With a little bit of effort your charity cycling adventure will be the best, most rewarding overseas trip you've ever had, you'll be eager to get back on the bike every day and wonder how other people ever meet anyone or how they learn anything about the countries they visit without cycling round them!
However, embarking on a charity bike ride that involves over 50 miles of cycling on most days means that it’s not only you that has to be in good shape, the bicycle you ride does too!
Most charity cycle rides will supply you with a bike but you are often allowed to take your own bike if you want to. You will also be invited to bring along your own supplementary cycling kit including a saddle, handlebars, cycling shoes etc
This section of doitforcharity.com highlights all the different kinds of cycling kit you might want to bring - but please realise that this is a wish list and apart from a helmet and a pair of gloves everything else is optional...
Please note for UK and European mainland cycle rides you are normally encouraged to bring your own bike. For further afield destinations you are welcome to bring your own bike although most people prefer to avoid the hassle and use the one that is provided for them by the organisers
If you’re a keen cyclist and your bike is already a member of the family, get it fully serviced a few weeks before your trip departs, making sure you have time to test it and get used to its new tuning.
If you’re buying a bike especially for your charity cycle ride, don’t leave it until the last minute. You’ll need to be following our training advice of course, and should ideally allow about three months to become intimate with your machine and make sure you’re both in shape.
If you’re taking up cycling for the first time or after a long break from it especially to take on the fundraising cycling challenge you’ve chosen, explain to your cycle shop the amount of cycling you’ll be doing throughout the training months, and they’ll help find the right bike for you. The frame size you chose is important and not just because it affects whether or not your feet will reach the ground! The geometry of the bike, which is basically the position you sit in, becomes all-important on a long ride. A mountain bike is a good choice, not because we’ll be riding down mountains though (most charity routes are on relatively smooth and flat roads) but the position you sit in and the stability and durability of the bike will help you. You don’t need full suspension, but front suspension helps absorb any bumps, even front suspension, which has only been about for just over 10 years, isn’t essential though, and neither are disc brakes. If you’re on a limited budget make sure the bulk of it goes toward a good, ideally aluminium, frame, and not on unnecessary suspension and over the top brakes. Although mostly unisex, there are bikes designed for women and these don’t just have a lower cross bar, they have a slightly different frame shape that caters for the different female build.
The knobbly tyres mountain bikes usually come with aren’t ideal either as most charity rides aren't ‘off road’, you’ll therfore want smoother tyres more suited to road use fitted. The bikes that charity cycle ride organisers generally provide are hybrids, which are ideal. A hybrid bike is essentially a combination of the best bits of mountain bikes and road bikes. They also offer the best combination of durability and ease of maintenance in the exotic locations you'll be visiting.
Here are a some of the parts of your bike that might benefit from some attention, or that you might want to update early on in your training, and maybe bring with you to make the bike you are provided with more comfortable
If you are back in the saddle for the first time since your school days, that saddle may quickly become a sore point. Don’t let this put you off, it’s just part of the training and conditioning process and you’ll fly through it. There’s no substitute for sitting on a saddle a lot and getting used to it. However, this doesn’t mean learning to suffer in silence, as cycling should not be uncomfortable, even six or more hours a day of it!
You certainly don’t want to be buying a new saddle the day before you leave, or meeting a strange new saddle as soon as you arrive in Cuba or Vietnam. Bring your own, which you’ll already be intimate with, and your event organisers will fit it for you, and the bike will immediately feel much more familiar.
Wide saddles might look more comfortable and even feel more comfortable at a first sitting, but they can restrict the movement of your legs more than narrow ones. You might not notice this difference until after a few hours of riding.
There are saddles designed specifically for women that are a slightly different shape and have more padding and gel in them. The bottom line for novice cyclists is that any saddle will appear to be a massive source of discomfort at first, like a new pair of shoes, but three or four weeks into your training schedule, and you’ll wonder what you made such a fuss about.
One of the many great things about your charity cycle ride is that it will be in a place that you probably haven’t visited much or at all before. Even if you have visited the country, if you haven’t cycled there, you haven’t really seen it!
The bicycle handlebars are the next most important place that you touch your bicycle after the saddle (we’ll get to the pedals in a minute!). Unlike the saddle it’s easy to grip most kinds of handlebars and instantly feel quite comfortable. However, when you’re on tour, you need to make sure you can change hand positions occasionally and that you have a good posture that doesn’t cause any discomfort.
