Keep Rollin Rollin Rollin: Ten Tips for Cycling

Did you know that May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, and celebrated in communities from coast to coast since 1956?

Did you also know that the third week in May is designated Bike/Walk to Work Week and the Third Friday of May is Bike/Walk to Work Day?

Do you wish I would have given you this information last week so you could celebrate?  So I’m fashionably late, big deal.  Don’t be mad. There’s always next year, right?!

I DID know this information so on Friday, I rode to work with two of my coworkers John and Daniel.

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{John is fast. He’s in front.  And I’m fist pumping in the back.  Naturally.}

We live on opposite sides of town, so we rode about 8 miles separately before meeting to ride the last two together.  It was a beautiful morning, and most of my ride wound through Swope Park and smelled of fresh cut grass.  Love.  Until the ride home, when my stems were screaming from a long day and those gentle rolling hills felt more like mountains.  And some dumb dumb in a minivan almost killed me.  All in all however, it was a success!  And it made me think that I need to share some bike tips!

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Last summer I guest posted on my friend Annette’s blog with some cycling tips, and a refresher is always nice. Plus, not all my readers are Annette’s readers and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on these little gems.  So below is the original list, plus a few more that have come to mind since then.  Happy riding!

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{Me, Scott and Red at Da Lake last summer}

Fiterature’s Ten Tips for Cycling.

Cycling is a fun, low impact sport and a major calorie blaster! Whether you are a beginner or a yellow jersey, this list will make your ride easier, safer and more fun.  See you on the road!

1.  A bike that fits: Bikes don’t just come in “Girl” or “Boy”, they come in sizes based on your height, leg and body length.  It is important to get a bike fitted to YOU so your ride is comfortable, efficient and injury-free.  Most bike stores should fit you for free, especially if you plan to purchase from them.. The number you are looking for is the frame size in centimeters.  For example, my bike is a Men’s 54cm. Had I not have been fitted, I would have never known a Men’s bike would be more comfortable because of my longer torso. Trust me on this: if you are riding a bike that is not the right fit, your body will be working twice as hard to propel you forward.  Plus you are in danger of injuring your knees and hips because you are forcing your body to overcompensate for poor posture.  Take the time to get fitted.

2.  Helmet: Yes, it isn’t the sexiest part of bike riding, but it’s the most important.  Did you know that the average careful bike rider will crash about every 4,500 miles (less if your name is Megan) and that head injuries cause 75% of our 700 annual bicycle deaths? Not to freak you out buuuuut….get a helmet.  Look first for a CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) sticker inside – some triathlons and races won’t let you ride without it.  Pick a helmet with a smooth, well-rounded shell and a bright colored exterior, so cars and other riders can see you. Look for vents and sweat control, too. Put it on, adjust the pads and straps or the one-size-fits-all head ring, and then try hard to tear it off. The helmet should not move more than an inch in any direction, and must not pull off no matter how hard you try.  A good fit means level on your head, touching all around, comfortably snug but not tight.

3.  Saddlebag: No, I’m not referring to the junk in yo’ trunk, though jumping on your bike CAN slim those puppies up!!  I’m talking about a small bag that straps underneath your bike seat.  I never ride without a spare tire tube, a patch kit, tire irons, and a few bucks. There is nothing worse than being 10 miles from home when a tire blows and finding you are not prepared.  Plus, you can carry other fun things in there like lipstick and turkey sandwiches!

scott bike saddlebag

{Source}

4.  Clip-in Pedals: If you are going to do any amount of regular riding, you need clip-in (also called clipless – confusing, I know) pedals and shoes.  You do not have to be hardcore to wear clip-ins, nor are you required to match them with a spandex unitard.  But hey, if you’re into that sort of thing, by all means…The reason you want to make the switch is because it will make your life EASIER.  By “clipping in”, or attaching your shoe to the bike pedal, you have far more control. The balls of your feet are connected to the center of each pedal, which is the correct foot position for maximum cycling efficiency.  Also, you never lose power because you are constantly either pushing through the pedal with your quads or lifting up with your hamstrings.  With flat pedals, as soon as the pedal starts circling toward the rear tire, you lose power because your foot can only “rest” on the pedal.  Clip-ins are also safer, reducing the chance of your foot slipping off the pedal at high speeds or while standing out of the saddle when riding up a hill.  Go to your local bike store and ask them to teach you how to clip in and out – a good store won’t let you walk out unless you can clip in/out three times on your own.

