Well my fellow Crusaders, it’s that time of year again. I’m gearing up for a month off for some rest and rejuvenation. Last year I was nursing myself back to health after an episode of high blood pressure. This year, I’m focusing on just having more FUN!
First, I’m taking a week to spend with my family, then I’m getting the bike tuned up so I can start cycling again! It’s been years since I peddled more than my stationery bike. But, whenever cyclists pass me on the street, something inside of me tells me I’m ready to hit the pavement.
For those of you feeling the urge to ride and even train for an upcoming bike tour, here’s the Five Boro Prep guide from Bike New York:
PREPARE YOUR EQUIPMENT
The type of bike you ride, the condition it’s in, and your familiarity with it (and its saddle) will play a critical role in your enjoyment of Tour day. Unless you will be renting, make a point to prepare your bike well in advance of the big ride.
Get a bike. Start out with equipment appropriate for 40 urban miles: a multi-gear bike with relatively smooth tires is best. Hybrid or road bikes are generally lighter than mountain bikes and cruisers, reducing the amount of extra weight you’ll have to power through the five boroughs. If you already have a mountain bike, consider swapping out the knobby tires for a less bulky set. Remember that bikes are like shoes; there’s a specific size that works for you. If you don’t have a helmet yet, get one now– they’re required on the Tour. Make sure to fit your helmet properly.
Get your bike up to speed. You should have your bike tuned up once or twice annually, and definitely a month or two prior to the Tour. While at your local bike shop, outfit your bike with other basics that will improve the ride: a water bottle and water-bottle cage; a spare tube, tire levers, and a patch kit in case of a flat tire; a multi-tool for various adjustments; and a small saddle bag to store all of these goodies. (Those in the New York City area should consider attending a Bike Maintenance 101 class to improve your skills.
Get your seat height right. Saddle height can make or break your cycling experience (and your knees). While at the bike shop, have an employee help you figure out your proper seat height and make adjustments.
Keep your bike in good shape. Always be sure to keep your tires fully inflated and your chain running smoothly. A standing floor pump and chain lube will help you here–they are essential at-home equipment for all bike owners. As you train for the Tour, always perform an ABC Quick Check before you hit the road.
PREPARE YOUR BODY
Now that you have the gear, you’re ready to focus on your body. While exercise is known to be good for you, anyone new to physical activity or who has taken a long break should consult a physician before pedaling into a training plan.
If you’re new to the world of exercise, start at the beginning. In February or early March–by T-minus two months to Tour day–you should be sure that you’re following the CDC’s physical activity recommendations: 150 minutes of moderate activity (like brisk walking) or 75 minutes of intense activity (like running) each week. Try to reach these target times in manageable chunks throughout the week, not all in one go. A varied workout routine is more likely to keep you interested and on track.
Make a date with your bike each weekend. Check off 60 of those required activity minutes by riding for an hour one Saturday or Sunday early in March. For company, check out rides offered by local clubs. Ride a bit more the next weekend and the week after that. This is when you should be experimenting with padded cycling shorts and gloves, eye-wear, and stiff-soled cycling shoes. All of these can make your ride a much more pleasant experience, but they take some getting used to
Step it up a notch. By April, your workouts should increase to at least an hour once a week and 30 to 45 minutes twice a week. At this point you should be cycling (outdoors if possible) once during the workweek. Your weekend rides should also gradually increase to the point where you can ride 40 miles in one outing by the end of April. You should be comfortable switching gears while you’re riding and maintaining a smooth rhythm as you pedal. Come Tour day, 40 miles will seem like a piece of cake.
Ride your bike outside as often as you can. Get comfortable avoiding road hazards, riding in cool conditions, and riding in groups. One way to easily sneak this into your schedule is by biking to and from work whenever you can. Find inspiration at our Bike Commuting 101 course.
Eat before you’re hungry. Energy bars are great for when you need to replenish calories in a pinch during a long ride, but as you train for the Tour in short spurts, regular food like fruit, nuts, and/or cookies should fit the bill. If you prefer to use bars or gels, be sure to try them (in their various forms and flavors) in advance of the Tour while you’re training. Know that bananas, oranges, raisins, water, and energy bars will be at rest stops throughout the TD Five Boro Bike Tour route, with various other snacks and beverages at selected rest areas as well.
Drink before you’re thirsty. For every hour you ride, try to consume anywhere from a half to a full bottle of water or sports drink. While cruising through the Tour route it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the day, and early May is typically not so warm that you notice yourself sweating. Be your group’s Five Boro water czar–remind everyone to drink whenever they get a chance. Drink more water than you typically do during the 24 hours leading up to the Tour. Don’t worry; toilets are available at many, many locations along the route!
PREPARE FOR A GREAT DAY
Your weeks of training will all come down to the first weekend in May.
Fuel up. Eat a well-balanced dinner that includes complex carbohydrates (think whole-wheat pasta, rice, bread, carrots, and fruits) and some protein (think fish, lean meats, poultry, dairy, and legumes) the night before the Tour. For breakfast, go for a bagel or low-fat yogurt instead of a greasy meal that might weigh you down all day. Don’t forget to drink water.
Rest up. Sleep well the Friday night before the Tour and then again on Saturday night, if possible. You’ll most likely have an early morning on Tour day so prepare your bike and equipment in advance.
Layer up. Plan for a chilly start on Tour day. Bring a thin hat that fits under your helmet, gloves, and a water-repellent outer layer that into your bag for once you warm up. The most important layer is your Tour vest; be sure you have it.
Reflect. As you and 32,000 others wait for that starting horn to blow, reflect on how far you’ve come since registering for the Tour. Think of this as your celebration ride–and enjoy!
HEAT ADVISORY — IN CASE OF UNSEASONABLY WARM WEATHER, HERE ARE SOME TIPS FOR STAYING HEALTHY AND ENJOYING THE RIDE.
- Apply sunscreen liberally to any exposed skin. Don’t forget the back of your legs! If you are bringing your children, be sure to apply sunscreen on them as well.
- Install two water bottle cages on your bike and get water bottles that fit, or purchase a backpack hydration system. Bring at least two water bottles and make sure they are filled with water or energy drink before you start the ride. Squeeze bottles are easiest to handle while cycling–or pull over to the side and stop if you have to unscrew the lid of your water bottle. Don’t try to do that while riding.
- Drink before you get thirsty. Stop at our rest stops and water stations to refill your water bottles.
- Be aware of heat-related problems: weakness, dizziness, muscle cramps, headache, sweating, or confusion. If you are not feeling well, stop at a rest stop or ask a marshal for assistance. If you feel like you need to cut your ride short, take the Brooklyn Bridge exit or ask for directions to a subway.