Wondering Wednesday #2 A bicycle built for me

With indoor exercise options limited due to Covid-19 and many people craving some classic outdoor fun, bicycling is booming in a big way. Has it been a few years since you last travelled around on two wheels? You might be nervous about hopping on a bike if that is the case. Thankfully, you will pedal with confidence again with a little know-how to help you along the way. Let’s begin with a refresher on how to ride a bike from an experienced rider, then grab your bike and helmet, head outside and enjoy the ride.

One of the first things to consider is what type of bike would be best for you to feel comfortable. You Learn about, the type and shape of bike that fits you properly. Being stuck with the wrong bike will make riding uncomfortable and steal all the fun out of it. Cycling is fun, and safe for people of all sizes.  But, it is important to find the right bike. Many off the rack models are made with aluminum frames and built to properly support riders up to 250 pounds. However, if you are not in this category, considering a steel-frame bike would be a better choice. In addition, a longer frame gives more stability and comfort to taller people, while the opposite would be better for a more petit person.  There are now, bike fit calculators available on manufacturer websites, or you could call the manufacturer for the specs and discuss options.

You likely weren’t rocking high-tech cycling clothes when you rode bikes as a kid. Good news is, you don’t need to start now unless you want to. Same goes for footwear, a pair of flat, close-toed shoes with decent grip will do just fine.  Just make sure you don’t risk catching you pants in a bike’s chain or wheels. Rolling up loose pant legs and tucking tied laces into shoes are a start. Also if you must wear a skirt stay away from long, flowing skirts, or anything with a fringe.

No matter how far you’re riding, be sure to wear a helmet that has a label stating it meets Consumer Product Safety certification in your country. In many places it is not just a suggestion, but law that a helmet be worn. It should fit snugly and sit level on your head, one to two finger widths above your eyebrows. The chin strap should be tight enough that only two fingers can slide beneath.

It is suggested that adjusting your seat so the top aligns with your hip bones, should enable you to extend your legs almost fully. Doing this should make sure your knees are slightly bent, at the bottom of each revolution and help minimize joint strain. Then walk your bike forward making a few circles, using the handlebars to turn and squeezing the brake levers to get used to the feel of the brakes and steering set up.

For a quick balance warm up on the bike take a hold of the handlebars in a comfortable position. By pushing off the ground with one foot, then the other foot, then let both feet hang off the ground as you coast forward for a short distance. Once you can do this without wobbling around uncontrollably, you’re ready to pedal!

Remember, since your body is your bike’s power source, you’ll definitely want to bring enough fluid and snacks to sustain you for your estimated ride length. But, to accommodate spontaneous detours you may want to over pack the healthy snacks. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends consuming 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of activity, as well as 6 to 12 ounces of water every 15 to 30 minutes. But to maintain a good level of hydration, I pack a powder that enhances the water with vitamins, peptides and enzymes which is healthy while it gives me a taste different than just water. But, I carry water in a camelback (a special water bottle that you carry on your back) for longer than normal rides. It has a straw that comes across your shoulder so you can grab it and sip whenever needed, healthy sport drink I like protein bars, nuts, and dried fruit for portability and I am not going to lie, sometimes a few pretzels.. just because. I often carry a small backpack that allows me to pack everything I need including snacks and water. However, I know some riders prefer to install a water bottle cage on their bike and tuck snacks into pockets. The trick is to find what works best for you.

To avoid hand, wrist, and elbow discomfort during your ride, keep your elbows relaxed and bent. It is also a good practice to change up your grip by moving your hands on the handlebars every so often. Try to prevent hunching up your shoulders toward your ears, which can also lead to pain. If your backside gets numb or sore, shifting along the saddle can often help. You may benefit from a different seat, if discomfort continues even after taking a break part way through the ride. The above pointers will also help when trying to find a good fitting bike to ride.

Riding short routes on flat surfaces that have minimal traffic and crowding are best before attempting any high-mileage treks.  Practicing a loop around a quiet park path, or an empty parking lot is a good place to start. Once you’re able to pay attention to more than the basics of staying upright, stopping, and turning, consider practicing on a paved hill. This allows you to build your skills without too much interference from vehicles, pedestrians, or other cyclists until you’re skilled enough to handle knowing how to read the movement of others around you.

Then move to rides that include city blocks, a little traffic but until you are comfortable stick to the sidewalks, unless you are lucky enough to live in an area with bike lanes.

But remember, if at any point you start sharing the road with cars, be very careful and aware of your surroundings especially at intersections with turning vehicles. You may not been seen if their blind spots obscure you. Attaching lights or reflectors to your bike for after-sunset rides and packing a small hand pump in case a tire loses pressure are good safety practices.

Safety also means listening to your body and going at your own pace. So be patient with yourself! Over the summer I have learned that once you get the hang of bicycling again, it really can be a joyful pleasure.  I plan to continue riding this year until the snow prevents it, so I am hoping for a long fall and a mild winter. But if that does not happen I already have plans to ride in a fundraising challenge in 2021 with double the mileage as my goal. Yep, gotta say I’m hooked.

You should give it a try you may just find yourself a new hobby.  It is a nice addition to a healthy lifestyle, one that gets you headed in the right direction, but even better is the amount of fun and things you will see along the way, ..the kind of things you miss when driving a car.  For me after a ride that proves that you are never too old to start again fills me with Gratitude & Joy and what more could I ask?


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