Bikes, Bikes are everywhere and have been around for years (proof of evidence in the photo below). Used for sport, ridden for fun and used as a means of transportation in getting the rider from Point A to Point B, the bike has a spot in history and in most of our hearts. I can still remember my Dad teaching me to ride my purple Huffy two-wheeler, after having the training wheels removed and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. Nostalgic. In urban areas all over the country, tomorrow is National Ride Your Bike To Work Day, which couldn't come at a more appropriate time. With obesity on the rise, gas prices through the roof (bike purchases are up 9%, due to the rise in gas prices), this is a perfect time for us to hop on our metaphorical bikes and go for a ride through an introduction of cycling. Grab your helmet (or coffee) and let's go!
I've only recently learned how to ride a bike in another context, clipping into the pedals, used during my races last year. Before signing up for the Ironman, I had never clipped into a bike. (Nothing like jumping right in with both feet) Talk about "letting go of fear." Clipping into those pedals and riding for miles, for me, meant pushing off for the ride with a smile and returning home with at least one scrape and some blood from a fall. And, of course, the smile!
Eventually, I figured it out and while I continue to fall on occasion, I've learned that riding a bike is extremely technical. While I won't deep dive into all of the details, here is a Bike 101, appropriate for tomorrow's Bike Day and for those interested in picking up a new (and fun) hobby.
- Wear a helmet. Always. No one plans an accident, so you never know when one might happen. Be prepared and protect your head.
- Make sure you have a bike that fits you. Bikes are made with different sized components - top tube, stem, down tube - and you want to make sure your bike measurements are right for your body. If not, your body mechanics will be out of alignment, causing knee and/or back pain. My shorter torso requires a different sized top tube than someone with a longer body frame.
- Have the appropriate clothes for riding. As funny as the padded bike shorts look, if you're riding for hours, your bottom will thank you after you dismount. Trust me! If you are commuting to work, you don't need to don the bike shorts and a jersey, but be sure your clothing selection is best suited for the ride (i.e. no flowing skirts, flip-flops, or short skirts). If you are wearing pants, be sure to roll up the right leg, to prevent it from scraping along the greasy gears.
- Hydrate and fuel. Aim for 12-20 oz of fluid per hour, but sip it throughout that time period. If you're going for a one-hour ride, there's no need to fuel, but anything over that, you'll want gels or bars to sustain your energy throughout the ride.
- If you are new to riding, find a route with as little traffic as possible. While many states have bike laws in place to protect the riders, many motorists are unaware of these laws.
- Carry a cell phone with you for emergencies. Road ID is another great idea for runners and riders, as is making an Emergency Contact card (laminated to protect against sweat) to carry with you.
- Watch for the opening of car doors. I know that I don't always look out my side mirror for cyclists before exiting the car... most people don't.
- DO NOT listen to your iPod while riding. It might help to motivate you during a workout (or meditative on your commute) but it doesn't help you to hear cars or emergency vehicles coming up behind you.
- Be alert. Even with state laws against texting and driving, many drivers still do. Be cognizant of your surroundings.
- Obey traffic laws and don't ride on the sidewalks.
- Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the many benefits of biking!