Are you riding RideLondon this weekend and ready for the challenge of the 100-mile course through London and Surrey? With a couple of days yet to go we’ve rounded up some useful last-minute words of wisdom to ensure that you make the most of the day and put in your best performance.
Make sure your bike is in tip top condition.You’ve spent months training for this one ride and the last thing you want is for your bike to let you down somewhere along the course. With a few days to go, you’ve still got time to make sure your bike is in the best condition possible and there are some essential checks we’d highly advise you do to ward off any potential mishaps during the ride.
Check your brakes are in good working order. Do the brake blocks or disc brake pads have lots of material left on them? If they’re getting very close to the limits now is the time to change them, because the very last thing you want is your brakes underperforming, or worse not performing at all. The current weather forecast isn’t very favourable so it’s even more critical to ensure you’ve got good working brakes.
Check your tyres have plenty of tread material and there's no debris like glass or flint embedded in the rubber. It’s not too late to fit new tyres if yours are looking a bit threadbare. Many tyre brands fit wear indicators, usually small holes, that indicate when you need to change the tyres. Inspect the tyres looking for bits of glass and flint that might be embedded, and remove with a pair of tweezers.
Check your chain is well lubed. Is your chain brown and squeaky? If so it’s time to treat it to some oil, and with a raft of specialist chain lubes available in most good bike shops there are plenty of choices to suit all budgets. There are many different types of lubes, commonly split between dry and wet lubes, with the former best for dry weather and the latter when there’s a chance of rain, as it’s not easily washed off. Most wet lubes will provide adequate lubrication for the 100 miles of RideLondon. And no WD40 or GT85 won’t suffice, they’re designed to primarily displace water.
Check the tyre pressures, you don’t want to ride under-inflated tyres for 100 miles. With a 23 or 25mm tyre, depending on rider weight, we would recommend between 85 and 95 psi - it’s not necessary to go up 120 psi just because that’s the max pressure indicated on the tyre sidewall. The roads of London and Surrey are bumpy and a softer tyre will provide a smoother and faster ride, as it’s able to deform and absorb the imperfections in the road surface.
Check your quick releases are done up tight before the ride. It might seem an obvious one this, but we have seen people inadvertently setting off with loose quick releases, usually as a result of the frantic rush before the start with assembling bikes, queuing for the toilet and Instagramming.
Check your gears are working smoothly before the event. Now is a good time to double check your gear are working well, and that you have access to the full range of gears on your bike. While it's not the hilliest route, there are some imposing climbs such as Leith Hill and you’ll want to make sure you have full access to all your gears. If the gears not shifting smoothly it might be a simple case of tweaking the barrel adjuster on the rear mech to set the required cable tension to deliver crisp and clean gear shifting. This how to article goes into much greater detail
Mudguards? Will it won’t it rain? It could go either way at the moment. Even if it doesn’t rain, the roads could be wet and muddy in places. We’re not going to suggest you rush out and buy some mudguards, your bike might not even take them, but a simple addition like the Ass Saver or Mucky Nutz Road Butt Fender could be a smart move. It attaches to the saddle and keeps your bum a bit drier from rear wheel spray.
Check what clothing you’re going to wear. What you wear comes down to personal preference, but looking at the weather forecast today reveals that it should be mostly dry and sunny, but with a risk of rain during the morning. You’re probably already checking the weather forecast on a daily, if not hourly, basis anyway, fingers crossed it’ll stay dry. The early start means it’ll be fairly cool to start with, but you’ll soon warm up, especially when you hit the first climbs in Surrey. Our suggestion would be to go in prepared, so pack a lightweight rain jacket. You can wear it for the first hour or so until you warm up, and then stash in a jersey pocket when you don’t need it, and it’s there in case it rains. Alternatively, arm warmers paired with a gilet offers the versatility to cope with changing conditions.
You probably already know what outfit you plan to wear, but it goes without saying that you should wear the best bib shorts you have available to you. Discomfort in the saddle can occur in the latter stage of RideLondon and you definitely don’t want that to ruin what should be a fun day out on the pedals. Some cyclists swear by slapping on some chamois cream to provide a bit of chafing prevention. We’d also recommend a comfortable pair of gloves, most short fingered gloves have padded palms that can help to prevent sore hands that can result in being on the bike for several hours.
Be prepared and organised. Some final words of advice and this is from personal experience. I recommend making all you kit decisions the night before and laying out all your clothing and energy food so that in the morning you can literally step out of bed and straight into your ride outfit. Remember to try and eat some breakfast and get some water down you to make sure you’re hydrated. Allow plenty of time to get to the start and find your pen, and also allow time for a final toilet stop - the queues are bound to be very long in the morning.
Pace yourself, or use groups for a free ride. When the ride starts it can be very tempting to pedal faster than you’re used to as many groups will form on the road. If you’re aiming for a quick time, tucking into a group can provide a good slipstream and up your average speed. Be careful if you're not used to riding in a close fast-moving group though.
The sensible approach if you're not "racing" is to pace yourself. It’s a long ride and it’s better to keep a little in reserve so you can finish strong and with a smile, and not grind yourself into a sweaty pile halfway round the course. The thing to remember is that you’ll likely travel a lot quicker over the distance than you would have done in training. The closed roads make a big difference to your average speed, and the excitement of the event always lifts people to produce better performances than they’re expecting based on training rides and data.
“You need to know how to pace yourself … staying on the wheel for the first couple of stages and learning to back off. Most of it is about not over-extending at the start and paying the price later. Most people – that’s where they make a mistake and blow up," says Chris Boardman. And he knows a thing or too about pacing!
He adds: "The trick is don’t over-cook it at the start. If you’ve got bags of energy left and you want to go faster at the end – fine. But if you run out before you finish, it’s a horrible, miserable grind to the finish." I couldn't agree more, and it's worth heeding his valuable advice on Sunday.
Remember to eat and drink little and often. It’s very easy to forget in the excitement and drama of a big event like RideLondon. Use the time on a watch or computer to prompt you to consumer some fluid and food every 20-30 minutes. Feed stations will be well stocked with food but make sure to carry a couple of bars or gels, or whatever your nutrition preference is, so you can eat on the go. Don’t just stop at the feed stations and consume all your calories in one sitting!
So your bike is prepped and you’ve decided what you’re going to wear, and hopefully, our last-minute tips will help you out. All you need do now is pedal your bike and enjoy the ride.
(Photos - Prudential RideLondon)
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.