Cycling 101 – Every bike comes with a manual. Ok, so you finally went to the store and bought a bicycle for Christmas. What’s next? To lessen the chance for embarrassment, the best advice I can give is to take a look through the manual. The first rule says a bike helmet must be adjustable and never worn for anything but riding. Like any sport, there is the risk of injury and damage, but that is a risk that can be properly maintained with proper use.
The fitting of the bike. If your bike is too big or too small, make sure to exchange it for the right size. You will want to adjust the height of the saddle and the seatpost, and make sure the clamp is secured. Next, check the stem and handle bars for the correct height because they can be adjusted. Check the angle of the brakes too. Next, become familiar with operating your wheel quick release. I recommend also knowing whether or not your bike has suspension. Suspension can increase your speed. Customize these parts to complete the fitting process and maximize safety. Adjustable features may also include toeclips and straps, or clipless pedals which require special skills and techniques when riding. You will want to avoid “toe overlap.” This term is used when your toeclip hits the front wheel as you pedal.
Do a mechanical safety check before riding. Start by lifting the front wheel off the ground a few inches and then letting it drop down. Listen closely for any loose parts or accessories. Tires should be fully inflated. Spin each wheel to look for cuts in the tread and sidewall. If a wheel wobbles side to side, or rubs against the brake pads, take the wheel and have it trued at a bike store. The next step will be to squeeze the brake handles and look to see if the cables are seated and the cables are securely engaged. The brake pads should touch the wheel rim within an inch of brake lever movement. If you have quick release, they must all be closed and in the locked position. Finally, if the handle bar grips are not secure, have them replaced. Tighten anything that twists.
For your first ride, try something away from cars, cyclists, or other hazards. Test the brakes by shifting your weight toward the rear and applying gentle pressure. You should be going at a slow speed. Practice shifting gears, and remember never to shift while pedaling backwards because this could jam the chain. In addition to your helmet, always wear shoes, brightly colored clothing that is not loose and will not get tangled in the bicycle, and protective sunglasses.
Obey all riding laws and regulations in your city. Ride defensively and look ahead. Assume that others do not see you. Ride in designated bike lanes and stop at traffic lights. Never ride with headphones. Each of these conditions can increase the risk of accident, so be sure to follow them to the letter.
This week’s vocabulary word is All-rounder. Definition: A racing cyclist who excels in both climbing and time trialing, and may also be a decent sprinter. In stage races, an all-rounder seeks a top-10 place, in the General Classification.