Sunday August 13th, 2017

For more information on event details, registration or donations call 905-436-7377

Tips for Preparation and Training

Cycling can be a strenuous activity. Nothing is this section is intended, nor should it be taken, as medical advice. In all matters relating to your health you should in all instances contact and consult your medical practitioner.


The following information is provided as a guideline only and intended for those who may find the information helpful. There is a great deal of cycling literature on the subject of training, nutrition, total fitness etc.. Our intention is to provide a general level of information in the following areas:

Bicycle Fit and Safety

There can be little doubt that bicycle fit is probably the most important factor when it comes to riding a bike comfortably and enjoying the experience. It is also critical in efficient riding and energy management and safety.

If a bike is too big or too small, if the geometry of the bike does not properly suit your body dimensions, if the bike does not allow you to pedal efficiently in all conditions, you greatly increase the risk of injury during your ride. You will be less stable, less agile, less confident and more susceptible to injury and accident.

Every effort you make to ride a bike which fits you and suits the need for which you intend it will be well invested. Fit should always trump cost and appearance. A good bike shop should steer you toward a bike that fits you, your needs and your budget.

Fortunately the industry has come a long way in the last 5 or 10 years. Bikes are better and offer greater variety and value than ever before, and even though you can spend well above $10,000 on a bike, it is possible to buy a bike in the range of $1,000-$1,500, or in the range of $500-$800 which is significantly better than what a similar amount of money would have provided even three or four years ago, let alone 10 years ago.

We are especially fortunate in Southern Ontario. We are well served by some outstanding bicycle shops. You can travel to three continents and many major cities in North America and not find the diversity, quality and value you will find in bike shops in our area.

A good shop will actually enjoy talking to you about bikes, fit, price and value and will provide excellent direction regarding the different options available to you. From road, to mountain to hybrids, from drop bars to flat bars, from relaxed geometry to racing geometry, from aluminum to carbon to titanium to combinations of carbon and aluminum and the trustworthy steel, a good shop will help you focus on your need in relation to your budget, and will also help with fit.

In our area, (not simply because they have been excellent supporters of this ride) both Bicycles Plus and Impala Cycles do an outstanding job. This writer has purchased bikes from both shops and been very pleased with the value, fit and after sales service provided. In the last 7 or so years I've also purchased 8 or 9 bikes from shops in cities around North America and can by comparison assert that the information and service I received locally was superior.

Our suggestions in summary:

  • Establish a budget and share it with the store. Spend as much as you are comfortable with, because if you are serious about getting into cycling your investment will repay you in many ways.
  • Decide what you will use the bike for. Road, mountain or trail riding, commuting, neighborhood cruising, paved roads or dirt roads. Will you be in group rides or races? The more you can clarify your intention, the clearer your decision will be as to type of bike. Depending on your age, fitness level and condition (especially flexibility and core strength, be honest) determine how you want to sit on the bike. Very upright, more relaxed, more aero, stretched out, etc, ride bikes with different angles and geometry. Sometimes a bike just "feels right". (If you can afford it) buy that one.
  • Do your homework re: the different materials and components on the bike. Consider whether you want the most expensive component group on an aluminum bike which fits your budget, or whether a mid level components group on a carbon bike will suit your needs. The more you understand the advances in components groups and what you are paying for the better will be your purchase decision. The price difference between the top Shimano group and the group just below it can be $1,500. A $3,000 bike with Ultegra components may save you more than $1,500 over the same bike with Dura Ace components, sometimes even more. You should know the difference to determine if the extra cost is worth the upside when it comes to performance.
  • Make sure the shop helps you with fit, and that they know what they are doing in this area. If you look at the average road, mountain or hybrid bike, the key component is the frame which is a triangle. It seems rather simple. The length and angle of the head tube and seat tube are the other most significant components. For now (and for most people we will leave chain and seat stay length and crank length out of the equation) these factors, along with stem length, and angle, and the bars, and seat positioning can all be adjusted to help with improve the fit of the bike. If you want to spend more and get a custom made and custom fit bike, I am certain it provides good value, but under no circumstances should you feel that it is necessary. With the factors available to you and a good shop you can get a first rate comfortable and suitable bike which should work for you and fit within your budget.


