No matter how much you enjoy cycling for fun, fitness or relaxation it’s always good to give yourself a challenge, a tangible goal to aim for. You can obviously set yourself plenty of challenges – maybe it’s to ride 30 miles every weekend or to conquer that hill you’ve been avoiding for months. But it’s just as easy to let yourself off the hook because you don’t feel like it this weekend or it was a bit too wet or windy.
Which is why taking part in a sportive is such a good idea!
Sportives, the posh name given to organised cycling events for mass participants, are happening all over the country almost year round. From a gentle 20-mile course suitable for all levels to the Prudential Ride 100 that attracts some 25,000 riders to Wiggle’s Super Sportive ‘The Long One’ which is an epic distance of 124 miles and not for the fainthearted or unfit, there is bound to be an event in your area – and making a commitment to take part in one will give you the focus you might (sometimes) need to get out on your bike, even when the weather isn’t quite perfect. Because you know that you always feel so much better for it – getting going is always the hardest part and giving yourself a reason is the best motivation to pull on the lycra. Oh and knowing that you’re paying to do it – anything between £15-£50 on average – might also strengthen your resolve.
Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!
Before you even start looking, think about your fitness level, ability and the amount of cycling you’re used to. Be honest with yourself and then decide what you want to get from taking part in a sportive. Is it just the taking part? Is it to go further than you’ve cycled before? Do you want to test yourself over a challenging course with big gradients?
It’s really important to factor in time as well. If you only potter around for an hour or so every other week, you’d be hard pushed to complete a 50-mile sportive in three weeks time. So to give yourself a good chance of ensuring that your first sportive isn’t also your last, you need to seriously consider how much training you can do before the event in order to get fit. Training plans can be easily found on the Internet and most are spread across a 12-week period as a minimum – don’t be tempted to shrug them off and think you can wing it, the work you put in over the weeks will pay off on the day and help make it a fantastic experience. Hopefully, one that you’ll then want to repeat!
Most sportive events offer shorter and longer routes, so once you’ve found an event you just need to choose the best distance or level of difficulty that will best suit you.
Where to find the perfect sportive...
Local cycling clubs are a good place to start. Many of them run annual events that are also open to non-members and the obvious advantage is that you probably won’t have far to go. Your local bike shop will also most likely be able to tell you about events happening in the area. It’s also worth checking out the following:
National retailer Evans Cycles organises a great range of RIDE IT sportives all over the UK.
There are many charity cycling events available if you want to ride for a good cause, one being Action Medical Research who offer numerous excellent cycling events in the UK.
Wiggle is one of the biggest online cycle retailers and the company promotes a very busy cycling events calendar that runs from April to November, so there are plenty of events to choose from.
Human Race organises a heap of sportives. Included in their events calendar is the Macmillan Cycletta Series, which is for female cyclists only. For ladies who may feel slightly intimidated riding in a peloton full of gel-swigging MAMILS (it’s in the dictionary, check the definition if you’re not sure!) these rides could be perfect.
And online cycling community The Cycling Bug provides a very useful events search by postcode with web links to each specific event.
Also if you want to find a buddy to join you on your chosen sportive then look no further than Cycling Buddy. An activity based social network of over 20,000 cycling buddy members. Search for a buddy in your local area … it’s completely free too!
A word about the logistics
Finally, before you make your payment, just make absolutely sure that the event is feasible for you to do. Check what time it starts. Depending on distance, many will require riders to set off as early as 7am, so be sure that you can reach the start line in good time or that you can find somewhere nearby to stay overnight. Don’t leave it until the last minute to worry about these sort of details – sleepless nights are not conducive to a good day out in the saddle