The ABCs of cycling

Lamborghini with a bike rack

The Dallas Morning News has a great story today on cycling for beginners. They even developed some ABCs of cycling that I’ve included below. As someone who was “bitten by the cycling bug” 2 years ago, the best advice I can give is to get out and ride. Riding cures everything. You’ll learn how to stay upright and steer the bike with practice; you’ll learn how to change a flat via “baptism-by-fire” when you are stuck on the side of the road by yourself and try to figure out how the tire lever works; most important, all the little aches and pains you have when you first start riding (hand pains, sore neck, sore butt) all magically go away as you ride more.  In the words of Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist ever, when asked for his advice to younger riders who wanted to become professionals, he said simply, “Ride lots.”

Always wear a helmet. Even a slow-speed fall can cause traumatic head injury because of the distance to the ground.

B is for bike store, not big box. A good bike shop has employees who can help you sort through myriad choices and price ranges. A bike shop can put you on the right bike for your needs and in the correct size.

Commute. Consider using a bicycle as a transportation alternative. Each gallon of gasoline you save keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air and $3.50 in your pocket.

Don’t try to do too much too soon. Build a base with short rides on a regular basis. Increase your time or distance by 10 percent each week.

Enter a bike rally; there are many to choose from. A rally is a goal to train for and will expose you to the cycling bug. It’s fine to start with a short distance.

F is for fun, not just fitness. Fitness, weight and other goals are fine, but you’re more apt to reach them if you’re having fun.

Gears. Learn to use them. Pedaling, especially initially, should be easy. Think circles as you pedal, not individual downward strokes. (See Knees.)

Hills. Find a hill and ride up it; that’s what it’s for. Hills build core strength that will allow you to fly across the prairie. No hills? Then ride into the wind.

Inner tube. Have one that’s right for your bike, and know how to change it on the road.

Jersey. A good bike jersey wicks perspiration away from your body, keeping you cooler. Many have three pockets in back for cellphones, inner tubes or an energy snack.

Knees. Many of you considering bike riding are high-impact-sport enthusiasts who need relief. Cycling is kind on the knees.

Lock. Get a good one.

Maintenance. Take a class or ask a cyclist about taking care of your bike. Your first goals should be to change a tire and maintain the gear chain.

Neighborhood. You shouldn’t have to take your bike somewhere to ride it. Even people in busy areas should be a couple of blocks from an acceptable riding area. Remember, frequency is the key.

Outside. One of the best elements of cycling, even in Texas. Spring (now!) is an ideal time to start, and if you do, you will be able to ride through the summer heat. Airflow is nature’s air conditioning.

Pump. Get a good one and use it. Properly inflated tires will help you roll merrily along.

Quick release. Proper rear wheel quick-release tension is critical. You might find yourself on the pavement with the first hard pedal stroke.

Right of way. You have all the rights and responsibilities of any other vehicle on Texas roads, but remember to yield to cars. You don’t want to be dead right.

Saddle. Perhaps the most important part of the bike, it’s where the rider meets the bike. If riding is a pain, you probably haven’t found the right saddle. There are saddles for men and women. The correct narrow seat should be much more comfortable than a wide, tractor-style seat. Consult a good bike shop.

Tire tools. These little beauties will help you change a tire without puncturing the new tube.

Underwear. Don’t need it. That’s what the silly black shorts are for. The built-in chamois liner keeps you from getting chapped.

Velodrome. Check out the races this summer at Superdrome in Frisco, 9700 Wade Blvd., for a preview of cycling events in the Olympic Games. Track racers compete on a banked oval. See www.superdrome.com.

Water. You’ll need plenty in Texas. Water bottles are cheap and get the job done. Caution: If you ride rallies, the freebie bottles can take over like bamboo in a flowerbed.

eXtras. You’ve got plenty of time to get extras. Start with a bike, helmet and pump, if cash is a barrier. Then slowly add cycling shoes, gloves and a heart rate monitor.

Yellow Jersey. Watch at least some Tour de France race coverage in July. It’ll add to your enthusiasm during the dog days of summer. Enjoy the ribbon of team colors as it flows through the French countryside.

Zen. Grasshopper: The sum of cycling is greater than its parts. It’s man or woman and machine; a time to think through problems while gaining confidence in your ability.

2 responses to “The ABCs of cycling

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