I know there is a school of thought in some European cities regarding the non necessity of helmets. I understand the point they are trying to make. My son is a surgeon and has seen injured bicycle riders on his operating table. Make no mistake. WEAR A HELMET AT ALL TIMES ON A BIKE, AND BUY THE BEST HELMET YOU CAN AFFORD, MAKE SURE IT FITS PROPERLY, AND MAKE SURE IT IS SECURE ENOUGH THAT IT STAYS ON AND WILL PERFORM ITS FUNCTION IF YOU ARE IN AN ACCIDENT.

Bell, Giro (both owned by the same company) and Specialized and LG along with others) all make a comfortable and durable helmet in the $200 range and up, with a light, cool and comfortable fit. Catlike also has a high end helmet which you can purchase in local shops for approximately $200. All of these manufacturers have $150 helmets which are also excellent. Just as the industry has improved the value and quality of bikes, helmets are better now than ever before and more affordable. It is also possible to get an excellent helmet in the $70-$100 range. Whatever the price point you are comfortable with, buy the best helmet you can afford, make sure it fits and is comfortable on your head. Try a number of them on, sometimes the shape differs from brand to brand, and inexplicably some helmets different shaped heads more easily.

A helmet should not bounce around on your head, you should not be able to slip it off when it is buckled up, and it should provide protection from the sun and heat while providing for air flow which should promote cooling.


This is a personal opinion. I know some people don't like them or think they are superfluous. Every rider in the Tour de France wears them most of the time. Sprints, mountains, flats, sunny days, overcast, or rainy days etc. I ride with people who don't like them, and frequently have to stop as they struggle to get dust, bugs or dirt out of their eyes. Additionally, at 30k's an hour for 4 hours your eyes tend to dry out if they have no protection. I won't get into the advantages good sunglasses provide regarding cataracts, MD and other eye conditions. If you are concerned with the safety and health of your eyes you may want to ride while you wear the best sunglasses you are comfortable buying.

It is easy to spend well in excess of $200 or $300 in this area. However, there are a number of products (specifically from a company like Tifosi) in the under $100 range which are excellent. Good protection, UVA/UVB, particles, minimal distortion, good color separation, polarized (which can help with spotting lousy pavement on a sunny day when you ride under shade canopies all of a sudden). Light weight, comfortable etc, Tifosi is a great product that is well priced and offers superb value.

(Tifosi also provide product for this event, for which we are extremely grateful, and the fact that I owned a number of pairs of their glasses well before they helped us out should negate any notion that our endorsement was purchased. This doesn't necessarily mean that our endorsement can't be purchased, it just means in this instance it wasn't.)

Training Parameters

The purpose of this section is to identify (very simply) the training parameters most readily available to us.Simply put, they are:

Frequency - the number of times you will ride in a given period (say a week);

Volume or Duration - the time spent on the bike, or the distance traveled. In some programs the focus may be on "time spent on the bike", some programs emphasize distance, or mileage; and

Intensity - how hard you train.To be a little more specific, there are a number of guidelines in use. Two are perceived exertion and heart rate. The first is a little easier to understand for recreational riders who are not training to be competitive racers. Heart rate, wattage calculations and VO2 max are more sophisticated and quantifiable, but for our purposes, intensity will refer to "how hard you train" you may calculate it as you wish.

Much literature on the subject will stop at three, or simply use intensity and volume as training parameters. We agree with this literature, but for our purposes, and for those who find it helpful we've added frequency, and we would add a fourth parameter:

Recovery - the time in which your body repairs and rebuilds from the effects of training.

Growth, either in developing increased capacity to deliver blood to the muscles, or in the number and efficiency of the mitochondria at the cellular level, takes place only during the period of recovery. In Jim Loehr's book The Power of Full Engagement (one of many excellent works on the subject of high performance training for athletes which he has written) Jim writes "Other than eating and breathing, sleeping is the most important source of recovery in our lives. It is also the most powerful of the circadian rhythms that include body temperature, hormone levels and heart rates."

Recovery for our purposes obviously includes full and restful sleep (any training program should), but it will also refer to "non training days". During these days you may be active, stretching, other forms of cardio, or weights etc., but these would be "days off the bike".

To complete any of the distances in this event, it is our recommendation that you are comfortably able to ride 60% or 70% of the distance (you will undertake) in a normal training ride. Ideally, you would train beyond the distance you intend to ride, so that on the day of the ride it is easy and enjoyable.

