It's not long now until cyclists from across the county will take part in the 2018 Devon Rotarium Charity Cycle Ride in support of Devon Air Ambulance. 

Cyclists will ride either 70 km or 110 km across beautiful Devon landscape, beginning and ending at Honiton Rugby Ground. You can enter as an individual or in teams, with friends or colleagues - it's up to you. It's not a race, though you can challenge yourself if you wish to.

Before you head off to achieve your personal goal, or simply to enjoy a day out cycling through Devon, it can help to feel physically and mentally ready by applying these useful preparation tips.

10 ways to help you prepare

1) Get used to the distance

Depending upon your experience, 110 km or 70 km may or may not feel like a significant challenge. If you fall into the former category and perhaps you are doing a challenge like this for the first time, it makes sense to build up familiarity with the distance you'll be taking on. 

In training it can be a good idea to increase your ride distances by 10 km at a time and go at your own pace. Your fitness improves fairly quickly if you increase the distances in increments and before too long 110 km or 70 km will feel like an achievable goal.

For more experienced riders there might be less of an emphasis on the distance, and more on the time it takes for you to tackle it. Again, pacing yourself is important and setting achievable targets in increments with plenty of practice is the way to go. Aim to meet 60-80% of the total distance you are aiming for in your training so you are well-prepared to tackle the fatigue of a greater demand.

2) Get kitted out

There's a lot of cycling kit on the market - some of which can be fairly pricey. It's sensible to invest in a pair of padded cycling shorts for your challenge day and to wear lightweight shoes. Fingerless gloves can stop your hands becoming clammy and wearing less is generally more in the long run.

The phrase 'be bold, start cold' can be helpful when you're about to embark on heat-generating exercise - after a good warm up, of course. You don't want to drag along heavy clothes laden with sweat or rain, depending upon the weather.

3) Get mechanical

Your bike is your steed, and as such you need to understand how it works. Bikes are a beautifully straightforward piece of technology really: there are no complex electrics or computers to grapple with, no fuel beyond your legs and the mechanics are fairly simple and haven't had to change much over time. Nonetheless, it makes sense to have a puncture repair kit handy along with some basic tools to adjust your gears or breaks should you wish to.

4) Get on your bike to work

Not only is riding a bike to work greener, but it is a brilliant way to train for your challenge without even noticing you are getting fitter and more used to tackling distance and challenging terrain. A commute in a car may feel sluggish and dull when you compare it to whipping to work on your bike. 

It might be an idea to practise riding at intervals to help boost your endurance levels, so cycle for 90 seconds at full pelt (if it's safe to do so), then return to a steady pace for the next few minutes. You can achieve a similar effect by tackling some of Devon's abundant hills. 

5) Get on an app

Apps like Strava can help you to track your rides and challenge yourself to set new targets and to achieve your personal best. Friends can join too and support and encourage you when you achieve certain goals or landmarks.

You can use apps to plan routes and to motivate yourself by observing your stats relating to the speed, elevation, distance and time you take on particular rides. An app can also help you prepare for the big day of the challenge so the course is not entirely out of the blue.

6) Get the right nutrition

As a cyclist you are petrol and diesel-free, but you obviously still need to best fuel to propel you along. Riding less than an hour doesn't necessarily require you to top up too much as your body will have glycogen reserves in supply. But after that you'll need to consume around 1,200 to 1,600 calories for every 50k you ride depending upon your size.

Carb-rich food such as bananas and cereal bars are great for boosting energy levels quickly, but there's no substitute for having a healthy, balanced diet in advance of the challenge day. You can eat while riding, but that takes a little practice - don't overload the stomach as this can be uncomfortable when exercising.

Giving your body a balance of the nutrition it needs as part of your day-to-day is essential if you are to meet the challenge and stay healthy, so be sure to get enough protein into your diet through foods like pulses.

7) Get hydrated 

Aim to drink 400 ml to 800 ml of liquid per hour. Water, or water with electrolyte tablets to make up for the minerals you lose through sweating, is also helpful. For the Devon Rotarium bike ride there are regular stop off points or 'feeding stations' en route to help you to replenish your energy and hydration levels, so you don't need to feel weighed down by bananas and bottles of fluid.

8) Get lots of rest

You can't beat a good night's sleep before an event like this. Good rest, a light but healthy breakfast and a decent warm up can help you feel raring to get on your bike and ready to go come the day of your challenge. Getting into the habit of having uninterrupted sleep in advance will help your body to feel alert and energised during the day.

9) Get the lay of the land

You can review the 70 km or 110 km route in advance of the challenge of course, and prepare by practising along sections of it in advance. This can help you get used to points of elevation. Do make sure your safety comes first of course, and always wear a cycle helmet when cycling along roads, high visibility clothing and lights in dull weather or if practising early in the morning or evening.

10) Get the support of your friends

Invite friends and family to cheer you on at the start and finish point, or encourage colleagues and people you know to sponsor you in advance of your feat. There's nothing quite like having the support of the people around you when undertaking a feat of physical and mental endurance and the fact that it's for a good cause is encouraging to others who might not want to do the challenge themselves.

Be sure to share training updates and information on your social channels and tag us in your posts so we can cheer you on!

Got any more top cycling challenge tips? Share them on our Devon Rotarium posts on our Facebook page.

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