Hi! I want to share my experience of preparation to my first brevet. Time and speed are not very important for me because it's brevet but not a race. The most important for me is successfully finish and do not exceed the time limit. Now I successfully finished 3 of 3 brevets in a season of 2016. On all these brevets I had problems with a bicycle, health, weather and much other. But I successfully finished because I was prepared to these difficulties. Let me share my experience with you and maybe it will help you on your first brevet.
I want to divide an information into several subsections.
You are most important. Somebody thinks that bicycle is very important or the most important. But it's not true because you pedal and you are forcing bicycle to ride.
On the last brevet, I rode on the road bike. And there was a guy on the mountain bike with wheels of 26 inches and he was very tall. I think that all knows that when you ride on a highway the wind is your enemy. And very hard to ride fast when you sit high, due to the resistance of the wind.
Well, his mountain bike was heavier than my, he had smaller wheels on the tires with protector and he was taller than me and it means that wind interfered him much stronger than for me.
I was on a lightweight road bicycle with pretty smooth tires. But I barely was able to ride in his pace. Because he was prepared much better and he was more experienced.
It was a good lesson for me. I understood that a bicycle can help you ride faster and easier. But what is really important is you. Your will to win, your experience, your preparation to difficulties.
You should think that you will finish, other options are not acceptable.
Food, drink, and energy
If you can eat anything, it's great. Because I'm pretty choosy in food and for me, it's a problem to find something that I like and can give me a lot of energy.
You can divide food into two parts - what you will eat before the brevet in the morning and what you will eat in the ride.
In the morning you have to eat something with a lot of calories. I prefer pasta it's tasty and contains a lot of energy. In my feelings, it can give me energy for a ride with duration 4-5 hours.
I also heard that some bicyclists say that you have to eat a food which contains a lot of calories in a whole week and don't eat too much meat before the brevet, but I think that it's more actual for athletes or for that who want to set a record.
If you just enthusiast who likes long rides, I think you can eat what you want :)
The next point is what you will eat and drink in a ride. Water is the most important. You should know how much you need for 200 km, how many you can take with you and where you can get a water in the ride. I advise taking at least two bottles of water with a capacity of 0.75 or 1 liter each one. Better to mount them on the frame of your bicycle.
I saw some guy who rode on a brevet and his water is over. He barely rode. And the next point with water was in 20 km and the weather was very hot.
I wanted to give him some water, but my bottle also was almost empty.
You should always remember about water.
Clothes and shoes
If you have special clothes and shoes for a bicycle, you can just dress them up and skip this paragraph. But I think you are novice if you're reading this article :)
The most important element of your equipment is a helmet. All experienced and professional cyclists ride with helmets. Don't ignore this rule. Otherwise, it could end very badly.
If you have no special clothes, you can dress up into something that fits the weather and will be a slinky to don't have problems with the wind.
If you want to buy some clothes or shoes, I propose to buy clipless pedals and shoes for them. It's the best way to boost your speed and do not spend too much money.
Also would be nice to have cycling shorts to save your ass :) But shorts and clipless pedals are not required for the first brevet. You can successfully finish without of them.
Btw, if the weather is rainy, I advise taking the raincoat. Somebody can tell you that bicyclist in the raincoat is ugly. But you should decide, what do you want? Do want to successfully finish or be beautiful? I choose the first option and in the end of my first brevet was very hard rain :) And the raincoat helped me to continue my ride without stops.
If you have road bicycle, you can skip this paragraph :)
I think that minimum acceptable bicycle for your first brevet is a simple mountain bike. I even saw a guy on the city bike who rode a brevet, but I think it's bad for his knees.
So, you have a bicycle, what next?
Slick tires can help you, but mountain tires also acceptable. Don't worry so much about this.
If the weather is wet and rainy or the road is dirty, I propose to set fenders on your bicycle. A lot of people talking that fenders are awful. Don't hear them. If you want to be dry - set fenders on your bicycle.
Also, I propose to take: a spare tube, repair kit for tubes, a multi tool for a bicycle and pump. Chain tool also can be useful.
I saw several guys with punctured tubes on each my brevet :) Do not think that you will not face with it, better to be prepared.
Looks like you should take a lot of things :) Where to put all of them? I know three options: special bag for a bicycle, a backpack, and a rack.
For the novice, the simplest option is a backpack, but pretty hard to ride 200km with a backpack. I use a rack on my road bike. It's nice, I can mount a bag on the rack and put there a lot of things which I need. I don't feel a weight of my stuff when they are on the rack and it helps me to save my energy. Also, I can easily put there an extra food or water.
Preparation and experience
Would be nice to ride a few times distance of 50-80km and at least once 100km to prepare yourself to brevet. It will let you feel all difficulties and a specific of long rides. Also, you will understand, maybe you don't like long rides :)
I passed distances 140km and 180km before my first brevet with distance 200km. And it gave me some experience of the long rides.
Cycling computer can be very useful to track your speed and distances on the workout. When you will be tired, you can think that your speed is 25 km/h but the real speed can be 18 km/h :)
Well, in general, it's all. These tips are enough to successfully pass your first brevet.
Just remember that the most important is you and your preparation and all improvements are secondary.
When you will ride more and more you will understand what do you really need to be more effective. And then you will know what buy or how to customize your bicycle. Because each cyclist is individual, there is no universal opinion which clothes or bicycle are best.
I wish you nice rides and thank you for reading.