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Useful riding tips

When the road tilts upwards, there is no easy way to get you and yourself to the top but here are some handy tips that might just make it a bit easier.

  • Try and find a steady rhythm. Once you get into a groove with a climb, it is just a question of tapping out the same pace. Choose a suitably low gear that allows your legs to keep spinning as this will help ease the build up of lactic acid.

  • Don't race up the first part of the climb. Even if others you are riding with head off like Chris Froome, keep your heart rate at a steady beat. Going too hard too fast will put you in the red and you will not be able to sustain it for long which could lead to blowing up later in the climb. Focus on getting up it firt and foremost and if you have energy to spare when you get near the top you can increase the effort.

  • Stay seated where possible. Some of the climbs are very steep in places and you will almost certainly need to stand up out of the saddle to negotiate the hairpins on the climb to Cregennan Lakes and a good portion of the way up Bwlch y Groes on the long route. Climbing out of the saddle is fine and it does give the muscles a change of focus, but it also raises the heart rate which means that it cannot be sustained for long. It is sensible to stay seated where you can to ensure that your heart rate is under control when you really do need to stand on the pedals. Look ahead and spot the flatter parts to sit down and take a 'rest' before standing on the next steep section if necessary.

  • Try and eat and drink a little way before the start of the big climbs. Spot where they occur on the route and ensure you are well fuelled 15 minutes or so before going up. With a high heart rate, it is difficult to eat on the way up, so ensure you are well prepared for when the climb occurs

  • Have you got the right gears? With the gradient of the short sharp climbs that typify climbing in Wales, it is wise to have small enough gears. A compact chainset with a 34 tooth inner ring (or even a triple) is advisable on the front, whilst a minimum 27 teeth on the largest ring at the back is advisable. The good news is that this is a fairly standard set-up on sportive bike, but it may be worth counting your teeth in advance - just in case.

There are feed stations along the route, however you should not rely on stopping at the feed station as your only opportunity to eat. Ensure you take sufficient food and drink with you on your bike to enable you to drink every 15-20 mins and eat something at least every hour. There are plenty of bike specific carbohydrate drinks and bars available online, but bananas and flapjacks work just as well. It is worth having an isotonic drink in your bottles as well since you need to replace salts as well as fluids on a long ride.

The bike.
Make sure your equipment is up to speed. You will need a decent road bike (it does not need to be top of the range but it needs to be serviceable) and ensure that your tyres are in good condition and a good pressure (7-8bar or 110psi is good guideline), the gear changes are smooth and the chain drive is well lubricated.

Ensure you have a spare tube, tyre levers and pump with you. Some limited mechanical assistance is available around the route and at feed stations but if you break down along the way, it will be up to you to get yourself going again.

Riding in a group.
The normal rules of the road and highway code apply at all times when taking part in this event and cyclists should avoid riding in groups and certainly not more than two abreast. There will be times when you are sat on the wheel of the rider in front, but it is important to keep vigilant as to what the rider(s) ahead are seeing and to be able to anticipate their moves. Try and cycle with your wheel slightly to one side of theirs so that braking does not mean an instant touch of wheels which can easily result in a crash. If you are the rider ahead, be mindful that you may well have a slip-streaming passenger and try and avoid any sudden changes of speed. Beware that when you rise out of the saddle, your bike drops back temporarily and could interfere with the rider behind, so try and do it smoothly.

What to bring
Ensure you have the following with you on the ride.

  • Food
  • Drink
  • Spare clothing
  • Multi-tool
  • Spare inner tubes
  • Money and Identification
  • Mobile Phone
  • Small basic first aid kit

Cattle grids
On  some of the minor roads there are a few cattle grids. These are not a major hazard but here are some tips on how to ride over them.

  • Keep at right angles to them and do not try and turn the bike whilst crossing them
  • Rise slightly off the saddle to aid suspension and keep both feet level.
  • Do not try and pedal whilst crossing, the grids are very smooth and provide little traction. There is a good chance your wheel will slip which can be off-putting.

There will be a marshal on each gate so you will not need to dismount to open the gate.

This is sheep county! There are good reasons for having the cattle grids and the gates and on the smaller, higher roads there are lots of sheep. In many areas the sheep are free to roam across the road and whilst they generally prefer grass to tarmac, you will occasionally see sheep on the road. Make sure you give them a wide berth and make it obvious to the sheep which side you are going to pass. Sheep are not particularly bright and do not always do the sensible thing so be vigilant right up until you pass in case the sheep panics at your presence and makes a last second change of direction.

The sun and heat.
If it is a hot day, the sun will beat down on you over a long period of time. Ensure you take plenty of fluids on the bike and stop at the marked feed stations to restock if you run low. On a hot day you should be drinking between 500ml and 1 litre an hour, so keep drinking steadily even if you don’t feel thirsty.

The cold and wet.
This is an equally likely prospect and some parts of the route are exposed and will get cold on a wet day, particularly the descents off the high heath lands. It is important to have sufficient layers on and advisable to carry a packable rain jacket in your jersey pocket.

More interesting biking information
Have a look at this blog written by Stephen Yost. There is some interesting information from what type of bike to ride and, in case you are not already convinced, why you should ride one!

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