"Success isn't always about greatness. It's about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success."Dwayne Johnson
The Rock may not immediately spring to mind when thinking about cycling; if he's ever graced a road bike before I'd be surprised (anyone who knows differently please send photos), but the man knows a bit about consistent hard work. And if cycling 100 miles is about anything, it's about consistency & hard work. Not just on the ride itself - consistent pedal stroke, consistent fuelling, consistent smiling - but also in your training ahead of said ride. This definitely applies to the final weeks right before the event.
You have trained hard, and you are ready for Ride London, of that I have no doubt. The hundreds of riders who came out on our training series proved week after week that they are ready, taking Leith & Box Hill in their stride again and again. The chat in the Dynamo after the rides went from 'I just want to beat the cut off time' to 'I wonder how much I'll beat my Leith Hill PB by'. It has been awesome to watch, and I'm so proud of everyone in the club who has trained so hard and been such good fun on the rides. You're all going to smash the ride on the 4th August!
Is that then, as they say, it? Do you just need to chill out until the morning of the ride, safe in the knowledge you've done your training and are ready? Of course not! There is plenty to do in the final weeks to finish off your training and ensure that you have the best Ride London day you possibly can.
Your final week prep may not completely make your event, but it can certainly break it. Allow me to hark all the way back to 2014, the year of "the rain". I had trained for the event, got my (summer) kit ready and had planned for a fairly hot day in the saddle. I popped into Evans on the Friday to grab some bars, waving at the shop staff on my way out as they said "don't worry, it's not going to rain that hard." I got around the corner before it registered - "what rain?" I hadn't checked the forecast, didn't have any wet weather gear to speak of, and was now totally unprepared for the event. Queue a mad Saturday of rushing around the expo trying to amass rain kit on the cheap. It was not the serene and professional preparation I had envisaged, and needless to say I had an awful ride. My only consolation was that I didn't have the worst ride that day. Usually so well prepared, Oli 'The Accountant' Crosby, riding lovely lightweight summer tyres, got 3 punctures, even managing to leave his tyre levers and pump on the roadside between flats 2 and 3. He doesn't like to talk about it, so definitely, definitely don't ask him about it!
So please learn from our mistakes by reading on below. Oli has been selflessly blazing his own inimitable trail so that you can all sail serenely in his wake. What a guy!
Final Week Preparation List:
1) Taper, Spin, Rest (Repeat)
It's incredibly hard to take it easy in the weeks running up to the event, especially if you're a bit nervous and think you haven't trained enough. However a big effort really close to the ride isn't going to make a huge difference to your overall fitness. All it will do is deplete your energy levels and hinder your performance on the day. You've done your training and you can handle the ride - trust yourself!
Having said that, our advice is to do a couple of small, low effort spins to keep the legs moving, and rest up for the rest of the time. British Cycling have a good mantra for this: 'If you can sit instead of stand: sit. If you can lie down instead of sit: lie down.' So when you're lying on the office floor on Thursday morning, and your colleagues are calling the doctor, you can reassure them that it's the cycling way. Let's be honest, they probably think your mad anyway, so they may just ignore you!
2 Plan Your Meals
A big day like Ride London will need all your energy stores, so it's crucial that you fill them up ready for the big effort. However before you rush to the fridge it's a good idea to plan out your meals for the week. Carb loading is only really effective when started a few days before the ride, and doesn't mean eating 17000KGs of pasta in one go! It means upping your carb intake a few days before the ride, so that you have slow releasing energy to burn on the day.
Plan out your meal schedule before the ride and buy everything in advance - no extra walking to the shops for you. Also make sure to only eat things you are familiar with before the event. You don't want to give your body any surprises a few days before the ride.
A good breakfast is the key to a big bike ride, but it's doubly important on Ride London day. My favourite is always porridge - it is high in energy, super slow releasing and keeps you feeling full for ages. However you're going to be up at around 4am on the day, so a bowl of steaming oats may not be too appealing. Try overnight oats instead, with fruit and honey. As with everything, practise a few times in the week leading up to the ride so you know your body is happy with it.
Whatever your breakfast of choice, stay away from heavy fat, as it will delay the absorption of fuel later on (no full English, sadly). Pro Tip - you'll be held at the start line for ages, so take a couple of extra bars to use up then if you get hungry quickly. That way you won't have tucked into your ride snacks before you even start.
