Today is the last day of what is often termed “the greatest bike race,” the Tour de France. One hundred and sixty seven riders will be riding into Paris toward the finish at the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. This year’s race into Paris, which is usually more ceremonial rather than competitive, will mark the first time that an Australian, Cadel Evans, will be crowned the winner of the Tour de France and will end what has been one of the most dramatic and exciting Tours to date.
This Le Tour has been no exception to the fact that during July, cyclists around the world catch a disease that not only keeps them glued to the television or the internet for several hours a day, it also gets them motivated to train harder and go farther: Tour Fever. Tour Fever is described as that almost irrational desire to want to be in France to watch the tour, or at least stay informed about it as it unfolds via whatever medium is available to fans. It gets cycling fans riled up, gets them dressed in weird ways to celebrate the tour, and for those who do cycle on a regular basis, makes them want to get on their bike, ride off into the distance, overcome weak days, challenge their limits, and open themselves up to new cycling possibilities. Le Tour de France is, after all, more than just a race to many, it’s a culture refined through the years, one that induces extreme euphoria in almost every fan and encourages suffering for the sport (like the Tour’s participants do) in every cyclist – yours truly included.
Because many cyclists will be taking to the streets more seriously following the tour, it is a good time to highlight some very important reminders to help make cycling not only safe and fun, but allow you to train longer and harder without having to worry about any problems you might encounter on the road.
First of all, don’t worry too much about looking Euro-cool when training. Training is training after all, and you’re not out there just to look good – unless you can fulfill the demands of looking Euro-cool even during long and arduous training rides. This basically sets the basis for all my other reminders, as often times, riding Euro-cool means that you’ll need to forego some of the equipment you might need on the road to make sure that your training ride goes well.
Looking Euro-cool demands that you never carry anything in your jersey’s pockets, because that would imply that you have a team car carrying all your gear for you, but unless you do have a team car, I would strongly advice against this. The suggestions in the PezCycling News article You Look Mah-velous: Cycling Style Etiquette are essentially the very basic things you should bring: a small tube, a tiny pump, and a tire lever. But I suggest that you bring a set of allen hex keys as well – you can get these in a set specifically made for cyclists, with only the sizes you’ll need to fix a bike in a small, light, Swiss Army Knife-like contraption for storage. And if you don’t mind a little extra weight, a complete cyclist’s multi-tool, and perhaps 2 or 3 tire patches, might also be a great idea, especially if your training ride is going to be a classics style 150 miles or more.
Nothing says Euro-cool better than riding with nothing more than a cycling cap for head protection, but the article You Look Mah-velous also goes on to say that crashing, getting a concussion, and drooling out the side of your head isn’t Euro-cool at all, too. So yes, wear a helmet! And on that same note, wear a good pair of gloves as well, as this will keep your hands from slipping off the handle bars if ever you crack and are too tired to keep a nice strong grip on the bars.
Make sure you also dress for the weather. If it’s cold, don’t forget to wear a long cycling jersey and pants. This will keep your muscles from getting too cold and causing you to be unable exert as much effort as you otherwise should be able to. When you’re out in the heat, wear something shorter to keep you from overheating. If it’s really hot out, don’t worry about wearing a sleeveless jersey, no matter how un-Euro-cool it may be – your ability to ride another day is more important than looking good on the road.
Also never go out on a night ride without a light. Gladly, many online wholesale shops offer LED lights – which don’t mark you as not being Euro-cool. On very long rides, it might be a good idea to equip your bike with one, even if you’ll be starting your ride during the day so that you’ll be prepared before it starts to get dark and you don’t have to have more weight in your pockets.
Finally, and most importantly, never go out on a training ride without bringing some fluids with you – whether you’re bringing water or some sort of sports drink it’s important to have something to replace lost fluids when you’re training hard. Cyclists riding road bikes will also be happy to know that a water bottle on the down tube can help to make a bike more aero, and mountain bikers will definitely find a good bladder installed in a hydration pack convenient.
So if Le Tour de France has got you hyped up for a ride, then by all means, get out there! But make sure that you’ll be prepared no matter what happens on the road. Train hard and strong and let the Fever push you farther!