Dear Stephanie and Bruce: I want to ride my bike more this year and complete a cycling event. What advice do you have for new and returning cyclists to develop a pedaling habit and experience the freedom of cycling? – Claire, age 39
Here are some simple tips to consider:
1 Inspect your bike to ensure it is safe and suitable for riding. Before each ride, inflate the tires to the recommended pressure, inspect the tread for slivers of glass, lift each wheel off the ground and spin it to check the brakes and lift the bike 6 to 12 inches above the ground and gently bounce it on the tires to discover the sound of any loose parts.
2 If you are not excited about riding or you experience pain in your joints when pedaling, your bike may not fit you well. One benefit of riding is to build up buns of steel, not buns that squeal. Visit a bike shop for fit adjustments to reduce physical strain and discomfort when riding. Also, if you are planning to purchase a new bike, buy it from a bike shop rather than a department store or warehouse club. You may pay more initially, but will receive greater value over time with a good fit and quality.
3 Wear a pair of cycling shorts with a cushion in the seat area or cycling underwear with a padded liner to mitigate the initial pain of the saddle. Most riders need a few rides to align their body with the saddle.
4 Always wear a properly fitting helmet and eye protection. Not only is this for safety but it’s the law in many cities.
5 Move indoors for stationary cycling when the weather is bad and you can’t ride during daylight. Many facilities have indoor cycling or “spin” classes or spin bikes on their fitness floor. Another option is to purchase an indoor trainer that you mount your own bike to. You don’t want inclement weather to interrupt your training schedule.
6 Work on consistency, attempt to maintain a steady pace or rpm (rotations per minute) no matter what terrain you are riding on. This may be easier to understand practicing on a stationary bike.
7 Purchase a good pump, tube and basic tools and learn how to use them. You will be more confident knowing that you can make minor repairs while on the road. Which leads us to the next point...
8 Know how to fix a flat tire. You will feel a lot more comfortable riding, knowing that in a pinch you can fix your own flat.
9 Find a paved trail. We have many in the Pacific Northwest – Enumclaw, Orting, Auburn, Kent, Maple Valley and Renton. You can build confidence riding on the trails without worrying about car traffic. Trails are a great way to develop bike handling skills and feel safe.
10 Don’t add too many miles too soon. Think about increasing by no more than 10 percent per week.
11Warm up, hydrate, cool down and stretch. If you are riding long distances, you need to refuel as well.
12 Are you looking for a cycling event? Check out Cascade Bicycle Club or a bike shop to find an event.
Contact us if you would like a specific training plan.
Stephanie Norton-Bredl is the health and wellbeing director at the Auburn Valley YMCA and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bruce deJong is a group exercise instructor at the Auburn Valley YMCA and may be contacted at email@example.com.