Are you ready to take your cycling to the next level and conquer a sportive? Look no further! In this blog, we’ll break down all the insider tips and tricks for riding a sportive in the UK. We’ve got you covered, from choosing the right gear to nailing the perfect fuelling strategy. Get ready for a fun and challenging experience as you tackle the scenic routes and test your endurance. So grab your helmet, pump up your tires, and let’s ride!
Pick the Right Distance for Your First Event
We all love to dream we are Chris Froome or Marco Pantani and that we can float like an eagle over the lumps and bumps without as much as a flapjack or bacon butty in sight. But let’s be realistic; for your first sportive event, you will want to keep it relatively low-key! For some, it might be your first time riding in a mass participation event or even the first time tackling a non-local to you cycling route, so knowing what you are letting yourself in for is critical.
British Cycling has an event finder which allows you to filter the events by difficulty, which is a handy tool. You can also use apps like Strava and search for the event name to see rides from previous years’ riders, provided they are public.
Picking an event within your current limits is essential, especially if you have never ridden in a mixed-ability group. There are guaranteed to be all styles of riders at the event, and you can quickly become overwhelmed by the scale and presence of it. All while trying to concentrate on riding your bike, following directions, finding fuel stops and not to mention following the rules of the road and looking out for other road users.
Train, Train, Train
The key to most things in life lies in preparation, and riding a sportive is no different. Before the event, you want to have at least ridden the distance of the sportive and tackled a few hills similar to the event you are entering.
It is also important to rest before the sportive, this can be tapered training or light riding in the build-up to the day. Either way, ensure you are fully rested the day before and ready to tackle the event!
Pack Your Kit The Night Before
If you are rushing around at 6 am to find your favourite cycling mitts or those gels you swore were in the kitchen drawer, you are under-prepared! Trust us when we say having all your kit laid out and ready to go the night before does help! You should include:
- Clothing, both off and on the bike
- Helmet and mitts
- Packed and prepared saddle bag
- Subsistence such as flapjacks, bananas and gels
- Tech items such as GPS etc
Ride At Your Own Pace
When you first ride in a sportive, it can be tempting to shoot off at the start and keep up with groups of riders to keep the avg speed up or seek shelter. The trouble is at the beginning, when you are full of energy, it might be easy, but you can soon hit the wall and leave yourself struggling to finish the event. Pick a pace that suits you and that you can maintain until the end of the event and that you are comfortable doing.
Remember to Take On Fuel
Remembering to eat and drink regularly is critical to finishing the sportive. It can be easy to forget not to take a sip of water or a square of flapjack, more so if there are no planned stops along the way. Taking on some water every 10 minutes or so and a small amount of food every 30-40 minutes, depending on the weather and intensity of the event, is usually a pretty good rule, but this does depend on you and what your body needs.
Prepare Your Bike
The slightest mechanical issues could ruin your whole sportive, so be sure to prep your bike a few days before. Give it a good clean, apply some chain lubricant, and check over the brake pads and tyres for signs of debris or wear. Remember to ensure your saddle bag has the correct spares, such as tubes, multitool, etc.
The most important thing to do on a sportive is to have fun! Some riders will treat sportives like a race, but they are only there to enjoy the sport and take some new routes with fellow riders. If you do not want to do it in record time, you don’t have to. If you’re going to race your fellow riders, do so safely and respectfully. But most of all, enjoy the ride!