Top Tips for New Cyclists
I pass a lot of happy folks while riding around town. They are going about their business and I'm really glad to see them out there on their bikes, being healthy and having fun. But there are a few small, obvious things that I see time and time again that I want to shout to the world. These quick and easy tips will make your cycling so much happier:
RAISE YOUR SEAT - This is the number-one crime I see daily - and it's a crime that riders commit against themselves! When your seat is too low you're not pedaling efficiently. I'm not talking about some barely-perceptible, Tour-de-France-rider, quarter-watt of increased power you'll feel it! It's a big, noticeable difference! Raise that seat up so that your leg is almost fully extended at the bottom of the pedal stroke. It should be about level with your handlebars. Not only will this make you less tired and able to go farther (really), but your knees will ache and your thighs will burn a whole lot less. Truly. I'm serious. Try it! Bonus: You'll look like a pro. You can always tell the rookies because their knees are just about hitting them in the chin.
PUMP UP YOUR TIRES - If your tires are low on air you will get flats which is HIGHLY annoying and can sap the fun out of any biking experience. They probably need more air than you think. The old squeeze test is not enough. Get a good floor-pump with a gauge and inflate them to the proper pressure (80-120 Lbs for road bikes). Try it if you don't believe me. I bet if you approve them by the squeeze method, then put a gauge on there you will find they are still drastically under-inflated. High and tight!
BEND YOUR ELBOWS - I see people riding with stiff arms all the time. It's just not comfortable. Relax, flex your elbows and use your body to absorb the bumps. Your joints will thank you. Speaking of which...
FLOAT OVER BUMPS - The most expensive, shock-absorbing, full-suspension mountain bike in the world can't even come close to the long travel, super-duty shock absorbing power of your god-given legs. Look at all those flexible parts: ankles, knees, hips, back. A "long-travel" mountain bike shock has maybe 8 inches of float, max. And that's on a big-mountain, downhill bike. City bikes have 2-3 inches at best. Your legs can do way better than that! I even ride a hardtail mountain bike on some of the most challenging terrain in the state. Big jumps, drops, gnarly rocky terrain and everything. It's all in the legs, I tell them! New cyclists often complain of getting a sore butt. Well, that may happen (It goes away after a week or so of regular cycling, by the way). But a huge contributing factor to that sore butt (based on my observations, while riding with many new cyclists) is that they don't stand up when riding over bumps. They remain fully seated and take all the impact of the road directly in the posterior! You don't even have to stand all the way up. Just float your butt above the saddle an inch or two when you see a bump coming. Your fanny will thank you. And so will your spine. A hard bump taken in the saddle can be pretty jarring, all the way up your back. Pay attention, see them coming and float right over them.
PUSH YOUR HELMET FORWARD - I think I see an exposed forehead just about every day, especially in kids, but also with adults. Push that thing forward until it sits just above your eyebrows. Imagine if your forehead hit the pavement, is it protected?