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Preparing for Fitz’s Challenge (or any other big ride)

This article mainly focuses on what to carry for a long day in the saddle. We’ll assume you’ve done your training, your bike is ready and you’ve done suitable carbo loading the night before.

Firstly I’ll say there are plenty of ways to prepare but this is just from my experience having done the 165km, the 207km event and this year I’ll be doing the 250km.

For starters, don’t over dress, it might be cold in the morning but the last thing you want is to be carrying an extra long sleeve jersey for a hundred kilometres. Better to go with a gillet and arm warmers. Arm warmers can be tucked away in a pocket and you can leave the gillet on, unzipped.

So what will I be carrying?


  • Sunscreen – Obvious I know, but it is amazing how many people forget it and on a sunny day, 8 to 10 hours in the sun is a long time and it won’t be your muscles that are the only sore thing at the end of the day if you forget it. Also from past experience it doubles as a chain lube in an emergency.
  • CO2 Cartridges – This is a bit of an optional extra but if you are stickler for riding at the correct pressure, this is going to be the easiest way to get your tyres back up to pressure after a puncture without carrying a floor pump.


  • Pump – Should be a standard item but I have seen people, especially on the shorter rides leave without one.


  • Or new for 2012, you can combine the two, Topeak have a released a pump called a called a two timer, which combines a CO2 dispenser and a pump.

  • Two Tubes – Never hurts to have an extra spare, just make sure you get the right valve type and valve length. If you are using deep rim wheels it might pay to carry a valve extender, just in case you need to borrow a tube from a fellow rider.


  • Adhesive tube repair patches – These are a great backup to carry if you are having a really bad day with punctures. They can also to used to patch a tyre, in case you are unfortunate enough to slash a tyre.
  • Multi-tool with chain breaker– I carry a Park Tool IB-3, I carried it for three years without ever using it, but the day I snapped my chain 50km from home I was pretty happy I had it. Also make sure it has 4 and 5 mm Hex (Allen) key, as these are the most common bolts on your bike.
  • Spare chain pin or a Missing link – While the prospect of breaking a chain is remote, if you do it is a bit of a game stopper. Spare chain pins or a missing link take up very little space so it doesn’t hurt to carry them.
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  • Tyre levers – Another obvious one, but just covering all bases here.


  • M4 & M5 Hex (Allen) bolts – These are the most common bolts on your bike and can be really useful if you lose a bolt on your water bottle cage during the ride. Once again, they are very light and small so it doesn’t hurt to have a couple stashed away for emergencies.


  • Small bottle of chain lube – Just in case you get caught in the rain for an extended period of time and the lube gets washed away. Being soaked through is bad enough without having to listen to your chain squeaking or grinding away. Finish Line make a great small 2oz bottle, which can be easily stowed away without taking up to much space.


  • Mussette & Saddle Bag – My personal preference is to carry my food in a mussette, spares and tools go in the saddle bag. A medium size saddle bag will easily take all the kit listed above. I like using a mussette because it is light,  as the day wears on and you have eaten your food you can just tuck the mussette in your back pocket. Backpacks weigh more and tend to leave you sweaty. With the mussette I’ve made slight modification which ensures the it will stay firmly on your back without swinging around to the front. Simply get a length of old bike tube and pin it to the corner of mussette. Then the other end ties around the front to keep it secure.
  • MP3 Player – I know there are safety issues using these on a bike but 8 to 10 hours on the bike can be boring and some motivational tunes might help you get through the day.


While most supported rides such as Fitz’s Challenge supply food, don’t count on it. Firstly you might not like it, I’ve never been a fan of fruit cake and if you are a slower rider, chances are they might have run out by the time you get to the checkpoint. Better to keep your destiny in your own hands and carry some food. As to what to carry, well that is a bit of a personal choice but just make sure it is easy to eat and high in energy.

