If you’re building up to your first sportive then being prepared with the right kit will help you go faster, stay comfortable and look good too.
While most of us learned to ride a bike as a child, getting into road cycling as an adult can feel like learning all over again, and sportives – with their perfect balance of a challenging course yet chilled vibe – are a great place to start. So sign up and get sportive-ready with this handy kit tips list.
A Road Bike
Before you say, “well – obviously!” This is a (really) good-to-have, but it’s not a must-have. It’s acceptable to take a hybrid or even mountain bike to a sportive, but you’ll be outnumbered if you do. The most common bike at these increasingly popular mass participation cycling events is a road or race bike. Aside from the obvious advantages – light in weight, nimble and comfortable with its multiple positions (drops, hoods and tops) – these events can get crowded, and a mountain bike, for example, handles very differently to a road bike. For the busy climb, riding neatly two-up and let’s face it – testing your break away – road bike rules.
While you don’t have to run out and buy that, possibly ill-fitting, jersey that your chosen sportive is touting on their website, you do need to have the right wearable kit at-the-ready for your sportive. For a long day in the saddle, comfort is paramount, and staying warm and dry equals comfort. If you’re expecting a hot, dry day, then choose a wicking and lightweight bib shorts and jersey, and consider the UV protective options now on the market. Even on the best weather days it’s wise to have a gilet to hand (ok, in pocket) for that early morning or evening chill and a pair of arm warmers to protect from cold weather or the sun’s hot rays. If wet weather is possible a packable waterproof is your best investment. Avoid, if possible, ‘boil in a bag’ cheap options, and opt, instead, for a breathable water-repellent windproof. Check out our article on weather-specific clothes for more info’ on what to get for the weather.
Much like the bike, you’re free to go with flats or even clips (those scary looking straps that cyclists used to, and still seem to, ride with) – but investing in a pair of road pedals for your road bike is efficient and comfortable. When it comes to clipless you’ve got a few systems to choose from; the most popular is Shimano SPD-SL (or the MTB SPD); but Look Keo and Speedplay are also popular. Aside from looking the part, using clipless pedals allows you to recruit more muscles while your riding, leading to more efficiency.
Snacks To The Max
Sportives are known for their feed-stations (and endless stream of sweaty hands!) and while some sportives are better than others when it comes to what’s on offer, most serve-up decent helpings of everything from jelly sweets and biscuits to sandwiches and plenty of water and isotonic/carb drink. But don’t rely on them – instead, enjoy their offerings, but go prepared. One of the important things to learn as a cyclist is that when it comes to fuel, everyone – and thus every gut – is different. Try bars, gels and, popular in the Audax community, ‘real’ food. Nope, not a fancy brand of bar – just the simple stuff: bananas, peanut butter sarnies, even boiled new potatoes dusted with salt! The trick is, be prepared to avoid the bonk.
A Bag (Or Bottle) Of Tools
Don’t be that cyclist who needs to borrow a multi-tool; own one and treasure it! Multi-tools housing allen keys that will at some point be your saviour when you’re out riding; helping everything from a rubbing brake to adjusting a problematic saddle position. You’re also much more likely to encounter a flat on a longer ride, so it’s a must to invest in a good pair of tire levers, spare inner tubes, tube patches (for if you run out of tubes), and CO2 canister (and its fitting) or a quality hand pump. While it sounds like a lot, all of this can be neatly stowed in a seat tube bag, and then forgotten about so you can enjoy the ride.
First Aid Essentials
While there’s first aid support at sportive events, it’s always handy to have some essentials, even better if you can sneak them into a compartment in your little seat tube bag alongside your tools. A couple of plasters, antihistamine* in case of insect bites or hay fever eyes and a mini tube of antiseptic gel is handy for long rides. (*Always consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking medication.)
A GPS Device
Sportives are marked, so a navigation device is non-essential, but it’s always handy to know where you’re headed, how much climbing you’ve done and how much is left – not only to plan your efforts, pace and fuelling strategy but to record your ride, too. Taking a watch, cycle computer or installing an app on your phone that tracks your ride will allow you to enjoy the post-ride chill-out while admiring all your KOMs and QOMs – that you probably racked up, because you invested in the right kit!
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