Letter to New Riders

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I just typed up a letter to a new rider, and I thought it might be useful for other AIDS/LifeCycle Training Ride Leaders. So I’m reprinting it here:


I’m glad you’re coming on your first training ride with us. You’ve come to the right place. We’re here to help you get up to speed on the task at hand — learning the cycling skills you’ll need to complete your first AIDS/LifeCycle. 

I cannot tell a lie: you’re essentially starting out at sea-level, and you have to climb a huge mountain to achieve your goal: 7 days of cycling an average of 6 hours per day, for a total of 545 miles. But with training and some healthy tips and tricks, you can do it. (Here’s my summary of a good training plan: http://bearalc.blogspot.com/search/label/Training%20Plan.) 

The things you need, include: a basic understanding of your bike, an understanding of your body’s nutritional needs during a ride, and time in the saddle actually riding. 

Image Credit: The Fixed Gear.

(1) Understanding your Bike: 

Sounds like you can start, stop, and steer your bike, so you’ve taken the first step toward understanding how to operate your bike. As you attend more and more training rides, the Training Ride Leaders (TRLs) will be able to help you improve how you ride (for instance, teaching you how to steer, use your brakes and gears, and when and how to clean your bike). Please ask questions. 

(Here are a few posts on skills: http://bearalc.blogspot.com/search/label/Skills. I have to write a post about basic skills, I think!) 

(2) Nutrition: 

You’ll learn your body’s athletic nutritional needs over time. But, I can tell you that just before, during, and after training rides is not the time for a weight-loss diet. Your body needs calories, carbs, sugars, and salt to put out the athletic effort needed to finish a long ride. To that end, be sure you have a healthy meal the night before your first training ride, eat breakfast and don’t skimp on the carbs. 

Make sure you have two water bottles on your first ride: one with water, and one with an electrolyte supplement. TRLs will have some spare supplements, probably, and on our nice-and-easy 20 mile ride, you shouldn’t have a problem if you forget the electrolytes. 

(Take a look at my blog entry on eating: http://bearalc.blogspot.com/2012/04/eat.html (then click the label “nutrition” for more on the topic).) 

(3) Training and Time: 

Know that training for the ALC is a time commitment. At the beginning of your training (now) a couple hours per week on casual rides will suffice. However, by around the beginning of May, a good, achievable average might be about 8 to 12 hours or more per week of concentrated riding (including hills, longer rides (up to 60 miles or more), and back-to-back days of riding). There is much more to this than I can write in a short paragraph, but without this time commitment, completing the long ride can be difficult. What this means in practice is that coming to our training rides is a great start, but you’ll also have to train on your own some times. 

(Why ride long distance? Here’s my reasoning: http://bearalc.blogspot.com/2013/01/50-miles-you-must-be-mad.html.) 

All this being said, I want to repeat: YOU CAN DO IT. The AIDS/LifeCycle is like no other experience. From the time of your first training ride, you’ll be surrounded by people who want you to succeed. The event itself is fully supported from Day 0 to Day 7. As you do the ride, you’ll notice marked support cars, vans, and motorcycles driving by you. The drivers have one goal: your safety. So, even if you find yourself lacking in one area, you know you’ll always make it back to camp safe and sound — having ridden every mile, or every mile that you can! 

I’m looking forward to meeting you. Don’t forget to RSVP to Saturday’s ride on the website: https://actnow.tofighthiv.org/site/SPageNavigator/AIDSLifeCycle/ALC_Calendar. Also, don’t forget to join our Facebook page for more encouragement. tips and tricks, and to meet other riders and roadies (https://www.facebook.com/SacramentoAlcTrainingRides).


Please feel free to use this letter as is or modified.

Your Bear


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