To build to the level of being able to do any of the distances, regarding only the training parameters above, in the relationship between volume and intensity, remember that times have changed from even as little as 10 or 15 years ago regarding the notion of "base miles" or long slow distance training.

Please make no mistake. The objective is to ride. Comfort and pleasure are critical in this pursuit. If you enjoy long slow rides then by all means enjoy them. Nothing else matters. My wife enjoys going for two or three hour rides at 15 to 18 or 20k's an hour. Super. Nothing wrong. They actually are a good way to burn stored body fat. However, growth in her ability will take place with higher levels of intensity. The most recent literature is strongly slanted towards a decrease in volume and an increase in intensity in order to increase capacity. If this is what is meant by "training for the ride", "preparing for the ride" may be a different phrase.

The science is simply irrefutable. The use of intervals, and higher levels of intensity, and managing and working through the various levels of exertion will cause your body to develop and adapt and in the end you will have greater capacity regarding each of: endurance, power and strength. If the objective of a training program is to improve in these areas (fairly important for a competitive cyclist, and can be of equal importance for a recreational or enthusiast cyclist who wishes to gain enjoyment) all of them will show improvements with higher levels of intensity in your workouts on the bike.

The critical component will be to provide adequate nutrition to fuel your work, and recovery to allow your body to adapt to the higher work loads and requirements.

If you are an experienced cyclist or athlete, and are comfortable with your progress and training, continue to do what obviously works for you.

If you are new to cycling or just beginning to get active again (assuming you are in good health and that your medical practitioner approves), then try to ride a minimum of three or four days a week in preparation for this event. For the white course (less than 40k's) riding once or twice per week may well suffice. Alternate days if possible to allow for recovery at the beginning. Recovery can also mean four days in a row on the bike and one off, or two off, or five days on the bike and two off. If you are preparing to ride 80k's, and ride in the 50% of VO2 max range, multiple consecutive days will not be a detriment.

Your duration would be dependent upon your time available, and when in the day you can ride. If you can ride for 30 minutes, then do it. If 45 or 60, and there is no pain, no significant discomfort, then do it. Once you get to an hour long ride, think about the intensity part of the equation. If you are riding over roads which have a natural rolling or hilly profile, you are probably already beginning to do some interval training. Try and maintain your pace (even if you go into an easier gear on the bike) as the incline increases. The increase in exertion will impact your breathing and heart rate. The more you get used to rolling terrain or hills, and the longer the inclines, the easier they will become.

If you can get from 60 minutes to 90 minutes, and are comfortable with varying levels of exertion, and there is no significant pain, then you can ride 40 or more kilometers in our event.

Ninety minutes approximately is a critical threshold for cycling. It is the time at which (assuming you are reasonably healthy and normal in most aspects of your physiology) your glycogen stores will deplete. If you are planning to ride for more than 75 to 90 minutes or more, then you should be considering replenishing your energy stores while you ride. We are not talking about water here, but a source of energy for your body.

If you ride at 20km's/hr with no stops, you will complete our white course in two hours. This pace is a fairly easy riding pace during which you could easily carry on a conversation and should not feel any great amount of distress.

If you are comfortable and confident on the bike, training asymmetrically will assist your fitness develop and capacity. Depending on your available time, the roads you will be on and your condition at the time of your ride, build both duration and intensity alternately.

Within the same week, if you were to ride four times, the first workout could be 90 minutes at a fairly leisurely rate of 2-3 on a perceived exertion scale of 1-5 where one is barely above rest, and five would be a slightly sub max effort which you could not sustain for more than two minutes. The second ride in the week would be 60 minutes in duration, include a warm up of 15 minutes in the lower PE range 30 minutes in the 3-4 range, with brief intervals of maximum exertion in a 1:1 ratio of work to rest. The intervals should be as little as 15 seconds 1:1 at the start, and can be lengthened to 30 seconds as your progress, then 45 seconds and finally 60 seconds. Then a cool down of 15 minutes in the lower PE range. Workout three would be: 45 minutes in duration. Warm up in the lower end for 10 minutes, a steady higher intensity 15 minutes at 4 on the PE, intervals 1:1 for 5 minutes, 2:1 for 5 minutes, steady PE of 3 for 10, then a cool down. The fourth ride would be back to 90 minutes at a steady 3-4 PE not the initial 2-3. Alternate days, two days if you get on the bike and your legs feel sluggish.

