We’re now approaching the final preparations for your sportive and with your training now in its advanced stages, nutrition on point, and skills well developed, it’s time to focus on the machine.
In part six of our sportive guide, we’ll look at the key changes to make to your bike to ensure it’s sportive ready.
Not only will we consider the additions that will aid your bike’s performance, but also those important elements of the bike that ensure you perform at your peak and remain in top condition throughout the length of the event.
While the mechanical side of your bike plays an important role, for the long miles of a sportive you must first ensure two major areas of the bike are in top nick – the wheels and the touch points.
These two areas significantly affect the bike’s efficiency, handling, and comfort, so you have some big decisions to make as you approach event day.
Upgraded tyres and wheels provide the most instant and real benefits to your sportive experience. As your interface with the ground, your tyre’s tread and the dynamics of your wheel transmit all your power and control into performance. Heavy, unresponsive wheels, traction-less tread, and wafer-thin rubber all spell trouble for the sportive rider.
Choosing sportive wheels
Road bike wheels differ in many ways, from size (diameter and rim width) and construction (materials used, spoke pattern) to intended use (all-weather training or race day performance).
The choice ranges from good-quality budget and mid-range offerings built in the traditional way, to the latest generation of carbon fibre aerodynamic wonders.
For a sportive, you’re aiming for wheels that will ensure you can go the distance and have complete control over the bike. However, super-light, deep-section carbon wheels are probably unnecessary – this isn’t about all out speed, it’s about going the distance.
Sportive riders will be served best by an ‘all-rounder’ wheelset, such as aluminium alloy, offering a balance of light weight, durability and aerodynamic performance.
Here’s some of our top picks for your sportive:
The Campagnolo Zonda C17 Road Clincher Wheelset features a completely redesigned rim, taking its design inspiration from the growing trend that sees the use of increasingly wider tyres.
Weighing only 1530g, the Prime Race Road Wheelset is one of the lightest on the market for the money. This high performance, quality wheelset provides fast acceleration when you need it most and they’re perfect for everything from daylong rides to racing.
The Fulcrum Racing 3 is an ultimate all-rounder. Perfect for long-distance endurance riding, it’s ideal for the cyclist who cannot imagine compromising on quality performance and for the passionate cyclist who lives for long distance riding where the importance of reliability and versatility are crucial.
The Pro-Lite Bracciano A42 Alloy Clincher Wheelset meets the unique requirements of the modern road racer who prefers alloy wheels. The Bracciano A42 features a stiff and solid construction, while remaining lightweight.
The Prime Pro Disc Road Wheelset is our top end alloy clincher wheelset and features a superlight build to cover everything from racing to daylong rides.
Before making your decision, check out The Hub’s recent guide to the best wheel upgrades:
While there’s no point pulling on a pair of premium carbon wheels for your sportive, your tyres are very different and need to be top notch.
The main things you’re looking for are superb rolling and exceptional puncture resistance. If you’re cycling for some 60-200 miles, you need a tyre you can trust and one that is not sucking up all the energy you’re putting down.
This is one of the best tyres in the business – superb rolling resistance and puncture protection.
Schwalbe Pro One Road Bike Tyre
This Schwalbe Pro One Road Bike Tyre is a fast and grippy tyre that performs well with a tube but even better as a tubeless tyre. With Schwalbe’s patented MicroSkin construction, the Pro One Road Bike Tyre is fast, reliable and lightweight.
Having selected a smashing set of wheels and a nice pair of shoes to go with it, your attention should turn to the bike’s touch points.
Spending the amount of time it takes to complete a sportive in the saddle is not just a test of your muscles, but also of your soft tissue. Sore, blistered hands, an aching back, and red-raw undercarriage are all best avoided with some careful attention to your bike’s touch points. These include the saddle, the handlebars, and the pedals. Each should be of a high standard and set-up to a point nowhere short of perfection.
For your sportive, a quality set of handlebars will not only transform the bike’s handling, but your positioning and stance. This can have knock-on implications for your power, your ability to stay in the drops or adopt an ‘aero’ position for declines, and even your breathing and endurance.
Ergonomic grips allow your hands to adopt natural and comfortable positions, while light materials and high levels of stiffness translate into boosts for power.
It’s also vital that your handlebars fit your general geometry. Models vary in terms of width, reach, shape, and drop, and you should aim for bars that are perfect for you.
These Road Alloy DropBars with an Aero Profile bring you the race-proven flat upper sections as seen on Thomson’s carbon fibre model. This design gives you increased comfort and efficiency and at a slightly more affordable price point.
The Zero100 handlebar with innovative RHM shape provides the same advantages as the Deda Elemnti Presa handlebar, manufactured in strong 7075 T6 triple butted alloy.
The Cyrano 00 (00 meaning “the top” in Italian) is the top-of-the-line handlebar from fi’zi:k. Made from high-modulus carbon, this is the lightest and strongest fi’zi:k handlebar.
