Embracing the Dragon Ride Adventure
By Andrew Brockway
Rediscovery at 40:
My cycling adventure began with a humble Halfords bike and a daily commute from Pentyrch to Cardiff. This evolved into scenic Sunday rides around the Vale of Glamorgan and participation in events like the Taff Trail Classic and CarTen 100. The turning point was the Dragon Ride in 2013, where I tackled the Medio Fondo (128km).
The Dragon Ride Experience:
This event was more than just a ride; it was an eye-opener. Despite initial fears of the climbs, the vibrant atmosphere and exceptional organisation created an inclusive experience.
Marked routes, delightful feed stations and the community’s support made it unforgettable. The mix of challenging climbs and mesmerising scenery elevated my cycling passion.
Over the years, I’ve conquered various distances from Medio Fondo to the daunting Devil, each ride bringing a new sense of achievement.
A Ride for Everyone:
Dragon Ride stands out for its inclusivity, offering distances from 100 km to 300 km. It’s a celebration of camaraderie, stunning landscapes, and a true bucket-list challenge, suitable for all.
Preparing for the Dragon
If you’re taking on Dragon Ride for the first time then I would advise tackling the 100km Macmillan 100. Whilst being the shortest of the four routes, do not underestimate the challenge with just the 1314m of climbing to overcome. This will give you a taste of the longer distances and a feel for being in the saddle for an extended period of time but you should hopefully have enough to get round and still feel that sense of accomplishment that comes from completing any Dragon Ride route.
Regular preparation, both outdoor and indoor (like Zwift), is key and enhances the experience. Like the Halfords basic bike, I went for the most economical Zwift option to see if I would be disciplined enough to use it. ….I found it to be totally transformative for my cycling and overall fitness – it allows me to train all year round and to ride or race with people from all over the world. I’ve even joined rides with legends like Geraint Thomas, Mark Cavendish and Sepp Kuss…highly recommended and it’s probably cheaper than most gym memberships.
In conclusion, first-timers; don’t feel like you have to take on the Gran Fondo or Devil, those will come and you will get much better satisfaction in preparing for and hopefully enjoying completing the Macmillan100 in a good time.
For Seasoned Cyclists:
The Medio, Gran Fondo, and Devil offer robust challenges. Ensure your endurance and cycling skills are well-honed for these demanding routes.
Remember to service your bike and tailor it to the route you choose!
The Big Day:
The diverse route means weather can vary. Stay updated with forecasts and prepare for all conditions with appropriate gear.
Layers are your friend!
Managing changeable weather conditions is easier with layers. Invest in good-quality cycling wear for comfort and flexibility – the last few big sportives I’ve used a combo of good bib shorts (a must), leg and arm warmers, long sleeve rain jacket, gilet and gloves.
This modular approach gave me a lot of flexibility and helped make sure I didn’t overheat or feel the cold too badly. Cargo shorts are great options as they have loads of storage to stash things.
You can get great deals on eBay/gumtree whilst there are bargains to be found on new items with brands like Rapha and Isadore holding archive sales sporadically throughout the year.
Relish the Moment!
The Dragon Ride is really about enjoying the journey, not just the destination. The climbs when it feels like you’re barely moving, the moments where it starts to level out and you realise you’ve reached the peak, the wind surging through you as you rapidly descend. There’s no shame in taking breaks or getting off and pushing…just take a second to savour the moment and at the end that feeling of achievement will be even sweeter!
Oh, and make sure you enjoy an ice-cream atop the Bwlch climb…this ought to be a non-negotiable part of everyone’s Dragon Ride – take a breather and enjoy that magnificent view!
The 20th anniversary in 2024 promises to be memorable ride that guarantees not just a physical journey but an unforgettable adventure!
Andy Brockway is part of our Dragon Ride Cycling Experts. You can find more articles written by Andy on our Expert Team page here.