Preparation is everything, especially if often take part in events such as sportives, audaxes or local bike race.
Making sure your bike is in the best condition is important to allow you to make it through the event safely and have the most enjoyable time - even if you end up losing out on the win in the bunch sprint!
Races are commonplace in the UK and anyone can enter category 3/4 races as long as they have the correct license from British Cycling. Races can be fast and furious so experience of riding in a group is essential, as well as the right kit for the race as many events won't let you enter without a helmet. More recently disc brakes have become a contentious issue, so it's best to check if discs are allowed at the event.
If you don't like to be too competitive or you don't feel like racing is for you then there are hundreds of 'sportives' throughout the country that will allow you to ride on closed roads and with meet cyclists in a more casual environment. Sportives are basically events that have several course options - usually between 20-100 miles - and have a feed station and sometimes bike cleaning facilities. Whilst often timed, Sportives aren't races and there is no prize for finishing first, it is just a useful measure to see how you fared against yourself or others.
Audaxes and endurance events are usually long distance over many hours and are not for the faint of heart. These can be races or sportive type events but are usually geared more towards the serious cyclist rather than the casual ones.
Whatever your event, there are a few simple ways you can ensure your bike is in perfect condition:
A clean bike is a happy bike
You should always keep your bike clean - this is especially true if you compete in races or do other events often. Dirt on the compenents can wear them down and severely reduce their lifespan, also making it more difficult to see signs of wear and tear which could lead to them failing in pressure situations, such as a long, steep climb or a sprint finish.
A clean bike also looks a lot better in those sportive/race pictures that are usually available after the event, and if you are racing you don't want to be known as the rider with the dirty bike.
Feel the pressure
Getting the tyre pressure right is important to get the best from your ride - too soft or hard and you may be in for an uncomfortable ride, especially if you're doing a 10 hour 150 mile Audax. Ideal trye pressure for most road tyres is between 90-110psi, depending on the size of you and the frame.
Remember to take a track pump with you for before the race to top them up and a hand pump out on the road so you can fix any punctures easily - prefereably one with a PSI meter.
Check the checks
Before any event, even before any ride, you should be doing a bike check to ensure that there are no problems that will cause you grief on the road. Make sure your brake pads are sufficient and clean, that you can stop easily using both brakes, that the chain and components aren't cracked or rusty and that the tyres have no sign or weakness or wear in them.
If you ride often, many of these things you will have an intuitive knowledge of just by virtue of being a regular cyclist, but it's betetr to be safe than sorry. This is especialky true if you have travelled for an event and you've had to take apart your bike, or it's been in an aircraft hold.
Getting the right gearing for your event is crucial to whether you spend the day in major trouble on a large climb or cruising along and enjoying the scenary. If you have the option to change the gearing on your bike, take a look at the terrain of the event and decide which would be best suited for your abilities.
If you're racing in a flat criterium, high gears is the way to go to keep up with the fast pace; but if you're taking part in a hill climb event then you'll want something that's easier to spin.
Put on your sunday best
If you have the luxury of owning several variations of compenents like wheels, gearhubs, drivesets etc then you will want to use them for these events. Proper quality cycling compenents, like Shimano Ultegra or our very own Cero AR30 wheels, need to be shown off and experienced to get your money's worth - and where better to use your best gear than in a race, where you might have a competitive advantage, or in a sportive, where it could mean a comfier and easier ride.