Tips for a Top Sportive

Sportive season is in full swing, they can be a fun way to ride on different roads and making new friends. Maximise your chances of enjoying a succesful event by checking out our Tips for a Top Sportive…


Definitely train for it! You will enjoy it more if you get prepared, you will also have more confidence that you will complete and enjoy the full route. Of course, if your regular training rides are longer or more challenging than the event, this shouldn’t be a problem. If, however,  your regular rides are a flat 30 or 40 miles and the sportive is 110 miles and over mountain passes – there could be an issue which only additional, more specific training (and lower gearing) can help with.

Be Prepared

The old Scouts motto is ideal for all bike rides, including sportives. Plan for what you could possibly need, pack for all weather conditions and don’t forget your usual mini-tool, pump, phone, cash, spares etc. Think ahead about fuelling too – can you get around the full course if the feed station runs dry? An extra emergency gel or bar could be the difference between a good day and a bad day. Don’t forget your shoes & shorts! (See Below) Although to be fair, riding the hilly Etape Du Dales (110 Miles) in moccasins and casual shorts is a good effort…

Don’t get carried away

Don’t start too fast, particularly if it’s a long or hilly sportive. It’s too easy to get all fired-up and over extend yourself early in an event. Pacing is vital, as is knowing your limits and riding within those limits. Going too hard, too early, because of the excitement or nervousness of riding new roads is an easy mistake to make. An ambitious start can impact badly on the latter part of a long or hilly ride. Remember, don’t go looking for the pain, it will come to you…

Ride Buddy

If you are on your own, try to ride with someone who looks relatively normal – Don’t get stuck with somebody dull, the miles will drag. Take your own ride mate if you can (See Below – Scottish Cycling Royalty and good pals Graeme Obree & Sir Chris Hoy). Forcing conversation with a stranger you happen to find yourself with on a random road with can be tricky. Riding with the wrong person can make the sportive seem three times longer than it actually is.

Skillz Payz Billz

Make sure you can handle your bike over the terrain of the event. Climbing, descending, cornering and riding in a group, all need to be at a decent level, so that you do not injure yourself or anybody else. These skills are only improved through practice and training, make sure you are riding at a competent level before committing to an event. If you regularly ride in a bigger group and are confident at descending and cornering, this shouldn’t be an issue. If somebody tells you that the ford / water crossing / cobbles are super slippery to ride – believe them…

Fix It

Check over your bike the week before an event – this should give you time to sort out any issues. Make sure brakes, gears and tyres are working and in good condition. Starting a long and mountainous sportive on a bike which needs attention can be dangerous. Take your bike for a pre-ride service if you are unsure. Merlin’s very well qualified team of mechanics can help with this at our Chorley Showroom and Workshop.


Regularly eating small amounts of food and drinking often, should keep you riding strongly throughout the event. As mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to take an extra gel or bar, just in case the event feed station runs out. Try taping a spare gel to the underside of your saddle and leave it for emergencies. When the weather is warmer on longer rides, make sure that you can refill your bottles on the route to avoid dehydration. Check out Merlin’s range of nutrition products here.

Leave Nothing

Don’t chuck empty gel / bar wrappers, put them in your pocket and take them home. Nothing annoys locals more than cyclists dropping litter on their patch. Try not to go to the toilet where there is no toilet – men are especially guilty of this. ‘Getting-it-out’ in public is not cool, but if you absolutely have to – be very discreet. Urinating while riding, like the pro riders do in the Tour De France, is also extremely not cool. It could well end in tears too, or in the local A & E Hospital – explaining how your ‘intimate area’ gravel-rash happened…

Where Am I?

If you have no idea where you are going, watch out for route arrows. Check the map beforehand to see where the ride goes and try to remember key sections. It’s a good idea to take a photo of the map on your phone if there is no connection for google maps. Alternatively, many organisers publish files for download to your GPS device. If you glance down and miss a route arrow, you could well be heading the wrong way, pondering just where it all went wrong…

Breathe in – it’s the Photographer…

Sort yourself out (remove dangling dribble or mucus for example) before you see the sportive event photographer, usually positioned at the top of a hill. If you are going to try for a comedy photo, at least try to be original. Doing a wheelie or no-handed victory salute isn’t all that original, but it can be an opportunity for some photoshop fun, see below. Putting in a huge effort is a bad idea too, your face will contort and as the camera doesn’t capture your speed, you could well end up just looking a bit strained and odd. Not the stylish Peter-Sagan-esque hero you were visualizing. Time your photo-specific-effort wrong and you could end up a hyperventilating, un-stylish wreck by the time you near the photographer – not ideal for a fireplace memento photo.

The bandage suggests hours of practice went into this…

Enjoy it!

The most important thing to remember is don’t take it too seriously – try to relax and enjoy the event, it’s not a race – it is supposed to be fun!

Sportive Bikes

While in theory you could ride any bike in any sportive, it makes it much easier if your bike suits the route. Make sure your bike’s gearing is suitable for the terrain, particularly if it involves long, or steep hills. Off-road gravel tracks and trail sections are more popular than ever in sportives, gravel bikes are great for rougher surfaces but also offer a wider gear range and increased comfort – perfect for longer rides.

Merlin Malt G2P