There is still plenty of warm weather left for those of you STILL considering digging out your bicycle from that dusty corner in the garage. For the enthusiast, expert or novice, there are a number of points to consider and act upon before embarking on your adventures. Ignorance is not bliss. Absorb all the advice you can get before heading off and having fun.
1. Don’t leave home without a safety check of your bike and don’t put your kids on a bike unless you’ve given the bike a once-over. Check the gear changes, brakes, seat heights and bell and make sure it will be a comfortable ride for all. Sometimes cogs, chains and gears collect sand and grit and do not move as well as they should, especially if they’ve been sprayed with certain products in the past. Take a puncture kit with you or you may live to regret your outing!
2. Fitness is probably one of your motivations for getting on the bike. Bike-riding is, after all, a wonderful way of staying fit. But do try to ride with others, as this will provide you with the motivation to go for a ride even on days you’d rather stay in bed. If you know you can’t let someone else down, it keeps you accountable. If your buddy is of a comparative standard, riding with him/her will help push you to the next level. This is especially important for competitive riders. If fun is your main motivation for riding, other people will greatly enrich this too. You will make shared memories together, and time always goes quicker when you’re with other people. From a safety point of view, having companions may save your life one day. If you have no option but to ride alone, please ensure you have told others of your exact route.
3. Plan your ride before heading out. Know approximately the length of the ride and the terrain and whether the route is cyclist friendly with road provision made for riders in mind. Treacherous stretches of road may look inviting but is it worth the risk? When traveling by car take note of the roads and routes that would make for an ideal path of pleasurable pedaling. When riding, decide ahead of time that patience will be your guide. Many motorists may consider you a nuisance and feel you have no right to be there. Some will never even see you! Don’t take them on, they are bigger than you, and again, it is not worth the risk.
4. Physical provisions for the ride need to be addressed before and whilst on the road. At minimum have the water bottle attached and use it regularly. Hydration needs to be a continual process in order to get the most out of your exercise. For serious riders I would strongly suggest an amino-based drink. In my opinion one that delivers advanced energy and endurance formulation with carbs and replaces electrolytes will prevent dehydration and enhance performance. Bananas, other fruit and energy boosters will also result in aiding physical well being.
5. Give some thought to your clothing so that you’re both safe and comfortable. You need to stay cool in hot conditions and retain heat in cooler environments. Wear bright colors so you can be clearly seen. Don’t forget that helmets save lives: this is a proven fact. Never ride without a suitable helmet and if you are outfitting kids, make sure the helmet fits correctly and that the chin strap is tight enough. (Kids can sometimes loosen these and do not benefit from the necessary cushioning effect if and when they fall off). I would also strongly recommend that your bike be fitted with a number of reflectors and a light.
6. There are fewer lovelier sights than a whole family out cycling, from the tiniest tot strapped in to a bike seat behind mum or dad to Granddad and Grandma. Far from the tooting traffic, there are an increasing number of cycle tracks, which have been exclusively created for cycling enthusiasts. Find them, take the whole family and enjoy them. You will be modeling a fit, healthy lifestyle to the kids and hopefully they will carry on their cycling into adulthood. What better way to combat rising childhood obesity?
7. Post cycling is a thought that most may not have even regarded as important. However, especially for the serious or elite cycling athlete, the recovery and repair of muscle is a key to getting the most out of their sessions as well as enhancing their potential future performances. Protein is a key ingredient and building block of muscles, cartilage, bone and blood and a crucial factor in muscle growth, repair and recovery. Ever thought why a huge number of our professional athletes head straight for a whey protein drink or shake after exercise? Muscle recovery, repair and growth! After exercise it’s my first action. Shake and take.
There’s nothing like the feeling of sun on your face and wind in your hair. You’ll love the fresh air and sense of freedom you get when cycling. Don’t let anyone stop you getting out there and improving your fitness. Practice a little common sense, then do something your body (and family) will thank you for and go cycling as an informed, responsible cyclist!