Whether you’re planning to race triathlons or time trials, or ride in sportives your winter rides are the time to practice eating and drinking on the bike. I’m not suggesting you continue your festive habits into 2016 and take turkey sandwiches and a hunk of Christmas cake to refuel (unless that’s what works for you), but it’s a good time to:

  • practice eating and drinking whilst on the move
  • find out what drinks, gels and solids work for you.

During group rides riders often get into the habit of having a drink or some fuel when they have stopped for some reason. If you find yourself doing that you’re not getting the practice for maintaining your momentum whilst:

  • getting a drinks bottle in and out of its cage without looking down or dropping it
  • taking a drink from the bottle without losing concentration or crashing
  • getting a gel or bar from your pocket, or wherever else you’re storing them
  • stowing the empty wrapper.

Many events ask riders not to drop litter on the course and BTF Rule 22.6 states ‘Race equipment must not be discarded at any point on the course, but must be placed in the athlete’s allocated position in transition’ so you could be penalised for dropping a water bottle or litter and failing to pick it up.

Last summer I took part in Velothon Wales – a fantastic 85 mile sportive on closed roads. It was a superbly run event and the organisers went to great efforts to impress on everyone how important it was not to drop litter on the course. Not surprisingly I was horrified at the number of gel and bar wrappers I saw discarded along the route. It didn’t take me long to work out why when I saw many riders:

  • struggling to get things out of their pockets
  • when they did pull something out, other things in their pocket fell out
  • they weren’t adept at putting empty wrappers back in their pockets properly so they ended up littering the course.

Riding on closed roads is fabulous but littering is the surest way to turn residents against cycling events.

So, when you’re out riding this winter:

  • practice eating and drinking whilst maintaining speed on the bike
  • try different drinks, gels and bars to find out what works for you.  Don’t do what one club member did and ask me 5 days before a race what brands I thought he should use
  • use one pocket for gels and bars and another for empty wrappers. If your race kit doesn’t have pockets attach your gels and bars to your bike with elastic bands or tape, or slide them up the legs or inside the neck of your triathlon/skin suit. Stuff the empty wrappers inside your top.
  • practice practice, practice

Remember – medals are won in the winter …. just collected in the summer!