GUIDE: What’s tapering? And why you should do it

The day of Vélo Birmingham is getting closer and hopefully you’re feeling confident about covering the 100 mile ride distance comfortably.

If you’ve done a decent amount of training and are looking to be fresh and rested for the ride then you really need to ‘taper’ as the day of the ride approaches.

Tapering is reducing your training and physical activity in the final run-up to your big ride and typically you would do this over the final two weeks and more importantly in the final week.

Mentally it can be difficult to stay off the bike, but remember the hard work has been done and you won’t add any increased fitness in the final week and neither will the resting lose you any fitness. You should aim to get to the start line feeling fully rested and ready to go.

Certainly don’t be tempted to try and cram in last minute training in the final few days before the ride as this would almost certainly leave you tired and stiff on the big day itself. You’re last long ride should be around 7-12 days before the event after which you should start to taper.

Main Reasons to Taper

1 Feel fresh and get out your best performance on the day.

2 Tapering also gives you back some spare time that you can then use to have your bike and kit ready for the big day.

3 Tapering allows you to be fully fuelled nutritionally in the days before the event.

Two Weeks Out

The final two weeks are also the time to ensure your bike is working well – you might want to book it into your local bike shop for a service 12-14 days before the ride so they have time to replace any worn parts and you can have it back in time for your final preparation rides.

Typically you should reduce your amount of training by 20-25%. For example if you’ve been riding for six hours or four times a week in preparation you should aim to reduce that to four hours or three times a week and reduce the intensity or speed of your rides.

The Final Week

Your final week is the time to ensure you’re rested for your big ride and making sure you’re prepared and have eaten well. You can reduce your training further by around 25-30% of your main training level and again reduce the intensity or speed of your rides. Also avoid any unusual activity, sport or any tiring physical activity that might cause aching muscles in the days before the ride.

Do eat well in the final days before the ride.

Don’t use new clothing, particularly shorts or shoes, that you haven’t worn before. Break in any new items as soon as you can so that they don’t cause you any discomfort on ride day.

Final preparations before and on the day

On the day before – it’s useful to get all your kit together and lay out all the items you intend to carry on the ride and make sure they fit snugly into your jersey pockets and/or seat pack.

On the day – if you pre-load with adequate food and hydration and feed on the ride you should get through the 100 miles without any issues. If you do feel the onset of exhaustion whilst cycling, it’s remarkable how having a rest at a feed station or at the side of the road to take on some food and drink will soon get you back on the bike with renewed energy.

Finally, stay relaxed, don’t worry about the ride and, above all, enjoy the day!

For more riding tips have a look at the Ribble blog

GUIDE: Clean & care for your bike – Essential guide to cleaning and lubricating

Keeping your bike clean and well lubricated will ensure it runs smoothly, quietly and correctly and should save you money in the long run by lessening wear and tear on the drivetrain components in particular.

Never is caring for your bike more important than in poor weather and when you’ve ridden through rain or particularly dirty or dusty conditions, but it should become part of your routine all year round. If you leave dirt to build-up on your bike parts can wear out much quicker and other issues can go unnoticed.

If your bike is really dirty or muddy a water hose may help to clear the worst of it before you tackle the rest. For best results we recommend cleaning in a specific order.

Ribble tip from Head Mechanic Mark: “Be careful if you use a high pressure hose and don’t use it close up. Too much pressure can blast grease out of your bearings and push dirt deeper inside.”

1 Clean the drivetrain first with Chain Cleaners and Degreasers

Much stronger than all-purpose bike cleaners, specific chain cleaners and degreasers help shift oil and residue from your drivetrain (chain, chainset, cassette, jockey wheels). They are great for removing heavy build ups but it is best to avoid areas such as bearings and cables.

The chain can be a messy job, so there are self-contained chain cleaners available which you put degreaser in and then clamp onto your chain. Turning the cranks, as though you were pedalling, then passes the chain through the bath, cleaning it as it moves. A rag is then useful to remove the residue by running the chain through it.

Ribble tip from Head Mechanic Mark: “Make it easier to get in all those awkward places by taking out the wheels, washing them separately, and then ideally washing the rest of the bike in a workstand.”


2 Clean the rest with an All-Purpose Bike Cleaner

All-purpose bike cleaners can be used all over your bike but they are particularly recommended for the frame, wheels and tyres. The strength of these cleaning fluids is not particularly strong so they are not used on the drivetrain. Normal domestic detergents can contain abrasive salts so bike-specific cleaners and degreasers are guaranteed to be kinder and more effective on your bike. In the winter a regular clean will also help prevent corrosion from road salt. We prefer to work from the top of the bike downwards with a sponge or soft brush and then dry off with clean rags.

3 Re-apply Lubrication and Grease

Once the bike is dry, it will need lubricant reapplying to the chain and, over time, areas such as the headset may need re-greasing.
Chain lube is put directly onto the chain, and ensures a smooth and quiet running drivetrain. There are three different types of chain lube to consider:
Wet Lubes – these are a ‘stickier’ lubricant so that they remain on the chain if the weather is bad. Great for bad weather, but the chain will need cleaning more often as they attract dirt.
Dry Lubes – a much thinner lubricant, perfect for when the weather is good. They don’t attract dirt as much, but do get washed off easily if it rains.
All purpose – Can be used in all conditions, but do not particularly excel in any one, hence why there are dry and wet lubes.

Check your bike over after cleaning

When your bike is clean is also the ideal time to check it over for any signs of any significant wear and tear or potential issues.