Whether you’re a novice or a serious athlete, you’ll enjoy the scenery as you tour the countryside on your bicycle-and your body is sure to enjoy the aerobic workout. Whatever your fitness level, these tips will help you get more out of your routine.
GETTING IN GEAR
Bicycling has enjoyed several waves of interest over the years. One reason for its popularity is that it can be enjoyed by just about anyone, regardless of age or level of fitness.
- This sport can be enjoyed in groups or solo, on the roads or with a stationary bike. You can also vary your pace, from leisurely touring to intense training.
- Incorporate bicycling into your schedule. Bike to work or when running errands.
- The beginning bicyclist may need only a three-speed bike, but many will prefer to have 10 or 12 speeds. This will make it easier for you to go over the hills and allow you to increase the resistance on the straightaways.
- Biking at a fast speed is excellent for weight control. Pedaling one hour at 13 miles per hour-a brisk pace-will burn about 650 calories.
- Bicycling is especially good for building the quadriceps (a group of four large muscles in the front of the thigh). Toe clips are useful if you have problems with your feet slipping off the pedals, but they also help you to work your calf and shin muscles. You may want to consider toe clips with a quick-release mechanism if the clips are especially snug-fitting.
A BICYCLING ROUTINE
Beginners will do fine riding for 20 to 30 minutes at a moderate rate. Try the following routine for a more disciplined approach.
- The first week: Work on getting comfortable with the bike and experimenting with gears. Try to ride 2 to 5 miles during the week and 5 to 10 miles on the weekend.
- The second week: Include a few short periods of faster riding in your routine. This is called interval training and will help you develop strength and endurance. Aim for 4 to 7 miles during the week and 10 miles on the weekend.
- The third week: Include five-minute periods of faster riding, separated by five minutes of easy riding. Ride 6 to 9 miles during the week and 15 miles on the weekend.
- The fourth week: Try doing one day of three-minute intervals, instead of five-minute intervals. Ride 8 to 11 miles during the week and up to 20 miles on the weekend.
Spare your tires. Storing your bicycle near appliances that give off ozone can age your tires, causing cracks and other damage to the rubber. Keep your bike away from refrigerators, freezers, and electric heaters.
THE RIGHT POSTURE
- Getting the right-size bike is important. When you straddle your bike, with both feet on the ground, there should be one to two inches between the front tube (the bar that runs from the handlebars to the seat) and your crotch.
- When you are seated, your leg should only slightly be. when it reaches the bottom of the pedaling movement.
- Bend forward at the hips- not at the waist-when you ride. Keep your back straight and your neck and shoulder muscles relaxed.
- When gripping the handlebars, keep your elbows slightly bent. This will give you better leverage and shock absorption when going over potholes or bumps.
- Ease the stress of a long ride by changing your hand position often.
DRESS FOR COMFORT, DRESS FOR SAFETY
- You can bike in just about any clothing, but serious bikers prefer a pair of chamois- lined shorts. These reduce chafing and pressure in the groin. A padded seat will also help you stay comfortable.
- Gloves are useful for reducing pressure on the palms that come from leaning on handlebars. Gloves will also protect your hands in case you fall.
RIDING WITH CAUTION
- Inspect your bike before every ride. Check the tires, brakes, gears, and headlight.
- Practice sudden braking techniques. Always squeeze both brakes, the front harder than the rear, and let up on the front brake if you feel yourself skidding. Sliding back in the saddle will also help stabilize the bike.
- Attach a loud horn to the handlebars and use it whenever necessary.
- Don’t ride at night unless you have no choice, and then use reflectors and headlights and wear reflective clothing.
- Secure flapping pant legs with rubber bands to avoid having them get caught in the bike’s wheels. Also, tuck in loose shoelaces.
- Rearview mirrors should be mounted on your handlebars, not on your helmet.
- A water bottle can come in handy, either to fight off dehydration or to squirt at overly interested dogs that may chase you.
Bicyclists are safest when wearing neon pink. It’s easy for motorists to spot this uncommon color.
BIKING IN ANY WEATHER
- Windchill rapidly becomes a factor when you’re traveling at 15 miles per hour. Consider wearing a mask to stay warm.
- Hypothermia can occur in temperatures as high as 60°F (16°C) on wet and windy days. Cyclists should wear gloves, leg coverings, and long-sleeved shirts when it’s cool outside.
- In wet weather, brakes don’t hold very well. Use caution when your hubs become wet.
- Take along something to drink when biking in warm weather, preferably two-quart size water bottles.
Bicycle helmets are a good idea whose time has finally come . When you consider the lifelong damage that one head injury can cause, you’ll see how important it is to wear a sturdy helmet every time you bike.
Buy only helmets that are approved by the American National Standards Institute or the Snell Memorial Foundation.
A properly fitting helmet should touch your head at the crown, sides, front, and back. Choose the smallest size that fits comfortably, and use the sizing pads included with most helmets to fine-tune the fit.
Put the helmet on and try to push to the sides, front, and back. If it moves enough to create a gap between your head and the pads, use thicker pads. If it’s still loose, get a smaller helmet.
Adjust the straps. With the helmet level across your forehead just above your eyebrows, the front strap should be close to vertical. The back strap should lie straight, just below the ear, without any slack. The chin strap should feel tight when you open your mouth.
Think of a helmet as a one-shot purchase. Once it’s been damaged in an accident or in
any other way, you’re better off replacing it-even when the damage isn’t obvious.