The do’s and don’ts to staying safe during the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge

The do’s and don’ts to staying safe during the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge

On this edition of RIDE, coach Devlin Eyden and Brad Brown talk about some of the things you can do (and avoid) to ensure that you have a safe, incident free Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge.

So if you want to know the tips and tricks to staying safe during the 947 Cycle Challenge then have a listen to the podcast below...

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

Devlin welcome back. Nice to catch up.

DEVLIN EYDEN: Hi Brad. Good to be here thanks.

BRAD BROWN: Dev as we are recording this it's just less than 3 months to go to Cycle Challenge Sunday. We're talking the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge. The 2nd biggest timed cycling event on the planet.

It's such an incredible event to be part of and it's pretty daunting, particularly for someone who hasn't been around cycling, to think gee what happens on race day? How do I stay safe because that is a big concern for a lot of people. As much as it is a fun day out, there is certain things that we as individual cyclists can do on race day that will not only ensure that we are safe, but also the cyclists around us. It's not just about us. We've got to make sure that our actions don't impact others on race day and that's what we wanted to chat about today.

Staying safe during the race and some of the things you can do now to make sure that come race day, you are in tip top shape and you are comfortable being part of that big race on the day itself.

Dev it is quite daunting. If you think about how many cyclists take to the streets. Yes, they're not all fed off at one go, that would be absolute chaos, I'd pay good money to see that though. With the starting batches it does feed these groups onto the roads slightly slower, but there are still concerns. Safety is a big issue on race day. 


Staying safe during the 947 Cycle Challenge


DEVLIN EYDEN: Yes it really is. It thins out the crowds really well as you mentioned with the batches. You start off at the point of the race where you get onto the M1 Highway quite soon enough. So again, it flows quite well and there's plenty of space to ride. It's not that you're necessarily on narrow little roads but yes, as you mentioned, there's thousands upon thousands of riders along the route. You're faster than some riders, slower than other riders so it is important to have a bit of know-how on group riding. Whether you're actually sitting in a group or just riding with people around you in general.

BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. Well, let's get into those sort of group things. If you missed our previous podcast, we were talking about who can ride the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge. Entries are still open by the way until the 31 August so make sure you get your entry in now.

If you're still in two-minds whether this is for you go back and listen to the previous podcast. If you're sitting on the fence I think it will definitely push you over the edge and get you fired up to ride this thing.

Dev, let's talk about riding in groups. I find a lot of people do their training, you've got 3 months now to race and they tend to ride on their own and as soon as they get into the race day environment, they almost get freaked out a bit because there's so many people around them, and now is the time to get used to not just riding in a group but being comfortable in a group.


Getting comfortable riding in a group


DEVLIN EYDEN: It's exactly that. You've touched on it again and you can go out to the Cradle. Wherever you might do your training rides and more often than not you're doing it on your own or maybe with a training buddy. But I think it's getting comfortable as you mentioned, with people around you and group riding in particular.

I think the easiest way of doing that and getting used to that is finding a cycling club. Either joining a club or just joining their outrides. A lot of the cycling stores, their clubs go out in the week and over the weekends. That's the easiest way and you don't always necessarily have to join their club. You're welcome to more often than not join the group rides. It's a very social type of event.

They also have groups that will go out on different strengths so you'll have your A-group riders, B-group riders, and so on. So you don't need to panic and have that daunting feeling about if you're riding in a group will you be able to keep up with the group. More often than not there's someone that's going to match your strength.

I think getting comfortable from a skill set of having people around you. Keeping your bike straight, keeping upright, cornering, and knowing how to look up the road when there are other riders around you and right in front of you. Slipstreaming.

Those are the kind of skills that it is important that if you're not comfortable and you haven't had a chance to do that, come race day you are going to struggle a little bit and find the race and event more daunting and be more stressed out than actually enjoy race day itself.




BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. You mentioned slipstreaming that sort of thing. If you can get into a group on race day itself, being in that environment where you are possibly sitting on someone's wheel and getting the benefit of that slipstream, it helps at the end of the day from a performance perspective too. And you conserve a lot of energy.

DEVLIN EYDEN: Oh indeed. You conserve a lot of energy doing that especially if it is slightly windy on the day and you are shunting a little bit at decent speeds. Also, trying to not necessarily chase times. Finding a group though on race day can be a little bit tricky.

Personally it's happened to me where you get started, the adrenaline is pumping. You're so excited about the event and a group comes past you and you tuck in. And before you know it you've actually got in with a group that's a little bit ahead of where your strength is. You're pushing a little bit too hard and you flick the mattress too early and later in the ride you actually pay the price.

So it is important to get a feel, and you'll usually pick it up quite quickly where you get into a group and you feel hang on, these guys are stretching me a little bit. Hold back a little bit, wait for the next group to come past that might be suited to your speed and your ability a little bit better.