    • Lollies – I know some people are a fan of lollies like snakes, personally I find they give you a bit of sugar rush and then you crash from the high.
    • Power Bars  I know they are favourite but I find them expensive and not really satisfying. Around lunchtime you are going to want something substantial and energy bars are not going to cut it.
    • Sandwiches – I have a preference for simple sandwiches made with low GI bread and chocolate spread. This gives me short term energy from the chocolate spread and sustained energy from the bread. I carry a bag of sandwiches cut in half, easy to access and eat while riding.
    • Fruit – Dried figs are an excellent source of sugars and potassium, good for stopping cramps. Bananas also have good levels of potassium but they are bulky and bruise easily, there is nothing worse than  a squashed banana during the ride.
      • Electrolyte tablets – These are the best way to carry additional electrolytes for when you refill your drink bottles. Just being able to pop a tablet or two into your water bottle is so much easier than trying to measure out powder from a bag. One tube makes up 15 litres. A tip I would suggest is to buy caffeinated and regular ones so you can carry a mixture on the day. Caffeinated ones are good to give you a lift, but too much can give you the jitters and excessive caffeine consumption (more than 500 –600 milligrams) can have diuretic effect leading to dehydration.  So carry a combination and alternate your intake.


  • Gels – I’m a big fan of gels for electrolytes and sugars, easy to carry and consume on the bike. One tip for gels is to get a couple of small water bottles like the one below and tip your gels into these. Easier to consume, less rubbish and no leaking gel wrappers in your pockets later.


And for Fitz’s my secret tip is a meat pie and coke from the Tharwa General store. Sure it breaks all the rules but in terms of comfort food, it hits the spot when you’ve done about 120km.


Other stuff:

  • Snap lock bags – Useful if it rains for keeping stuff dry, like your mobile phone, checkpoint card or route map. Also handy for keeping stuff organised
  • Money – Never forget, if all else fails carry bit of cash. For food, water, coffee or for any other emergency that might arise. I’ve even been known to use a $5 note in an emergency to repair a slashed tyre.


Anyway that is what I’ll be carrying, if you have any other useful tips please leave a comment.


Cadel – The little red engine

Inspired by Chris from the Vikings Cycling club, “The little Engine that could” and possibly the one of the greatest stages of the 2011 Tour de France, stage 19.

I present to you, Cadel, the little red engine.


A little red engine had a long train of riders to pull.

He went along very well till he came to a steep Col. But then, no matter how hard he tried, he could not drop the long train of riders.

He pulled and he pulled. He puffed and he puffed and started off again. Choo! Choo!

But no! none of riders would pull a turn up the Col.

At last he left the peloton and started up the Col alone. Do you think he had stopped working? No, indeed! But nobody would help.

“Surely I can find someone to help me,” he thought.

Over the Col and up the track went the little red engine. Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo!

Pretty soon he saw a big Schleck engine standing on a side track. He looked very big and strong. Riding alongside, he looked up and said:

“Will you help me over the Col with my train of riders? It is so long and heavy I can’t get it over.”

The big Schleck engine looked down at the little red engine. Then he said:

“Don’t you see that I am through my day’s work? I will follow you until you catch the other Schleck engine. No, I won’t help you,”

The little red engine was sorry, but he went on, Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo, choo!

Soon he came to a big yellow engine standing on a side track. He was puffing and puffing, as if he were tired.

“That big yellow engine may help me,” thought the little red engine. He rode alongside and asked:

“Will you help me bring my train of riders over the hill? It is so long and so heavy that I can’t get it over.”

The big yellow engine answered:

“I have just come in from a long, long run over the alps. Don’t you see how tired I am? Can’t you get some other engine to help you this time?

“I’ll try,” said the little red engine, and off he went. Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo, choo!

After a while he came to a engine just like himself named Burghardt. He rode alongside and said:

“Will you help me over the Col de Galibier  with my train of riders? It is so long and so heavy that I can’t get it over.”

“Yes, indeed!” said this little engine. “I’ll be glad to help you, if I can.”