The key thing is to get on the bike, stay injury free, enjoy riding, and be aware of your duration, intensity, frequency and recovery. Listen to your body.

You will need adequate nutrition, sleep and hydration (especially in warmer weather).


Water plays a critical part in our bodies. It is easy to suggest that it is our most critical nutrient. Approximately 75% of our body weight is water and probably 70-75% of our muscle is water. Water in our bodies transports nutrients, oxygen and hormones through the blood (which is also predominately water) carries waste products out of our system and through sweat assists us in cooling. We can survive roughly a month without food, probably not more than a few days without water. It kind of makes you wonder why we take it so readily for granted on this planet, but that is a story for a different event.

For the purposes of our event water is critical. You should carry a water bottle and use it when on your ride. Even if the duration is 20 minutes or more you should consider hydration levels.

Dehydration is considered to be a water related loss greater than 1% of body weight. A loss of 2% can begin to impact heat regulation, at 3% there is a measurable decrease in muscle cell contraction times, and at 4% significant performance reductions can last up to 4 hours after rehydration and serious medical consequences could be the result. There can be no doubt that maintaining adequate water in your body and plasma volume is an important component of physical performance and health.

For a normal 150 pound adult 2,500 to 3,000 cc of water per day is the starting requirement. With a normal healthy diet including fruits and vegetables and water available from the metabolism of carbohydrates, you will likely be provided with 1,000cc's. Therefore under normal conditions, it is a good idea to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day. Exercise increases this need. During exercise you can or may lose between 1-2 liters of fluid per hour. Thus, much literature suggests that during normal exercise you should consider drinking 250ml of water every fifteen or twenty minutes. This is a decent guideline. If you sweat heavily, or are working out in extreme conditions of heat or humidity the amount of water you require may increase beyond these general guidelines.

Drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages will increase the need for water, as they have a diuretic impact.

If it is hot and humid on August 29 (a reasonably safe bet) drinking 500 ml of cool water one or two hours prior to the event is a good start. You should drink another 200-250 ml of water thirty minutes before the ride and then approximately 250 ml every 15-20 minutes during the ride.(this is assuming no alcohol and or heavily caffeinated beverages).

Knowing that dehydration is something we want to avoid, it is important to point out that we also want to avoid hyponatremia or dilutional hyponatremia which is low blood sodium concentration. There can be two potential cycling related causes. You can over hydrate with zero sodium water, or you can lose water through perspiration and respiration during the event and rehydrate with zero sodium water. In either case, the electrolyte balances can be upset in your body.

In his excellent book on cycling performance, Dr. Richard Rafoth states: "hyponatremia can be a very serious condition. A study of 64 finishers of the 1984 Hawaiian Ironman triathlon demonstrated an abnormally low serum sodium concentration in 29% of them. Over hydration or "water intoxication" with a low blood sodium concentration can be accompanied by nausea, fatigue, confusion and even seizures it was in fact more of a risk to poor performance than dehydration."

Thus, responsible hydration is the goal.

In those events in which you will be on the bike for periods of more than 3 or 4 hours, hydrating with a good electrolyte replacement drink or gel is very important. When you are training, if your ride will last for more than one and a half or two hours you should consider using an electrolyte containing drink or supplement. We have two sponsors who provide such product. In both instances the products are excellent. They will help to maintain sodium and potassium balances in your body during long strenuous exercise, and will help you enjoy the event. In the next section we will talk about replenishing glycogen, but as a starting point proper hydration is critical.

Energy Systems

Energy in our bodies is produced when oxygen combines with chemical compounds in the cell to produce Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP. Carbohydrates, fat and proteins from the foods which we eat provide the necessary fuel for the oxygen to combine with at the cellular level.

Glucose is the body's principal source of energy. Carbohydrates when eaten are readily broken down into glucose. Glucose can be used immediately or it can be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. During exercise it is converted back into glucose and used in the muscle fibers.

It is important to point out here that circulating blood glucose is the brain's sole source of energy during exercise and at rest. When trying to avoid the "bonk" or "hitting the wall" which is commonly referred to in endurance sports, much attention is paid to the impact on performance which occurs upon the depletion of glycogen stores in the muscles, and the eventual transfer to burning fat as an energy source. To maintain peak aerobic capacity, preventing this depletion is critical. However, to truly "bonk" is to deplete the circulating blood glucose to the point where the brain instructs your body to "shut down" so that all available energy can serve the needs of the brain and vital organs. You want to avoid this.

