Matt Assenmacher's 10 Tips
10 Bicycling Tips From Matt Assenmacher
Select The Right Bike
Here is an exercise in compromise. There are many styles of bicycles and most are available in various sizes. First and foremost, any bicycle must be sized correctly. It makes no more sense to try to be comfortable and efficient on a poorly fitted bicycle then it does to try to wear poorly fitted shoes. Good bikes come in a variety of frame sizes that allow the three "contact points" (saddle, feet, and hands) to be positioned in a way that will be comfortable and efficient. Select the type of bicycle that will be most appropriate for the type of riding you expect to be doing. Good bicycles are not toys, but vehicles that are not motorized. Saddle height and handlebar reach are two areas that need to correctly adjusted in order for you to have a great cycling experience. This can only be accomplished when the bicycle frame is the correct size.
There is one piece of equipment that has become almost universal among knowledgeable cyclists in the last twenty years, and that is the bicycle helmet. They are light and comfortable. They can save your life in the event of an accident, and are a sign that you know what you are doing. Wear one!
Always Ride With Traffic
You are a vehicle when you are on the road. Use the same rules and courtesies you would when operating a motorized vehicle. Ride Friendly! Be courteous! Be predictable! Respect traffic! Follow the "Rules of the Road". First and foremost, ride with traffic. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about this. It is not safe to have two vehicles (cars & bicycles) using the same roads following different rules. You can test for yourself the most convincing argument. We are always taught to look both ways when entering or turning on to a road, and this is a good rule. But experience has taught us that traffic will be approaching from the left. So unconsciously we tend to look to the left to a greater extent then to the right because we expect to see the traffic coming from the left. Not only do we not look to the right as long or as often, we do not expect to see traffic coming from that direction so that even if we look we may not see it. A cyclist is a relatively small vehicle. It is to your advantage to be where you are most likely to be seen.
Gain Riding Skills
Confidence can only be obtained through practice, participation, and overcoming your fears. Try to pick areas to ride that are less threatening. Bike and multi-use trails and paths are becoming more common and very popular. Develop your riding and bike handling skills in these areas. You will become more skilled and less intimidated in no time.
If you are trying to learn how to stay upright, shift your gears and manage a difficult traffic situation all at the same time, of course you will be anxious. If you are mountain biking, try some less aggressive trails or some unpaved roads to get started.
Ride With A Group
Cycling is social! Many people that are new to cycling are pleasantly surprised to find out how much fun it is to ride with friends. There are local club rides and other organized rides every weekend all summer long. Plan a winter ride down south or on the west coast. By riding with people you will develop your skills much faster and have fun at the same time. Join the local cycling organizations. This is the best way to "network" your way into finding the fun rides and the people that you would like to ride with. Do not be intimidated by being "dropped". Stay with it! It may take a few rides to get together enough skill to "hang with the pack". Many club rides will have someone that will watch out for the new riders and make sure they are getting along okay. Don't be intimidated, just ask for help! Look and ask about "No Drop" rides. Everyone out there had to start somewhere. Get a regular group of two or three people set a time and a place for a weekly ride. The miles will peel by and you will look forward to these mini rides.
Know Your Equipment
The bicycle is a mechanical marvel, but one of its most outstanding and enduring features is its simplicity. You do not have to be a mechanical engineer to understand your bicycle. And once you understand how it operates you are no longer helpless when you have a problem. Keep your tires inflated. Keep the hardware adjusted. Even what many people consider major jobs on a bicycle are in fact relatively simple procedures that can be accomplished by most anyone with the desire to learn how and a few simple tools.
Correct bicycle fit is the single most important factor in rider comfort. You and the bicycle connect at three spots: the seat, the pedals and the handlebars. The frame must allow these three areas to end up in the proper relationship for you to be comfortable. Adjust the saddle height so that with your heel on the pedal, your leg just straightens out at the bottom of the stroke. Then when you are riding with the ball of your foot on the pedal you will have just the right bend in your knee. Most bicycle seats have the ability to move fore and aft a short distance. Try to keep the seat level with the ground and positioned so that your hips are positioned on the widest section of the saddle. This, of course, is the most basic of information. Come on in and we can help you get dialed in on proper fit.
For longer rides there are several interrelated pieces of clothing that work together to keep you more comfortable and make you more efficient. Bicycle shorts are available in several styles and they are all designed to increase your comfort while riding. Most are designed to give additional padding in the seat and to allow freedom of motion in the leg. A variation of these are the padded briefs that can be used under more conventional clothing. Gloves are designed to pad and protect the other major contact point with your bicycle. Many of these have sophisticated materials to increase comfort. Shoes are your power transmission devices. Cycling shoes are stiff so that the foot is protected from the pedaling forces. This stiffness also allows more of your power to be transmitted to the bicycle. Several systems are available that allow the cycling shoe to more efficiently connect to the pedal.
Cycling jerseys are colorful and functional. The pockets found in the rear of the jersey allow you to carry personal items or food. They are in the back so they are supported while you are riding. Many other clothing pieces and accessories can make cycling enjoyable in all except the very worst weather conditions.
"Bonking" or "hitting the wall" are two ways of describing the physical and mental fatigue or exhaustion that can occur while exercising. Your body has more or less run out of the readily usable energy sources it needs. The rule of thumb is to drink before you get thirsty and eat before you get hungry. You want to maintain your energy level--not recover. When your energy levels are depleted, it is a long, lonely ride and can take some time to recover. Have a banana in your jersey, or one of the many "power bar" type energy foods. Remember, don't eat too much, but eat small amounts early and often. Often, by the time you think you are hungry, it may be too late. You can drink water almost constantly on a bike and not have too much. A little experience will tell you what you need.
Expect The Unexpected
Fill your water bottles. Keep your bicycle tires inflated (the pressure is written on the side wall of the tire), and check them for wear and damage. Carry a spare tube and a pump (know how to use both!). Wear a helmet. Make sure your bicycle is sound, and in good repair. Have a power bar or energy food in reserve. Do not ride on compromised equipment. It is not safe and certainly not a good gamble. Use a good light system if you ride in the evening, dark, or early morning. Carry identification and a cell phone or have money for a call.
Have Fun, Be Fit, Save Money, Be Ecologically Friendly
The bicycle is a marvelous invention. Use it often. Park your car. On a bicycle you can travel 2,439 miles on the energy equivalent of 1 gallon of gasoline. While riding a bicycle, you become the most efficient animal in the world.