Itching to get out on your bike this weekend? I’ve put together this handy guide to getting into long distance rides with cycling charity Sustrans. Just tick off these ten steps and you’ll be pedal ready.
1. Plan the route.
If you’re a nervous newbie, don’t scare yourself by choosing a busy road route with lots of hills. There are plenty of long distance rides that are traffic free, flat and perfect for beginners – check the Sustrans website for suggestions.
2. Check the weather.
Cool, clear weather and a tailwind is your friend, lashing rain or icy conditions are not.
3. Give your bike some TLC.
Give your bike the once over before setting off. Sustrans has an online bike maintenance checklist that is easy to follow, or take it to your local bike shop for a service.
4. Get tooled up.
A puncture repair kit is a must (as is knowing how to use it!) and a multi-tool will come in handy in an emergency. If you aren’t so hot on puncture repairs, pack a spare inner tube as well. Pop them in a little bag behind your saddle and you’ll always be able to get out of a pickle.
5. Wear the right gear.
You don’t need to spend squillions on expensive technical kit, but decent basics really are essential. Always carry a thermal layer and a waterproof shell jacket, even if the sun is blazing, and don’t forget sports sunglasses and suncream, no matter how cold and rainy things look outside. The absolute musts? A good helmet and some padded shorts.
6. Layer up.
Being able to adjust your temperature is essential. Wear thin layers that are easy to pile on and peel off, and don’t forget your gloves.
7. Stay dry.
Put your change of clothes inside plastic bags so they stay dry if it rains. Or invest in some good waterproof panniers – Ortlieb ones are especially nifty and will last you for years.
8. Pack handy, multi-purpose stuff.
Vaseline – works as lip balm and also sorts out any chaffed bits. A thin scarf – works as a sun/wind protector, something to sit on and as a bandage.
9. Food on the move.
Make sure you have some good snacks to hand to deal with dips in energy. You don’t need sports-specific gels in lurid colours – homemade flapjacks and trail mix will sort you out a treat, and jelly babies will cheer up the soggiest of rides. A good stock of water goes without saying, and always take more than you think you’ll need.
10. Slow down, speedy Gonzalez!
Don’t burn yourself out by worrying about speed or mileage at the beginning. Take lots of pit stops, admire the view, take photos, relax into the route and enjoy pretending you’re in the Tour de France.