Amanda Spratt’s Guide to All Weather Riding
Cycling is a sport that takes place in any kind of weather. A game of cricket or tennis is stopped when the rain falls, but a cyclist puts on a rain jacket and keeps going. My opinion? Once you’re off the couch and out there it never seems as bad as you imagined. Being prepared to embrace the elements and learn how to deal with them, both mentally and physically, is important.
This year I have had it all – the freezing spring, the ferociously hot summer and the months in-between. Clothing choice, equipment choice, food choice – everything becomes important to make your cycling life easier. Throw into the equation days on the bike like Strade Bianche this year over the gravel roads of Tuscany and you start to realise just how much cycling is an all-weather sport.
Strade Bianche this year was an epic race. With snow and ice on the roads the day before and then an evening of constant rain, by the time we entered the first gravel sector the following day the ice had melted enough that all we were left with was slushy mud. Think mud bath… or free exfoliation. Whatever kind of positive spin you can think of! As the race went on we were faced with much the same… on repeat. More mud, more wet roads, more time for my brake pads to wear away to the point where I barely had any for the final 20kms. By the end we were barely recognisable – bikes included.
Next step, the clean-up. Failing to clean your bike well after any rainy ride will shorten the life of all the components. I must admit that bike cleaning is not my favourite thing to do and whilst I am spoilt at the races by our wonderful mechanics who have my race machine shining within minutes, when I am at home and training it’s up to me. It’s important to have a good degreaser and a good bucket with sponges and brushes to help you get into every part of the bike. A good hose as well – or even visiting the local self-car-wash and using the hoses there works wonders!
Once the bike is clean it’s time to check the components. Tyres and brake pads are both susceptible to wearing down in rainy conditions so these are something I always check after a ride like this and replace if necessary. You also want to make sure all the bolts on the bike are dry and not holding water to avoid any rust.
Mudguards are another item that I swear by in these kinds of conditions. They used to be quite a controversial thing to use, especially in Australia. However, with the introduction of user-friendly items like the “ass saver” it provides an easy way to keep your behind clean and dry, and your knicks will last much longer.
At the other end of the spectrum are the hot summer days. These conditions don’t stress the bike as much as they do the body. Summer in Australia is hot – this year we had multiple days of 40+ degrees to deal with. Ride early. I definitely don’t adopt the usual “pro hours” during this period. On days like this I always use electrolytes in my drink bottles. The body loses so many minerals via sweat during these rides that it’s important to be able to replace them to help improve performance for both training and racing. As well as this, just stopping regularly to fill the bottle up with water will keep the body feeling fresher. With the body so hot it’s good to try and cool off as soon as possible once you’re done. When I am that hot I often don’t feel like eating, so my favourite thing is making a huge smoothie – I add my protein powder, frozen banana, frozen berries, milk/water, and a LOT of ice-cubes. Jumping in the pool, ocean or having a cold shower will all help too!
The months in-between are less predictable, but you’re sure to get a bit of everything thrown in. L’Étape Australia is the perfect example. The first year of the event took place in beautiful weather. The event last year will be remembered more for the rain and stormy weather and the route variations that were required to keep everyone safe. I love the fact that the event could still go ahead and that so many riders were able to embrace it (special shout-out to the riders who navigated their way over the entire course with snorkels attached to their helmets!). With just 6.5 weeks to go until the 2018 edition I’m not quite sure what the weather gods have in store for us – but I do know I will be on the start line with all of you smiling and ready to tackle whatever is thrown at us.
Always a team player, it is common to see Amanda sacrificing herself for her teammates.
The 2012 and 2016 Australian road race champion is known for her big heart and big engine. Amanda recorded her first European victory at the Giro del Trentino Alto Adige – Sudtirol in 2015 and has taken a big step up as a leader in the outfit following the retirement on Loes Gunnewijk.
Amanda won the silver medal at the 2018 UCI Road World Championships.