Whether you’re hoping to sign up for a triathlon or a just wanting to take up biking to improve your fitness level there are a few simple things you need to do to make sure your biking experience is safe and successful.
1. Make sure your bike fits and is tuned up. Maybe you already have a bicycle; or maybe you’re hoping to find one at a yard sale this spring. No matter what your story is make sure your bike fits and is in proper working order. Proper working order means more than just having air in your tires. You need a bike tune up (gears/chain checked, brakes checked, etc). Knowledge is power. Find a bike shop in your local area. These folks can be a valuable resource. They can fit your bike, fit your helmet, provide bike tune-ups, and provide you with local race and training group details. If you’d rather do it yourself there are numerous websites that will show you how to measure for the correct size bike and tune- up your bike. Here are a couple I like: How to Measure and Buy the Correct Bike: 6 Steps, DIY Bike Tune-up.
2. Helmet time! Many people think they can just pick a bike helmet off the shelf, throw it on, and go. It’s a little more complicated than that. Even though, as a child, we drew stick figures with round heads, our heads are not round … nor are they identical. You need to try on several different helmets to find out that fits your head. Here’s a good website full of information about how your helmet should fit: Helmet.org.
3. Plot your course. Now that you have your bike and helmet ready to go it’s time to decide WHERE you’ll take your first bike ride. Hop in the car or put on those sneakers and let’s explore the neighborhood. Be aware of traffic congestion, parked cars, people, pets, terrain and distance. Would you be comfortable biking around cars? Do you want to ward off barking dogs? These are just a few things you want to consider when planning your first route.
4. Start off slow and be safe. Don’t over do it right away. When people think of biking they often assume their legs will be doing all the work. While it’s true your legs will be doing the bulk of the activity, the muscles in your arms, back, and neck will also have to keep up. Also consider investing in an anatomic relief bike seat. These are especially designed to prevent discomfort. The tilt of your bike seat is also important. Adjusting the tilt of your seat can make a huge difference in overall comfort. Start off with a few easy 30 minute rides and build from there. Also, don’t forget to wear bright colors (a reflective belt or vest is always a good idea too).
5. Set goals. Goals hold us accountable and propel us forward. For me, if I don’t set a goal, especially when it relates to fitness, I tend to lose interest over time. Is there a race you want to enter? (Lazyman Iron Tri, TriFinder ) Do you want to be able to bike with your children or grandchildren? Whatever your goal is write it down and work on it every day. Consider investing in a bike computer to help you track your distance, speed, and calories burned. You can order one here and install it yourself or have your local bicycle technician install it while he tunes up your bike. Apps can be a great motivator as well. One of my favorites is Map My Ride.
My overall favorite biking resource is probably REI’s Getting into biking website: REI Getting into biking. Here’s you’ll find information in biking, fit, gear, and repairs.
No matter what your background is or what your goals may be we hope you’ll join us in our quest for good health, fitness, and happiness. Here’s to you!