Wheels Are Turning
FAQ: Recipe for a long ride
Version 2.0, 17 May 2008
(ver 1.0 - 22 Sep 2002; ver 1.1 - 13 Sep 2004)
by N. Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman

Introduction
Up to the 1990's I considered 60km a long ride. My usual leisure cycling kakis, Zendogs, didn't cycle fast or far. My bicycle was then a hardy and very heavy steel bicycle called "Champion Du Monde" - I used to laugh at friends who buckled under its weight during transfers to the Ubin bumboats. So it took some strength to ride that lovely beast. The hilly sprint between campus and home (about 16km I believe) was only ever attempted one way any single day! Runway Cycling was considered quite an expedition as that was a ride from NUS to Paya Lebar Airport and return after a couple of spins around the runway. One of the Zendogs, Hui Cheng, who had been riding regularly in Australia told me that she was confident about easily covering 60km. She encouraged me to try longer distances as she felt I was a fitter cyclist than she was at the time but just lacking in confidence.

So I jumped at news of the fund raiser - Op Raleigh Project C.A.R.E Round Island Cycling on 22nd Sep 2002. My cycling kakis bought me a new GT Avalanche 1.0 and we went for training rides over increasingly longer distances with the typical long breaks of the Zendogs. The round-island was carried out in a much greater hurry. I rode with slick tyres that day, covering about 130km. Although I was at the tail end of my group of 15, three of us slower riders were happily dispensing 100plus and deep heat cream to other slower riders who were less prepared than we were! See the post-ride comments

Then came the NTU (Round Island) Bike Rally which I rode without any of my kakis on 12th January 2003. I kept my slicks on and since I rode to and from the venue at NTU, I clocked a wonderful 160km ride in all! [See my photo album]. I rode again in the 2004 and in 2007 bike rallies. The only real limiting factor by now was the heat. These rides helped to completely change my perception of distance and it was real nice to see inexperienced NTU undergraduates cyclist gain that same experience decades earlier in their lives. I could now ride to Changi and other "distant" places for meetings without fear and all of Singapore had now become reasonably accessible.

I prepared this checklist for my first long ride (i.e. >100km) in 2002 and I still read it before a long ride. I hope you will find it useful.

A bike in good order

  • Get a decent bike in good working condition. Its just not worth the pain after the first 60km! My then new bike (now 10 years old) provides significant relief beucuase it was a good fit, adjusted properly and in good working condition. See advise about "Buying a new bike".
  • Maintenance - send you bike in for servicing if you have not done so in past year or so and do not regularly maintain your bike. Interruptions during the ride are never pleasant and a well-maintained bicycle makes for a smooth ride!
  • Slick tyres - great when you start out on your first long distance road ride. It ensures a smooth and fast ride but I actually keep my knobblies on without fuss (the usual mountain bike tyres). Can cost about S$35/pair.
  • Brooke's saddle - if you plan to ride regularly, get a Brooke's saddle. This means NO BUTT PAIN, its amazing!

Apparel

  • Bike shorts - get a well padded pair!
  • Bike jersey - sweat evaporates quickly. Since I perspire profusely, I am no longer bogged down by a drenched shirt. You can even wash and dry it on very hot days.

Standard Kit (all waterproofed; mostly stuffed in saddlebag)

  • First aid kit - for significant grazes and wounds. I'm always stocked with Brave Soldier for wound healing. For anything more demanding, look for a clinic!
  • Money and identity - I don't bring my wallet but only my NRIC, an ATM card, a credit card, cash, pen and paper.
  • Digital camera - the trusty mud-soaked Sony (these days my handphone might suffice).
  • Always ready for a puncture - Bike repair kit; extra tubes; a valve adaptor, and an effective Crank Brothers hand-pump.

Food and water

  • Water! - I find I use about 1 litre per 20km and I fill my bottles with 25% 100plus and 75% water. If I have been cycling regularly enough, I find I don't need a 100plus mixture in my drink. On a very hot day though, the isotonic component becomes important to fight off cramps and my water intake increases significantly. If you hydrate before you feel thirsty, that makes cramps, headaches or tiredness less likely.
  • Water carriers - My friends use the 3L Camelpak Mule but I prefer not to have anything on my back. I use two Adidas water bottles in cages on my bike frame and a Camelpak DayTrekker on my waist. that works out to 2 x 0.75 L + 1.4 L = 2.9 L. I pre-freeze the 1.4L Camepak bladder and use it last, after my two bottles are drunk dry. Since the Camelpak is well insulated, I still have a cool drink after more than 40km.
  • Power bars - I used to find these very useful after 80km. With better fitness, I can survive without these longer to eventually not having to use them at all.
  • Methy salicyclate relaxant lotion - I use either Salon Pas or Mentholatum Deep Heating Rub, and apply before I set out and during the ride. I apply the stuff well before I feel the fragility of my thigh muscles! As I got fitter, I could reduce the need for applications to after 60km. ALWAYS apply before you think you need it - some who wait suddenly pull over when seized by cramps and that breaks the enjoyable mometum of the ride.

Fighting the sun

  • Sunblock lotion - prevents a burn, even for darkly pigmented skin like mine! Lke deep heat, apply well before you feel the need - the sun comes out by 10am, and in hot weather this means even by 8am! ANd this sun BURNS. Pre-empt instead of rectify! Also consider wearing a long sleeve jersey.
  • Sunglasses very important in helping to cope with the glare and dust. I carry two pairs - a dark pair great for strong glares and a lightly tinted pair which functions well even at night and during heavy rains. I buy these King's safety glasses in Changi and they cost between $10-$15 each.

Priceless

  • Kakis - It is morale boosting to ride with your friends and make new ones - I always chat with others who are about my pace in group rides; after 40km, you will know who will be keeping you company for the rest of the ride!