Surviving and thriving at Wales360. Part 1

Whether you’re training for the Wales360, or reading this days before the event begins, you’ll need to leave the house prepared. 552 kilometres over challenging terrain will require skill, fitness and good preparation.

Imagine: It’s pouring with rain and you’re heading into the mountains to complete a crazy training session. Perhaps you’re attempting your first century ride or maybe you’re about to tackle Stage 1 of Wales360, from Aberystwyth to Dolgellau. This surviving series will help you reach the finish line safe and happy. Part 1 of this series covers what spares and tools you should carry.

Consider the weather before heading out. Layering is the best way to get a usable combination of clothing. A base layer, jersey and gilet or lightweight jacket is a good start. Arm and leg warmers are good removable options. Waterproof shorts would be a good idea if the ground is wet or temperatures are dropping. If you layer up you have the options to remove or add layers as the ride warms up, if layers are thin they should roll up into a jersey pocket or backpack with minimal effort. At races in both Spain and Portugal you’d have expected sunny warm days but in 2018 we raced through torrential storms which resulted in flooding and changed race routes. It’s surprising how quickly your body will quickly get angry and shutdown if it gets too cold. By layering up you’ll be able to stay both warm and dry through the Welsh mountains.

A lightweight micro pump could be enough to get you out of trouble. In combination with a couple of CO2’s, a sturdy tyre lever, a tubeless repair worm, a tube (I normally road bike with 2 tubes), and some patches you should be able to fix any puncture. I have had one instance this year where I was forced to ride about 20km home on the rim after using up all my co2’s and my spare tube had a hole in it, not a situation you want to find yourself in. At Wales360, there will be technical assistance at the feed zones. If you do find yourself with a problem, the mechanics will be able to get you going again.

I’d recommend carrying a compact multitool which includes a chain tool. You’d look pretty stupid if you had a small crash and twisted your handlebars and couldn’t twist them back. Always carry a spare chain link to connect a broken chain, you’ll never be able to make a reusable chain if you push out a chain pin and push it back in. I try to carry as many spares as possible attached to the bike. A MT Zoom Handy Strap holds a tube to the frame, a mini pump goes in my back pocket, and everything else fits in a small Lezyne saddle bag.

Think about how long you’re likely to be on the bike, how much fuel do you need? How warm is it, and what electrolytes do you need? An OTE gel or bar and a banana will get you a long way and won’t use up much space in your jersey pocket till you get hungry. It’s worth having 2 bottle cages on the bike or carrying a hydration back, you might be able to carry 2 to 3 litres of water which will last you a few hours. At Wales360 there will be feedzones along the route which will be a good opportunity to refill your supplies before taking on the next part of the route, you should be prepared to be riding your bike for up to nine hours per day.

With a little preparation you can be pretty self-sufficient for your next big training ride and be prepared for the toughest of Wales360 stages. Following these simple steps will keep your ride fun and keep you safe.

This article was brought to you by Elite MTB Marathon rider – Ben Thomas, official coaching partner of Wales360