On yer bike… my top Ride London tips for newbies

So this week there’s been a flurry of excitement around Ride London with ballot results being announced and magazines dropping onto people’s doorsteps. When this happened to me in 2018 I was a bag of nerves, I’d completely forgotten I had entered and just didn’t know what to do or where to begin. So for all you newbies, feeling slightly apprehensive about your ballot place, here are my top tips based on what you told me on Instagram you wanted to know. Hopefully this makes the thought of those 100 miles and all the training that goes with it seem a little less daunting. If there’s anything else you want to know, pop it in the comments below….

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Is Ride London suitable for beginners?

ABSOLUTELY. The 100 miles might seem daunting but Ride London is for everyone, from newbie cyclists to the more experienced athletes. Obviously I highly recommend you begin some training in advance, but do not feel daunted by it. With the right structure and enough rides under your belt it is achievable and lots of fun.

Where to find a suitable training plan?

British cycling have some great plans on their website, including sofa to 50km. You can find out more here https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/training-plans
I personally didn’t use a training plan, I just used my intuition as to what I should be cycling and when, I did Ride London purely for enjoyment.

What are your best training tips?

I’m not a super experienced cyclist to recommend loads of training tips, but having said that I’ve learned a lot from marathon training so I applied what I knew about training for a distance running event to training for a distance cycling event, and it worked for me. I didn’t get on a bike until May- there was no way I was chancing it ahead of London Marathon as the last thing I wanted to do was come off and break something. I started with the watt bike and then moved onto my road bike. I would do long cycles at the weekends, focused on increasing the time on the bike. I always trained based on time in the saddle, not mileage because I found my body needed to get used to the amount of time spent cycling and I gradually increased this by 10-15% each week. During the week I would do one watt bike session of 90 minutes and a spin class (just like you’d do a medium run and a speed session when marathon training). We also practiced hills on our weekend cycles, visiting Richmond and Box Hill. I found that this got me round, I wasn’t spectacularly quick, but that was never my intention. On the other days I ran and did crossfit. I feel like even though I was new to cycling I came to my training with a good level of cardiovascular fitness.

One thing I found took a lot of training and discipline was making myself eat and drink on the bike, including actual food and drinks with electrolytes in. As a runner, I’m used to necking a gel or clif blok at speed and getting on with it. But on the bike the fatigue and hunger sets in quick and it’s important to stay on top of it. The idea of exercising and eating seemed so alien at first but soon I was happily pedaling and munching away. My favourite snacks on the bike are Clif Bars, especially the nut butter filled ones (SO YUMMY), roasted nuts, bbq pop chips, and I once ate a peanut butter bagel which was great. Experiment with what works for you. I find I need to take a mix of savory and sweet. For ride London you’re out all day so you definitely need food with you, but the aid stations are also incredible, its basically a cycling buffet. And I can tell you this…peanuts have never tasted as good as the handful I ate 46 miles in in a portaloo dodging the pouring rain.

Enjoy your training- it’s a lot of time out on the bike, make a day of it, explore some new routes, use cyclepaths to escape the traffic. I was lucky enough to go out cycling a lot with my boyfriend and having some company really makes the miles more fun.

Invest in a good saddle, especially the ladies out there. I promise you the money you will spend is worth every penny. I was recommended a Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow ladies saddle which you can pick up from various online bike stores for around £60-70. Your lady area with thank me. Invest in some decent shorts too. I used a pair from decathlon, which were £34 and actually amongst the cheapest and comfiest on the market. I did the whole 100 miles without a single saddle sore and could comfortably walk the next day, so its definitely worth the investment.

Cat and Cow stretches become your best friend and help alleviate any tightness from spending hours hunched forward, also don’t forget to stretch your forearms and wrists.

Practice hills, you need to learn the most efficient way to use the gears up them, including the granny gear, but also you need to learn the confidence to whizz down them.

If you’re feeling nervous on your bike I also recommend a slightly thicker tyre. A lot of road bikes come with a 25mm tyre, but I’d recommend a 28 or 32mm if you’re really new. I started with a 32mm and it gave me so much confidence and is a comfier ride.

How tough are the hills?