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5.  Shoes:  Unlike running or cross-training shoes, road biking shoes have incredibly stiff soles. This is a performance feature and is done to create the most efficient power transfer possible to your pedals.  They are lightweight by design, with ample ventilation and either lace, hook and loop straps, or notched cam straps. Most clipless road-bike shoes use either a 3-hole or 2-hole cleat system, so you’ll want to match it up with a compatible pedal. If that sounds confusing, head to a local bike shop and ask them to fit you and your bike for road shoes and pedals.   Typically, you want to wear a ½ size larger than your every day shoe, so your toes have room to expand and breathe.  Road shoes come in all colors and designs – the more stylish, the more expensive.  I hear white is the new black (love my Specialized Spiritas).

6.  Accessories:   Who doesn’t like to accessorize?

Gloves: Not only do they look fancy, they are helpful, too.  Cycling can put a lot of pressure on your hands and wrists, and the extra padding from the gloves can help elevate pressure and absorb shock.  Gloves give you extra grip and control while shifting gears, and make for wonderful nose wipers in the colder months. Also, if you take a tumble, you won’t be picking rocks out of the palms of your hands.

Sunglasses: Sunglasses can protect your eyes from the suns’ UV rays and shield you from dirt, debris and bugs.  Yep, nothing like getting a June bug SMACK between the eyes.  Lunch! When I first started biking, a friend told me a secret to buying sunglasses for cycling and I’ve never turned back:  Wear glasses that do not have frames around the bottom.  When you ride, you are constantly looking down, and a frame-free lens leaves no blind spots.  DUH!  Genius!! Also, try to find a pair with fogless lenses – when things start to heat up, you don’t want roll through a stop sign because you couldn’t see it!

triathlon sunglasses

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7.  Braking: Instinct says to use both brakes at the same time. This is probably good advice for beginners, until you are comfortable with how braking really feels in all situations. Alone, the rear brake is O.K. for situations where traction is poor, or for when your front tire blows, but for stopping on dry pavement, the front brake alone provides the maximum stopping power. It takes twice as long to stop with the rear brake alone, and using both brakes together can cause “fishtailing.” If you take the time to learn to use the front brake correctly, you will be a safer cyclist. Check out Sheldon Brown for more info on braking and turning.

8.  Shifting gears:  My #1 rule for shifting gears is to do it BEFORE the hill.  When you see an incline approaching, start downshifting and have all of your shifting done before you start heading vertical.  If you get halfway up that hill and realize you need some help, your chain is going to POP right off that gear and you will just be spinning your wheels until you fall over. Trust me. This has happened and I have the scars to prove it.

9.  Bike Traffic Rules: Sorry folks, but being on two wheels doesn’t give you a free pass to be an idiot. In most states, bikes must follow the same laws as cars.  That means obeying street signs and lights, observing cross walks and yes, even signaling to turn or stop.  There are a lot of hot shot riders out there, and they make it embarrassing and dangerous for the rest of us.  Don’t be that guy. Plus, it creeps people out when you show up to work all road rashy with a car fender stuck in your leg.

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10.  Keeping Track: Just like when I run, I like to know how fast I am going while I’m riding. This keeps me focused and challenged, and lets me know when I need to take it easy or push a little harder.  I have a small wireless handlebar computer on my bike that keeps track of time, distance and speed. It does not have GPS though, and I also like to keep track of my elevation and routes so I can look back on my progress.  Since I ride with my iPhone for safety anyway, I use an app that keeps track of that info plus can monitor heart rate, calories, and compare against friends or pros. Some apps even let friends or family track you in real time. I like the app Strava, but there is also MapMyRide and Cyclemeter.

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{View of my Cateye computer}

So there you have it, friends. Now get rollin’!

 

What is one of your “must have” cycle tips?  Were any of these new to you?

What is your favorite way to stay fit in the summer?

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