Since 1998

Before your ride

One rule is that your training will only be as good as the time and effort that you put in to prepare your diet, your bike, and your accessories.   There is no doubt about it, cycling is a complicated sport.  It is much more complicated than either swimming or running as each session is of significantly longer duration, and requires specialised equipment.  Your bike is a vehicle which - like you - needs its own regular health checks.   You will find below some information that we thought was sensible to prepare for your rides, with a stress on riding in France.  This advice is particularly important for long or multi-stage rides.

1.  Before the ride is . . .   man (or woman)

Synopsis: First up, and before checking and cleaning your vehicle, you’ll need to re-fuel . . . the driver.
By re-fuelling first, during the digestion period, you will have time to prepare your bike, the required accessories, prepare the drinks and snacks you will need for the ride, get dressed, release your leg muscles, put some 30+ sunscreen on, and go!

Food diet

This subject is exhaustively covered here.

Get your body ready

Prepare your muscles for the effort

Earlier we talked about preparing your muscles foodwise.  Now that the refuelling is taken care of you should warm up the machine, ready to transform the nutrients into mechanical output.  To do so, you should release your calves just before riding.  One easy method is to lie on your back on the floor, prop yourself up a bit with your elbows, pour a little bit of massage oil on to your knees, and alternatively release each calf on the other knee by massaging your calf with the opposite knee.  Do this for a minute on each calf.  Stretching your Achilles tendons will prepare your legs for the session too.

When you start your ride, select an easy gear to begin with, with higher rotations per minute, for about 10 to 15 minutes, until you have warmed up and can therefore then put more torque on your knees, calves and tendons.

Protect your skin against UV radiation

Coming from Australia, you already know how destructive the sun can be on your skin.  In France in summer, the sun sits lower over the horizon than in most places in Australia, hence is less strong due to the higher latitude of the country.  The ozone layer is also less depleted at this latitude so allows greater absorption of Ultra-Violet rays.
Another aspect of the country is that its timezone in summer (GMT +2), is two hours behind the actual position of the sun.  Let me explain:
In the Northern hemisphere, the sun runs from East to West passing South at noon (North in Australia if you live beyond the Tropic of Capricorn).  When it is noon in France, the sun is not really exactly South, we say“at its zenith”.  The country chose to belong to GMT +2 timezone, making the sun reach its zenith about two hours later, at 2pm.  Therefore, in June, July and August, you should avoid exposing your skin for too long without protection between about 12pm and 4pm, which roughly corresponds to 10am to 2pm in the sun in Australia.  In September though, the sun is lower still over the horizon, hence much less harmful.  Riding atthis time of year at anytime is relatively safe.
Whether sunny or not, UV rays are so powerful that they easily cross clouds, therefore you should protect your skin with a UV index that is right for you.  e.g.  30+ if your skin already has a ’halo’, or 50+ if it is sensitive or if you are particularly prone to sunburn.

Acoustic protection

Optionally for your comfort, if you ride in the city you may like to stick a couple of small cotton balls in your ears, although we do not recommend you push them in too deeply.  The cotton ball method still allows you to hear vehicles coming or warning you, and allows you to talk to a ride mate, yet they reduce the decibels of the passing traffic.  This is particularly true on Australian roads, where vehicles tend to have bigger engines, with freer exhausts.  In France the average noise level on the road is lower, and you may not need them at all.

2.  Get dressed

Read this topic for a complete cover of the subject.

3.  Prepare for road safety and repairs

Check your tyre pressure at least one hour before heading out for a ride.  It is not uncommon to find that a tyre is flat just when you need your bike to be working perfectly.  This is especially true if you have recently changed tyres or inner tubes.  Changing tyres and innertubes is intrusive and can reopen an existing wound, or create a new one.
The pressure at which a tyre should be inflated can be found on its side.  Road bikes usually use high pressures, even more so when the tyres are thin like those typically found on race road bikes.  The easiest way to inflate them to a high pressure is by using a foot pump.

If you are going to ride close enough to nightfall, you should take with you a front flashing lamp and a tail flashing lamp.  The best models are undoubtedly found in Australia, where boasting a powerful flashing lamp is much more common than in Europe.  So pack a pair before flying out.  I recommend rechargeable models, through USB cables, although the 3xAAA batteries (can be rechargeable batteries) models do a really good job too if used in sequential mode.  On a funny note, you will notice that French will look at you amazed when you have your flashing front light on, as the vast majority of riders cycle as dark shadows at dusk and during the night . . . .a practice I do not recommend regardless of the trend of the country.

In Australia, you must wear a helmet that meets current safety standards and that has never been dropped or involved any type of impact.
In France, wearing a helmet is not compulsory but is highly recommended, especially if you intend to descend mountain roads.  It is particularly perilous in wet conditions.
However, wearing a helmet can be dangerous too.  "Huh?!" I hear you gasp! In my personal case, I have never incurred an injury when I did not wear a helmet, but I have sustained an injury on one of the first days I wore one on a ride in France . . .   A bee lodged itself in my helmet, became frustrated because it was stuck, and stung me within two seconds, before I even had time to unstrap and take it off! As a result I had a severe oedema that made half of my face swell up for days.  A suggestion is to wear a thin bandana under your helmet to help prevent this type of injury.  Bees are commonly found on country roads, and it is in fact not uncommon that one can get into your helmet when you are wearing one.

4.  Communicate

Tell someone where generally you are going, and how long you think you will be out for.
If you can slip a mobile in your toolbag or your jersey pocket it would be even better.  For the very least it can be used as a camera to get amazing shots along the way.  Secondly it can be used to find your way, using GPS, Google Maps, and if you are in Europe, viamichelin.com, a journey finder that has an option for bikes.

Further readings

created 10 September 2012
revised 15 October 2014 by
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