Top 10 Tips for Success in the Mountains
If you’re anticipating a forthcoming week in the mountains, you’re far from alone.
The months from June to September are ideal for heading off on a cycling holiday in the French Alps. Generally, the temperatures are warmer than in the UK, the roads are a lot smoother and the mountains are bigger.
Natural mountain goats relish a 30 kilometer ascent as much as they do the helter-skelter of the joy down the other side. But if you’re not a born King or Queen of the mountains, there are a few ways you can make them easier and learn to love them.
Prepare in Advance
A long climb is not dissimilar to a time trial, except that gravity has poked its ugly head up to mess with proceedings.
You’d prepare for time Trials by morning in on your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) the power you can hold for an hour, and climb’s aren’t too different. You need to improve your ability to hold a constant effort.
Sessions such as the infamous 2×20, where you complete two 20 minute effects at around FTP, separated by a 5 to 10 minutes break are a great place to start or split it up into four 10 minute efforts to get started. If you find a long enough hill, doing these on a gradient outside will make them even more relevant.
To prepare for steep sections, try short sharp hill reps, these will act as a more anaerobic effort and help fire up the muscles you’ll need to get over any steep ramps.
These sessions will take it out of you a bit, so make sure they’re interspersed with east recovery days.
If you’re going away with a group of other cyclists, then it’s important to make sure you’re all on the same page. Is this a ‘training camp’ or a ‘cycling holiday’?. Are you riding all day or just part of the day? Of course, nothing is stopping you from doing some of the rides separately – just make sure you’ve all got similar expectations.
Prepare Your Bike
There is nothing worse than a week of listening to a noisy bike, or worse still, having your descents ruined by tyres you don’t trust or brakes that are so near to the mental you’re not quite sure if you’re going to be able to slow down for that fast-approaching bend.
Your bike is going to see more wear on your week in the mountains than normal. The demands of long climbs and descents mean that you want your gears and brakes to be in good working order. So, it’s a good idea to treat your bike to a good service before your trip paying particular attention to brake pads, brake cables, and gearing.
Your bike is also going to need to travel in some form of box or bag, we recommend a hard shell case above all. This will provide your bike with lots of protection.
Take Kit for Assorted Weathers
The weather conditions may vary, day-to-day and hour-to-hour also your core temperature will fluctuate on climbs versus on the descents.
Important items to consider, then, are removable layers – arm warmers, leg warmers, packable jackets, gilets, and base layers that can wick sweat away from your body on climbs so that it doesn’t cool on your skin on descents.
Consider Saddle Comfort
If you are struggling with any sort of saddle discomfort now, then you’ll be struggling a whole lot more after 500 kilometres.
Take a seat that you know is bum friendly over endurance rides this is especially important if you are hiring a bike. Chamois cream and plenty of pairs of comfortable cycling shorts are sensible additions, too.
Nutrition is Important
The number one piece of advice for cyclists taking on long rides is always to fuel correctly, drinking and eating along the way to top up the tank. so if you’re completing long rides every day then it follows that this is going to become even important.
If you usually use energy drinks, bars, gels, or recovery drinks, then take your normal products with you.
Check Your Insurance Policy
Boring… we know. But you’ll be more bored if you find yourself bike-less for a few months after being unseated on a descent.
Most home insurance policies cover your bike when abroad provided that you have declared its worth if it is over the ‘unspecified limit’ often about £1000.
Purchasing travel insurance, which can cover your flights, accommodation, and any medical fees is also a smart idea too and are part of the Terms & Conditions for Classic Cycling Tours.