Category Archives: Guides

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.”

SHOP WORKSTANDS HERE

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.
Lubricants
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.

GUIDE: Gym versus outdoor cycling – which is better?

Which is a better workout, an exercise bike in the gym, or an outdoor ride on a proper bike? For us at Ribble, there’s no contest – getting out in the elements on your favourite route beats quite literally going nowhere on a trainer bike every time!

Sure, the weather or darker winter months may force you to cycle indoors, or you could use an indoor trainer for specific interval training, but our preference is nearly always to get outdoors.

Is there any science behind the idea that outdoor cycling is better for you? We’ve taken a look:

Outdoor cycling uses a wider range of muscles

One factor people tend to forget is that when you’re riding a bike on the road, you’re not just using your legs to pump the pedals – you’re also using your whole body to keep the bike balanced, particularly when you’re going fast.

Core muscles like the stomach, back and abdominal muscle groups get a greater workout when you’re keeping a bike balanced, and if you stand, lean or duck while you’re negotiating hills, your shoulders and upper body are taking the strain too.

While you might get some degree of the same workout on a fixed-down exercise bike, you don’t have the same impetus to do so – i.e., keeping yourself upright! So you’re less likely to use as many muscles as you do on the road at the gym.

Riding outdoors pushes you harder

Some argue that you’ll train harder in a gym setting, inspired by the other people around you, than if you were out on the road on your tod – however, at least one study suggests the opposite’s true.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha asked 12 keen cyclists to ride 40km on two separate days: one indoors on a training bike, the other outdoors on flat roads. Although they were asked to put the same amount of effort into both, researchers found they exerted up to 30% more power and worked up higher heart rates on the outdoor ride.

It’s unclear why this is – maybe riding outdoors, with the scenery rolling by, cycling harder doesn’t feel like as much work as it does in the gym, where you’re more focused on your energy levels. Either way, it’s another point in favour of the great outdoors.

You’ll feel the benefit in cold weather

Most gyms maintain the same air-conditioned temperature all year round, but Mother Nature isn’t quite so forgiving. But do you actually burn more calories in cold weather training?

There’s no clear consensus on this. We know the basal metabolic rate (the calories you burn while doing nothing) increases slightly in the cold, but this is hardly likely to make a noticeable difference. It’s also thought that people have more “beige fat” (which burns more easily) in the winter months than in summer.

However, researcher and endurance athlete Michael Joyner MD says cold conditions help your body regulate its temperature better, enabling you to exercise longer and harder than you would otherwise. So while the cold might not do the work for you, it can help you push yourself further.

Finally, it seems intuitive that exercising in the freezing cold outdoors helps develop greater resilience and mental toughness than pedalling away in a climate-controlled gym… but we might be biased.

Best bikes for your improved workout

So hopefully we’ve made our case for why you should ditch the gym membership and get out on the open road for your daily workout or commute to work. With that in mind, here are some of Ribble’s recommended bikes for fitness training and getting out there out on the road:

Evo Pro


Ribble Evo Pro carbon road bike

The Ribble Evo Pro (pictured above) is our popular entry-level carbon sportive road bike. This model has often been a first step into the world of cycling or maybe a cyclist’s first experience of the lightweight responsiveness of a carbon bike so we have acknowledged that by increasing the head tube for a more upright and comfortable position. The Evo Pro is the perfect weekend bike but could also be used for fast commuting and riding sportives and challenge rides.

Ribble CGR

Ribble CGR bike

The Ribble CGR is a light yet robust 7005 aluminium bike with disc brakes and clearance to take 35mm tyres. The key to to the CGR (above) is it’s versatility as a road commuter and all-round bike capable of everything from winter riding to summer trips along the towpath. This cleverly designed frame could easily become the key do-it-all bike that you are looking for.

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Ribble 7005 Winter Audax bike

This is a design classic we’re rightly proud of. The Ribble 7005 Winter Audax (above) is the bike that thousands of UK club racers turn to for their training sessions. With a 7005 aluminium frame and carbon bladed fork, together with mudguard and rear pannier mounts, it’s also a popular choice with commuters and tourers.

