Firstly, give yourself a pat on the back for mustering up the determination to tackle this cycling challenge, it is no walk in the park, but you certainly won't regret doing it!
If you are doing the event for the first time, here are five valuable tips to get you through the hours in the saddle from Emma Silversides:
[part title="1. Train properly"]
Make sure that you have completed sufficient kilometres prior to the event. You don’t need to complete the full distance but you should gradually aim to build up a base fitness.
The more that you ride, the more you will learn about yourself as a cyclist. For example, the pace you can sustain for prolonged periods and the cadence that is most comfortable for you
Try to structure your preparation so you are not suddenly jumping from a 40-minute to a two-hour ride from one week to the next. This will help to build endurance and also ensure that your bike is ideally set up for you.
[part title="2. Know your bike"]
Your legs will be doing a huge number of revolutions; if you pedal at 75 revolutions per minute, your legs will be doing 4500 revolutions per hour. All of this will impact on your ankles, knees, hips and lower back
It is crucial that your saddle is at the correct height and set back. An incorrect set up may lead to back ache, stiff muscles, and sore hips/ knees. Any changes to your bike set up should be done in increments over time so the body can adjust gradually to the new position.
Finally, always carry a spare inner tube, tyre levers and pump and make sure that you know how to change a flat. Failing that, ride with a friend who does!
[part title="3. Wear the right gear"]
Cycle clothing is extremely advanced these days, but also very expensive too. My best advice is to focus on two key garments:
The first of these would be a good pair of shorts. They are the only thing between you and your saddle, and bearing in mind which bit of you comes into contact with the saddle, it’s worth spending cash on them! Unfortunately club and team kit is often made with the standard male cut chamois, which doesn’t suit most females. An incorrectly shaped chamois can leave you with some serious abrasions on the inner thighs and bottom
Find a brand that suits you and stick to it. The cycle clothing market has, until very recently, been directly primarily at men- not overly helpful for us girls! There are a few manufacturers now producing female specific kit so it’s worth investigating.
The second piece of kit worth investing in is a good sports bra. Road cycling is not high impact but it does put your upper body in an inclined position for prolonged periods of time; your breasts need support in this position to prevent unnecessary stretching of delicate ‘suspensory’ ligaments, which help the breasts to keep their shape.
The correct bra will support the breasts and reduce movement, therefore restricting stretch of the ligaments and subsequent sagging. The benefits do not stop there however; if you have larger breasts then the correct sports bra can prevent painful movement as well as neck and shoulder discomfort. Riding with a normal bra would be like riding without a chamois in your shorts!
You need a sports bra with moisture-wicking fabrics, which dry out quickly. Again, find a bra that suits you and stick with it.
Remember, neither of these two garments should be new for the event. You should try new clothing for short periods of time initially and build up gradually
[part title="4. Fuel the engine"]
Try to drink 500ml of fluid for every hour on the bike. You lose moisture not only by sweating but also through respiration. If you don’t replace it your performance will suffer. It’s better to drink a little and often rather than gulping down large volumes of fluids once or twice an hour.
Don’t forget to eat (again, little and often). You will be burning lots of calories so replacing them will enable you to sustain a decent pace.
The market is swamped with expensive products but it’s not necessary to part with cash here. Bananas are great, homemade flapjacks, dried fruit and jelly babies all make ideal snacks too.
Top tip: remember you can always set an alarm every 15 minutes as a reminder to drink and eat.
[part title="5. Enjoy it"]
This is the key to it all. If you hit a bit of a lull, or have a moment of doubt, take a deep breath, look at your surroundings and be thankful that you can ride your bike in the great outdoors in the company of so many other motivated, determined people.
Emma Silversides is an ambassador for Shock Absorber, the UK’s leading sports bra brand.
* Survey conducted by One Poll, September 2013 (1,000 active women respondents)