Who better to ask for advice for a 100km bike ride on my Boardman bike than the man himself? Olympic gold medallist and Tour de France stage winner, cyclist Chris Boardman shares his tips…
Does it help to get bike and cycling assessment?
If you’re a novice a bike assessment is a great way to get focused advice. The expert should look at your goals – comfort, speed, etc – then look at your position and advise you about saddle position and bike set-up. If you’re already confident, it’s useful to go along if you’ve got an issue or a niggle. A bikeability course [run by local councils] can be good to address things that are making you nervous on the road and can also improve your technique – for example, did you know sitting behind another cyclist’s wheel can help you go 30% faster?
What’s the best way to train for a challenge?
Do short rides on a regular basis – it gives you a good level of fitness. Then a week before a longer bike challenge, do two long rides for, say, three hours. Doing three hours on your own is as good as cycling six hours in a group. Your body stores glycogen and it adapts to the extra work really fast. So with two long rides you’ll lay down glycogen stores and when you come to your long ride you’ll be fine.
What if you’re using a challenge to lose weight?
Combine long rides with eating strategies. If you want to drop weight go out before breakfast, as you’ll kick off a response that helps you lose fat far more efficiently. If you have breakfast you change your insulin levels. Eat a load of carbohydrate before training and you’ll be using that fuel that you’ve just put in. Whereas, if you go out fasted you start to use fat stores you’ve already laid down.
What’s the best way to read up on bike maintenance?
A bike is not a complicated machine once you’re got your spares. We have a huge amount of people coming to our Boardman website to find out about basics such as changing a tyre all the way through to hydraulic disc brakes. The inner tube videos are brilliant, too. Halfords also do free workshops on basic maintenance.
What are the key bits of kit?
A light bag and basic spares and, for 100km you’ll need some decent bike shorts to ease saddle soreness. I take waterproofs, a spare inner tube and self-adhesive stick-on patches for punctures. An alternative is to get some slime-filled inner tubes; Halfords do those for a fiver. It’s a liquid that stays in your tyre. It makes your bike a bit heavier, but if you get a puncture it seals the hole. You can get puncture proof tyres but they don’t make for a pleasant ride.
I’m doing a night ride – what about lights?
LED lights are one of the biggest advances in cycling in the past few years. They’re absolutely fantastic – you can even go trail riding off road and get enough light. It’s cheaper and more effective to get two or three of the smaller lights and keep them in your bag than one big light. The batteries of back lights last a lot longer as they tend to be flashing. You’re not using them to see so they’re of lower power.
What should I eat on a 100km bike ride?
Fluid is the most important thing. Foodwise, it’s little and often. It doesn’t have to be gels (people are obsessed with them), just take a sandwich. Gels are an absolute last resort for me. I used to do that when I was racing – purely functional. I’d rather have a pleasant cereal bar or a banana. Ultimately, they all work, so choose what you like.
What do you do the next day when you’re tight and sore?
I’ll probably have a lie-in. Soreness is the body’s way of dealing with things. If people want to have a massage, go for it. But your body is doing things for a reason, so it just takes time. It’s a good soreness born of doing something.
What about a last-minute check before a big ride?
Don’t do dress rehearsal on opening night. Get your bike checked before you go to make sure it’s in working order, then do one ride on it to make sure everything works. When your chain comes off something’s not adjusted right. There may be something touching where it shouldn’t. Bikes do need adjusting [about every two months will save you money].
Do you need an app?
I prefer just to use an OutDoors app on my phone because I don’t want to know anything other than where I am right now. As I do a lot in the wilds, I want to know tracks and paths (it works to Ordinance Survey maps). The blue dot is independent of phone signal, so it doesn’t matter if I’m out of range, I can still see where I am on that map.
Where do you stand on fitness trackers?
Great if that floats your boat. Everyone rides in our company and they all love them. I hate them – the minute I stopped being a pro, I never wanted another measuring device! When I feel uncomfortable I slow down. I’m aware than I’m not everyone. It’s more to do with motivation.
What about the new interest in cycling?
Cycling has exploded but now it’s static; only 3% of journeys are made by bike in this country. It’s just that cycling is more visible. It’s very area specific, so in London cycling is the easiest option and people use the superhighways. Now at Blackfriars Bridge at rush hour two-thirds of the traffic is cyclists – it’s wonderful. Cambridge is 30% cyclists. But that’s not the whole country. You know you’re winning, though, when people are taking their kids to school on a cargo bike and feel safe doing that.
How did you get into cycling?
I started riding around on the road as a kid. It’s the way you expand your territory but I wouldn’t allow my kids to do that. I live on Wirral peninsula. We’ve got a cycle route called the Wirral Way and it’s an old railway track. It starts one minute from my door, but I won’t let my kids ride the one minute to get there. That’s wrong.
What about bike safety?
I know the stats more than anyone else. It’s relatively safe but it doesn’t look it and it doesn’t feel it. It’s a terrible irony about the death of my mother [she died in a cycling accident in July 2016]. My mum was in her 70s and she would potter around the village on her bike, it was her leisure activity. She did helmets and all that but it didn’t stop her being crushed by a car.
Don’t helmets help?
I’m not anti helmet. What will make a difference is safe space, and how we drive on the road. We don’t see people riding bikes, we just see an obstacle. Subconsciously people are thinking, I’ve got to get past, see a gap. You forget it’s a person. If I make a slight mistake I’m dead. Car crime isn’t seen as real crime. If you stab someone you go down for 25 years, if you drive into them in a car you’ll have a driving ban for two years and spend four months in prison.
How can we make the roads safer?
You don’t need complicated stuff with lights and junctions, you just need to give cyclists the priority. We need to change the hierarchy. London is advanced in this culture chain. People look at a bike lane and say what a waste of money, but then we get used to it and we get a better big lane. It’s all part of the process.
Find the Boardman range of women’s and men’s bikes and cyclist gear at halfords.com
For details of charity bike rides go to actionforcharity.co.uk