They’re as tough as your mental toughness. Yes they aren’t easy, but they aren’t something to be scared of. Everyone is slogging their way up the hill, some people even get off their bikes and push. I would say its good to have a practice on some hills beforehand. I was lucky enough to go to Box Hill so I knew what to expect. If you get your head down they’re over quick enough (watch out for Newlands, it is a little spicy and Wimbledon catches you by surprise when your legs are exhausted, all good fun though). A lot of the route is flat and whatever goes up must come down so at least you get some respite. I find the downhills a tad scary, so if you’re nervous like me keep left and don’t break suddenly. There is always the option to bypass the hills but obviously you won’t have done the full 100 then.

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How many punctures did you get, could you completely change one by yourself?

I was so lucky not to get a single puncture, I invested in some Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres and I’d really recommend considering these. Quite a few people did get punctures and managed to change them on the side of the road. I’m not confident at dealing with punctures at all, but if you were stuck there is always someone to help you. At a lot of the aid stations have mechanics who can help and if you have an issue at the side of the road there are marshals riding in the pack to assist, but also the likelihood is that someone will take pity and help you, it’s a really friendly sportive. I would recommend carrying two spare inner tubes and the tools to change a tyre with you. Additionally, if you aren’t feeling confident there were some great talks and demonstrations at the expo that you can watch.

Is it as scary as they say- crashes etc?

I won’t lie to you, you do see the odd crash, and they don’t look great (coming off a bike, likely at speed onto the road is going to cause a bit of a mess). But, it is important to remember that these things happen, and the law of averages dictates that they will happen. During my Ride London experience I saw 5 crashes, one serious but, remember 25,000 people take on Ride London, some of them are going to have crashes. Also the weather last year was horrendous so it definitely increased the likelihood.

What strength training do you recommend?

I’m not a personal trainer, so not qualified to give this advice, but I really recommend full body strength training. I did CrossFit all through my London Marathon training and my Ride London training and I found it really helped. As cycling is a very leg dominated sport, I found that giving my legs a break and focusing on some upper body and core training one day a week really helped with my posture on the bike.

How do you juggle cycling with running?

I find cycling is much kinder on your body and many times I used my long slow cycle as a way to recover from a long run as it gets your legs turning over without the impact. As I mention above I cycled 3 times a week, which leaves plenty of time for running. If you are doing a high volume of training every session needs to count. You need to think about what you want from each session and make the most of it. It’s also really important to schedule adequate rest.

Cycling kit seems so expensive, are there ways you can do it on the cheap?

Yes definitely. Decathlon do a range of cycling kit and you can read my recommendations for shorts and jerseys here and a helmet here. Also scour the sales/ outlet parts of websites for discounted kit. I love Gore cycling kit, which you can often get cheaper on Wiggle, who also do their own dhb kit. Some other websites to try are Sigma Sports, Evans, Cycle Surgery, Ribble Cycles (I got an amazing Shimano winter jacket very cheap on here), Sports Pursuit (got my Clif Bars cheap from here), Millets, Zone 3, Liv and many many more.  When it’s your first time buying kit order a few different sizes to see what fits best. I’ve found you generally go up a size, as cycling kit comes up small. I’m 5ft10 and finding jerseys and jackets long enough has often been a bit of a pain. If you are taller Gore and Zone 3 are my go to.

How long does it take to do Ride London?

How long is a piece of string? I guess it all depends on your cycling experience and how long you want to spend at each aid station. I spent a lot of time at the aid stations as I struggled with the weather. You hear stories of people doing it in 3 something hours and others taking over 8. There are cut off times, but if you get an early enough start time the pressure is off.

What is the start like?

Kinda no different to any race. It is quite congested at the very start, so if you’re clipping in maybe wait until things are a little less hectic. It does clear very quickly as you’re almost straight onto a dual carriageway where you can get some space and enjoy a flat start.

I didn’t get into Ride London, what are my options?

There are still places for the full 100 miles with charities and if you’ve been unsuccessful in the ballot you should receive an email with a link to which charities still have places. The fundraising amounts are much lower than the London Marathon, and doing something for charity always makes it that bit more special. Additionally, the ballot for the 46 (a route dodging the hills) opens on Monday 11 February. Last year there was also the Surrey 19, which was a chance to ride the last 19 miles of the course back into London. My boyfriend did this and said it was ace! If you don’t get places for any of these you can still enjoy time on your bike during the freecycle on the Saturday, where there is a closed road circuit through the city – it is really fun!

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GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN!!!!!


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