How to optimise and accessorise for a cycling race

The first thing anyone will tell you is to make sure you’re fit enough for the race. So, other than checking out all the specifications and route of the race you’re going to be doing, here are some other tips to make sure you and your bike are optimised with the necessary accessories for the race.

Optimise yourself

Knowing that you are indeed fit enough for the cycling race and you have all your registration details in order, it’s time to optimise yourself for the challenge ahead. Make sure your training (months in advance) involves routes similar to that of the race. This includes terrain, all possible wind conditions, distance and altitude.

Start with your mind and set a goal for yourself. If you’ve done this race before, then give yourself a goal time in which you want to finish it that will show your improvement from last time. There’s no motivation quite like outdoing your previous self. Make sure you have a device or app that can record your speed, distance and elevation statistics. That will also encourage you to keep going and applaud your own personal achievements.

Do research on the area you will be cycling in and prepare yourself for the type of weather to expect and pack in a windbreaker if necessary. Most race websites provide some general information for you as well concerning a successful ride.

Contrary to popular belief, you should not overeat the night before a race and focus on carbo-loading if you’re preparing for a long-distance race. Otherwise, your normal food intake – with slightly more carbohydrates than usual – will be just fine for you and make sure you get a good breakfast in a few hours before the race.

Optimise your bike

Rule number one, don’t use a race as an opportunity to test out new gear. It’s a recipe for disaster and possibly injury to your bike and to you (but your bike, at least, didn’t ask for it).  If your bike needs an upgrade, by all means, go ahead and fix it up. But give yourself a good few weeks to test out the adjustments and firstly, make sure they work and secondly make sure you’re comfortable with them.

Check your tyres for wobbles and cuts, test your brake pads and replace them if they’re too worn, reindex your gears if necessary and tighten your handlebars. Don’t miss anything for fear of getting as far as the starting line before your bike bows out on you. From handlebars to gears and bicycle frames to tyre treads – check it all.

On-hand accessories

Accessories for you to keep on hand during the race are mostly liquids and snacks. If you’re taking part in a short race (up to 30km on a mountain bike and 60km on a road bike) then stick to your liquids, you can wait for the end of the race to pig out.

But if you’re doing a longer race (up to 80km on a mountain bike and 110km on a road bike), then you can start thinking about putting a little something extra in your liquids, like energy sachets or supplements. As well as packing in some raisins, biltong, protein/carb combination bars and even potatoes to snack on every second hour.

And if you want to have some fun, try wearing a pair of funky cycling socks.

Accessories for your bike that are rather important to have on hand during the race include:

  • Plugs
  • A spare tube
  • Compressed air cylinders or “bombs”
  • A spare chain link
  • A chain breaker
  • And a spare derailer for multi-stage races

You don’t want to find yourself in a situation that simply needs a quick fix but you’re forced to pull out of the race because you didn’t have your “medical bike kit” on hand.

Other than this, anything else you need to know has to do with your personal riding preferences and any race-specific details which will be discussed and communicated to you prior to the race. Make a mental note before the race to enjoy it and take in the environment around you. Cycling anywhere in South Africa will guarantee you an amazing view and a smile never hurt anyone. Keep the comradery between cyclists alive and help eachother out where possible. Positivity makes for some rather pleasant riding conditions.