Best Buddies Challenge: Cycling Tips from Richard Fries, Director of Cycling Experience
Even though it’s not until May 2020, the Best Buddies Challenge is on our mind year round. Some MTeamers cycle 20 miles, some 50 miles, and others ride 100 miles. We keep training, perhaps with less intensity, through the summer, and then amplify our efforts at the end of winter.
We had the opportunity to ask Richard Fries, the Director of Cycling Experience at Best Buddies International, a few questions.
Below, he shares some excellent tips for training in all weathers, tells us about what to expect from the terrain of the 100 mile route, and talks about the gear you’ll need for the ride.
MTEAM: How long has the 100 mile ride in the Best Buddies Challenge been running?
RICHARD FRIES: We just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port. Our 2020 event will be the 21st edition of our organization's single largest fundraiser.
MTEAM: Can you describe the course for the 100 mile ride during the Hyannis Port event?
RF: Experienced cyclists describe our course as relatively flat, as it has no sizable or "categorized" climbs. But beginners are often stunned by how much climbing is on the course. Given the total elevation gain is more than 3,000 feet over 100 miles, the more accurate description is "rolling." Every rider agrees that the toughest climb is at mile 82 on what we call the "Capenberg". After a steady uphill grade of nearly two miles, riders turn left and face a short, steep climb to the highest point of the entire course.
MTEAM: Can you recommend a sample training schedule if those who are a bit rusty (or even complete beginners) and want to start getting into shape for the 2020 event now?
RF: We stress one general principle: 'ride more; train less.' The most important thing is to establish a base of fitness. Think of it as scaffolding, stacking up fitness, month upon month, year upon year. There is no replacement - not spin class, not Peloton, not Zwift, not CrossFit - for long days on the road bike. These summer days are great for weekend tours. The key is to make them enjoyable and interesting. Ditch the car and ride to barbecues, beaches, mountains, lakes, etc. And remember to stop for coffee and ice cream and snacks. Keep it at a talking pace. Coming out of winter, however, we suggest a 12-week plan that can include some gym work, cross training, yoga, and spin classes. The first six weeks are simply building up that base strength. The second six weeks will include some intensity either doing intervals or climbing.
MTEAM: What’s your best tip for training on the hot summer days?
RF: Riding on hot summer days can be fantastic. There are some easy tips to beat the heat, which include riding earlier in the day or closer to the evening, hydrating, altering our diet to include more fruits and vegetables, dressing appropriately, using safe sunscreen (note that one should carefully research the ingredients of sunscreen as the FDA has scrutinized many common ingredients used). Daunting as it may sound, night rides and urban adventures with good lights provide an amazing experience.
But full day rides through the heat of the day can also be improved through one's route selection. Riding at higher elevations will typically offer cooler temperatures. Another trick is to seek roads with tree cover. Better yet, consider riding the emerging network of rail trails and abandoned rail beds, which are always in the shade. Some of these paths, such as the Cape Cod Rail Trail, run longer than 20 miles in distance. Others, such as the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in the suburbs of Boston, run past ponds with swimming facilities. Another consideration is to enjoy wildlife refuges and state parks such as the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, which brings riders through cool wetlands. Another great experience can be had riding dirt, gravel and agricultural roads. Road bikes are fine for such use, but one should consider using a slightly wider tire in excess of 28 mm.
MTEAM: How about tips for cycling on freezing, snowy winter days?
RF: To ride in winter, we subscribe to the Norwegian ethic: "No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." Riding year round can be done with not just owning proper clothing, but keeping it organized. We recommend riding with just three layers: a base layer, a thermal layer (we suggest wool) and an outer shell. The most important thing is to focus on the five points: your head, your hands and your feet. Experienced riders may have different gloves for every five degrees of temperature. To survive long days in cold weather, veteran riders will carry two pairs of gloves, two pairs of socks and two hats, switching them out during a stop. The key is to keep dry. Finally, even on a sunny day, riders in New England will encounter wet roads. Invest in fenders; they make a huge difference.
MTEAM: How far in advance should someone who completed 100 miles in 2019 start training for the 2020 ride?
RF: Just Keep Riding. Too many people fail to recognize their best training ride of the season was the Best Buddies ride. Build upon that scaffolding with continued rides through the summer. Our biggest suggestion would be to integrate commuting and utility cycling into one's routine.
MTEAM: What are some of the most important features to look for if you're purchasing a new bike for the 100 mile ride?
RF: Modern bicycles are fantastic investments. We suggest purchasing a modern road bike with drop style handlebars. Improvements in shifting and braking systems have lowered the barriers to mastery. And with disc brakes, a cyclist can ride a wider tire that can roll with less air pressure, thereby making the ride more comfortable. And by simply changing the tires, one can switch from a pure road experience to dirt trail ride. Finally, beginners would be well-served to test ride a pedal-assist electronic bike. These bikes will roll at 20 mph, but still require the pilot to work hard.
MTEAM: What other key accessories will you need for the ride?
MUST HAVE: Shoes, pedals, bib shorts (have at least 2 pairs)
SHOULD HAVE: Arm warmers, leg warmers, vest, rain coat
WANT TO HAVE: Decent cycle-computer with GPS device and a heart rate monitor
DELUXE: Power meter
MTEAM: Any other tips / thoughts / recommendations / etc...?
RF: Repeat this mantra: Go easy when it's hard; go hard when it's easy. That is the secret to endurance riding.
A beginner and novice should focus as much on riding skills as they do on fitness. This includes getting experience riding with groups on the road.
Finally, the riders who attend the Best Buddies training rides report a huge improvement in their skills and fitness. And we have fun. Try to attend as many as possible!