There are different types of handlebar extension you can try for your bike that either append or replace your existing handlebars. Butterfly bars prove a successful replacement for many people. These replacement handlebars are great for touring as they provide many different places to put your hands, so you can change your back position and sit more upright when appropriate, so you don’t miss anything!
If your charity bike ride is in summer or you’re heading off on an overseas adventure in a hot country, gloves might not seem necessary, but they can help sweaty hands grip the handlebars and protect your paws should they come into contact with any surfaces less accommodating than the handlebars. You don’t have to have full gloves; fingerless mitts are popular for hot weather. Some even have a handy bit of terry cloth incorporated on the back to make brow mopping more effective.
That vital third place you’re in contact with the bicycle! Cycling shoes can really help you squeeze every ounce of efficiency out of your newly trained limbs so that your charity ride becomes the total joy for you that we intend it to be.
The trick is to combine your shoes with the right pedals. The shoes don’t have to be expensive, the less expensive shoes often prove to be a little more flexible in the toe anyway, which makes walking (yes, there'll be some walking, even if it's just to the bar!) easier. Make sure you get the right size as there isn't much 'give' in cycling shoes. You’ll need to do most of your cycling training in your cycling shoes.
Any socks you’re comfortable in will be fine, but cycling socks are designed bearing in mind the work your feet have to do and, as they aren’t too expensive, are worth trying early on in your training schedule to see if they help your feet make it through the day. Don’t forget that you might want clean socks to change into every evening too.
If you haven’t tried cleats or SPD pedals before, which you might not have if you’ve been giving cycling a rest for the past 20 years, they are worth considering. Was it all toe clips when you were young? An SPD pedal, where SPD stands for: Shimano Pedal Dynamics, is the modern equivalent of pedals with toe clips where your feet clip on to the pedals, thanks to a corresponding cleat on the base of the cycling shoes you’re wearing.
Combined with the right shoes, SPD pedals increase your efficiency by helping all your leg movements contribute to pedalling. Again, some getting used to these is required and the time for that is not on the first day of a route that’s taking in 300 or so miles in a week!
Cleats or SPDs are easy to get used to though, thanks to their ‘mission critical’ nature, by which we mean if you forget your feet are clipped in, you’re in danger of falling over! However, once you are used to them you can easily unclip either foot instantly, should you need to, just by moving it in the right direction.
A helmet must be worn at all times when cycling. It's even the law in some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. Get the right helmet and you won't even notice you're wearing it. Don’t worry about your hair – you're not going to be keeping it under control when cycling for six or more hours every day anyway! They don’t make your head hot, the very opposite in fact, and they aren’t heavy.
Like everything about your bike these are something to try for yourself and see how you get used to different types. However, as you’ll be relying on your shorts to help you stay comfortable for many hours a day, it’s worth looking at specialist ones.
Don’t dismiss special cycling shorts as an unnecessary expense, they are designed specifically for life in the saddle and should have flat stitching to prevent chaffing, have padding in all the right places, and be made from a breathable material, such as Lycra or Gortex. Like saddles, there are shorts designed especially for women cyclists. Take as many pairs as you can, three would be ideal, or you could spend five minutes washing a pair through in the sink each evening and you’ll stay comfortable.
The sunglasses in cycling shops are designed specifically with bike riding in mind. They are less likely to slip off when you perspire, be shatterproof, and protect you all round from ultraviolet rays and other things that try to get into your eyes when you’re sailing smoothly along. However, they can be expensive. Don’t let the cost of them put you off, just bring any sunglasses you have handy.
These will normally be provided for you if you are using a bike provided by the event organiser - but don’t forget to bring a bottle or two if you’re using your own bike. Hydration systems are rucksacks with reservoirs inside them that hold about three drinking bottles worth of water and have a straw-like tubing snaking out for you to drink out of. We usually manage with water bottles, remember that this isn’t a race and the other riders will be only too happy to help you should you run out of water before the next rest stop.
These are small digital devices that read information from a sensor on the front wheel and work out for you what’s going on. The information is fascinating and usually includes the maximum speed you reached today, the average speed you attained, the overall distance you went, and your total distance cycled since you fitted the computer. They are really useful when training as they can help you see progress before your very eyes. If you haven’t used one before try one of the inexpensive ones and see exactly how far you’re cycling at the moment – it might be further than you think!