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A Beginner’s Ride to Supported Cycling Events

Sylvia Poulos | Published on 5/20/2023

Larger cycling events often include SAG and require a registration fee that often includes a fundraiser. Support and Gear (SAG) is often provided to help keep everyone safe, provide tools and support, and to help everyone have an enjoyable ride. As a beginner, I gained confidence by doing supported rides because I knew I could count on the SAG vehicle for a ride home if I needed it and could count on rest stops for hydration and nutrition in new areas. I felt comfortable knowing I could progressively accomplish longer and more challenging rides even if I didn’t know anyone else. After some years of both riding and volunteering, I realized some background may help other newer riders.

1. Signing up: Supported rides can be a great way to ride with friends who can suggest routes they’ve done in the past or a way to explore new areas. The registration fee covers the obvious food, rest stop areas, police escorts and permits. Some may not realize that these events often have insurance that will cover some medical care in case of a crash or other emergency. Lastly, organizers are trying to make sure that all riders finish a course which can be challenging if we aren’t aware of whether you are participating or not. Registration often means you get a bib number that also means we know who to contact in case of an emergency, etc.

2. How to prepare: Look at the courses and determine what course you’d like to ride. While SAG often has mechanics as volunteers many others may not be able to provide all support. It’s best to have your bike recently serviced. I recommend cleaning your bike and checking basics like your brakes, headset, chain, tire wear before every long ride. SAG vehicles likely have extra tubes, air pumps, water, nutrition, etc. but relying on SAG could mean you spend some time waiting for them. I would make sure you have basic bike tools, a tube and air along with hydration and nutrition. Arrive early to give yourself time to use the portable toilets, prep your bike, calm any jitters, and say hello to those you know or new faces.

3. Ride safely: While a supported ride means a lot of other cyclists will be in the area, it doesn’t necessarily mean dangers have been eliminated. Be aware of the course including where rest stops will be and how to get in touch with ride organizers if needed. Driving SAG vehicles has given me a greater appreciation for the improved visibility of someone with front and rear lights even in daylight. Riding as far to the right as safely possible is a best practice – both so other cyclists and cars can pass. Avoid riding on the line as it may be slippery but practice riding a few inches from it. Follow the rules of the road because cars are likely still around. Be courteous to other riders by calling out or signaling you are passing them or if there is a danger they should be aware of.

4. Rest stops: SAG is happy to offer nutrition and hydration. Best practice is to make sure you have enough of both until the next rest stop. Being aware of what your body needs to get from one rest stop to the next means you reduce the risk of being stuck waiting for support and potentially having a safety condition arise. Starting a ride when fasted and only planning to consume water can be very dangerous especially in the heat of the summer.

5. After ride celebrations: Rides can vary from ending with a subtle sign or a few people cheering to red carpet with meals and music. Enjoy the camaraderie and your accomplishment! If ride organizers are handing out medals or checking your bib number as you finish, make sure you check-in so volunteers don’t unnecessarily search for you. If you didn’t finish the route you’d planned then be proud of what you did accomplish and see what you need to do for the next ride. The most common reasons I’ve seen for people to stop early are a poor bike fit, mechanical issues that aren’t quick fixes, and bonking. I’d rather hear that you finished your plan, met some new friends, or learned a few tips from some great riders around you.

Enjoy your riding, whatever you choose to do!