The Beginners Guide to the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge – Can you do it?

The Beginners Guide to the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge – Can you do it?

How tough is the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge? What goes into training for it? Can I do it? The short answer is yes, you can! Our Cycling Coach Devlin Eyden caught up with Brad Brown to chat about some practical things the absolute novice can do between now and Cycle Challenge Sunday to ensure that you not only get to the start line, but also finish the race. (As discussed get your FREE Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge training program here)

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BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto this edition of Ride with Coach Parry. I’m Brad Brown and with me we’ve got our Cycling Coach, Devlin Eyden.

Devlin welcome back onto the Podcast. It’s great to catch up again.

DEVLIN EYDEN: Hi Brad, it’s good to be back again.

Now is the time to commit to the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge

BRAD BROWN: Dev, as we record this, we are just 3 month’s away from this year’s Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge. Entries are still open and I want to urge people if you are listening to this and it’s in the back of your mind, gnawing at you, going I wonder if I can do it? I can tell you now without a doubt in my mind that anyone can ride this race.

Before we get into some of the first timer things you need to take note of for this race, I want to just put it out there. When I rode my first 947, I can’t even remember how long ago it was. I think it might have been 2010, 2011; I was grossly overweight. I weighed 165kg, I was working for 947 at the time and I was the typical coffee swilling, smoking, old school DJ that you have in your mind, on radio. Obviously things have turned around a lot since then.

But my excuse was I don’t have a bicycle. And literally within 24 hours I had a mate who had organised me a bike and I was entered, and I started riding and finished my first one. So, I don’t think anybody has got an excuse. If it’s in the back of your mind that you want to ride this thing, now is your time.

Revel in the vibrancy of Cycle Challenge Sunday

Dev, one of the big things that I love about this race in particular, is there’s this vibrancy about Joburg. There’s this hustle and bustle, and on Cycle Challenge Sunday you’re going to get to ride your bike in places where you wouldn’t ordinarily get to ride it because of the full road closure. And my favourite part of that route is the M1 down into Joburg. You’re never going to get the opportunity to do that. Full road closures, it’s something special and it’s a great way to take advantage of that.

DEVLIN EYDEN: It is indeed and I fully agree with you that it’s a race that everyone is very capable of doing from all levels. So whether you’re looking at just finishing it, or if you really want to challenge yourself, it is a fantastic race.

Experience iconic landmarks at the 947 Cycle Challenge

Like you mention with the road closures on the M1, riding through the centre of Joburg over the Nelson Mandela Bridge. There is iconic landmarks and as you said, places you will never have the opportunity to ride your bike on a usual weekend.

BRAD BROWN: You possibly could but you’re taking your life into your own hands I guess.

DEVLIN EYDEN: That’s also true.

BRAD BROWN: But it’s an amazing experience and there’s lots of cycling races around. I’ve ridden lots of them, so have you, and this one is so well organised. You want for nothing Dev. There’s watering points, there’s refreshment stations. You can literally get on your bicycle, make sure you’re kitted out; you’ve got what you need. But you’ll want for nothing on the day. There’s tons of crowd support. It is a superb day out.

Take on a well organised event and enjoy the vibe of the Telkom 947

DEVLIN EYDEN: It’s exactly that. And like you say the water points are very well stocked. There are regular water points along the route as well. Vibe, as you’ve mentioned already, cycling through the centre of Joburg and through some of the suburban areas, the people who just come out of the woodwork to support the vibe of the day. It’s a fantastic race and something that you really need to take on.

BRAD BROWN: Dev let’s talk about challenging yourself, because it is. It’s quite a big mental challenge. Especially if you’re not active and you’re listening to this and you’re thinking I wonder if I can. So it is a case of challenging yourself but let’s be realistic. 3 Months to go until Cycle Challenge Sunday. Can anyone do this thing? Is it a case of that? If you sell out now for 3 months and you do the work, and it’s not crazy, crazy work, but you’ll finish this thing.

DEVLIN EYDEN: Without a doubt. My first 947 was exactly that. I had gone through a large period of time without cycling at all. Without being on a bike and I did it with very little to no training. Which I don’t advise but it just again shows that it is very possible.