Once you’ve selected your handlebar style, it’s time to add some of grip tape. For many riders the type and quality of their handlebar tape is but an afterthought; however, the level of cushioning and shock absorption offered by your bar tape plays a big role in the overall comfort of your ride.
Meanwhile the type of material used in its construction will also determine other characteristics – including wet-weather grip, moisture absorption and durability – so when the time comes to replace your old bar tape it’s worth looking carefully at the different types on the market and what they offer.
Materials: Most modern bar tapes are made from a lightweight and durable synthetic outer material with a foam or gel core for cushioning. Man-made materials such as polyurethane, synthetic nylon, or silicone are lightweight and durable and can be made with a ‘tacky’ texture that aids grip in wet or dry conditions. Any of these materials are ideal for a sportive.
Thickness: Your tape’s thickness will contribute to how well your bars absorb road buzz. As already stated, racers may prefer a thinner, low-profile tape (1.5mm-1.8mm thickness) for a ‘direct’ road feel, while leisure and sportive riders tackling a variety of road surfaces typically opt for tape of 2mm-2.5mm in thickness. Extra-thick tape (3mm and more) may come into its own for special applications such as Paris-Roubaix surfaces or gravel bikes. Meanwhile, personal ergonomics may also come into play – riders with smaller hands, for example. Many find that thinner tapes offers an improved cockpit feel and fit, and vice-versa for those with big paws.
fi’zi:k Performance Bar Tape
This easy to fit, high-end bar tape is 3mm thick for added comfort and durability. A great advantage of fi’zi:k’s Performance Bar Tape is that it scrubs up so well that you have the feel of new tape for a long, long time.
Lizard Skins DSP 2.5mm Camo Bar Tape
Lizard Skins 2.5mm DSP Camo Bar Tape is extremely durable and gives you outstanding grip whatever the surface or weather is like. Much thicker than your factory-fitted bar tape, it provides unrivalled comfort and increased shock absorption.
Along with pedals and handlebars, saddles are one of the key contact points that can make or break your cycling experience, especially in terms of long-distance comfort.
A well-designed and well-fitting saddle will not only make epic days in the saddle a breeze but will also ensure the free flow of blood in the perineal and genital area – essential to ensure your important areas stay happy and healthy.
There is nothing more personal, in terms of fit, than a saddle, so disregard the preferences of your cycling friends. You’re unique shaping and pressure points will mean your undercarriage may have to kiss a lot of frogs before it finds its one true love.
However, there are a number of good places to begin your hunt for the saddle of seated dreams, starting with some of the top brands at Chain Reaction Cycles.
Fizik’s Arione R3 Versus Evo Saddle has a flat shape with a full-length pressure relief channel. This shape makes it ideal for more flexible riders who can hold their riding position, but also like to move around to get into their power sweet spot.
Selle San Marco Mantra Racing Ltd Saddle
The Mantra Racing Ltd Saddle is perfect for cyclists looking for a flat model with an area of discharge for the perineum. It has been subjected to a deepened study in order to improve the technological characteristics and its central relief zone is long enough to work in all the riding positions.
PROLOGO Zero Tri Pas CPC Tirox Saddle
CPC technology is placed in clever points to absorb vibrations and shocks. It also helps the rider keep the best position on the bike by ensuring the necessary grip in all weather conditions.
While not always included in discussions about touch points, pedals are the point through which your power passes to the drive train. If they are old and failing, or just poor quality and not doing their job, then you’re losing valuable watts out there on the road.
You want a pedal that’s primarily stiff and lightweight, preferably with a wide platform providing a generous interface with your shoe. The wider platform helps minimise the amount of power lost in each pedal stroke giving you more power and speed.
These Shimano 105 5800 SPD-SL Clipless Road Pedals offer high performance at a cost-effective price point. Designed to match the 105 11-speed group, these SPD-SL Clipless Pedals have a low-profile, wide body, and open design for quick and easy cleat engagement and adjustment.
Slimmed down but with a wider, more efficient contact area, you get the best of both worlds with the revised Look Keo 2 Max Pedals. With a slimmer profile, these pedals look great on any bike and they provide a larger surface area to push against, optimising both comfort and power transfer.
On top of improved hoops and touch points, there are further ways to upgrade your road bike for next to nothing. Here’s a quick guide to elevating your sportive steed ride for less than the cost of a decent lunch.
Wash your bike
A clean bike will run more efficiently, it sounds better, looks better, and probably smells a lot better. Make sure you have a decent cleaner – a job worth doing is worth doing well, and all that.
If you don’t want to go the whole hog with sparkling new callipers, a fresh pair of pads, like these Dura-Ace 7900 stoppers can brighten up your existing brake set.
Sloppy and unresponsive gear changes could be the result of a poor quality and/or badly fitted gear cables. A change-out is fiddly but worth it, especially when you can get a decent set for under a tenner, like this LifeLine Performance Gear Cable Set.