Six tips for your first Gran Fondo


By Elaine Sheikh
MSU College of Veterinary Medicine student, member of the MSU Cycling Team and Athletic Mentors / Greenware USA Women’s Cycling Team

The meaning of the phrase “Gran Fondo” is “big ride.” This is an easily accessible “non-competitive” (don’t say that in front of the guys in the front pack!) cycling event that is fun to participate in for new cyclists and veterans alike.

If you’re brand new to the sport of cycling, here are some tips to help you enjoy your first gran fondo!

Pick your route distance appropriately.

If your longest ride to date has been 15 miles, you probably won’t enjoy your day if you sign up for the 80-miler.

Choose from 80, 40, 25 or the Family Ride (10-12 miles) at this year’s MSU Gran Fondo.

Choose your outfit for the day wisely.

The MSU Gran Fondo typically occurs on a pretty warm day. Even if it’s cool in the morning, remember that you will likely strip off your arm warmers or jacket, exposing your arms, so wear sunscreen!

Remember to wear wicking clothes. And bicycle specific shorts are a good investment! Whatever you do wear, make sure you have ridden in that outfit before so you know if there will be any uncomfortable chaffing.

Bring snacks!

Even though the MSU Gran Fondo offers food at the rest stops, you never know when you might need to eat or drink along the way so bring something with you. I like to have a water bottle with some sports drink to replace my electrolytes as I sweat, and some commercial energy gels or bars that are easy to eat and digest on the go. Since it will be warm, make sure you are drinking regularly and staying hydrated!

Prep your bike.

Make sure your bike is in good working order. Stop by one of the many wonderful local bike shops in the area this spring and get a tune-up. Nothing is more disappointing than training for an event and then having your bike malfunction during it!

Make sure you’re prepared for tire repair. Things you will need include: a spare inner tube, tire levers, and either a hand pump or a CO2 set. Your local bike shop can help you decide what is the best option for you. Your inner tube size is found on the inner tube itself, and can be estimated by your tire size. This is printed on the side wall of your tire.

Here’s an informative video on changing a bike tire.

My advice is that if you aren’t riding a standard bike tire size (700c x 23-32), bring a spare tube. I have been on multiple rides with my 650c bike where the sag vehicle did not have a spare tube in my size!

Another very common mechanical suffered by new riders is a dropped chain. This is super easy to fix once you know how. Here’s a video!

Practice group riding.

If you plan to ride in a group, practice group riding before hand! Many local bike shops have weekly group rides, which are an excellent way to become accustomed to and comfortable with riding in a group.

The best way to navigate the MSU Gran Fondo’s mass-start is to know your abilities. A common mistake that I see often is people wanting to be too close to the front. Know that you can always move up in a group once you start rolling, but if you line up in the front you will undoubtedly be smashed into a pack that is 4-6 riders wide across the road for the first bit as it thins out. If you aren’t comfortable riding in a group, don’t put yourself in that position.


It may seem obvious, but it’s worth reminding that you’ll enjoy your day a lot more if you have trained for the ride. There are a few small hills on the route, so make sure you are comfortable shifting and pedaling smoothly up an incline.

Be sure to check out the MSU Gran Fondo routes ahead of time to familiarize yourself with the ride. Click here to see the routes on Strava or download the GPX files to use in another app.

I hope you enjoy your first gran fondo!


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