Basic guidance to all things cycling. By no means is this list exhaustive, but should give you plenty to consider when going about your business.
- Have fun! If we’re not having fun, what is the point of doing it?! Personally riding outdoors made me feel like a kid again. I wish I had discovered it sooner in adulthood. It also allowed me to realize the benefits of riding a stationary bike during the winter months. Which led me to the fun that is indoor cycling classes, or group exercise!
- “Be safe out there”. People said this to me constantly during my cross country trip. But it IS extremely important that you are aware of your surroundings, have sound equipment and technique. It is OK to push yourself, but also to realize your limitations.
- Listen to your body. If your body is telling you to slow down or back off, it is a clear signal to do so. Muscle fatigue is one thing, but shooting pain or severe discomfort in muscle groups or joints is another. See a doctor and slowly build strength with your activity.
- Engage your core. Abdominal muscles provide stability to your body in all activities. A strong core will allow your legs to move efficiently and not waste movement in the top half of the body which is used for stability on the bike. Everyday focus on engaging your core for periods at a time, commuting, riding, leisurely walks, etc. Remember to leave plenty of room to breath.
- Bike fit. Make sure your bicycle fits you properly. Your local bike shop or indoor cycling instructor should be able to provide guidance. If you are buying a bicycle, the shop should walk you through a basic fit and give you some size options to try. A professional fitting can be done, but they tend to be expensive. Eventually you will know what your needs are and can tweak to what is most comfortable for you.
- Stay hydrated. You will likely sweat a ton. Outside you may not realize it with a cool wind. You put your performance and health at risk if you are not adequately hydrated. Drink before, during and after your rides. Electrolytes can be found in sports drinks, Pedialyte and pickle juice – just an ounce or two of pickle juice…
- Add tension. No matter what cadence (RPMs – revolutions per minute) you are riding, there is to be adequate tension to provide stability. All pedal strokes should be under control. If you are bouncing in the saddle or feet are spinning uncontrolled, add the tension on! Engage the core for additional control.
- Limit the amount of upper body movement during your ride. You are on a stationary bike with no elements affecting your ride. Sure there may be some bounce while standing, but excessive swaying or bouncing is waste of energy. Focus on smooth pedal strokes.
- Wear a helmet. Keep your noggin safe. Self explanatory. Looking uncool or messing up your great hair day are not reasons for putting yourself at risk for major head trauma.
- Bring tools, a spare tube and pump. Not only have these items, but be prepared to change your own tire should you get a flat. Basic bike maintenance knowledge will reduce a lot of frustrations. Knowing how to clean and lubricate your chain will also go a long way. YouTube will have all your answers.
- Carry cash, credit/debit card and phone. Getting stuck without a means to get home or contact someone to get you home is an awful feeling. I once left on a short ride, which ended up being 9 miles one way. Just after the turn around, I realized I had a flat and no money or subway pass. I ended up jogging with my bike back to the apartment. People looked at me like I was a lunatic. The pedals caught me a few times in the calf which was unpleasant. Even short rides, bring ya things!
- Carry snacks. Who doesn’t like eating?! It is part of the reason we are working so hard. For longer rides anticipate eating every hour.
- Obey traffic signals. As frustrating as it is to stop regularly in an urban area, it will limit the chance of you making a mistake or misjudging someone else’s actions.
- Pretend cars don’t see you. Will force you to ride less aggressively and avoid having someone run you off the road or “dooring” you – a parked car opening a door in front of you.
- Use lights and wear bright colors. Being seen is of utmost importance.
- Pay attention. Pedestrians and animals often aren’t looking for cyclists. You are pretty silent. Let it be known you are coming. Try to be polite. If you can. Sometimes you can’t. I already forgive you.
- Find a quality bike shop. A good bike shop will be friendly, eager to help and not looking to make a sale at every turn. If they are busy they may not give you full attention for random questions. If you are making a major purchase they should answer all your needs and talk you through many options. Once trust is established, they will likely start offering advice to where money will go the furthest and where it can be saved. Check to see if they have bike maintenance classes available or would be willing to walk you through a repair so you have a better understanding of your equipment.
If you have any tips or comments or questions on the above, please let me know and I will respond or update my list! Be safe out there!