A beginner’s guide to cycling your first sportive (long distance)

It’s decided: this year, you will cycle with your first “sportive” – the official term used to define a non competitive (not a race) long distance cycling event, a cycling challenge over the 100km or mile mark.
Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, you probably have no idea what you are in for. This article will introduce with with humour to the wonderful world of cycling, full of MAMILs – Middle Age Men In Lycra– fanatic amateur cyclists, or, as the Oxford dictionary defines the word since its entry in 2014 “A middle-aged man who is a very keen road cyclist, typically one who rides an expensive bike and wears the type of clothing associated with professional cyclists“.
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When I set myself to complete, Vatternrundan, the largest sportive in the world (30.000 participants biking a 300km loop around a lake, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Sweden), my knowledge of biking was limited to the occasional tourist exploration and the standing bike of the spinning class. In this article, I am bursting myths and whispering inadmissible secrets – this is all I wished I had known when I signed up for my first long distance race plus a few funny anecdotes about my journey from newbie to collecting enough knowledge to write this how to guide.

 

Table of contents:

1. How to choose your sportive
2. Cycling gear:
– Bike and Equipement
– What to wear when cycling
3. Training for your first sportive:
– Setting up a training planning
– Other tips
4. Getting ready for race day:
– Last week before the race
– Don’t show up uninformed
– Race day: getting to the finish line
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How to complain about the quality of your gear

Broken backpack straps, headlamp that stops working, leaking tent, broken zipper, holes in shoes? It usually happens at the worst time, and that’s why you should always be ready. On the moment, the only thing you can do is to try to save the day with a trick. I did my Salkantay trek with duct tape around my hiking shoes (duck tape will fix almost everything). It was not pretty but it got me to Machu Picchu!

Once the emergency passed, if the product has clearly not performed as good as you expected, there is only one thing to do: complain and file a warranty claim. Here is a maybe very french topic: 8 steps guide on how to complain about the bad quality of your outdoor gear (and negotiate an exchange or refund).

Bad luck with your gear? Say something!

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Dirt roads and grandiose landscapes: a road trip around Salta (Argentina)

 I always said that you can go almost anywhere by bus in South America. That’s true. But sometimes that the journey which matters and not so much the destination. This post is not about how to get to Cafayate (from Salta you can hop on a bus which drives on the RN68). This article is about taking the dirt roads, going into exploration mode and letting the real fun starts.
Amazing landscapes, dirty roads and at end wine… what else? For the ones who want to take the time to enjoy the landscapes changing km after km,  here is a 2 to 3 days road trip. Rent a car and get lost in the spectacular colours, canyons and rocks of the National Park Los Cardones and of the Sierra de Carahuasi. Adventure starts where good roads end.

 

road trip Salta Cafayate

On this kind of road trip, the co-pilote should not only know how to read a map, but also how to use a camera!

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I tried ski touring and this is why you should too

The wind blowing in our face is getting stronger and stronger the snow starts to fall again, our progression in the powder snow is getting slower.  Off the beaten slopes, I am ecstatic: I am getting my own mini feel for a polar expedition. We are ski touring on the swedish fjall, these old middle mountains with huge plateaux covered in snow, miles away from any living soul (or at least from what we can tell). It is our first time of ski touring but the guy at the ski shop promised it… we will be just fine. How hard can it be?

Off we go – a 360 degrees white of snow landscape

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Gifts that travellers and outdoors lovers actually want

I can’t believe it is already this time of the year. The darkness and the cold -though never an excuse not to enjoy the outdoors-, the frost and… the panic to find the perfect gifts before Christmas… (Yes – how fortunate we are to face such a problem that can keep us busy for the all month!).

I truly believe in the power of giving and the pleasure of finding the perfect gift. However too often Christmas, birthdays or over gifting occasions are a synonym of an accumulation of just more “stuff”, most of it ending up in a drawer and never seeing the light of day again or on Ebay.  It doesn’t have to be… Know some globe trotters, nature lovers, adrenaline junkies? This article is about finding a gift that will make their eyes sparkle!

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How to never be cold again

Miserable. It is the word that sums up the best how you can feel when you are soaked to the bones, shivering, depressed, upset, disappointed and ready to call your mum to tell her to get you home when you are supposed to have fun and enjoy the outdoors. Was it after biking under the rain for 3 hours? Or when the winds of Patagonia were blowing so much that you thought the tent will fly away? Was it after spending the all day with wet feet after following a path that disappeared under the flood?  Everybody who has spent a bit of time outside has one of these war stories.
Never let the weather bring you down again with these simple rules on how to stay warm outside whatever the seasons throw at you.

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Hiking Mount Snowdon, a welsh microadventure

It was spontaneous. We decided to go just a few days before, and to leave on the Friday, just after work, direction: Snowdonia National Park in Wales.

Overcrowded camping? Grey sky? Busy trail? Who cares! The majesty of the scenery, the fresh air of the outdoors and the smell of the mountains was just what we needed for the week-end break, far from from London life. Sometimes it is just about getting out there in the wild… and enjoying a good beer at the end of the day :-).

Made it to the mountains... Happy!

Made it to the mountains… Happy!

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Cycling the Tour de Yorkshire

So on a Friday after work, we put the bikes in the car and headed north for a week-end that will make our muscles burn. Since we decided to relocate to the UK we have been planning to go on week-end adventure to discover our new home country. After reading about the Tour de Yorkshire in Alastair Humphrey ‘s  book “Microadventures” we knew that this was the prefect combo of exploration and training for our big biking challenge, a month later.
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On two wheels, around Yorkshire!

Yorkshire’s area got a tourist boost when Tour de France crossed it in 2014, and we decided to roughly cycle the same route as the peloton did. The countryside is lovely, there is not much traffic and the roads are in good condition. Fun ahead! We will start and end in the small town of Harrogate.

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From newbie to cycling a 300km sportive in 6 months

vatternrundan_medalI woke up wondering if I had been dreaming. Did I really finished the long sportive that I had been training for? Was it all over? The medal on the bedside table, shinning under the morning sun, was leaving no doubt. I did it!
For me, Vätternrundan was not a 300km recreational ride around a big lake in Sweden, it was a 6 months race that required more than 1500km of riding and total of 90h on the bike.

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How to choose the best backpack for you

This summer, after all these years of good services it was time to give my old and loved Quechua backpack a well deserved retirement.

When you love outdoors like I do, a visit to your local outdoor shop can turn into a half day activity. For backpackers or hikers, the backpack becomes quickly an extension of yourself, a part of you or your team that you hope will never let you down at the wrong moment.
I am a nerd when it comes to outdoor gear and buying a new backpack ended being a 3 months activity. I am sharing here the process I followed and recommend so that you can also find the best travel or hiking backpack for you!

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