And again, start a group. There's thousands of guys on the road that don't necessarily know how to get into a group and you'll see you might be struggling up a climb, you might be struggling with the guy that's next to you and might be in a similar boat. Strike up a conversation and say, “hey why don't we work together”. Before you know it you've got 5 or 6 guys riding behind you and you guys can help each other for the rest of the race.

BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. You know when you're my size you always find the guys hop in behind you so if you're a slightly taller or larger cyclist, then you won't have a problem finding a group. They'll find you.


Being aware of other riders


Dev, let's talk about the awareness of other riders. One of the things too, and people will talk about keep your line; don't move off your line, you've got to be careful when reaching down for your bottle, drinking, that you don't change your line. Because if you do veer across the road, you are going to potentially cause accidents.

Let's talk about the awareness and know what's going on around you. What sort of hints and tips can you give to people when it comes to that?

DEVLIN EYDEN: Yes, indeed. This ties in quite well again to the riding in groups and with club rides and that sort of thing. Just being able to know that there's people around you. Whether it is right in front of you and you're on someone else's back wheel, there might be a rider behind you, left or right of you, be aware of what's happening.

Don't get into that tunnel vision and staring at your front wheel without knowing. Where these play a role, and as you say sort of changing lanes and changing directions and that. It is important you don't want to clip a rider’s wheel behind you who you haven’t even looked to see if he's there. So it is important to know.

Another key where the awareness comes in about who is around you, is not only for their safety but obviously for your safety. And then also, heaven forbid, you don't pick up mechanicals on the day. Touch wood, we don't want that to happen but it does happen. So, if you might have a puncture or a broken chain or even just stopping at water points, or moving across to water points to grab a sachet out of somebody's hand. It's important to know who is around you before you decide to just chop across the road and suddenly stop.

It's happened to me. I've been taken out before with a rider who literally wanted to just pull off on the side of the road. He didn't bother looking and cut across my front wheel and took me off my bike. You need to know for your own safety and for the safety of the riders around you, what's happening. Is it safe to move across the road?

If you do have a mechanical, more often than not the nice thing about a bike is it can still free wheel. So have a look around you, free wheel off to the side of the road where it's safe and then get off your bike. Rather than stopping in the middle of the road where you might have groups of riders coming past you at relatively high speed.

BRAD BROWN: And that also rings true if you're going to have supporters on the side of the road and you're planning on stopping to see them. Chat to them before race day itself and find out more or less where they're going to be. So if they are going to be out along Jan Smuts for example, and you know more or less, let's say they're going to be in Randburg. Chat to them and find out what side of the road they're going to be on so you can start making your way to that side of the road way before you get there, so it's not a case of all of a sudden, hey, there they are, I now need to hook a left or a right 90 degrees because that is definitely going to cause issues.


Be a team player!


Dev, you also mentioned in our chats before we did this, is be a team player and that's important. As much as this is an individual achievement for you there's a whole bunch of other cyclists on the road that you need to look out for and it's also to be a team player. If someone is struggling, be the guy who encourages with taps on the back and says “hey, keep going buddy”. Because there'll be a time in the race when you might need that from somebody else.

DEVLIN EYDEN: Yes exactly. The whole camaraderie around the cycling. I think that's the one draw card to this and doing these mass participation events is the camaraderie and the guys helping each other. We're all in the same boat on the day so I think help each other out where you can.

Obviously don't sacrifice your own spares for instance, but if there's someone who has got a puncture and you can assist with it, help the guys out. You might need it at some other time.

I think another aspect, just touching back on the whole group riding and finding a group as well, with the reference to being a team player. And you mentioned it. Being a bigger, taller rider for instance. The guys hop on your back wheel, tuck out of the wind. But what I think is important there as well, do your turn on the front. There's nothing more frustrating than you are the one slogging, burning all the energy and the guys aren't willing to help out and you don't want to be that guy.

You want to be getting involved as well. Doing your bit on the front in the wind, helping someone else out as well and they will return the favour hopefully as the day goes on. It just makes for a pleasant experience for everyone.


Preparing for the weather


BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. You talk about wind. Let's touch on weather conditions because that does play a part when it comes to safety particularly on race day as well. It's always a big talking point in the final few days leading into race day at Cycle Challenge Sunday. But again, you can prepare yourself for whatever the outcome is on race day, way before race day.

DEVLIN EYDEN: Indeed. That's the great thing about obviously having weather forecasts. Start monitoring that in the week or two leading up. You'll have an indication of what's going to happen, weather wise.

Being the Highveld obviously we can have a sudden thunderstorm that springs up later towards the afternoon. Hopefully we're not all on the bike at that time still, but it does happen and it has happened in the past.

