Set to roll out for STP bright and early Saturday morning, I thought it wise to start prepping things and run down a checklist. As important as preparing your body to ride, one should invest some time into putting together a ride “strategy” prior to rolling out. The plan of attack needn’t be elaborate, in fact the simpler the better.
Why bother? Because when out on the road, there’s much temptation to stop and chit-chat during every stop. Not necessarily a bad thing, many will argue that the culture and camaraderie of such events is far more exciting than the actual ride. Even if your goal is to take the miles slow and steady, you’ll still need to keep an eye on the clock to ensure that you’re not stuck out on the road after dark with a mechanical issue. Plan your ride. Plan your stops. Have a back-up plan for both. Read on for additional considerations and some of my own “must haves” in surviving STP.
The Bike: Hopefully the long training schedule has provided enough time to make any necessary “tweaks”. Now is not the time to make fit changes. With any luck you’ve had your bike tuned recently (in the past year or so) and are comfortable with how it’s riding. It may be too late to get it into a shop last-minute, but worth doing what you can at home to clean things up for a smooth ride. Otherwise, here are some basics that you’ll want to be sure and carry with you on the ride to ensure that you’re not stopped for longer than necessary with minor mechanical issues. Bigger mechanical things can be fixed at many of the food and “mini” stops.
- Patch Kit
- Spare Tube
- Tire Irons
The Gear: What you’ll wear is a personal thing, some people prefer to pack for every possible weather scenario while others prefer to dress minimally. Simply remember that if you bring it, you haul it. The weather looks good for this weekend, so leave the heavy jackets at home.
- Riding Jersey
- Riding Shorts
- Arm Warmers
Doing the one-day, we’ll be leaving early enough that I anticipate a cold start.
- Bib Numbers
- Shoes & Socks
The Fuel: Again, hopefully you’ve had an opportunity to figure out what you like to eat on the road and what your body runs best on. STP is well supported and will have food stops for you to refuel. But if there’s something you MUST have, bring it with you. Bring as many water bottles as your bike will hold (preferably a minimum of two large bottles). Though a camel back is not necessary and adds more weight, if you must have the extra water, bring it.
The Plan: Sit down with the route map a day or two before the ride. You should have an idea of your targeted pace and be able to plan out how far you’re able to ride before refueling. Plan to stop at a few major food and lunch stops along the route and provide yourself with an estimate of how long you’ll be willing and able to stop.
You’ll want to stop long enough to get more food, stuff your pockets with some reserve food and refill water. I typically give myself a 5-10 minute window, not including the time it takes to wait in the potty line. Stop long enough to get off the bike and stretch, but know that the longer your off the bike the more difficult it is to get back on.
Selecting pre-determined pit stops will help you in planning how much food you’ll need to grab at each stop and ensuring that you don’t end up having to stop when you hadn’t intended to and adding more time to an already long day.
If you’re meeting up with family and friends along the route, set a pre-determined destination and provide them with a map for personal support vehicles so that they’ll be able to get around the route safely. With 9,000 other riders out there we have enough people around us. Let’s keep the cars to official support vehicles and volunteers only.
Rest these last few days. Drink a few glasses of extra water each day leading up to the Saturday start. Enjoy the incredible weather we’re having and take it easy.