Peaks Challenge is a real big day out on the bike and a few good technical decisions in the lead-up could be the difference between having an awesome day or ending up in the sag wagon. Here are a few things you should think about before the event.
No matter how good your bike is, it will only be as good as a ten dollar clunker if your legs are not up to the task of pedalling for 7,8,9,10+ hours. Unlike your bike and kit that can be shuffled into shape just days before the event, your body may take a little longer to prepare… so start getting ready now.
Peaks Challenge Falls Creek is a cracking ride with loads of up and down, beautiful scenery and many like-minded people rolling along with you. It’s a day to enjoy and I guarantee that you’ll enjoy it more if your body is up to the task.
There are plenty of training options around these days, from setting basic goals in Strava, through to online coaching and training programs, and on to real life coaches. They all have their place and are excellent tools depending on what you are trying to achieve. They can provide the motivation you need to get out when the legs are tired, they can take you to that time goal that you want to achieve and they can even help you be mentally prepared for the challenge.
If you’re keen to get a program together head here to see the official Peaks Challenge Falls Creek training programs put together by the team at HPTek.
At a more basic level, the one thing that these tools rely on is just getting out and riding your bike. It may sound obvious, but the best way to get ready is to simulate the riding that you’ll be doing on the day. So for Peaks Challenge Falls Creek, get out there and ride up and down as many hills as you can. Don’t rush out on your first training ride and belt out 180km with thousands of vert. Work out how many weeks preparation you have got, and where your riding is at now and simply work out how many K’s you need to add each week to get close to the real ride a few weeks out from the event. Make sure you build in some easy weeks and hard weeks and allow a couple of weeks prior to the event to let your body rest and enjoy some shorter, easier rides just to keep the legs ticking over. I’ve met some cyclists that have clocked up epic fast times at Peaks and on solo/group huge rides by employing this strategy.
The final thing we would suggest to help get the most out of your body is to head along sooner rather than later and get a professional bike fit. You’ll be amazed how a couple of millimetres here and there can make a massive difference to your comfort, conversion of effort to speed and injury prevention. You can read more about bike fits on La Velocita in ‘Get Fitted’ here.
Ever been on a climb and been almost overcome by almost complete exhaustion? You question your ability to roll just another couple of metres…. you ask yourself how can I possibly get up this hill…? Then all of a sudden you see the top and you find the legs to not only get to the top but pick up the pace in the process.
The mind is just an awesome tool. On big rides, you’ll have moments of feeling rubbish (unless you are pretty lucky) and moments of feeling massively strong. Of course, your training will help but the mindset is just as important. People have achieved feats of endurance verging on the unbelievable through the focus and control of their mind.
I’m no expert in mental preparation, but I can share some of the things that work for me in helping get through a big ride.
Ride long on your own in your preparation - getting used to being on the bike for hours by yourself gets you used to spend time in your own head. It’s just like training your legs, but instead training your mind.
Visualise completing parts of the course - I like to mentally picture myself cresting the top of climbs or crossing the finish line. I’ll do this when I’m on the ride as I find picturing these achievements helps to change your mindset when I am feeling a bit rubbish so I can re-engage and pick the pace up.
Focus on completing small sections of the course - The full distance is hard to picture, so when I’m riding a big climb I’ll set smaller goals, sometimes just getting to each post on the side of the road, or to the next corner. Breaking big climbs into pieces makes each goal mentally easier to achieve, and before you know it you are at the top. For example, the Mt Hotham climb at 30km and 1300m climbing, can look very daunting as a whole, but broken down into three sections (10km up, 10km false flat, 10km up) it makes it more achievable.
Enjoy the scenery - Peaks Challenge Falls Creek takes you through some of the best country that Australia and the world has to offer. Spectacular views, wildlife, rivers and native bush. Take it all in, look around and enjoy the moment. When you’re hurting this could be just the pick me up you’ll need to keep on pressing.
Ride with others – There is no doubt when you ride with other people time seems to fly by and when you are on the bike for over 10 hours it helps to keep your mind busy on other things than just turning the pedals.
First things first, you need to service your bike. I’ve done enough fondos to know there’s always riders littered along the route with snapped chains, exploded derailleurs, buckled wheels, and shredded tyres. Most problems that befall these riders can be spotted by the expert eyes of your trusty bike mechanic. Also, have mercy on your ride buddies and fix that bottom bracket creak.
The event has on-route mechanics but covering 235km and more than 1500 riders can be difficult to look after everyone so it’s important to be as self-sufficient as possible.
Think carefully about your gearing choice. We live in glorious times. Compacts and mid-compacts saved us from the bad old days of 39x23-ing our way through the high country. The humble short cage rear derailleur can gobble up (series dependent) cassettes with 28 teeth for SRAM, 29 for Campagnolo, and 30 for Shimano. Then there are medium cages that can do even more. Having all those teeth will let you climb far more comfortably than wrenching and contorting out of the saddle at 50 RPM. Peaks Challenge will see you climbing for hours. Give yourself the gift of glorious, beautiful leverage.
Check those stoppers too. Rim brake pads are a stealthy perishable that can wear without you knowing. The glorious disc brake age has improved stopping ability but brings a level of unfamiliarity to those switching from rim brakes. Have your fluid, pads, and rotors checked out. You don’t want to find out the hard way that your brakes are cooked on the first descent that covers over 30km.
Our final advice is to get yourself some new, and nice tyres. We’ve embarked on something of a crusade against crappy tyres recently. Specifically, the kind that rolls slowly, grip poorly and ruin the handling of your noble steed. There are too many nice bikes being held back my rubbish rubber. Our picks for great all-rounders are Continental GP4000S II, Vittoria Corsa G+, and Schwalbe Pro Ones. Specialized Turbo Cottons or Compass Cayuse Pass if you feel like spoiling yourself. Don’t worry, it’s 2018 and people don’t puncture any more. If you are going to get a new set of tyres make sure you have at least 2 or 3 rides on them before the event to take off the slippery sheen and wear them in.
More information can be found at the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek event page HERE.