Having gone from almost never riding a bike to covering 5,000km over the last two years, I'm beginning to think I’ve learned a thing or two about biking and could perhaps make other people's lives and bums a bit more comfortable. The Virgin Strive Challenge really pushed me to my limits biking up some incredibly hard climbs from the Tour de France route – but it was incredibly fun. I was sitting down with my good cycling friend Andy Moore after one of our toughest cycles and we thought we would come up with some advice for cyclists to make their rides a bit more enjoyable.
Here’s our 10 top tips:
1. The biggest pain in the bum on long distance bike trips can be your saddle. Make sure you choose your saddle for comfort, not looks. I've found that clipping on a Zacro Gel Bike Seat Cover that I bought from Amazon made the whole difference.
2. Get some comfortable bib shorts (gents - make sure you don’t wear underwear and I'd recommend you use chamois cream!) If you're still hurting you can put on Lidocaine cream, which can get rid of the pain but you have to apply it every hour of the journey (hopefully it shouldn't be necessary if you take my other advice).
3. One of my most important bits of advice is you should use cycling shoes with easy to unlock cleats (I like using Shimano Super Lit cleats). There's nothing worse than tipping over on a busy road when you can’t get your shoe detached quickly from the pedals.
4. Saddle height – this is really important to get right so you don’t put strain on the knees. You should almost have a straight leg, but not quite. Ask biking friends or your bike shop to get it absolutely right.
5. If you live in the hills or you ride in the wet I'd recommend disc brakes. Andy also put me on to Sram Etap automatic gears, which I absolutely love using.
6. You may not look as cool with a helmet on but don’t be a helmet and wear one! It saved me when I went over handle bars and has saved a number of friends when they’ve had accidents.
7. Carry a decent small pump, inner tubes and tyre levers at all times and make sure you know how to change an inner tube. Best to ride wide tyres for comfort.
8. For big trips use electrolytes in 50 per cent of your drinks, not just in water. Take food but not a picnic and eat small amounts often. I think real foods are the best.
9. Wear light wickable clothing whilst carrying a waterproof, even in the summer. It’s important for warmth going down hills, as well as the wet. It’s also important not to wear 'flappy' clothing and wear cycling glasses (sunglasses if weather is kind) but make sure to take them off if you’re going into dark tunnels. Also make certain to have front and back lights on in tunnelsand if it’s even slightly dark or overcast.
10. If you’re new to biking then go to your local bike shop and ask them every question you have – they will know the safest roads to learn on. I would recommend joining a friendly local bike club or forming a regular ride group with friends. Get out of breath at least three times every ride even if just for a quick sprint to the café. Enjoy a coffee and cake but at the end of the ride, not after 5K!
And finally, if you haven’t cycled, I really recommend you do. It's one of the best ways of looking after your body and it’s kind on the knees, unlike running. But it goes without saying, do be careful. Even Andy, who is a great cyclist, got himself knocked off his bike by a motorbike two months ago and broke his arm in two places. However, it didn't stop him joining us for 2000km over five days, climbing twice the height of Everest and ending up in the top two out of 100 of us!
Do you have any cycling tips I’ve missed out? Read more about our cycling adventures during Strive here.