The term “sportive” is banded about willy-nilly these days. If you’re not entirely sure what it means – read this.
A sportive is an organised ride which you pay to do. The ride follows a planned, singnposted route. There will be feedstops as well as mechanical and medical assistance available during the ride.
It sounds simple and it is
You pay your money, turn up, get told where to go, follow the arrows, get fed on route, have someone to call if you have a major mechanical and hey presto you’ve finished. Collect your medal.
Basically think of a fun run type format but for bikes. Everything is laid on and you just turn up and do your own thing at your own pace.
Riding somewhere new
The beauty is that they take the guesswork out of riding somewhere new. Sportives are a great way to see new places.
Most events have several routes covering different distances to suit all levels of riders from novice to elite.
Sportives are a great motivator. Pick one you like the look of, enter it and – BOOM – you have a goal and focus to go riding, especially if the weather is bad or you’re struggling for inspiration.
They can also push you to go further than you might normally ride; a lot of riders take on longer distances on the day than they’d ever do normally.
Sportives take place practically every weekend all over the country. Different Sportives have different features or focus ie. fast and flat or hilly or long, or super scenic or taking in an iconic location etc etc.
The majority of events take place on open roads so riders have to obey the Highway Code and don’t receive any favourable treatment just because they are part of the event.
Some larger events – such as RideLondon – take place on fully closed roads but these types are the exception.
Not a race
The main thing to remember is that a Sportive is NOT a race! You may get a ‘race number’ but this is more for the organiser’s benefit (so they can tell if you’re part of the event or not). Don’t think of it as a license to race.
What all Sportives (should) have
While all Sportives have the same basic format (see headings below) the difference in events is massive in terms of terrain, difficulty, organisation and atmosphere.
Each event will have its own unique arrows clearly visible before turns (and after to show you’re on the right course) or indicating hazards.
Feedstops with spares
You should always take enough food to get round but having set stopping points where you can top up on drinks and snacks is great and helps break the ride down.
Feedstops should also have a track pump on hand and a few spare tubes. They’re also a good for communicating things to organisers like hazards and such as well as chatting to anyone and everyone.
Downloadable route files
Make sure you check the route beforehand so you know roughly where you are going. Most organisers have downloadable routes so you can upload them to you GPS device.
If you have done this just remember to look up and keep aware of where you are instead of blindly following your GPS! Sometimes there may be diversions on the day, for example.
If you suffer a major mechanical the organiser will come and pick you up. Most events have a broom wagon which sweeps the course picking up any stricken riders.
Medical back up
On the open road the emergency services are your number one call but events should have first aid treatment at the Start/Finish area for minor cuts and abrasions.
Again, a sportive is not a race and there are no prizes for first across the line. Most events are timed you can set yourself a personal challenge or set a benchmark for future attempts on the same course.
Some events have a standard (ie. gold, silver or bronze finishing time) but these are just to help motivate or achieve goals. There are no prizes.
Hot drinks at the Start/Finish
This may seem trivial but as most events start early in the morning it’s always nice to have a warm drink before the start as there’s usually a bit of waiting around between arrival, sign on and start.
Drinks at the finish are a must as you’ll need replenishing and it’s good to catch up with fellow participants over a brew after the ride.
We all love to see ourselves riding, so look out when on the hills or on parts of the course with stunning scenery as there’ll more than likely be a snapper there to record your efforts.
Just don’t forget to smile. You’re doing this because you enjoy it remember?
The joy of Sportives is the simplicity of the format. As long as you have a bike and have done a little riding there’s an event and a distance for you out there somewhere.
What bike do I need?
You do not need a Sportive specific bike to ride one. Any road bike – or any bike that you feel comfortable for a long period on for that matter – will do.
If you are planning on doing a lot of Sportives and want a bike that’s tailored towards to aspects of Sportives then a Sportive-specific bike is worth considering.
What should I wear?
Anything that you feel comfortable riding in over long distances. NB: this might not be the same things that are comfortable over short distances. Tight-fitting clothing may be more comfortable as it stays in place and doesn’t chafe.
Padded shorts are a must. Jersey with rear pockets. Proper cycling shoes so your energy isn’t wasted. Cycling gloves. A helmet.
Nearly all events have a compulsory policy on helmets for insurance purposes and you probably will not be allowed to start if you don’t have one.