With the growing popularity of Sportives, here are our survival tips

Specialized Birmingham Blog: Top Tips for Surviving a Sportive

Sportives are growing in popularity with hundreds of enthusiastic cyclists taking part in these fun organised rides every weekend all over the country.

This weekend after tackling a few smaller Sportive’s our Specialized Birmingham Ambassador completed her first 60 miler and has already signed up for a longer one later this year. Madeleine popped into the Specialized Birmingham store just after her ride so we asked her what tips she would give to someone who was about to brave their first sportive, what you should do before you go, what to bear in mind on the ride and also what take with you besides your bike.

Here are Madeleine's top tips to survive your first Sportive.


Specialized Birmingham Ambassador Madeleine
Specialized Birmingham ambassador
Madeleine out training.


It doesn't matter whether you are male, female, old, young, if you've signed up for a ride you're going to have a lot more fun if you get some miles under your belt.

It helped me to get a training plan together, picking which days I could go for a ride and stuck to it as much as I could. I also planned in building up my miles over a few months from 10 mile rides up to a decent 45-50 mile ride a week or so before the main event. 60 miles might sound daunting when you first sign up, but every ride you complete that’s slightly longer than the last builds your confidence. You might even find that you start to enjoy it, and you won't believe how far you can come in a short space of time.

Sometimes it can be quite a challenge to find the time to train, especially if like me you have a job and a family, but it’s definitely worth taking all the opportunities you can to get out on the bike. I planned some rides to work and used those as training miles, or when my son went to bed and it was still light I’d head out and leave my husband in charge. Although it's definitely easier to sit on the sofa and hope for the best, trust me at about 50 miles you’ll be glad you got out on the bike when you could.


It’s obviously important to train so you are ready for you ride, but it doesn’t matter how fit you are if your bike isn’t as ready for the ride as you.

What bike you ride is all down to personal preference, but the most important thing is to find a bike that you find comfortable that feels nice to ride and is in good working order. For a longer ride, I would suggest that a designated road bike is definitely the best option. You could use a hybrid but it wouldn't be as quick and light, which can mean that you might not enjoy the ride quite as much. I rode my trusty Dolce Equipped because I love how comfy it is out on the road thanks to the zertz vibration dampeners in the fork. It’s also pretty speedy and very stable, which is great because it gives me more confidence out on the road. If you're unsure what bike is right for you, head in to a store like Specialized Birmingham and you can try out the different bikes and find one that suits you.


There are a few simple things that you can do to make sure that your bike will be as ready as you are on your ride.

It doesn’t matter how long your ride is, whether you’re dipping your toe in the water with a 15 mile ride or your taking part in a gruelling 150 mile route, I would suggest it’s a good idea to get your bike checked at an authorised service centre (I used the Shimano Service Centre Birmingham ) in the week before you ride. Faulty gears and brakes are the most common mechanical issues out on a ride and often these are preventable. You might not even need a full service, a simple and quick bike safety check for £20 which will check all the brakes, gears and pick up any issues before you even put a foot on the pedal is a great idea. I had one on my bike and it turned out that I needed some new brake pads on the front caliper and my gears re-indexing. It was well worth it because on the day I had no problems whatsoever with my Dolce.


From my experience taking part in a Sportive, one of the things that helped out the most is a Bike Fit

The idea of a bike fit is to check your riding position and style, and then qualified Fit technicians will make adjustments to your bike and equipment, such as raising the saddle height, changing the length of the stem and adding foot supports to your shoes. It can also help out with any niggles that you may be suffering from not being sat correctly on your bike. These small changes can make a huge difference to your riding and will allow you ride for longer in greater comfort, it might even make you a little bit faster too!


Out on a long ride comfort is king. The comfier you are the more you will enjoy your ride. For me bib shorts are an absolute must. The padding really helps you from getting what I call 'numb bum'! I use the Specialized Women's SL clothing range and in particular the SL Pro Bib Short which I find super comfortable and lightweight. I also use some of the RBX shorts too when my other shorts are in the wash, and although they are slightly cheaper, the quality of the padding is fantastic.

Another top tip would be to invest in some chamois cream. If you've not used it before it might seem a little odd, but the best thing to do is just roll with it. Before your ride, pop some on the chamois in your bibs and round the inside of your legs and you won't get any of that nasty chafing which can cause severe discomfort out on the road.


