Moving up a gear to longer sportive rides can be fun

Looking ahead to what's next in your cycling activities. (S)
Looking ahead to what's next in your cycling activities. (S)

Tony Booth of All Terrain Cycles in Wetherby guides cyclists through their next steps to successful cycling in his monthly column.

One of the best ways of keeping yourself motivated is to give yourself a goal, something more significant than your weekend ride – something that challenges you. And what better than by signing up to do a sportive?

Varying in distance from a fun 30 miler up to the full 100 miles and, like marathons, sportives are not races. There really is something for all levels.

Sportives are a great way of discovering new routes and making new friends and are often linked to charity fund raising. They are fully signed and marshalled and, importantly, start and finish in the same place – meaning you can leave your car in one place and don’t have to rely on friends or family to act as chauffeur.

Firstly, be realistic about what event you choose. Don’t over stretch yourself so that you never want to do another one again. Think about the distance and how cycle-fit you are now, look at what kit you have and/or are willing to invest in and how much time you can commit to training.

Once you’ve chosen your event and you’ve set your goal, you’ll need a training plan to help you get fitter and faster. Think about your average week, how much time – realistically – you have for training. It can be very helpful to map out your week on paper; blocking out time already committed to other things and then see what ‘spare’ time you have. This will help you set a realistic training schedule; one that you’ll stick to. As a rough guide, if you’re training for one of the shorter distance sportives, you should be aiming for four to five hours training a week, depending on your current level of fitness.

Broadly speaking, the ‘bite-size chunks’ approach works best. Decide what you want to achieve – a particular time, endurance (if you’re aiming for one of the longer distances) or general fitness. Set manageable, interim goals that you can mentally tick off as you prepare for the event, to help you keep on track. Many of the cycling websites offer free training plans that will give you a good starting point.

Don’t forget, recovery is just as important as training – it gives your body a chance to repair itself, allowing muscles and your cardio-vascular system to recover. Without a proper recovery period, your fitness will not improve and your body will not be ready for its next training session.

Practising in group riding sessions also really helps with training for an event – getting used to riding in close formation and learning to shelter from the wind among a group saves you time and effort.

As well as spending time on the bike, it’s important to incorporate strength, flexibility and core work into your training schedule – all of which play an important part in helping to prevent injury and improving your performance on the bike. Ideally, you should aim for a gym-type session two to three times a week. Circuit training is an ideal way of improving your strength and strength endurance and there are many outdoor classes locally, if you don’t want to join a gym. Training should focus on your legs, bottom and stomach as these are the source of your power when you’re on the bike.

So, if you feel like you’re ready to progress to the next level and get more from your cycling, there’s a whole summer of events across our region.

Upcoming sportives: Humber Bridge Sportive (Hessle) – Sunday June 14; Ribble Valley Ride (Clitheroe) – Sunday June 14; NSPCC Tour of Yorkshire 2015 (Harrogate) – Saturday June 20; Midnight or Bust Ride (Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice, Keighley) – Saturday June 20 and 21; Harrogate Big Bike Bash – Sunday June 21; Sheffield-Esteli Society Bike Ride – Sunday June 21; White Rose Classic (Ilkley Cycling Club) – Sunday June 28; Cycling Weekly Ripon Revolution – Sunday June 28; Le Cote-de-Holme Moss Sportive weekend (Holmbridge) – Saturday and Sunday July 4 and 5; Etape de Yorkshire Premier Anniversaire (Harewood) – Saturday July 4; Wolds123! (Pocklington) – Sunday July 5; Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Challenge 2015 (Malton) – Saturday and Sunday July 11 and 12; The Open Wheel Yorkshire 101: Grand Reserve Special Edition (Clapham) – Saturday July 11; Hospice Cycle Sportive (Huddersfield) – Sunday July 12; Bronte Sportive (Oxenhope) – Sunday July 19; Harrogate Sportive – Sunday July 19; RTB Sportive 2015 (Wetherby) – Sunday July 19; York 100 – Sunday August 16; HOY One Hundred Sportive (Skipton) – Sunday August 20; Bronte Mountain Bike Challenge – Sunday September 20.