 

GUIDE: The Crossing – A Multi-day Fuelling Plan

When taking on multistage events, your nutrition and fuelling plan becomes even more important. For a one day event you may be able to just ‘wing it’ but when riding back to back, a bad day on the nutrition front can seriously catch up with you the next day. When taking on such a challenging event, preparation is key.

Studying the event information is always a must before getting to start line. The Crossing, for instance, is three days of off-road fun. The days are long and lumpy and to be able to keep going, paying attention to your nutrition before, during and after is going to be very important if you want to see the finish line in Scarborough and get that well-earned ice cream

To get the best understanding of the diet needed to succeed, Ribble Cycles spoke to Annie Simpson, an expert nutritionist from OTE Sports, to find out what is needed to take on this feat.

Before the event

Your start each day can take place from 7am. Nutritionist Annie Simpson would strongly advise not skipping breakfast despite the early start. Having a meal three hours before you start exercising is the ideal, but in this case it just won’t be practical. Annie advises having breakfast at 6am at the latest as this will allow it time to settle before you set off. Something like a big bowl of porridge is ideal as it is high in slow release carbohydrates to fuel the first part of your day.

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Fuelling during the event

Each day on The Crossing you will have one pit stop during the day to top up those energy supplies.

Simpson explains that there will be a whole host of snacks and drinks on offer, but having extra food with you is going to be important too. “Did you know that when cycling our body tends to use our carbohydrate supplies, especially when the going is tough. The only problem with this is out supplies are limited, so if we want to be able to keep to a good pace and not ‘hit the wall’ we need to make sure we keep replenishing these carbohydrates stores.”

“How you do this is up to you. Whether it is a banana, an OTE Anytime Flapjack Bar or an OTE Energy Drink, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as you are giving your body the energy it needs” she adds.

Annie confirms that you need to take on board 60g of carbohydrates per hour of moderate to intense riding. Here are Annie’s ideas of what 60g of carbohydrates could look like:

“Work out how long you expect to be riding for and make sure you are carrying the means to get through this or at least have some money to stop and refuel with. Remember you will have your Pit Stop to help and there are also unmanned water stations along the way to top-up your bottle.”

Annie stresses the importance of not neglecting hydration. “Did you know: As little as a 2% loss in body weight through sweating has been shown to reduce performance, so don’t compromise your training by forgetting to drink.

“Approximately 500ml per hour should be sufficient or try and stay just ahead of the feeling of thirst. Using products such as OTE energy drink makes for a much more palatable, lighter on the stomach and enjoyable drink, whilst providing carbohydrates and electrolytes too. Dehydration can not only lead to loss of performance but concentration too, and for 3 days of off road riding, concentration is going to be important for riding safe.”

After the event

Simpson stresses that when riding back to back days, nutrition for recovery or re-fuelling is very important.

“As soon as you finish riding each day, don’t switch off, think recovery! Within 30 minutes of finishing exercising the best way to kick start recovery is to consume a recovery drink. This supplies protein to help with muscle soreness, carbohydrates to replenish the fuel stores you have used and fluid to help you get back on top of hydration. Then resume your usual meal pattern as soon as possible. Each meal needs to be high in carbohydrate (aim for around 50% of your plate) and have a portion of protein if you really want to maximise your recovery.”

Annie continues: “Try having a high protein snack before you go to bed, something like an OTE Protein Bar would be great. This can help with reducing muscle soreness overnight and getting you ready for the next day.

“Then it is just a case of repeating this for three days, until you reach the finish line. Start your preparation and planning now to make sure you get the most out of yourself during The Crossing.”

Good luck in your next challenge!

Best Bikes and Routes for a Family Cycling Holiday

Family cycling holidays are a fantastic way to spend some time together in the great outdoors on two wheels.

With the warm weather approaching, we’ve put together some recommendations to help each member of the family get the right bike for them – as well as some of the best cycling routes in the UK to try them out on.

