Ring of Kerry Cycle guidelines

GENERAL GUIDELINES ON PREPARATION AND RIDING THE EVENT

These guidelines are to help you prepare for the 175km (112 miles) challenge and are aimed at those relatively new to this level of challenge. However, they may also be useful if you have participated before. Everybody has a different level of fitness and lifestyle so it is difficult to prescribe a day-to-day training programme that would work for everyone. Therefore, we also provide general monthly advice for the months leading up to the event: you can adapt this to suit your fitness, experience and daily commitments. Applying these general guidelines, along with the monthly advice, will help ensure that you have an enjoyable and safe experience and that you finish with a smile on your face.
Pacing

One of the biggest mistakes is going too fast, especially in the beginning. You will be excited at the start and 'rearing to go'. Some get carried away in this atmosphere or can't resist trying to keep up with riders who are passing them. However, if you start too enthusiastically you will pay the price later on and finishing may end up as an unpleasant struggle.

Going too fast for your fitness level is one of the biggest mistakes made on the RoK Charity Cycle

  • Aim to spread your energy over the day by riding at an even, conservative pace - it should feel 'too easy' at the beginning.
  • Practice your pacing during the months leading up to the event: a good rule of thumb is to ride at a pace where you are comfortable having a conversation.
  • You are probably going too hard if you are panting and struggling to talk.
Fitness

You will need enough endurance to ride 180 Km. (112 miles) and the key preparation for this is to spend as much time as possible just riding your bicycle. Aim for at least three sessions per week but four is the 'sweet spot' - when you get most return in terms of fitness for the number of sessions you put in.

Anybody in general good health can do the cycle provided they prepare consistently and gradually increase their distance

There are a number of other key things to keep in mind in your build-up:

  • Don't be too ambitious and enthusiastic at the beginning: this will lead to tiredness, lack of motivation and perhaps injury - give the body time to adapt.
  • Consistency is important but don't struggle through if there are times when you are feeling over-tired or if life is just too busy: take a short break and get back on the saddle as soon as possible.
  • Include one long steady ride per week and gradually extend it. Practice your pacing during this and include some riding in the rain in case you experience it on the event.
  • Most of your training should be at a comfortable endurance pace - an effort where you can carry on a conversation relatively easily.

Most of your training and the charity cycle itself should be at a pace where conversation is relatively easy

Once you have a basic endurance base, one harder ride per week will help improve your fitness (if you like the challenge of some harder sessions!) Aim for efforts that make it difficult to talk (it is wise to get the go-ahead from your GP if you are not used to this) and there are various ways of making this easier:

  • Ride with somebody who is faster, or in a fast group.
  • Make an effort on hills on one of your normal routes, with a normal pace in between.
  • Ride a short, familiar route faster than you would normally and time yourself each time.
  • Think of the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle as four separate segments of just over 25 miles (40k) each. Therefore, your first main target is to cycle 25 miles (40k) and you should achieve this relatively easily with time and some preparation. Your second big target is 80K (50 miles) and, when you can do this in the timeframe set out in our monthly guidelines, you can be confident of finishing the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle.
Your Bicycle

People do the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle on all kinds of bicycles but it is wise to avoid mountain bikes with chunky tires as these will eat up energy.

You don't need a fancy, expensive bike but proper saddle-height and the reach to the handlebars and brakes are important

  • Hybrid-style bikes with straight bars are ideal for novices, or you can move on to a sports-bike with drop handlebars if you have some experience or intend to continue cycling regularly.
  • Make sure your bike has a bottle cage as you will have to keep well hydrated on those long rides during the summer.
  • A good saddle is always a worthwhile investment - and women should get one specifically for females - but nothing beats time on the saddle for easing any initial discomfort.
  • If you are a relative beginner don't be surprised if you experience some discomfort in your hands, shoulders and bum while the body gets used to the position.
  • As you get more confident, or if you are committed to regular cycling, there are many upgrades you can get and there will be no shortage of suggestions from more experienced cyclists!
  • You should, of course, ensure that your bike is always in good mechanical order, especially the brakes, gears, chain and tyres: make sure the tyres have the recommended air pressure.
  • Whatever type of bike you use, ask your friendly bike shop or an experienced cyclist to check your saddle height and the reach to the handlebars and especially your brakes.
Your Gear

You do not need any special gear apart from a helmet but having suitable kit may help make your riding more comfortable and enjoyable.

