Last Saturday, a group of Femme Pédalers and friends set off on a 75 mile jaunt from Birmingham to Oxford. For some of us, this was a relaxing amble in the countryside, and others (ahem, me) quite a long way to go in one day; all of us had a great time. I'm pretty new to cycling distances of more than about 30 miles in one go, and have learned some pretty useful lessons this summer about how to stay happy on long rides. Here's what I've gathered, along with some photos of our day out.
- Make sure your bike's ready to go; it doesn't need to be super expensive or have lots of bells and whistles so long as it's in good condition. Our friend Jane did 35 miles of the ride with us on a stylish but heavy old three-speed Raleigh, which goes to show that it's not what's between your legs, but what you do with it that counts. Before you leave, do a quick M-check, making sure that everything's in good working order and well oiled, and pump your tires up.
- Get a backpack or pannier, and make sure you've got a pump and spare inner tube (tool-wise, a decent multi-tool might also come in handy), a waterproof, a a jumper, and a small first aid kit.
- Plan a route: I like ordinance survey maps, the Sustrans site, and the Cyclestreets journey planner, but a standard road atlas will do the trick. If you stick to country back roads, you'll be able to enjoy joyous car-free miles. Stay flexible, and don't mind too much about getting lost. It's also useful to note if there are train stations at various points, in case you need an escape route.
- Get ready! Have a decent meal and limit your alcohol intake the night before setting out and try and get a good night's sleep. A couple of Saturday's riders came out on three hours sleep, and didn't seem to appreciate the early start as much as some of us did.
- Get dressed! Comfy clothes and trainers, with no flowing, loose bits that can get caught in chains and brakes are best; pay special attention to make sure that there's nothing that will cause discomfort to your bum and crotch a few miles down the line (see Nan's useful post on the subject), and at least consider padded shorts.
- Get fed! Don't eat loads just before or during the ride- it'll make you sluggish and crampy. Make sure you've got lots of small snacks which release energy slowly; bananas, nuts, oatcakes and so on. Flapjacks are always a hot favorite.
- Drink. Make sure you're carrying enough water, and remember to stay hydrated.
- Choose a pace that suits you, and that you can maintain. If you need to get off and walk on hills, do it.
- Enjoy yourself. Stop off at interesting places (half way, we hit Hook Norton brewery, found out how they make some of our favorite beer, and had a tasting session) and see new bits of countryside. Don't stress if you get wet, muddy, or lost; you'll make it home in the end, and the hot shower will be that little bit more pleasurable.