What to Do the Week Before a Big Ride
Are you feeling confident about your next cycling event?
Cyclists spend countless hours preparing and training for big rides. They put a lot of money into the best gear and make sure they are mentally and physically ready for hours on the bike. But it can be easy to overlook a few critical ways to prepare in the final two weeks leading up to the event.
A few minor oversights in those final days and you might throw away all the time and effort you spent getting ready. It’s never a good feeling when you fall behind or slow the whole group down.
To avoid this frustration, you have to dial in your bike and your body for the ride at hand. For what to do the week before a big ride, we turned once again to longtime cycling aficionado and instructor, Coach Darryl MacKenzie. Here are his top ways to prepare in the week or two before a long or intense riding event.
Prep Your Bike
“One of the worst things that can happen to you is that you end up having a mechanical failure on the ride,” says Coach Darryl. “You want to make sure that your bicycle is in as good a shape as possible.”
A breakdown can sideline you for a long time while you try to repair it. If it happens a few times, the minutes add up. On longer rides, this can be the difference between getting in before sunset or after dark.
On one double century with 24 riders, Darryl’s group had 16 flat tires. At 10 minutes or so for every change, you can do the math at how much longer that ride took than it should have.
Every brake pad, cable and caliper should be calibrated. Your pedals should be ready to lock in and turn smoothly. Shifters should be responsive, your saddle comfortable, and your chain and cogs clean and lubed.
You should also take a look at your tires to see if they need a change. If you only ride two to three big events a year, then it’s probably smart to put fresh tubes and tires on before the ride. A fresh set of rubber will help you prevent flats and improve your speed thanks to a narrower contact surface with the road.
The key to all of this, though, is timing it correctly.
Don’t get your tune-up a few days before the ride. You won’t have any time to get comfortable with the way your bike feels after the mechanic tweaks it. Even worse, you won’t have a chance to make sure there aren’t any problems. Defective tires or cables are especially likely to surprise you early on, so it’s good to get that out of the way before the ride if it’s going to happen.
The time to take your bike into the shop is about 10 days before your ride. Get everything in top shape and take it out for a few rides. If any further tweaks are needed, make them, and then stop fiddling with your bike (other than a final cleaning) for the entire week of the ride.
Prep Your Body
Aside from all the work you’ve done to strengthen your body for the event, there are a few things to do the week before a big ride to ensure you’re in good shape.
7 Days Before
This is a good time to cut out alcohol. The more alcohol your body still has in circulation, the harder it will be to hydrate.
4 Days Before
This should be your final ride. You want three full days off the bike to rest your muscles and focus on storing up carbs to give yourself plenty of fuel for the main event. Clean your bike and resist the urge to squeeze in one more session.
2 Days Before
Now it’s time to start fueling and hydrating. Begin increasing your salt intake — you’re getting ready to do a lot of sweating — and drinking more fluids. Start cutting back on protein and eating more carbohydrates. Lastly, get a good night’s sleep. This night will be even more important than the night before your ride.
The Day Before
Fluids, fluids, fluids. All the hydrating you do now will pay off tomorrow. And make sure your dinner is loaded with carbs. Any of your big four: pasta, bread, rice and potatoes. If you go out with the group, pick the Italian restaurant, not the steakhouse. On your way home, grab more carbs (bagels are great) to have ready for breakfast.
The Day of the Ride
Breakfast is your last opportunity to load up on carbs. Seize your chance. And be sure you apply your sunscreen before you put on your jersey and pants. That way you won’t end up with any sunburn spots around the edges of your cycling clothes.
Beyond making sure your bike and body are ready to go, here are a few more things to do the week before a big ride to make everything go more smoothly.
- Pack a power strip that has room for all of your devices and bike equipment. You never know if your hotel room will have enough receptacles.
- If you’ve got a long drive to your hotel, leave early the day before the race so you don’t get stuck in traffic. That way you can check in early, register, pick up your materials and drive the route if you want to get familiar with it.
- Make sure your hotel room has a fridge with room for your food and water bottles.
- The night before the event, charge all your devices, put out your cycling clothes, fill your water bottles with energy drinks and put them in the fridge.
There are plenty of things you can’t predict about the big day, But, if you do all this, you’re giving yourself the best chance to have a great ride. Now, get out there.
You can find more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.