How to prepare for a Charity Bike Ride Event

Mark Taylor from Bikes.org.uk has written a comprehensive guide to preparing for a charity bike ride. These charity cycling events are a great way for people to get involved with their local community, raise money for good causes and have fun too.

For some people, a charity cycling event may be their only cycle ride each year so it is essential to prepare for the event well in advance if you are to get the most out of it and ensure the day remains enjoyable.

The key is preparation, not just of yourself but of your bike, your fundraising, your safety and of those who plan to ride with you. This guide will help you to prepare for every aspect of the ride, which in turn will hopefully lead you to want to do it again next year and perhaps cycle on a regular basis.

We’ll look at each of the following aspects of preparation but if there’s something specific you want to look at, just click on that heading to jump ahead to that section.

The Bikes.org.uk website has a wide range of articles that can help you in your preparations, some of which are included in the full version of this guide.

 

Fitness Training

Whilst most charity events are designed for the casual cyclist, there is no substitute for good preparation. Yes, you can just turn up on the day and get on with it but a little bit of preparation is important to ensure all goes well and you get the most out of the event. Fitness training doesn’t have to be something you dread, it can be as fun as the day itself.

For those who haven’t been on a bike for a while, simply getting the bike out of the garage and going out for a few short rides is a good start. Why not make it more fun by getting the whole family to go with you and include a mid-ride picnic? as fun as the day itself.

The key to fitness training is to stretch the muscles, build stamina and get used to riding a bike again. Cycling is a great way to burn calories and lose weight so there are some added benefits too.

 

Preparing the Bike

There is a slight assumption here that you actually have a bike. If you don’t then we’d encourage you to read our beginners guide to buying a new bike and what to look for when buying a second-hand bike.


If you’re bicycle hasn’t been out of the garage or shed for a while, it’s important to check a few things before going for a ride. If it’s been there for too long, we’d strongly urge you to ask your local bike shop to give your bike a basic service. It won’t cost a lot, or take too long and will be worth every penny.

photo: Richmond.gov.uk

 

 

Food & Drink

An essential part of your preparation should be what you eat and drink. We’re not trying to turn you into elite athletes here, just trying to ensure you eat well in preparation for the day itself. What you eat, and drink, will play an important part of how you perform and feel out on the road.

Breakfast remains the most important meal of the day, particularly if you are going to be spending most of it on your bike. One thing to remember while you are riding is that you should not leave it too long between eating, because this can leave you hungry and might encourage you to go on a food binge after a session, which is not always helpful.

Snacking regularly while you are cycling can help to alleviate hunger pangs and allow you to stick to a reasonable size post-ride meal in the evening, so that you are not messing with your insulin levels or going through peaks and troughs throughout the day.

It is uber important that you drink plenty of water, however, don’t take too much at any one time as this will make you bloated and uncomfortable. Instead, take small sips on a regular basis. I drink at least one litre of water about half an hour before my ride and take around one litre for every hour of cycling. The rule of thumb here is that if you become thirsty, it’s too late as you’ll have started to dehydrate by them so keep topping up.

Most charity bike rides have feeding stations, or rest stops, which often have water available. However, it is important that you take at least one bottle of water per person with you.

 

Clothing & Footwear

 

We’re not talking about Tour de France style wardrobes here, simply the right clothes to ensure you stay comfortable. In this context, comfortable means staying cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s not. In other words, wearing the right clothing for a) cycling, and b) for the weather conditions.

Photo: Cycle Clothing – Wirral Bikeathon style!

 

 

Bike Gear, Accessories & Tools

Oh Lordy, where do we start? There are hundreds of items we could suggest but we’ll try to limit ourselves to the essentials. Bike gear is generally there to help, this might be help to carry things (panniers), help to see in dim-light (lights), help to repair things (punctures) or a whole host of other things.

The most important tool however is probably your mobile phone, so make sure the battery is full before you set off and carry it in a plastic bag in case it rains. Remember that on a charity bike ride you’re never on your own, there are plenty of other riders, most of whom will stop to help, and also marshals and stewards are on-hand to offer assistance too.

 

Safety

The number one item is not a helmet, it is actually, awareness.

