My first year was a year with up’s and down’s, from celebrating my first 100km ride to totally bonking. In this short article I want to recap the things that stood out for me over the past year.
I live in Salzburg, Austria and we have plenty of mountains around, which means tons of climbing possibilities. But the problem is, if you’re not fit, climbing is not really funny, especially on a gravel bike with a tight gear range. The first ascents were truly painful, doing a 10–11% gradient for just 100m of altitude gain were almost impossible to achieve. In the beginning there were a lot of days, where I had to push my bike up the hill to move forward. That was truly disappointing. But as I continued to ride more, my fitness got better and also my body adapted to the bike, which meant less lower back aches or a sore butt from the hard saddle (even I used Bib shorts from the beginning on). After one year of riding, I still see every ride, even if it’s just a small 1hour ride, as a training opportunity to increase or keep my fitness. The good thing about all the hard rides and suffering is, after quite a while, you’re going to enjoy and embrace it. If you achieve a certain level of basic fitness, I think that’s where the fun really starts.
I’ve never done any long endurance activities, so as I started cycling, I had no idea what I should eat and how my body reacts over long periods of working out. I just want to note here, that every body is different, which means different needs and desires. What worked for me may not be working for you.
In the beginning I rode a lot with my friends who were more experienced around that time. We mostly did 2–3 hour rides and my friends barely ate anything during these rides, but I felt like shit because I was so hungry after around 1 hour into the ride. As I approached to do my first century ride, I packed some additional food, because I knew, it may take me around 5 hours to complete this. After three hours, all my food was gone and I still had some way ahead. I finished the century, but was miserable as hell, I totally bonked. Back home I ate some bread and drank some juice and it took me around 1,5 hours to feel better again. That was truly awful. I had another day, where I bonked even harder (but that was on a freaking ass long hike) and I, again, had by far not enough food with me. It took me even longer to recover after that.
Since then, I bought a bag for my bike, which is always packed with bars, gels, berries and chips. I mostly start eating into my stock (even when I’m not hungry, because when you get hungry it’s pretty much too late anyways) after 1 hour of activity to keep my body loaded with calories. Also getting a good meal before starting into a ride, always helps!
A lot of people say, gear doesn’t matter. Well, it does. Getting a bike which is not too shabby and fills your heart with pure joy riding it, is definitely worth purchasing. I don’t say, get the most expensive one, but think twice if you really want to purchase the cheapest bike on the market. Saving those few extra Euros / Dollars may be totally worth it. Because (in most cases) you’ll get an overall better bike which is just more fun to ride.
Also investing in some quality bike clothes is absolutely worth it. The key here is to get a good fitting kit. There are a lot of amazing brands out there who produce outstanding cycling clothing, I’m currently using (this is not sponsored by the way) La Passione (awesome price/performance ratio), PEdAL ED (more expensive, but have some dope stuff) and Rapha (well, everyone knows Rapha).
If you’re a beginner cyclist or someone who lurks at bikes everyday a little bit more, this may be helpful for you considering: Get a good bike which fits your approached style of riding and some fitting cycling clothes. Invest hours into training to build some basic fitness capabilities. In those training sessions you can see what your body needs for longer rides and eat accordingly, to keep your body full with all the vitamins and calories it needs.
If you have any questions drop me a message on Instagram.