Dirt Training Tips for the Belgian Waffle Ride

The dirt has a special way of zapping the strength of even the most prepared riders because it’s often really soft and hard to maintain any kind of speed. Some of the dirt stretches are really long. Some of them are really rocky. Others are sandy.
The Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) is “only” about 140 miles, more than 40 of which are in the dirt, with about 13,000 feet of climbing. The actual distance belies the true difficulty of the event, which is much more like doing a 175-mile race.
BWR 2016. Photo: Philip Beckman

The reason the dirt sectors are so challenging at times is that they tax riders in untold ways. The dirt forces riders to have to use all of their body to keep upright, all while going in the right direction and moving at a speed that won’t take them 16 hours to complete the ride. The dirt has a special way of zapping the strength of even the most prepared riders because it’s often really soft and hard to maintain any kind of speed. Some of the dirt stretches are really long. Some of them are really rocky. Others are sandy.

Amanda Nauman makes riding dirt look easy. Photo: Philip Beckman

The climbing will also take a toll on riders resolve because there are both punchy Belgianesque climbs, and also long 5, 6 or even 7 mile climbs. Then there is the final climb of the day that tops out at mile 135, which is a really steep and an unusually cruel place for the steepest climb.

BWR 2016. Photo: Philip Beckman

Training for the event means spending months doing base miles, and occasionally fitting in trail riding on the road bike. It also means doing specific days of just dirt riding with speed to gain a better sense of riding in the difficult terrain.

BWR 2016. Photo: Philip Beckman

As the event approaches, the final two months need to include many 120+ mile rides with lots of dirt woven in along with lots of hill repeats on longer climbs.

BWR 2016. Photo: Philip Beckman

Riders need to spend their training miles getting the right equipment dialed in for the race day. This means having the right gearing for the steep, dirt climbs, the right tires to survive the rock gardens add the right wheels and frame to withstand the immense amount of abuse the bikes receive on the day.

“You’re always alone, anyway.” Joshua Berry, BWR 2016. Photo: Philip Beckman

Training should also include riding alone because on race day many riders are left to face the back half of the event alone, which means riding into a headwind for 50 miles in some cases.

– Michael Marckx is the founder of the Belgian Waffle Ride and a category 1 bicycle racer.

The Cervélo Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR), is back for its sixth edition of pedaling perversity. The BWR will return to North County San Diego on May 21, 2017 at The Lost Abbey Brewery in San Marcos, Calif. REGISTER for the Cervelo Belgian Waffle Ride.
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