Carelessness or not paying attention to other cyclists, road conditions or other road vehicles are the shortest ways to an early finish to your cycle ride. Our basic advice is simply to be aware of your surroundings, watch what others are doing and try to anticipate their next action.

 

Sponsorship & Publicity

So now you’re ready for the big day but don’t forget that this is a charity event and collecting sponsorship is an integral part. Here are some top tips on collecting sponsorship money for your charity cycle ride;

• Sometimes, collecting sponsorship money can be harder than taking part in the event itself! To prevent this, try getting people to give you cheques ahead of the event or perhaps post-dated to a date shortly after the event (but no more than six months).

• Always carry a pen and sponsorship form with you.

• Don’t be shy in asking, we are a very generous nation and people are often willing to give money to good causes.

• Give sponsorship forms to friends, family, workplaces and get them out raising sponsor money on your behalf.

• On most sponsorship forms there is a ‘Gift Aid’ option, this allows charities to claim an additional 25% on top of the original pledge.

• Ask your employers to match your sponsorship pound for pound, that way you raise twice the amount and your employers can get some publicity – get them to get in touch with the press on your behalf.

• Invest some money in a prize and hold a raffle at work and put the proceeds towards your sponsorship amount.

• If you are self-employed, your clients might respond to a humorous letter asking them to support you.

• Other people might want to help or might know someone who could – always ask around.

• Write to local companies asking for their support – address letters to the Chairman or Managing Director. Again, try to make it humorous, it will stand out more.

• Contact your local press. People who know you or know of you may get in touch and support you.

• Do you belong to any clubs or groups? Have a chat with some of your fellow members and see what ideas you can come up with together.

 

Route Familiarisation

Charity bike rides are fun but as we’ve said before, a small amount of preparation will help to make the day go even better. Some rides are simple routes around a park, flat land with no inclines and just a few miles long. Others are much longer, sometimes over 100 miles and over several hill climbs. Whichever ride you’ve chosen, you should familiarise yourself with the route.

Finally, on a practical note, consider how you are going to get-to and home-from the ride. It may not be as straight forward as you think.

 

On The Day

So, at last, the big day has arrived. Excited? You bet you are!

Sleep: First things first, make sure you get to bed reasonably early the night before so you wake refreshed and eager to get started. Don’t be a hermit but you may want to minimise your alcohol intake the evening before the ride as riding with a hangover or slightly dehydrated aren’t much fun.

Breakfast: Get up in plenty of time to have a decent breakfast (see the above section on food & drink) and try to drink at least one litre of water 30-40 minutes before setting off.

Bike: A quick check over your bike to ensure it’s as ready as you and you’re off – no. Take your time to check the things we listed above, especially checking your tyre pressures.

Weather: A quick check outside to check the weather will help you to determine what clothing to wear and what to pack.

Clothing: Clothes should be freshly laundered and shoes should be clean. Depending on the weather, you’ll either be wearing your jacket or packing it in your panniers (remember, no backpacks). Once you’re dressed and ready to go, grab your gloves and helmet.

Bike Gear: The minimum gear you’ll need to take is a pump, puncture repair kit, first-aid kit and a multi-tool. Other items are optional but don’t overdo it as you’ll be the one carrying them around all day. If you take your phone, remember to put it in a plastic bag in case it rains.

Food & Drink: A few suitable snacks are advisable, high energy bars, fruit, gels and of course plenty of water. One litre of water weighs 1kg so bear that in mind.

 

All that is left for me to say is good luck and I hope you enjoy the day! Please feel free to leave a comment below if you’ve enjoyed the article or have any suggestions, as I’m sure we could have missed something!

The above is an extract of the guide from Bikes.org.uk. The full guide is also as a PDF download.

 

Let us know what charity cycling rides and events you're involved in and we could feature it here on the London Cycling Campaign blog. Please send an email to info@lcc.org.uk or connect with us via Facebook and Twitter. 

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Replies

The challenge of doing charity bike rides changed me from an occasional cyclist into an everyday rider. It's a shame that many of them try to force everyone to wear helmets, that excludes the majority of cyclists who don't use them and tends to attract the faster more aggressive riders. That can only make the ride less safe.  As Trevor Ward wrote in the Guardian Bike Blog: Compulsory bike helmets on charity rides is the 'thin end of the wedge'

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