Meet your own challenge and finish the race

The reason we cycle is to challenge ourselves. As much as we like to have fun there’s that aspect of competition. We like to compete with ourselves or our mates. Just challenging yourself to take that next step from doing the standard weekend ride and being that average weekend warrior. Pushing yourself a little bit more and saying well, let’s take on a race.

Let’s take on something like this that is a world renowned event. It is the 2nd largest timed event in the world and it is iconic. What better way than to challenge yourself and take that on?

BRAD BROWN: Yes, I could not agree more. And things are going to get tough. We’re going to talk about specific training in a moment and some of the things you can do to keep yourself motivated. But one of the things that really drove me when I first started, when I was struggling in training, and I’m sure you do the same Devlin, is the visualisation. Sort of imagining what it’s going to be like going down that home straight at the finish line.

How to train to distance and terrain

Getting your medal around your neck and the sense of accomplishment of finishing something big. That’s one of the things that really drive me. I’m sure you’re exactly the same. And as I said things are going to get tough in training.

Let’s talk about the training. One of the things you mentioned to me before we started this recording is that you need to train according to distance and terrain. Tell me a little bit about your thinking there and what you actually mean by it.

DEVLIN EYDEN: So, according to that, you often find the guys, and we’re referring to a complete beginner here. You might be out riding and do your average Saturday or Sunday ride, whether it’s mountain biking or road biking. You’re spending a couple of hours on the bike doing 40 to 50 km and you’re doing that quite regularly and now you’re getting quite comfortable with that.

Moving that distance mark further to test your ability

Keeping in mind, 947 is a 94km race. It’s a distance that you might not necessarily be doing regularly. When I say train according to the distance, is get one or two training rides in that you are covering that kind of distance. So that you, firstly I think just for your peace of mind, you know that you’re capable of riding that distance. But then at the same time for your body to be able to adapt to longer hours in the saddle.

The terrain I refer to being obviously on the tar but more the elevation and the kind of hills that you might be riding on race day. I think that’s important that you are adapted to that and that you are used to what you are going to be tackling on race day.

BRAD BROWN: And also, it’s not just necessarily getting the legs strengthened. It’s getting your body used to being on a bicycle, like you say, for a few hours that you might not necessarily be used to. So getting your bum used to being in the saddle and the pain and discomfort you will experience there.

It’s not just your legs that need training for the Telkom 947

Your hands, that’s one of the big things for me is when you’re on the bike for a while and your hands get sore and you don’t expect that. And your shoulders and your back and that again goes down to making sure you’re in the right position on the bike and getting a good setup.

But like you say, it’s just doing a bit of groundwork. You’re not selling out for the next 10 years. Its 3 months that you have to sort of go, you know what; I’m going to go and do this. If you actually look at the calendar and work out how many weeks it is, it’s not that long.

So it’s a case of going, okay I’m going to do a couple of rides during the week. Whether it is spinning or on the road, it doesn’t matter. And then on the weekend I’m going to do a longer one, or a longer two, and there’s not that many Dev. If you look at the calendar this isn’t a lifelong sentence.

3 Months of training is not a life sentence

DEVLIN EYDEN: No that’s exactly it. Its 3 months. You need to put in a little bit of work for it but again you don’t want to put in huge sacrifices. If you’re going with a coach or you’re following a particular training program, whatever it might be, you can have your training program structured around your lifestyle as well.

So yes, it might mean now in winter waking up one or two mornings early, getting out on the bike. But at the same time it can be structured around your lifestyle allowing for long hours that you might be working. It mustn’t be a panic. It mustn’t be something where we’re taking on a 90+km race and suddenly it’s this huge, daunting task. There’s plenty of time to start planning for it. Preparing for it properly and I do think again, we’ve driven it home well here. It is very well within everyone’s capability.

BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. And if you’re looking for a training program by the way, Devlin has written a couple. You can get them absolutely free. All you need to do is head over to You can download them there and get training. It’s as simple as that. And then there are two other things we wanted to touch on Dev.

A training partner makes the pain easier to bear

One is obviously just not you selling out, but roping one of your mates in. I found that really helped so that I wasn’t the only person going through this, especially when it came to training. I knew that if somebody was waiting for me then it was more difficult for me to chicken out.

