Pick up the Pace
Stick to the plan
Keeping to the training schedule will produce the best results, but if illness prevents this, don’t be tempted to miss out any sections just so you can keep to the dates of the programme. Hit the pause button on your training plan while you’re ill, then once you’re well enough to resume, go back to at least the point where you had to stop, and further back if you’ve lost fitness.
Carry some identification with you at all times when you're on your bike. Add next of kin details to your mobile phone under ICE – ‘In Case of Emergency’ – so they can be found easily (which will be of great help to your family and event organisers) if you're involved in any kind of accident.
Wick, wick away
Invest in a good merino wool or synthetic fabric wicking baselayer. For early-season training it’s essential. The right base layer can make all the difference to your comfort and, therefore, your performance.
Practise changing a tyre and inner tube at home (maybe now’s the time to fix all those punctured inner tubes you’ve been meaning to for months). It is far more pleasant to learn how to do this in a nice dry garage or even while watching a YouTube demo rather than on a windswept hillside in the rain.
Check out various choices of energy bars and gels and replenishment food and drink at home, to find out whether it agrees with you, then try it while out on your training rides to make sure you won’t get any problems on the important rides and later stages of your programme. An energy bar that’s very tasty at home may prove difficult to consume on a ride, and could even cause choking. Once you’ve decided on the right food for you, stick to it. If you’re confronted with unknown drinks on a long ride or at an event, it’s probably as well to stick to water.
Sleep and rest form an important part of your ride preparation. You will not train properly if you’re fatigued, so try to maintain a good routine. If external circumstances create extreme tiredness then you should choose to sleep well rather than train badly.
When conditions are really cold, keep your knees covered. These badly designed but incredibly important joints are susceptible to cold, and although they can seem apparently unaffected at the time, they can suffer at a later stage. Set off wearing a pair of knee warmers, which can be easily removed and stowed away.
A wind/rain jacket should be part of your basic kit. These are available in the lightest materials so they can be folded and kept in a pocket or saddlebag. Essential in wet and windy conditions, a jacket can offer invaluable protection on cold descents or when you're forced to make a roadside repair.
Get an experienced bike fitter to check your saddle position, particularly if you’re experiencing any discomfort when you’re in the saddle. The fore and aft position might need adjusting, as might the angle, but remember that any changes here might lead to the bar and stem needing repositioning too…
…so confirm that you have a comfortable reach to all parts of the handlebar and that you experience no difficulty in operating the gear and brake levers. A shorter stem and/or repositioning of the bar could well prove worthwhile.