.”
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Before you head to bed the night before the event, prepare your kit so that you are confident and are ready to go when you wake up. “Carry a pump or CO2 cartridge, spare tube and tire levers,” Barry says. “Also, carry a cellphone, money and ID for on-the-road emergency situations, or simply if you somehow get off course.” Don’t forget ride fuel for the day.
Eat and rest
The evening before the event, have a good meal that is rich in carbohydrates. The fuel will help power your ride the next day. Also don’t leave that gear prep to late, as you want to get to bed early so you’re well rested.
On the morning of the ride, grab a good breakfast. “But leave enough time to start digesting the food before the start, two to three hours,” Barry adds. “You don’t want to be burping up breakfast during the first hour of the event. I eat usually eat two eggs and large bowl of oatmeal and a few slices of toast.”
Don’t test new gear, or grub, on the day of the ride
Don’t use any new clothing, especially shorts, gloves or shoes, on the day of the event. “Use what’s comfortable and what you know,” Barry says. “There is nothing worse than sore feet, hands or bum.” The same advice applies to ride fuel: stick to food that you know works for you.
You’ve carbo loaded the night before and had a big breakfast, but you’ll burn a lot of calories during your ride. Make sure you carry enough fuel to get you through the event. “Fill your pockets with your favourite energy food (bars, cookies, gels, etc.) that you’re accustomed to eating and know won’t give you a bad stomach,” Barry says. “Aim to eat 200-300 calories an hour after the first hour. Drink consistently; how much you consume depends on heat, of course. On a hot day, it is a good idea to include some electrolyte powder mix in your water bottles.”
When you start a big ride, you usually feel fresh and a bit excited about the whole thing. It’s easy to go a little too hard at the beginning. Barry cautions against this. “Don’t ride above your threshold from the start,” he says. “Pace yourself for a long day in the saddle. Use slightly easier gears on the climbs than you might usually use on a shorter ride. It is better to finish fast than to blow up and grovel to the line.”