08/10/2012 05:30 EDT | Updated 10/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Give Cycling a Chance: Top 10 Charity Cycling Tips

Alvin Gilens

If you've been driving along the country roads of Canada this summer, you've surely noticed the growing popularity of cycling. Once considered a niche sport, Canadians are trying out cycling for themselves thanks to Canadian cycling stars like Ryder Hesjedal and Clara Hughes.

Another growing trend is cycling for a good cause with more and more charity cycling events popping up across the country. The Ride for Karen, which is an annual cycling event that my brother and I started as a tribute to the life and legacy of our mother Karen, is just one example.

If you've always wanted to give cycling a try, signing up for a charity ride is a great place to start for a few reasons. The date of the ride acts as a goal that you can work towards. There will be many others just like you who are cycling for the first time who you can rely on when the road gets tough. And of course, you're giving back to your community and helping those who need it most.

So just how do you get prepped for your first charity cycling ride? Here are my top tips to get you in shape for the big day:

1.Get the gear: The right cycling gear can make a world of difference. For example, hills become easier if your bike has the right gearing to allow you to easily spin up to the top.

2.Create a program: If you're training for a long ride -- either a 100k or 160k (century) ride -- a solid program will help to prepare you for the physical demands. The Ride for Karen website has two, highly detailed training programs -- one for a 100k ride and the other for a century ride if you need help creating your own.

3.Get a professional fit: Your local bike store will offer a bike fit program, where you are properly sized to your bike. This makes a world of difference in your efficiency and by extension, how enjoyable your riding is.

4.The warm-up and cool-down are just as important as the ride itself: Your warm-up should last 15 minutes and start at a nice comfortable pace to get your muscles warmed up and ready for the harder work ahead. Your cool-down should be 15 minutes of easy pedaling in an easy gear. This is used to flush out your legs and help your body recover for the next training session.

5.Find a friend: If you find you're losing motivation, call on a friend to train and do the ride with you. It's a lot harder to turn down a training ride if there's someone else involved. And if your friend signs up for the ride, it's additional funds for a good cause.

6.Try group riding: Not only will signing up for a group ride assist you with motivation, but you'll soon learn that riding in a group is much faster than riding on your own because of the benefit of drafting. But drafting and bike handling are skills that need to be learned and trained so that you can safely benefit and enjoy riding in a group.

7.Get creative: It's always good to get used to your route, but the last thing you want is to get bored. Find ways to make your old route new. Time yourself on certain sections and go for a "personal best."

8.Don't forget about nutrition: Nutrition plays a critical role in your performance and recovery in both training and racing. For rides longer than 90 minutes you will need to consume some form of carbohydrate as well. A general rule of thumb is that for rides two hours or longer, you should try to consume two cycling water bottles of energy drinks and 50-75 grams of carbs.

9.Give your body a break in your training: It's important to allow your body to rest and recuperate before the event. The last 1-2 weeks before the ride, be sure to cut back on volume and intensity so you can reenergize for the big day.

10.Have fun: Above all else, always remember that you're riding for a good cause and enjoy yourself. Even if you're not the fastest, or you get a flat tire en route, remember why you're riding and those you're helping with every pedal.

Kris Tobias is the other half of the dynamic Tobias duo and co-founder of the Ride for Karen, an annual cycling event that is held in tribute to the life and legacy of Karen Tobias, and to raise money for charities that help people living with cancer. Next week, Kirk Tobias will talk about the importance of building not-for-profits in Canada.