Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Cycling

Riding a bicycle can be an excellent form of exercise. It doesn’t have the high caloric burn of running but can be sustained easily for long periods of time to consume calories.

Proper equipment is vital to safe, effective riding. I recommend a hybrid bike for beginning riders. Hybrids have upright handlebars, relatively thin tires, and as many gears as you would ever need. The gear ratio is lower than road bikes to make hill climbing easier. You can purchase a good hybrid bike for $600. It will give you a comfortable ride and is very versatile. My hybrid had 21 gears and the pedals were duel purpose – one side accepted a riding clip while the opposite side used a standard shoe. My wife and I rode our hybrids for a couple of years and put several thousand miles on them before moving up to carbon fiber road bikes.

Start out slow and keep the riding distances short. We would ride up to coast about 13 miles early on a Sunday morning, have breakfast and ride home. That 26 mile trek was our long ride for the week. Try to add two shorter rides during the week, just like pattern used in running.

You can increase your long ride by 5 miles per week, for 3 weeks in a row, and then return to your previous long ride the next week for a brief recovery. Again, this pattern is very similar to that used to increase running distance.

It really helps to have a goal. I recommend you register for a charity ride. Pick a distance, and then set up a training schedule to prepare for the ride. You can find organized bike rides on the internet for your area. Distances vary from just a few miles to rides of 100 miles or more.

Safety is the number one concern. Always wear a good quality helmet. If you fall and strike your helmet, replace it. Replace it every couple of years regardless of damage as the UV light breaks down the plastic, rendering it less effective.

Install good lights on your bike. We use a flashing taillight, even in daylight, to assure that cars are able to clearly see us upon approach.

Obey all traffic laws. You are considered a vehicle and are held to the same standards as any car when on the road. That means stopping at red lights and stop signs, signaling turns, and even obeying speed limits.

Pick low volume roads, preferably with bike lanes, for your route. Many county websites have interactive bike route programs to help you plan a safe path. Rails-to-Trails has been converting abandon train tracks to safe bike routes all over the country. These routes are safe, well maintained paths free from vehicular traffic.

Bicycle shoes with clips make your pedal stroke much more efficient. They allow you to pull up on the backstroke with your hamstring while pushing down in a normal manner on the opposite side with the quadriceps. This balance helps prevent leg cramps and fatigue when riding long distance. The clips take some time to master so that you automatically “clip out” before you stop. Practice in a spinning class or on a stationary bike prior to road use until you feel comfortable with the procedure.

The Bottom Line:
I have heard that you crossover from a bicycle rider to a cyclist when you ride your bike more miles per day than you drive your car. Regardless, it’s a great form of physical exercise that can be performed for many years after running has become unmanageable.

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