In the resting state a well nourished and fairly healthy person may store something in the magnitude of 1,500 to 1,800 carbohydrate calories stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue. In addition, for arguments sake, there could be up to 100,000 calories or more of energy stored as fat. In theory, this would allow you to cycle at a rate which burns 400 or so calories of energy per hour for a great deal of time. There are however, limiting factors.

One limiting factor is the availability of oxygen. When there is an adequate supply of oxygen to support the energy needs of the cell, metabolism is said to be aerobic. In this state your body will burn both carbohydrate and fat energy. Usually this rate is in the 50%-60% range of max VO2. During aerobic metabolism every molecule of glucose oxidized yields 36ATP. During anaerobic metabolism this ratio becomes one molecule of glucose yielding 2 ATP. In the aerobic state, the 36 ATP is complimented by the production of 460 ATP from the complete oxidation of a triglyceride (fat) molecule.

Your body makes much better use of its energy stores when there is adequate oxygen to perform the work. This is a critical reason to train and develop your oxygen delivery systems if you are engaging in endurance events, and is an equally important reason to execute the event is such a fashion that you can remain in an aerobic state.

Keep in mind that your muscles are comprised of three types of fibers:

  • Type 1 - These fibers are not easily fatigued, can use both carbohydrate and fat as an energy source have a relative peak force of 1 and can work for hours, thus are important in endurance events. Their sustained work time can be measured in hours. (In some people).
  • Type 2a - These fibers fatigue more readily, can only use carbohydrate as a fuel, have a relative peak force of 5 (which is why we engage them when we hit an incline or a hill). Their sustained work time is measured in minutes. They are good at short powerful efforts or for bursts at the end of longer endurance work.
  • Type 2b - These fibers are easily fatigued. They can only use carbohydrate for energy. Have a relative peak force 10x type 1 fibers. Their sustained work time is measured in seconds not minutes. Estimated to be activated at 80% of maximum effort.

Most literature speaks of glycogen storage depletion taking place after something in the range of 90 minutes of cycling. It is important here to mention that human physiology is probably as unique as the fingerprint. Some people can ride for a max of 20 minutes, some for three hours. Some people use energy much more rapidly than others, some store energy much more readily. Regarding glycogen depletion an average would be in the area of 80 -100 minutes of moderate paced cycling on a flat road without a great deal of wind before there is significant glycogen depletion. At this point, your body will utilize fat as an energy source provided that there is an adequate supply of oxygen.

To last on the bike at moderate speeds and at moderate intensity, it is necessary to replenish the carbohydrate stores. Whether through the use of energy drinks or gels, or by eating an energy bar or banana your body will require some fuel after 90 minutes. This can be taken on the bike, or through a rest stop. There are a number of excellent replenishment formulas out there, and Hammer and Gu are two products which will be very generously supplied to us by their distributors in Canada. We are grateful for their support, and hope you will find their products helpful.

The key to energy management is similar to hydration. Replenish before you feel the need. Drink before you are thirsty. Even if you are training or cycling to "lose weight" do not short change your body. Indeed, a common expression in endurance sports is that "fat burns in a carbohydrate flame". Remember also that it is circulating glucose which is required by the brain. If an energy drink or gel or a banana or bagel can provide a glycogen compliment to fat as fuel, and it allows you to burn 600 or 800 calories as you go for another two hours or so, then it is certainly worth it.

If you are planning to ride for more than two hours, either in this event, or in training, or simply riding for enjoyment it is probably a good idea to get used to a protocol which allows for energy restoration as you ride. See what your body tolerates. What tastes good, is easy to use, effective etc.

There is a quote from a rider who was a champion in the Race Across America who said: "Eat right, or eat muscle." Your body wasn't designed to, nor does it like to. Therefore, replenish with usable and absorbable carbohydrate fats and proteins in proper time. Oh yes, stay hydrated, and respect the need for electrolyte balances.

Enjoy this and every ride.

  • Ontario Cycling
  • Bicycles Plus
  • Durham Tourism
  • Impala Bicycles
  • Bank of Montreal
  • NSAR
  • Pizza Pizza
  • Purdue Pharma 60 years
  • D'Ornellas
  • Del Monte
  • Road ID
  • Durham Region
  • Sport Durham
  • Pedal Performance
  • Northern Cycle
  • RBC Securities