Chances are you’ve already marked your calendar for the next grand cycling race- Tour de France. Every year, a tunnel of thrilled humanity lines up the cobbled streets of Paris to cheer on their favorite riders, while over 35 billion people tune in from their homes. This is how massive cycling races are.
However, this maddening obsession for the sport is not exclusively reserved for those who sit on the sidelines to watch. Passion for cycling edges into a religious-like passion and has prompted even the finest riders to develop some sort of ritualized individuality. They don’t just wake up, strap up, hop on their bikes and pray the peloton is kind that day.
Every biker upholds specific pre-riding rituals that they believe align and give nuance to their rides and races.
Here’s a look at some of them.
"Talk to her"
If you want to know how attached a rider is to their bike, ask them what ‘her’ name is!
For most of them, bikes are not mere two-wheeled, moving paraphernalia secured for chasing glory. Riders have a connection with their bikes, a connection not visible to outsiders. They name their bikes and even have a chat with them before embarking on an important race.
Celebrated motor racer Valentino Rossi famously crouches down next to his bike, holds the right footpeg and mutters a few words to his bike before hopping on it.
The doctor, as he is known in the world of Motorsport continues to compel us with some of his pre-ride rituals.
Brand New? No, Thank You
There’s a traditional narrative that wearing a brand new anything to a big event will cause things to go askew. This analogy constitutes our second ritual, which is rather universal. For every rider, it is mandatory to try out a new bike, pair or racing shorts, jersey or shoes a few days to the race. The feeling of uncertainty can be quite overwhelming, and pre-testing your racing equipment before race day is a brilliant way to erode that feeling. Riders have mastered the art of creating a connection with their new bikes and knowing what it tastes like before the Big day of the race.
Ride it before you race it, is a rider’s rule of thumb rather than the exception and any rider can attest to this. So before setting out for a ride, make sure everything fits perfectly, works proper and tastes just right. Unless you want to crush and tear your new pair of bib shorts because there’s a very strong correlation between brand new kits and crushing bikes.
Coffee, coffee and more coffee
Laurel Rathbun is a pro race road cyclist from the United States and is also a lover of coffee. According to a recent sports interview, the cycling pro attested to taking a coffee first thing before her ride.
BMC pro- Marcus Burghardt is also into his pre-race coffee that he’s missed a couple of starts because of it!
Most of us need a cup of coffee to kick start our day, and that’s okay. Coffee works and works quite well even for riders. Coffee is known to be a good stimulant. Research shows that your pre-ride coffee heightens your endurance, boosts your mood and improves your mental alertness-all of which are incentives for a successful ride.
It is also advisable to opt for light meals for your breakfast before a ride or race.
Pack up their bags
Some of the essentials that a seasoned rider cannot do without include a soothing bottle of water and some snacks. Filling up their backpacks with their favorite snack is one acclaimed rider ritual. Whether you are racing or just going for a casual ride, here’s a list of some of the essentials every rider should pack:
- Cycling shorts and shoes.
- A helmet and a pair of dark sunglasses.
- Waterproof fabric for protection against wind or rain.
Also, keep in mind that keeping your load between 15 and 40 pounds is highly advisable. Riders usually take a practice ride with their bike fully loaded before officially leaving for their rides. This helps them get used to their load and make any adjustments if need be.
Riders do not just wake up and pick up their bikes from where they dropped them last night. Before their next ride, their bikes are checked by mechanics and any pending repairs done. Washing your bike, kit and shoes are important for comfortable and fully immersive riding experience.
Having an experienced mechanic who checks your tires is a preventive measure against unprecedented flat tire incidences. Riders sometimes bring along extra tubes, spare lubes and pumps to face their worst-case scenarios.
Also, ensure your brakes are well adjusted by checking the brakes pad wear and aligning your brake calipers.
ou probably warmed up your car engine today, didn’t you? Warming up your car enhances a vicious flow of oil and consequently, a swift car motion. Generally, it increases your car’s functionality. Your body functions pretty much the same way. Before a ride, most riders have their warm-up either by doing stretches or by pre-riding. Especially for a race, pre-riding is vital and helps you to familiarize yourself with the racecourse. Riding a lap or two around the course, doing some accelerations or riding at tempo will go a long way in prepping you for your race.
Warm-up also prepares your body and mind for the daunting task ahead and prompts them to be at their best. As a rider, you should purpose to have longer warm-ups for shorter more explosive events and vice versa. Aim for a range of 20 to 40 minutes of warm-up for events such as circuit road races, and cyclo-cross events.
What’s your lucky charm?
We all have a good luck charm, I suppose. Whether they do work, or the ‘it’s all in your head’ analogy stands, I’m still attached to mine! Just like typical athletes around the world, riders have their lucky charms too. Whether It’s eating chicken before every game like Wade Anthony or playing in your college shorts like Michael B. Jordan, sometimes we give them credence of our wins to certain things. One famous rider ritual is the lucky charm.
Most Tour de France riders, for instance, put their good luck charms. Competing against 171 other riders and scaling widely varied terrains certainly warrants a double whammy of good luck. For some riders it could be riding on a specific bike, racing with a monumental ornament around their necks, climbing their bike from either the left or right; whichever charm works for them and delivers prolific results.
A lot of pro racers consult their good luck charms as a pre-ride ritual, some of the famous ones being Julien Vermote’s white rosary and Jack Bauer’s greenstone.
Crumpled or Straight?
Jersey pinning is another pre-ride ritual, though specific to competitive racing. You place your number in a way that it is readable as you cross the finish line, preferably on the side panel of your jersey. The most befitting way of pinning your jersey number is to flat pin it. As you do this, ensure the number is pulled away from your skin to prevent getting pricked. Whether or not you should crumple your number attracts divergent views, albeit straight numbers are more visible.