I've been riding my road bike for almost two years now and have made my fair share of mistakes and improvements in that time. So you can learn from my mistakes, I'm sharing a few bike tips so you can stay safe, comfortable, and happy while biking!
- Always wear a helmet. This is the most important safety info when it comes to bike riding and that's why it deserves its place at #1. A helmet can save your life. It doesn't matter if you are just riding around in town or out for a ride on a country road, you should wear a helmet. Even the best riders can crash or you can be surprised when a person walks out in front of you or a car cuts you off.
Anytime your helmet has a impact it needs to be replaced. The foam portion of the helmet is made for one-time use and will not absorb the force nearly as effectively once it has been impacted. Even if it looks okay, it's time to replace it. (reference)
- Keep your knees pointed forward. I've seen many other cyclists pedaling with their knees pointed out at a 45 degree angle from their bike. First off, I don't understand how this can be comfortable. Second, this form is reducing the power, you can apply to the pedals.
- Get your bike properly fit. One of the reasons #2 occurs is because the bike isn't properly fit to the rider and the rider might feel like their knees are too close at the top of the pedal stroke. A proper fit will help you get the most out of your bike while staying comfortable and minimizing the risk for injury.
My bike store did a free basic fit when I bought my bike. They watched me pedal on the bike trainer and made seat and handlebar adjustments from there. Another type of bike fitting involves monitoring your power via a computer and making adjustments to maximize your power output. Here's some additional information.
Check your local bike store for more information on their fitting process. You can also read about Erin's experience of bike fitting.
- Skip the pedal mashing and spin in a high gear. Mashing refers to pedaling slowly in a too high gear. In other words, it is taking a lot of effort to move the pedals around in a stroke and your legs aren't moving too fast. It is more efficient to spin--moving legs quickly in a low, easier gear. Cadence is the rate at which you pedal and is measured in revolutions per minute. So remember--high cadence, low gear. This is especially helpful on hills! (reference).
- Relax the rest of your body. After my first triathlon--an off-road mountain biking triathlon that I was NOT prepared for--my forearms were so sore. Why? Because I spent much of the race terrified of crashing my bike and squeezed the handlebars and brakes too much. So learn from my mistake and keep a loose grip on those handlebars and relax your shoulders and your arms. You want to be putting as much energy into your pedals as possible and squeezing your shoulders up to your ears is wasting that precious energy.
- Hydrate. In the heat of the summer, biking can be a great alternative to running. You can move much faster on the bike and the action of the air moving over your skin will help keep you cooler. But just because you feel cooler, doesn't mean you still aren't sweating and losing water. I carry two insulated water bottles with me on my rides and recommend you always take water with you as well.
- Build up slowly. Running plans often have runners increase their long run by 1-2 miles each week. The general rule is no more than 10% increase each week. The same type of slow build up should be applied to biking as well. My triathlon training plan has me increasing my long bike each week by 5 miles. If that seems too long for you, try increasing your ride by 10 minutes. Don't forget to take a recovery week every 4 weeks or so as well. Before you know it you will be ready for the tour de France.
- Get some bike shorts, your butt will thank you. A bike seat can be a little uncomfortable if it's been awhile since the last time you were on one. The more you ride your bike the better you will be at learning to put more weight in your legs and less on the saddle which will help alleviate your pain in the butt. Another great way to make your ride more comfortable is to invest in a pair of padded bike shorts. It will really help your stamina on those long rides. Also bike shorts are meant to be worn sans undies. Less seams means less risk for chafing.
- Lube up. Some of us are more prone to chafing than others and my body seems to fall onto the "oh there is a slight seam there? I'm going to make all the skin rub off" category. It's not very pleasant. It doesn't heal very nicely either. The best medicine is prevention so before you head off for a ride, slick up those chafing-prone areas. For me those are around my sports bra and where my shorts might rub on my bottom. I've used both BodyGlide and Aquaphor, but I've also heard of a product called Udder Cream.
- When in doubt, slow down. This is definitely a "Do as I say, not as I do" tip. I'm incredibly guilty of riding too fast when the conditions are questionable or my bike handling is poor. And I've paid for it dearly with numerous crashes and bad road rash. Matt has yelled at me more than once for going too fast. Other people, wet pavement, loose gravel, and curvy roads are all good reasons to take it slower. And more words of wisdom from Matt, "You don't have to try to impress me." So slow down.
And now for the giveaway! One entrant will win a free entry to the Venus de Miles all-women's road ride in Lake County, Illinois, on July 28. Winner will have the option of the 25-mile or 61-mile route. You can read about more about Venus on my previous blog post. This year, Venus de Miles will help support 9 Greenhouse Scholars from Illinois. In total, 27 Greenhouse Scholars make up the Class of 2017 and together they have volunteered over 16,500 hours in their communities.
For more bike reading, check out these articles.
Disclosure: I am an ambassador for Venus de Miles and am provided with a free entry for the ride. I was not compensated for this post.