Starting out – A guide for beginners
Well done for entering your first event. In many ways, that’s the hardest part! But don’t sit back and forget all about it until nearer the time – use the tips below to get started with riding and help with your mental and physical preparation for a great endurance ride.
• Tell your friends and family that you’ve entered a MTB marathon and that you have started to train for it – it makes it much harder to back out!
• Arrange a regular training ride with a friend so that you keep each other motivated.
• Join a club – riding with a group of mixed abilities is a good way to improve your skills and fitness.
• If you are at all uncertain about your physical health – consult a doctor before you undertake your training. The MTB Marathon training planner is intended as a guideline only and it is your responsibility to ensure that you are physically fit to undertake the challenge.
• If you have any ongoing aches or pains that you think might give you problems over the next few months, get them seen to by a doctor and / or physiotherapist now.
• Learn to eat and drink regularly on your longer rides. Dehydration will seriously affect your performance and drinking when you’re thirsty is already too late. Many people suffer with cramps when they first drink and eat during exercise – experiment now with the food and energy drink (such as High5 Energy Source) that suits your body.
Don’t leave it to the day of the marathon to try something new. See the sections on hydration and nutrition.
• If you haven’t ridden your bike much over the winter, consider getting it booked in at a local bike shop for a service. It will make those first few rides much more enjoyable and reliable if you’ve got a nice smooth machine to ride!
• Make sure that your tyres are suitable for a range of off road conditions with a good XC tread pattern – usually 1.95 width gives a good compromise of cushioning, grip and light weight.
• Carry tools and know how to use them. As an absolute minimum, know how to fix a puncture and mend a broken chain. This could make the difference between finishing and not finishing!
• Well-designed and functioning gear will make your riding much more enjoyable. (basic kit for endurance rides)
• The most important bit of kit (after your bike) is a decent pair of bike shorts with a seamless chamois insert. If you’ve only cycled in cotton shorts up until now – get your wallet out! 100km of cycling with a bit of wet cotton chaffing between the legs is agony and you’ll walk like a cowboy/girl for a week!
• You must have a helmet – not only is it compulsory for the events but also something that you should get used to wearing for ALL your riding.
• If you think you might try a completely new thing this year, for example SPD type pedals or full suspension, don’t wait until the month before the event – get used to all your equipment, with everything well set up early on in your training programme.
• Build up gradually. Just because you’ve entered a 100km event doesn’t mean that you have to go out and ride 100km tomorrow. Following the training planner will help you progress your riding steadily, allow you regular rest days and prevent you “burning out” 2 weeks down the line.
• Think about your pedaling technique on every ride so that it becomes second nature. Smooth pedaling at a good cadence is the most efficient but takes practice. For more information see Pedaling technique.
• Be patient with your progress. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have an “off day.” It is normal to have times when you feel fatigued – this is part of the body’s adaptation as you get fitter overall. But learn to recognise if you are over training (see Over training).
• If you miss a few days of training according to the planner, don’t try and make up for it by squeezing a double session in tomorrow. Accept that life goes on and there will be odd days that you skip due to family commitments, illness or bad weather. Relax with an extra rest day and resume the programme as soon as you can.
• Enjoy exploring the countryside, arrange weekend trips away with friends to ride in new areas and above all, have fun – that’s the whole point!