Emma Osenton, co-creator of the Manchester to London route, provides some intriguing advice on long distance riding, in preparation for the event in September.
“Of course a ride from Manchester to London within the twenty-four hours has no sort of rank as a physical feat. Any long distance cyclist who counts would jeer at an average pace of ten miles to the hour for nineteen net hours of riding. “You loitered on the road too long,” he would say, like the Rossettian princess’s maid, rebuking the laggard in love.”
Let’s remember though, C.E. Montague was pretty ‘nails’. When he rode from Manchester to London in 1924 he did the whole thing on gravel roads with only one gear. The more I’ve read about C. E. Montague though the more I can imagine that this was just a scenic jaunt for him compared to scaling the Alps in a knitted suit and ropes.
For the riders on their Manchester to London Challenge however it’s something far greater, the distance for some will be scaling new ground, new ways of preparing, eating, drinking and riding. The North and South training rides are a great way to share knowledge and learn skills. It’s also a chance to meet fellow riders, share stories, share fears…
I must add that I have no qualifications in training and nutrition, I do however have a history of endurance, sometimes for events, mostly for fun. I find pure pleasure in riding a long way. I thought I’d write this to share with you some of the things that I do, some may be right for you, others not. There’s no rulebook.
Comfort is of course paramount on long rides, so points of contact with the bike especially so; favourite gloves, socks and shorts are essential. Jerseys with good pockets will make everything as simple as possible, and knowing what’s in which pocket really helps. Strange things happen when you get tired, it’s easier when things are familiar. Chamois cream, plenty of it and one that you’re used to, it’s a long time to sit in the saddle.
Keeping flexible and not feeling like you’re a creaky monster will help your comfort levels too. Getting off the bike and not ending up bike shaped is the challenge, when you stop, stretch. Mills Physiotherapy has prepared an animated stretching program for those who are unsure of what to be stretching and how. It can be found here.
Bikes are personal, we all have our favourite things, I always build my bikes so that they can be easily repaired at the roadside if need be. I will confess that I’m a geeky bike cleaner, especially before a big ride. It gives you a chance to check everything for wear as well giving it a lovely, pride-inducing sparkle. Really big rides get new bar tape, then I drive myself nuts when I get it dirty whilst doing them. I always have a set of spares including – multi-tool with spoke key and chain breaker, two tubes and patches, tyre levers and a pump.
With only a few weeks left before the big ride I’m hoping you all have at least a couple of centuries (100 miles) under your belts, hopefully some longer rides too. By doing these you get to know yourself and your pace, try not to get dragged along by faster riders, it’s a long way and it’s your ride as much as theirs.
I’ll always study a route as much as I can before doing it, obviously the Manchester to London Challenge is fully signed so it’s not navigation that will be the issue. However, the mental game of ticking off the places in your mind can be very helpful. It’s as much a mental challenge as a physical one, keeping pedalling, keeping alert. I indulge my love of funny place names, it makes me smile as I ride along. I rode through a place called Clowne once, it wasn’t funny.
Now this really is a point where everyone is different, some can do a day of gels and others prefer real food. Experimenting here is key; personally I do a mix of real food and energy food. Too much sugar too soon and you’ll blow up and it’s hard to recover from that. Same for caffeine gels, save those for later on, sometimes I don’t use them, just carry them about like spare batteries for my legs, it’s the psychological tricks that can pick you up the most. Pies and sausage rolls are great, I could make something up about them being a delicate balance of carbs, protein and fat but hey, pies are nice and this isn’t the ride to be on a diet! Sometimes I’ll eat an apple in a long event, purely for the fresh feeling. Often at later stages in a long ride it becomes harder to eat, this is when I’ll swap onto chewy sweets, they’re easy to get down, pack quite a punch too. Later in a ride cans of Coke are incredible. I could probably murder a nice cup of tea, too!
Most of all, enjoy yourselves, enjoy your bike and when it all feels horrid, remember that really, we’re all lucky to be able to do events like this, the kids at Ambitious about Autism’s Schools probably never will, but we can help them to have the best chance in life by supporting them.
Manchester to London is a charity ride supporting Ambitious About Autism. To find out more about then event and the charity’s work, visit »