So what I would suggest is find a training buddy to do this with. Would you suggest the same? What are some of the benefits? It’s not just from having somebody there, but also from a safety perspective. Its great not being out on your own.

DEVLIN EYDEN: It’s exactly that and that goes with training in general, whether it’s gym training, or cycling. Having someone there, going through the same sort of pain that you might be going through. The same discomfort on a long ride or what have you, it definitely helps to have someone there in the same boat as you at that time. So get a training buddy or buddies. Rather get a group of guys or girls together, join a cycling club, whatever it might be.

Make memories and share your passion with a training buddy

It gives you a reason as well to have to get out of bed rather than “well, it’s on my own, it might be a little bit chilly outside, I’m snoozing the alarm and going back to sleep”. Having someone there waiting for you just gets rid of any excuses and it makes it a lot more enjoyable as well. Something like this we enjoy cycling, we’re passionate about what we do. What better way to share that and make memories with someone else with you, rather than you slogging it out alone.

BRAD BROWN: Yes, those stories are best shared I can tell you that much. So I’m going to put the challenge out there. Whether it be a bunch of colleagues that you work with or if it’s mates from church or guys that you grew up with. Put the challenge out there. Put feelers out and see who is going to do this with you. That would be my challenge to you.

The good news is we were talking about getting a group together and outrides and safety and that sort of thing. August is Women’s Month in South Africa and I know 947 are doing a couple of outrides for the girls so keep an eye on the Cycle Challenge website.

Exclusively for the ladies

The one is in the middle of August, the second one is towards the end of August so that you can get out with other cyclists and get used to riding in a group, but we’re going to chat about that in a future podcast as well cause that’s pretty important. But keep an eye out on that. is the website.

And then the final point Devlin, and I was really big on this because as much as you might get a mate to do this with you, there are going to be tough times. Let’s be honest. This isn’t necessarily just a walk in the park. There’s going to be times that you’re going to doubt yourself and you’ll want to give up.

The best way to really get yourself into this thing that you can’t chicken out is to ride for a purpose. Find a charity angle that you feel passionate about and commit to it. There are so many different charity groups that raise funds through the Telkom 947 that you can be part of.

Become part of a community by riding for a purpose

Whether you are passionate about spreading the message as an example, that’s something that’s close to my heart. I lost my mom to breast cancer literally just before my first 947 as well. Or, if you’re into animal welfare or whatever it is. I know that Choc Cows do a lot of stuff around the Telkom 947.

Riding for a purpose really gets you part of that community, the Telkom 947 community. It makes you feel part of something.

DEVLIN EYDEN: Agreed 100%. Firstly, that’s the one thing that I love about the organisation of this event. The fact that there is such a big drive behind the charities and with that as well as a little bit of motivation.

Ride for charity and get a better seeding at the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge

Part of the charity is also the seeding for the race itself. If you ride for a charity, it doesn’t matter what it is, you are generally going to get a preference in terms of a seeding time, so you’re getting a better start time.

This means you’re not necessarily out there too late in the heat of the day. From a motivational point of view being part of a charity is great. And then like you say, we’re all passionate about something and somewhere along the line something has affected us in our lives as well. I do think this is a brilliant way to give a little back but at the same time enjoying what we’re doing while we’re doing it.

BRAD BROWN: Yes, too true. So, the website to find out more about that ride for a purpose where you can enter and get all the details about the race is Make sure you go there. Entries close on the 31st August, so as we’re recording this you’ve still got some time.

Commit and get your race entry in today

What I would suggest is commit, get your entry in. Put it out there; don’t say I’ll think about it till the 31st August because it’s not going to happen. Go on there now, enter, commit, and get a mate to train with you. Find a purpose to ride for and let’s see you out there.

You’ve got 3 months and I am convinced absolutely anybody can do this thing in 3 months and we want to help you. So get to Get yourself a training program and keep listening to these podcasts over the next 3 months and we’ll make sure you not only get to race day fighting fit, but we also make sure that you get your medal as well.

Devlin, as always great to catch up. Thanks for your time today. Much appreciated mate and we look forward to catching up next time.

DEVLIN EYDEN: Great. Thanks.


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