A helmet is the only special gear you need

  • Ensure your helmet fits and is worn correctly.
  • A pair of cycling shorts is a good investment and a cycling top has useful storage pockets and will fit comfortably.
  • You may need a light rain jacket at times and being able to stuff this into a pocket is a bonus ÔÇô never hang clothing around your waist as it is dangerous.
Cadence and Gearing

Cadence is how fast you pedal, usually measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). Cycling with too low a cadence, or in too high a gear, is a common mistake, especially on hills or into a wind. This is uncomfortable, makes the muscles tired and puts undue pressure on the knees. The hills on the Ring of Kerry are not very steep and you will find them much easier if you use your gears to maintain a high cadence and steady effort.

Work your gears regularly to keep your cadence high and to reduce the load on your muscles: think of spinning the pedals rather than pushing

  • Use a lower gear when the efforts get harder - on hills or into the wind - and this will keep your cadence up.
  • Think of 'spinning' the pedals smoothly rather than 'pushing' - this may take some time to feel natural.
Skill and Technique

Developing your skill and technique will make your riding safer and more enjoyable.

Practice riding in an experienced group from time to time and ask for advice on technique and etiquette

  • Learn to hold a safe position on the road: don't ride too close to the ditch where you might have difficulty in avoiding holes, debris and overhanging hedges as traffic passes.
  • Practice glancing around you, being aware of other road users and signalling properly.
  • Be especially careful of your braking when it is wet or where there is gravel on the road.
  • Try to practice riding in a group and tell a more experienced cyclist that you welcome advice on your positioning, technique and general cycling etiquette: joining a supportive club will be useful for this.
  • Wear bright or high-visibility clothing.
Fueling

On the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle it is best to eat often and lightly so that your body gets an even, regular supply of food that can be digested easily.

Don't over-eat for your training rides; eat often but lightly on the event

  • Eat small amounts at least every half-hour.
  • Do this from the beginning even though you might not feel like eating for the first hour or two.
  • With the relaxed speeds that are normal on the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle there is generally no need for specialist supplements or 'carbo-loading'- a normal good quality dinner the evening before and a good quality breakfast will ensure that the system is fully fuelled before you set out.
  • Don't be tempted to over-eat at the food-stops: there is a limit to how much nutrients the body can absorb in one sitting and indulging too much can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish.
  • Drinking regularly is important, especially if it is hot - aim for at least a bottle per hour. Plain water should be sufficient but indulge yourself with a sugary drink if you do feel like it, especially before the last section of the route.
Weight Management and Wellbeing

Along with helping charities and a personal challenge, many see the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle as a means to improve general fitness, health and sense of wellbeing. Weight loss is often a target and will certainly make the hills easier.

You will lose weight consistently if don't over-eat for training and eat healthily in general

  • Don't make the mistake of eating too much for your regular training spins: there is no need to eat anything extra for cycles of between 90 minutes and two hours at an easy pace.
  • You might find this a little difficult if the body is used to a regular supply of sugars in various forms but it will become easier if you persist.
  • For rides longer than 90 min., adopt the eating system that you will use on the event itself - eat lightly and often.
  • If you eat healthily, cut down on sugars and carbs and reduce portion sizes a little, you will lose weight consistently with the additional exercise.
Things that go wrong

The Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle has an unparalleled level of volunteer support for participants, including 10 bike-repair points and transport to the finish if needed. Therefore, you need not worry that you could be left stranded.

Nevertheless, it's best to take all precautions and punctures are the most common. You will get help if you can't repair one yourself, but it may take a little time which will involve delay for yourself and for your friends if you agree to stick together.

Punctures are the main problems, usually caused by poor tyres, low inflation, embedded debris, or previous punctures not being fixed properly

Volunteers fix a large number of punctures and the most common causes are:

  • Embedded debris in tyres, such as tiny pieces of glass or stone - check your tires beforehand
  • Tyres not inflated correctly - make sure they have the recommended air pressure
  • When punctures occur, the inside of the tyre is not inspected and whatever caused the puncture is not removed, resulting in the replacement tube puncturing again: check the inside of the tyre before replacing a tube.
  • If you can't change a puncture yourself at least carry a spare tube and the means to take off your wheel if you don't have quick-releases: somebody is likely to help and spare you the wait for a volunteer repair crew.

There is a huge volunteer army on the event - if things go wrong you will be taken care of

  • Other types of mechanical problems also occur and it's often not possible to fix them outside of a workshop. So, get your bike thoroughly checked to help avoid having to use a support-bus!
  • For medical contingencies there are 12 first-aid points on the route, three medical centres and numerous ambulances. All are staffed by fully-qualified volunteers, so you can be assured of medical support if needed.
  • Be prepared for the weather, either good or bad. On hot days, for example, not drinking or lack of sun-protection can lead to problems. Similarly, rain and cold wind can cause difficulties if not prepared.