Participating in a sportive is not as simple as just rocking up and riding. The weather in Ireland can change in the blink of an eye, and it can catch even the most experienced of riders out. After all that training, you don’t want to throw it all out of the window by not going prepared.
And it’s not just the weather. Have you got enough water bottles? What about chamois cream? If you get a flat do you have what’s needed to fix it? Without a spare inner tube or repair kit a simple puncture could spell disaster for your ride.
Helmet and shoes
You will be amazed at the number of stories there are from people who have travelled an hour or more to their event in the early hours of the morning, only to forget their helmet or shoes.
Not many cyclists will take two helmets with them, and you must remember, all sportives have a ‘no helmet, no ride’ policy. Before you leave your house, check you have both — and then check again.
The right gear
In the hours leading up to your event, keep an eye on the weather forecast so you can dress accordingly. However, the weather forecasters have been known to get it wrong on occasion, so don’t take their word for it.
Even if the forecaster says it’s going to be bright and sunny, take a rain cape, knee and arm-warmers, overshoes and a windproof jacket. You don’t have to carry all these things with you when you ride, but you will at least have the option when you arrive at event HQ.
Extra clothing will also come in handy when you finish. Driving home in wet, sweaty cycling gear is never a pleasant way to end the day.
Cycling specific kit!
It might sound obvious, but dedicated riding kit makes all the difference. One of the biggest mistakes is substituting a proper cycling jersey for a t-shirt. On all but the hottest summer days you will quickly get clammy and cold. But you’ll only do it once!
Also, don’t buy new clothes a day before your ride. Wear gear that you know is comfortable and won’t cause you any issues.
Remember, the more comfortable you are, the more enjoyable your ride will be, so it’s worth taking care over what you wear.
A wash bag is something many cyclists overlook, but it can be very useful. Chamois cream can be a Godsend when cycling for long periods, and really help minimise discomfort.
Most sportives have showers at the end of the race, so take advantage and bring a towel and shower gel.
Driving home in wet, sweaty cycling clothing can cause a number of issues. Bacteria thrive in moist climates and saddle chafing can quickly become problematic, so get out of your shorts as soon as possible.
Wet wipes can come in handy, and are a quick way to get rid of grit and dirt should you fall off. If you have to mess about with your chain midway through your ride, you will be able to use these wipes to clean your hands of oil and grease.
Sun cream is another essential. Spending hours in the sun is dangerous and can cause sunburn, so protect your skin. If you can, buy a mini first aid kit as well. Small cuts and abrasions might not seem like much, but can get infected if not cleaned.
Punctures have the potential to put a real dampener on your day, but providing you have the right tools to fix them, then there is nothing to worry about.
Always take with you a set of tyre levers, a hand pump and inner tubes. Don’t rely on others for spares; they might not have any and they might not want to share.
Food and drink
The majority of sportives provide feed stations, but they don’t always stock what your heart or more specifically your body desires. If you’re one of the slower riders, there’s no guarantee that you won’t be left with slim pickings by the time you reach the feeds.
Always take with you some emergency food — something that provides energy and can raise sugar levels, and some money too to get you out of trouble.
Prepare your drinks bottles at home before you set off. There’s nothing worse than having to rush around moments before your sportive trying to find a tap or a water barrel. Work out how long your event is and what you will need per hour to get you round.
Don’t always rely on the mechanical assistance provided
The promise of full road-side assistance is definitely a bonus if you’re not familiar with the intricacies of a road bike. But just because there will be helpers on hand that doesn’t mean that you should forget your own equipment and spares. It won’t be like the Tour de France. If you puncture it won’t be a case of simply raising your arm and waiting for a support car to draw level before some sprightly mechanic leaps out with a new wheel.
Keep eating – regardless of how big a breakfast you had
The night before you’ll load up on Bolognaise and in the morning you’ll no doubt have eggs and bacon. But keep eating during the ride – and not only at the food stops.