The Belgian Waffle Ride has a 30-40% Did Not Finish (DNF) rate. That is roughly 1 in every 3 people who start BWR don’t finish and need to be picked up by support or get their own ride home. With proper preparation and following these tips you will make sure you are not one of those DNFers!
#1 General Bike Maintenance
This is arguably the number one reason people DNF the BWR. General guidelines include not touching anything with a tool on your bike a few days (especially the night before) before your big ride. If it works then, it will work the next day. It can be tempting to want to make last minute adjustments and dial in your rig for the big day, but it increases the chance of something going unexpectedly wrong. If you do need to have something adjusted or fixed on your bike before the ride, take it to one of the BWR mechanical staff members to have high quality care taken to it. Consider going to your local bike shop 2 weeks out from BWR to have them look it over and make sure it doesn’t need any new parts or adjustments. Common parts on the bike that need to be replaced include: chain, cables and housing, , brake pads, and tires. Common adjustments which need to be made include derailleurs, brake bleeds, truing of wheels, and tightening of bolts. The rugged terrain of the BWR can loosen bolts you never knew would come undone.
#2 Double Flats
Although there are times when flat tires cannot be avoided, there are equally as many times as they can. If you are running tubeless tires, make sure to have a hefty amount of sealant in each tire to prevent little holes from sabotaging your finishing time. I recommend 3oz of sealant per tire. Add this sealant within 1-1.5weeks of starting the event. If you added the sealant 3 weeks ago and rode a few hundred miles, chances are that sealant has already been put to work sealing holes in your tire. Line choice is arguably the number one reason riders finish the day early with double flats feeling frustrated and deflated, pun intended. Be conscious when descending the dirt and gravel sections to avoid big and sharp rocks as much as possible. If you can avoid it, avoid it. Avoid glass or other sharp and pointy objects on the roads as well. Southern California gets little rainfall and therefore debris is not washed off the road as often as other areas of the country. Be conscious of sharp objects and obstacles on the road.
#3 Stopping Too Long at Rest Stops
The legs may be depleted, the brain foggy and the spirit ready to take a brake, but these are not reasons to stop riding your bike during the BWR. Strive to be as efficient as possible when stopping to replenish food and hydration at the aid stations. This time off the bike can quickly accumulate and leave you with little margin for error to finish the day without being time cut. Plan for what you will grab at each aid station before you get there and take as little time as possible. There is always the chance that something unexpected could happen and now your planned finishing time just got another 30-45minutes added to it.
#4 Less than Ideal Pacing
There are those of us who want to ride like heroes at the BWR and to those individuals I would say, finishing is still goal number one. Know your limits on race day and go into the ride with a pacing strategy. If you attempt to ride with the front group and burn out in the first 20miles, the last 116 miles are not going to be as fun and you may not even see those miles. Inadequate pacing can also contribute to the higher chance of inadequate fueling and getting behind on fluid and calories, stopping too long at rest stops because you are tired, crashing due to the brain fog from being in the red, and generally just going too slow at the tail-end of the ride to finish on time.
Assuming everything else is in place: equipment, training, and nutrition/fueling plan something can still go wrong on big ride day. Taking risks although heroic, should not be at the expense of your personal or comrade’s safety. If riding in a group is not a regular practice of yours, I encourage you to make it one leading up to the BWR. Cycling in events like the BWR is generally a group activity requiring you to be confident, comfortable, and safe while riding your bike and riding around others. To avoid crashing, practice riding on terrain like the BWR as well as riding around other riders at high speeds. Pay attention to how more experienced riders ride in groups, and ask for advice when figuring out how to take corners, ride on mixed surfaces, and contribute to a positive group riding experience.
These five tips may seem obvious and intuitive, but they should not be undervalued. 30-40% is a high rate for riders not finishing, and most of those excuses for not finishing can be avoided with proper preparation and mindset.
About the author: Kristen Arnold MS, RDN, CSSD is a level 2 USA Cycling coach as well as a Registered Dietitian (RD) specializing in sports nutrition and is a board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). With Kristen’s nutrition expertise and diverse experience in the sport of cycling as a racer and a mentor, she provides a comprehensive approach to her coaching. She works with athletes from the beginner to elite ranks in road, cyclocross, and mountain biking disciplines. Kristen is also a category 1 domestic elite road racer and seasoned mountain bike and cyclocross racer. Learn more about Kristen.