So the little red engines started back to where the train of riders had been standing. Both little red engines went to the head of the train, one behind the other.

Puff, puff! Chug, choo! Off they started!

Slowly the riders began to move. Slowly they climbed the steep Col. As they climbed, each little red engine began to sing:

“I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I think I can – I think I can – I think I can I think I can–”

And they did! Very soon they were over the Col de Galibier  and going down the other side and in no time at all they had caught the other engines

Now they were on the plain again; and the little steam engine could pull the train himself. So he thanked the little Burghardt engine who had come to help him, and said good-by.

And he went merrily on his way, singing:

“I-thought-I-could! I-thought-I-could! I-thought-I-could! I-thought-I-could! I thought i could – I thought I could – I thought I could – I thought I could – I thought I could – I thought I could I thought I could –”

And on to Alpe d’Huez he steamed.


And for all Australians, tonight “yell for Cadel”

PS I know it is not factually correct, but it was surprising how well the story fitted by only substituting a few words.



Cycling Bracelets

Ok guys turn away now, nothing to see here, but for the girls, this might be of interest and just in time for the Tour de France.

Recently my wife started creating a range of bracelets and I thought these might be of interest for the cycling types out there.


All bracelets are lovingly hand made.

If you want more information, head over to her site.

And for the guys, she’ll have a range of cycling cuff links soon.


Sluggish Garmin Performance

Recently I found that after about 12 months of use my Garmin Edge 500 became sluggish and slow to respond. I would press the start button and it would take 2 -3 seconds to respond or it would only start recording data after about 500 metres. If this sounds familiar try this.

Simply back up all the .fit files  from your unit to your computer or delete them. Immediately the unit’s performance should return to normal and if you back the files up to your computer you can still access the data if you need to. For reference the .fit files are located in “\Garmin\Activities” of your unit.

At the time I had some 250 files taking up around 20MB of the 50MB available on the unit. In the end I’m not sure if it was just one corrupted file or just too many files that caused the problem but by removing them from the system it certainly fixed the problem.


Pro Tour Computers

In my continuing fascination with the Pro Tour it’s time to look at some of the other kit on the bikes and that is the computers each team use.

The SRM seems to be the computer of choice for many of Pro teams but at around $1000 it’s going to be out of reach most average riders. While power output is always going to be the best measure for training, the next best option is heart rate. It is for this reason I think the Garmin and Polar units are a better choice for the average rider. Both track heart rate but have the option to measure power but at around $300 represent much better value for money. In addition both units are  GPS enabled which is always popular with the average rider.

For me, the noticeable absence is Cateye and maybe VDO, who are both well known cycle computer manufacturers and in my opinion much better than BBB computers, but I guess that is sponsorship for you. The BBB unit just looks cheap and is pretty featureless. I guess this is vindicated by the fact that Quickstep maybe sponsored to use BBB but you’ll still see Polar units on many of their bikes.


Company Used by Model Notable features:
SIGMA Sportimage

AG2R La Mondiale

Other notable teams include TEAM EUROPCAR

Rox wireless 9.0


  • Speed
  • Cadence
  • Time
  • Heart Rate
  • Temperature
  • Altitude
  • Measurement




SRM PowerControl 7

  • Speed
  • Cadence
  • Time
  • Heart Rate
  • Temperature
  • Altitude
  • Power
  • Wireless Protocol: ANT+Sport, ANT
  • Weight: 58 g



Other notable teams include FDJ and Cofidis

QUICKSTEP also use them even though they are officially sponsored to use the BBB computer


  • Speed
  • Cadence
  • Time
  • Heart Rate
  • Temperature
  • Altitude
  • GPS
  • Power
  • Weight 41g



Edge 500

  • Speed
  • Cadence
  • Time
  • Heart Rate
  • Temperature
  • Altitude
  • GPS
  • Power meter compatible
  • Weight: 56g





  • Speed
  • Time

What brand of computer do you currently use?

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