Whenever you take part in a long bike ride such as a Sportive there are some items of equipment I’d recommend you take. If you’ve signed up for a Sportive then you probably already have a bike and a helmet (obligatory for most Sportives). But there are a few pieces of kit that you might not think to take with to give you piece of mind should anything go wrong on your ride. If you want to see the full list of kit I'd recommend then you'll find it at the bottom of this article.


Plan for the worst, hope for the best is a good approach. For example, you may be unfortunate enough to suffer a puncture out on the road, but it needn’t mean the end of your ride if you take a few essentials with you. I would recommend carrying a spare inner tube, a pump and set of tyres levers. This way you can change your tube and get back on the road quickly. I’d also suggest that you get a mini-wedgie bag on your bike so you can pop the tube and levers in and the pump can be attached beneath your water bottle cage. A good option might be the Specialized Starter kit which comes with a bag, pump, tyre levers and a bottle cage all in one handy package.

If you are unsure how to fit any of these, it’s worth asking a service centre. I asked the guys at the Shimano Service Centre to give me a few pointers and they were more than happy to help and put up with my silly questions about which way round tyre levers go!

One of my top tips is that I never go for a ride without a fully charged phone and a £20 note in my pocket. That's not so I can stop off for Tea and cake, honest. It's so I can call a taxi if anything goes so wrong that I can't get my bike going again. I also find the phone handy to track my ride on Strava in the vain hope of securing a 'Queen of the Mountain'!


One of the most unpredictable elements of a Sportive may well be the weather so it’s important to dress well.

I was lucky and we had glorious sunshine for mine, but i’ve been on plenty of training rides where it’s raining and cold. If that’s the case, then you don’t want to roll up to the start line in just a jersey and shorts. So check the weather a couple of days before you go and take the right clothes. There a several options such as a rain jacket which will keep you dry and for those days when it is more blustery than wet it may be worth considering a windstopper Gilet to keep your core warm.

Madeleine enjoying the Sportive


During the ride there are also a few things I did to make sure that you keep going and get to that finish line with a smile on your face.


On the day you may be unlucky to fall victim to a mechanical issue that may cause your bike to break. As I mentioned earlier, it’s well worth trying to prevent this by getting your bike serviced shortly before your ride, however sometimes you can’t plan for a mechanical, so pack a like a multi-tool. Even if you aren’t totally sure what’s gone wrong or how to fix it, there’ll be plenty of friendly people around who will more than likely be happy to help, but if you make sure you’ve got the tools to fix your bike it makes it a lot easier.


You’ll feel a lot better on the bike if you keep your energy levels up and the best way to do this is by eating and drinking. So don't forget to fill up your water bottle!

A common mistake to make is to eat or drink too late. If you hit the bottom of a big hill and you’re lacking in energy then having some food at the point won’t really help. It’s best to look at the route and determine what parts you’ll need energy for and eat a little while before you hit those hills so the energy is working through your system at the right time. Pretty much all Sportive’s have feed stations where you can stop and grab some energy bars or hopefully cakes. Make sure you don’t just ride past, you may be feeling fine at that point but it’s easy to get caught out with an empty water bottle and no food just when you are feeling most tired. I was glad that I thought about when to eat because it meant I kept my energy levels topped up throughout the ride and I didn't 'bonk'!


It’s easy to get nervous before a big ride, I’d never ridden this far before and I worried I wasn’t going to be able to get round. I found myself almost not wanting to do it because I worked myself up thinking it would be so hard. But it turns out that riding around in the sunshine with my sister was a whole lot of fun, and we both finished the ride feeling proud of ourselves with big smiles on our faces.

We finished the 60 mile course in just over 4 hours 45 minutes, and while we aren’t going to break any speed records, we had so much fun that we’ve signed up for another ride in September, and this one’s longer and hillier, so I guess I’d better get a new plan together and get training again!

If you are about to take part in a Sportive and would like to speak to one of our sales assistants or our service centre for any advice on equipment and training you can call us on 0121 747 3444.

And if, like Madeleine, you're thinking about signing up for a Sportive or even getting started with cycling, whether it's for fitness or just having some fun on two wheels we've got some great offers currently on to get you going. Including our SPRING20 deals which feature great offers on Allez and Dolce 2015 bikes which are perfect for Sportives. We also have a fantastic offers on clothing, helmets and shoes now on.

So if you would like any more information on the the best equipment and bikes to use then please feel free to call Specialized Birmingham on 0121 747 3444 or send us an enquiry


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