I think importantly, when I say plan and train accordingly is, don't be scared and don't be a fair weather cyclist. If you get the opportunity and you've planned a ride and there might be a little bit of a drizzle and it might be a little cold in the morning, get out and get used to riding in those conditions. Again, it just lets you be a little bit more comfortable with okay I can ride in the rain; it's not really that bad.

Also, slippery roads. Knowing how to handle your bike in those kind of conditions I think is vital. And at the same time get used to riding in heat. So, more often than not, in order to prepare for this, get out over lunch time in summer rather than the early hours of the morning. It doesn't have to happen every time but one or two rides over the weekend where you can get out over lunch. Get used to riding in those sorts of conditions.

But then the key thing to that is preparation. So from a nutrition point of view, making sure that if you are riding in the heat, you are hydrating really well. I think that just comes down to planning more than anything else.

BRAD BROWN: You talk about being a fair weather cyclist and a lot of people will say you don't get bad weather, you just get bad gear. Let's talk about gear wise, gear that people can use if it is slightly colder or slightly wet when they do head out.

DEVLIN EYDEN: When you say bad gear. There are so many different brands out on the market. There's quality stuff that is out. I think it does get a little bit tricky. Again if you're out on a ride it might be a little bit hot in the morning and suddenly a thunderstorm comes in. You don't necessarily want to be carrying rain jackets and wind jackets and that sort of stuff with you. So that aspect of things I suppose gets a little bit tricky from a planning point of view.

But again, if you've checked the weather and you know what's going to happen and you know it might be a bit rainy in the morning, you get your windshells and your rain jackets that are relatively waterproof that can keep you warm. If it is cold in the morning, you've got full finger gloves for instance. Your arm warmers as well, buffs on the head. I think it’s important just plan ahead.

Know what you are going to be expecting. There's so much out on the market and great advice that you'll get from your bike store as well that will be able to assist you with that.


Safety during training


BRAD BROWN: Dev and then just to wrap things up. We're talking safety and I think it would be amiss if we didn't mention the safety of being out on the roads. First of all avoiding traffic and what we can do as cyclists to make sure that we stay safe on the roads, but then also from a crime perspective. Unfortunately it is something we need to talk about. What are some of the things first of all that cyclists can do to make sure that they're safe during training? And secondly, to stay safe so that they're not getting bike jacked or mugged out on the roads.

DEVLIN EYDEN: I'm going to touch on the bike jacking side of things first. I think more importantly, it's relatively well documented at the moment, so over social media, in the newspapers, what have you. We are generally aware of where the troubled areas might be. And when I say troubled areas it's not to say that there are completely safe areas of riding. I think stay away from areas that we know are hot spots for crime.

Make sure that you're not necessarily riding alone as well. I think that is more often than not the biggest problem. Riders feel that they can handle themselves, they go out on their own and before you know it, 2 guys jump out and they're stealing your equipment. Or heaven forbid it could even be worse. So I think always make sure you have safety in numbers. Stay away from the hot spots more than anything else and just be vigilant. Be alert.

It is quite tricky also when you're on a hard training ride, you're on a climb, you're gasping for air and you're not necessarily concentrating. But I think just be vigilant and know what's going on around you more than anything else.

From a traffic point of view, we are road users, but respect other road users. Respect the vehicles as well. I'm a cyclist, more often than not, I’m driving in my car, and I see cyclists that are 3 riders abreast in a single lane road. Have respect for vehicles, motor vehicles and I just feel that they will then have that same sort of respect returned to you.

So again, know what's happening. Know if it's a busy road. To keep a little bit safer try and get out a little bit earlier and beat the peak hour traffic. Or, there's plenty of areas that you can go and ride that are a lot quieter. Something that comes to mind for instance and I have mentioned it, is the Cradle of Humankind, just outside Joburg. There's hardly ever traffic there. There's thousands upon thousands of riders on any given weekend. I think from that point of view think about what you're doing and respect others on the road and hopefully they will return that same respect back to you.

BRAD BROWN: Yes absolutely. And if you are going out early make sure you are visible. Have lights on the front and the back of your bike. Really just make sure, even if you have to dress like a Christmas tree, make sure that vehicles do see you. It's so easy and we all know it when we're driving that it's so easy to miss someone on a bike.

Dev, as always great to catch up. Don't forget entries are still open till 31st August. Make sure you get your entry in now if you haven't entered yet. The website to get to is If you're looking for a training program head over to and make sure you subscribe to this podcast, leave us a review or ratings on iTunes and keep with us. We'll make sure we not only get you to race day come Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge, we'll get you there fit and firing, ready to go but we'll also make sure you get home with a medal around your neck afterwards.

Until next time from myself Brad Brown and Devlin Eyden, it's cheers.


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