A minimum of advance preparation can save you a number of headaches, whether they might be physical or equipment-related.
① WEAR A HELMET
Use your head when you’re cycling: wear a helmet! Safety is obviously the goal; this piece of gear will help protect you in the case of a bad fall. And of course aesthetics matter as well. No cycling outfit would be complete without a helmet! For an extra measure of safety, note your blood type on the inside label of your helmet.
② EAT AND DRINK
Once you’ve started pedalling, you’re probably going to be at it for a couple of hours. Between the summer sun and the hills of Isère, your body is going to need hydration and calories to make up for what you’ve lost.
Fill up your water bottles (with water or a sports drink) and remember to eat (granola bars, etc.) in order to keep your muscles happy.
Use the information provided in this magazine in conjunction with an IGN or Michelin map, and have a look at the website www.cyclo-alpes.com. If you get lost, the extra kilometres and elevation gain can add up quickly, and your legs may not appreciate it. Also get in the habit of letting a family member know where you’ll be riding.
④ DRESS FOR SUCCESS
No, we don’t mean that you need to wear business attire, but riding up to Alpe d’Huez in nothing but shorts, a tee-shirt, and flip flops is probably not a good idea. Consider the surrounding region. The south of Isère is quite mountainous, and temperatures can drop dramatically as you ride. Wear proper cycling shorts, a jacket, gloves, and adequate shoes (with cleats, if possible).
⑤ PACE YOURSELF
Don’t overdo it. If you go into overdrive on one section of the route because you feel like you have the thighs of Eddy Merckx, you’ll probably pay for it on the way back. Pay attention to suggestion number III; pace yourself and choose your routeaccording to your level of fitness. You’re better off enjoying yourself than struggling.
Remember to bring basic tools like a set of hex keys (as part of a multi-tool or separately), a set of tire levers, a spare tube, patches, and a pump or a can of fix-a-flat. These tools will help keep you from ending up stranded alongside the road, but you should still check your bike before heading out, including the cables, gears, brakes, and the air pressure and condition of your tires, etc.
Compact, triple, double… Choose gearing that is suitable for the region’s numerous cols. We recommend that you use a triple chainring that goes from 52 to 30 teeth, and a 13-28 tooth cassette. Also remember to make yourself visible to drivers, especially later in the day. Lights are never a bad idea. Finally, make sure to adjust your bike for maximum comfort (saddle and handlebar height).
This isn’t the Tour de France; the roads you’ll be riding will be open to car traffic. Traffic laws apply to all users, at all times. Respect other users just as you would like them to respect you. Make sure you are visible to drivers late in the day and when riding through tunnels. Deciding to make a fast breakaway right in the middle of the road might surprise your riding partners, but it will also probably surprise the drivers behind you! Isère also has lots of bike paths, so make good use of them.
Cycling requires a minimum of effort and patience. If you aren’t a regular cyclist, your muscles may complain a bit after your first outing, but this is normal. Give your body the time to adapt to the physical effort and cycling position. Don’t forget to warm up slowly and persevere. Once you’ve gotten into the swing of things, you’re sure to have fun!
⑩ ENJOY, ENJOY, ENJOY
The Isère region boasts a wide variety of terrain, scenery, cultural riches, and natural treasures. Novice cyclists and veterans alike should remember to look up from their handlebars and take in their surroundings. The splendid plains, lakes, and mountains at the heart of the Alps are sure to leave you with lasting memories. Just don’t try to take pictures while you’re riding! Take the time to stop.