For Mum – Ribble Sportiva Carbon Disc

Sportiva Carbon Disc_0

When you’re planning to ride long distances, comfort is paramount – and that’s why we recommend the Sportiva Carbon Disc. Lightweight but strong, with a carbon fibre bladed fork to reduce road buzz, it’s built with female-specific geometry in mind to ensure it places as little strain on your body as possible.

A short wheelbase and top tube makes the Sportiva Carbon Disc responsive and easy to control, while flat mount disc brakes makes quick stops easier than ever. The bike that Total Women’s Cycling loved is more than up to the challenge of a family holiday!

For Dad – Ribble CX5

CX5_0

The Ribble CX5 is a bike for all surfaces, making it ideal for long-distance cycling holidays with the family. From solid asphalt to bumpy mud tracks, it’s built to comfortably absorb shocks from a variety of surfaces so you can keep going for longer. 12mm Thru axles front and rear lend a stiffer feel with tighter control.

While designed as a cyclocross bike, you don’t need to be a competitive racer to enjoy the CX5 – it’s a versatile and practical enough to shine during gentle rides with the family, or just the daily commute to work too.

For teenagers – Ribble CGR

Ribble CGR_0

CGR stands for Cross, Gravel and Road, and that kind of versatility is ideal for the teen in your family – who’ll probably want to use it for much more than a family holiday! The CGR is built on a lightweight aluminium frame, with a carbon forks for a comfortable ride, while powerful disc brakes mean safe stopping is always at hand.

With full coverage mudguards ready-fitted, it’s also ideal for keeping teens (mostly) safe from dirt even if they venture off-road. A great, affordable all-rounder, the CGR is a great way to introduce younger family members to the difference a good bike can make.

Best cycling routes for a family holiday

When planning a family cycling holiday, it’s important to choose routes that match the fitness and ability levels of everybody. You probably want to avoid road traffic as much as possible, and unless you’re all experienced and confident cyclists, try to keep hills and challenging stretches to a minimum.

We’ve highlighted a few of our favourite family-friendly routes in the UK below – but do a bit of digging and you’ll find many more!

Camel Trail, Cornwall

This 18-mile trail is great for all ages, with beautiful scenery and plenty of stops for a pub lunch or a picnic. Running along a disused railway line from Padstow to Wenford Bridge, the route is light on traffic and mostly level, making it perfect for families with younger kids.

Along the way you’ll pass two protected areas, offering an opportunity for a bit of wildlife spotting, as well as shaded woodland stretches and the edge of Bodmin Moor.

Manifold Way, Staffordshire

Offering spectacular views of a limestone gorge in the Staffordshire Peak District, this sheltered nine-mile track is mostly level tarmac all the way. The track runs from the sleepy hamlet of Hulme End to Waterhouses. Apart from a 1.5-mile stretch along a B-road, it’s mostly traffic-free.

The route passes by Thor’s Cave, a natural cavern set high up in a limestone crag, as well as an ancient Bronze Age mine and a spooky railway tunnel – great for kids with a taste for adventure!

Hadrian’s Cycleway, Cumbria

A much longer route for more experienced cyclists, Hadrian’s Cycleway (aka Route 72) is still very family-friendly, although caution is advised on the occasional stretches of road. The coast-to-coast route is 174 miles long and can be completed in three days at a good pace, or four or five if you’re taking it easy and seeing the many sights along the way.

As well as the famous Hadrian’s Wall that the route follows, other attractions include Carlisle Castle, Newcastle’s Black Keep, the Bath House at Glannaventa and Lanacost Priory.

Three Parks Trail, South Wales

This trail is 13 miles long, but forms part of the much longer Celtic Trail so it can easily be extended. Completely traffic-free, mostly level and passing through three gorgeous country parks, it’s ideal for families with younger kids or older family members who prefer a gentler, more scenic ride.

The trail begins at Sirhowy Valley Country Park, passing over the mighty Hengoed Viaduct and on through Parc Penallta, where the High Point Observatory offers great views over Caerphilly. It finishes at Taff Bargoed Summit Centre.