Cycling is a great way to see France at your own pace – and it’s great for your health, too. If this year’s CSF ride is your first time on a bike in a while, it’s important to do a bit of preparation to make the most of the trip.
Lynette Eyb, of freewheelingfrance.com, has this advice to help get you started.
I like to think anyone can get on a bike and enjoy cycling in France, but it’s immeasurably more enjoyable if you don’t finish the first day with a sore bum and wake up the next morning with stiff legs.
The 2017 CSF ride has four stages, each between 40 and 60 kilometres – so around 200 kilometres in total. Whether you’re doing one stage or all four, it can be a challenge on two wheels if you’re not ‘bike fit’.
If the 2017 ride is going to be your first for a while, then take advantage of the weeks and days leading up to it to do some light training to help you make the most of the ride.
Get on your bike!
Try and get out on your bike as soon as you can to get used to riding.
Not only will this condition your all-important ‘derrière’, it will also help you to build your confidence and stamina, and find longer distances easier and easier.
You don’t have to start by riding a full 40 kilometres in one day. Start doing whatever you find comfortable – be it five kilometres or 10. Try and set a goal for yourself – to the shops, the local park for lunch, or to a friend’s house for a coffee. The ride won’t feel like ‘training’ if you have a reason for it. Encouraging a friend to join you can also be a good idea and make cycling more social and fun.
Try and vary your routes so you’re not only cycling a bit further every day, but also riding slightly different terrains. You don’t need to be climbing mountains, but tackling the odd small hill can help build your confidence and also demonstrate your growing fitness.
If you have a smartphone, you can download Strava or Garmin Connect, which you can use to record your rides. This can help you see how far you’re riding and also track your improvements. If you’re riding with friends, you can also see and support other’s progress.
Try and ride an extra 10 or 15 kilometres a week until you’re comfortable cycling at least 60 kilometres. It doesn’t matter how many hours this takes, as long as you’re enjoying the ride – but try and ride at a consistent pace if you can.
Try and ride in all weathers if you can, too – not only will this prepare you just in case the French weather lets us down, but it will also improve your stamina if you can get used to riding in the rain and wind.
Whether it’s the CSF ride itself or your training rides, always eat a good breakfast made up of a mix of food groups before you head out. Include plenty of carbohydrates – porridge, eggs, cereals, breads and jams are all great. At these distances, there’s no need to be eating bowls of pasta each morning.
During your rides
While riding, it’s really important to keep eating and drinking. Your body can carry an energy store for about 90 minutes of exercise, so start having a nibble after an hour and try and keep regularly topped up.
You can ride like a pro and use gels and energy bars available in sports shops, or go old-school by taking a banana, some dried fruit, a croissant from breakfast, or a slice of cake. Little and often is better.
Drink as you go too – this is crucial as it will be warm in France in June so take two bottles (‘bidons’ in French) and top up where possible. Consider taking one with water and one with some diluted fruit juice from the breakfast table to add a little sugar kick to your ride.
The CSF ride is supported so there will be drinks stops en route and opportunities to keep your bottles topped up.
Don’t forget it can be hot in June – especially so in the south of France – so make sure you apply the sunscreen and bring sunglasses.
After each ride it’s important to try and eat some protein within 20 minutes to ensure your muscles repair and work better the next day. This goes for your training rides as well as the CSF ride itself.
Again there are lots of protein products that you can buy, or have a chocolate milk, a tin of tuna or similar at the end of each ride.
And don’t forget to enjoy a nice evening meal and a glass of wine to reflect on a good day’s work and to celebrate your progress as a ‘proper’ cyclist!
There’s more tips and advice about cycling in France at freewheelingfrance.com