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5 Tips For A Better and Safer Bicycle Riding Experience

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 Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle… I want to ride my bicycle…Queen

To end Fantastic February, my hubbie and I went on a bicycle ride on a rather blustery, cloudy afternoon. As I watched my husband’s back most of the ride, I enjoyed the critters and birds along the trail. We saw a herd of 15 deer run through one area. I almost hit a gray squirrel as it chased another one across the road. At some vantage points along the river we saw snowy egrets, seagulls bobbing along the river, and several wild turkeys very close to the road. There were several fishermen standing knee-deep in the river, likely angling for salmon.

Our ride was 23.5 miles—longest one yet for me. I consider myself a recreational rider, only having just purchased my new bike last August. I have ridden around my neighborhood and the access road to the bike trail is just 10 minutes away.

Not only is cycling a great form of exercise, it provides an option to be outdoors and view nature’s beauty, and socialize with others.

I want to share some BASIC bicycle riding tips. If you are looking for a new sport or hobby with which to get you outdoors and moving, think about road cycling.

First and foremost, you will need to get a bicycle. This is where you will have to decide on what kind of riding you plan to do. If you just want to enjoy some recreational riding, a cruiser (comfort bike) may be a good fit. There are road bikes, mountain bikes and elite racing bikes, and a variety of hybrids. Mine is a road/cruiser hybrid that works great for me. See this website which shows examples of bicycles that may appeal to you. If you are looking for something new but reasonable, visit this website.

If you are on a budget, and don’t want to spend much money, consider renting a bicycle and trying it out. You can also visit retail stores like REI and test drive them. Once you get an idea of what works, try Craig’s list, swap meets (flea markets), or garage sales for cheap deals (but not something poorly made). My advice is to do some research and don’t make a hasty decision.

If you already own a bicycle and it hasn’t been out of the garage in a while, go dust it off and take a good look at it. If it has been sitting awhile, it will need new tires. Rubber ages and breaks down. To give your old bike new life, take it to a retail store or bike shop for a tune up. Most tune-ups are under $100. The safety factor alone is worth the price, not to mention the long term health of your bike! If you are a DIY fixer, then simply google Bicycle tune up. Here is a webpage with some good advice.

Safe Place to Ride
Check your community for maintained bike paths and trails. I am fortunate to live near the American River Bike Trail, maintained by Sacramento County Parks and Recreation Department. The trails runs 32 miles along the American River from Old Sacramento to Beals’ Point on Folsom Lake. The trail is well-maintained offering two lanes for riders and small unpaved shoulders for walkers and runners.

Although having a buddy to ride with is not mandatory, it does make your bicycling journey fun, especially if you take longer rides. If you do not have a biking buddy available, check your community for local bicycling clubs. Riding alone is fine if you use the advice in Tip 4 below.

Equipment/Safety Items
Although laws vary, buy a bicycle helmet. Period. If you are riding and you fall, the trauma to your brain can be catastrophic. Ironically, the very people who should be wearing bike helmets that aren’t, are the new riders! Helmets can range in price from about $25 to $150+. Walmart actually has great helmets in the lower price range.

Invest in a good pair of bike shorts. These have the padded crotch and if you ride for more than 20 minutes, you will wish you had a pair. I bought shin-length capris with built-in padding for riding in cooler weather, as well as cargo shorts with removable, padded bike short for warm days.

On any ride, whether it is a short ride to the store or a long road trip, bring a bottle of water! And always carry your ID, some cash, your house keys (if riding from home) and your cell phone. Your bicycle should come equipped with some safety items, like an extra tube, a tire pump, and a small road kit. For longer rides, bring along a snack that can be carried in a fanny pack. Check your retailers for ideas.

Many retail stores have sales on sports and recreation equipment. If you are serious about getting started cycling, visit the sales to pick up key pieces now.

Appropriate Fitness Level
With any new sport or hobby, make sure your fitness level is appropriate for the activity. If you just want to cruise along the beach boardwalk, or ride to your yoga class or the grocery store, then a reasonable fitness level should be sufficient. However, if you want to tackle 60-minute or longer road treks, then be sure to visit your doctor (disclaimer), to get a clean bill of health. If you belong to a gym, try using the stationary bikes to get an idea of how a ride might feel.

Bonus Tip: Apps
As technology creeps into our leisure time, more people are using apps on their mobile phones as tools to help with their fitness choices. I recommend a free app called “Map My Ride,” part of the Map My Fitness series. The app charts your route with a map, keeps time, mileage, miles-per-hour and calories burned. You can pause the workout and resume. It will save your workout so if you see a photo op, you can take photos without the app closing. The app also lets you share your workout on social media. For long rides, be sure your phone is fully charged.

Bicycling is a wonderful leisure pastime, whether you bike for a workout, a short trip, or a long ride—there is nothing like riding in the fresh air!

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