The next best thing to the Tour de France

Want to experience the fun of a big cycle ride? Fitness First’s Meg Nuttall shows us how to train for a charity cycle ride this year.

So you’ve been inspired by the Tour de France, by cyclists who fly along beautiful European roads, climbing and cruising along in large pelotons while they talk and joke with team mates

How good is cycling? And how can you, the weekend warrior, similarly get to ride with other motivated cyclists, pushing your body along the flats, climbs and descents?

With the right cycling event, training and determination, you could experience the wonders of a day in the life of a professional cyclist, or you could tick off a 100km-200km bike ride off your bucket list.

A charity day ride should be your goal. Such rides are growing in popularity and frequency. There are numerous charities, distances, durations, terrain choices and locations. Head to our cycle page to find a ride that suits you, and follow the guide below to find out how to train for it.

Training for big distances

It goes without saying that most charity rides are tests of endurance rather than speed. They are geared towards the casual cyclist, but to ensure your experience on the road is enjoyable it’s important to understand there’s no substitute for good preparation and saddle time.

As little as two to four rides (or 5-15 hours) a week, over two consecutive days will be ample to achieve a comfortable pedal.

Some questions first to make your 100km or 200km charity event a reality:

  1. Can you set aside a three month block for your scheduled training sessions?
  2. Can you commit to building from a total of three hours a week to 15 hours a week on the bike?
  3. Will you implement a wet weather plan for cycling sessions at your gym if wet weather prevails (we don’t skip sessions when training for charity)?
  4. Is it possible for you to join a cycling group (indoor or out)?

Motivation and commitment are more easily found and maintained if you have a group of friends to train with. It’s much harder to press snooze when people are expecting you at a meeting point. If you answered yes to questions 1-3 then you are ready to go. An affirmative answer to question 4 will make the journey more motivating and social.

Nutrition

Nutrition is as important as getting the kilometers under your belt. Do you perform better on proteins, fats or carbs? You’ll need to know your body and fuel preference in line with your digestive preference to gauge what will work best for you.

The concept of “the rolling buffet” is one that will benefit you greatly, both during training and at the event. Spending 6-8 hours on a bike requires constant nutritional supplementation. From my experience and knowing my body, a good bowl of porridge or the old egg and bacon roll covers all my dietary requirements. These meals sit well in my stomach and are easily digested throughout the ride. Ongoing nutrition while riding is key to sustainability. What you eat on race day is what you have learnt and perfected through trial and error over the training months.

When it comes to fluids, if you’re starting to feel thirsty while on the bike you’re probably already dehydrated. You can prevent this by having water and electrolyte drinks regularly – regular sips every 15 minutes should do the trick.

Consuming too much liquid too quickly can cause bloating, so try sipping, not gulping your drinks. Trial a variety of nutritional options during training rides to prepare you for the big event. I personally will consume some form of nutrition every 30 minutes, be it water, energy food or electrolyte. Play around with your quantities of fluid and food, remembering small frequent amounts is the goal.

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Psychology

You’ll need to be mentally as well as physically prepared for a long charity ride. The highs and lows you experience at training will prepare you mentally for the event, so it’s critical to persist when you hit the lows — those times when you want to turn your bike around and head home; when you feel like throwing your bike due to a flat or when you’ve dropped behind on a climb with your training buddies.

Pushing through helps you to become a stronger version of you! In my opinion the better prepared you are mentally for the lows the more enjoyment you get when you ride through them. Another benefit of riding charity events is a constant reminder that you’re one of the lucky ones. Your ability to get up in the morning, to train, to prepare and ride for 100, 200, or 2,000kms makes you extremely fortunate compared to those you’re raising money for.

When the physical and mental suffering starts chipping away at your commitment and determination, remind yourself of those who can’t do that, block the pain, move your mindset from personal sorrow and ride hard through that moment, persevere and the pain and fatigue will pass.    

The bike

It’s important to ensure your bike has been thoroughly serviced both the week before you start training and before the actual ride. Ensure your cluster and chain are both in great condition and your tyres have been selected based on the terrain you’ll travel. You won’t be able to guard against a flat, so pack your spare kit. CO2 canisters, tyre levers and spare tubes are mandatory if you don’t have a service vehicle. Practice changing tubes in your down time.

Essential kit for training and ride day

Where possible, train in the cycling kit you’re going to be riding in on the day. Chafing and saddle sores are not what you want to have front of mind. You’ll also need:

  • Gloves for the conditions
  • Cycling shoes (two pairs for multi-day events)
  • Socks
  • Helmet
  • Cycling knicks (money is well spent on a quality chamois)
  • Arm and leg warmers if necessary
  • Wet weather jacket if necessary
  • Jersey
  • Sunglasses
  • Biddons (bottles for your bike)
  • Chamois cream (for the believers)

There’s no time like the present, so pull out the bike and ride the hours, have fun and hit your goals.


Meg Nuttall is one of Australia’s leading fitness professionals and a driving force behind Fitness First Australia’s cycling program. With a passion for endurance exercise, Meg has competed at an international level in triathlon and mountain biking and won multiple Australian titles. She is presently focusing her charity efforts assisting the Tour de Cure organisation.