3) Prepare your bike
You do still have time to squeeze in a full service at Cycle Republic (50% off for members) if you're quick, but you can also do plenty of checks yourself to ensure that it won't give you any issues on the day. Give your bike (especially your chain and gears) a really good clean (and lube/waxing) and check your brakes/brake pads aren't worn and are working fine. Also check your tyres for signs of wear (small cracks/holes in your tyres). Punctures are very uncool on Ride London day, so if you've got old tyres then change them before the ride. If you're unsure about your bike's fitness then take it into a shop ASAP and get them to look over it.
4) Prepare your ride nutrition and kit
Knowing what and when you're going to eat and drink is vital to enjoying your ride - the dreaded bonk will quickly turn your morning of victory into a morning from hell! You don't want to change anything before the ride when it comes to nutrition, so make sure to stock up on products that you've trained with. Whether that's bars, gels or peanut butter sandwiches; stick to what you know and get them ready in advance. For bars, open one end so it's easier to get at whilst riding. Pro Tip - don't do this with gels. Hell of a mess.
Practise packing your jersey pockets and wear said jersey around, practising taking things in and out of the pockets to make sure you've got everything in the right place and can easily get at the important things (nutrition mostly). You'll look pretty silly, but who'll be laughing when you've avoided bonking? You, that's who!
5) Study The Route
Studying the route and knowing what's coming is also a big key to success at Ride London. You might be one of the 'don't tell me, I don't want to know' type of cyclists when it comes to route knowledge, but this is the wrong outlook and won't help you on the day. Yes it might be scary thinking about the hills coming up, but guess what: the hills are coming up, whether you like it or not! If you know when they are coming, how long they are, where the steep bits are, and where they finish, you can plan your strategy and mentally prepare. There's a reason pro teams study the routes and hills for so long - forewarned is forearmed!
A good knowledge of the route also helps with fuelling too. Knowing where the feed/water stops are and working out which ones you plan to stop at and how far into the course they are is vital. That way you have targets to aim for and can work out how many bottles or bars you'll need between each one. Prior knowledge of the route is a huge part of success on the day.
6) Prepare your body
As a continuation of point one, we really can't stress enough how important it is to rest and relax this week. Not only will it increase your performance, but it's a great excuse to get your loved ones to do everything for you whilst you lie on the sofa! If you do Yoga then a session at the beginning of the week to loosen you up might be a good idea. I'd recommend going all out and booking a sports massage with our SMT partner Lucy Bond (20% off for members). A good massage a few days before the event is great prep and makes you feel really pro! Marginal gains and all that ;)
Good old fashioned stretching and foam rolling throughout the week will also really help. Lastly of course, a good night's sleep will do wonders. Not easy when you've got an alarm call at 3am to get to the start line, but something to aim for.
7) Check the weather
Our old friend British Summer Time often has a hand to play in your Ride London day. Sometimes good, sometimes bad (remember last year). The heatwave of summer 2018 broke for just one day - Ride London day! Months of endless summer ruined by one day of endless rain. And despite the current heatwave, you should prepare for a rainy day. Make sure you have the right kit available just in case and don't be that person scrambling around the expo trying to find shoe covers in your size at the 11th hour. Fail to prepare and all that...
There is however a good chance that this heat wave will continue and turn Surrey into a furnace on the 4th of August. How do you cope in the hot weather? Do you need extra electrolyte tablets? Bigger water bottles? Does your much thought out one stop strategy go out of the window if it's 30+ degrees? The Rock is not the only great 20th Century thinker I'm calling on here. Thomas Edison said the three keys to success are "hard work, stick-to-itivness, and common sense". That third one, oft forgot, is going to be the biggest factor in the success of your day. Sprinting off crazy fast in a heatwave will probably end up slowing you down in the long run, as you hit a wall of exhaustion and dehydration. So be sensible - drink loads, stop when you need to and listen to your body. A decent Ride London time is not worth severe dehydration and a possible accident.
Well that's it from me. I wish you all the best of luck on the 4th august and really hope you enjoy your Ride London experience. We will again be running our post event picnic in Green Park and would love you to join us after the ride to celebrate, drink prosecco/beer (on us) and watch the pros battle it out. Friends/family/random riders you spent the last 60 miles with all very welcome. Sign up on this link and we'll email you full location and time details - Ride London Picnic
If you have any of your own preparation tips then please comment below or hit us up on social media - we'd love to hear what you do to get ready for a big ride/race.
Good luck and see you on the 4th!