5 Tips for Better Cycling

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  • Whether you’re young or old, athletic or sedentary, bicycling is an enjoyable and healthy way to travel and experience the outdoors. Done vigorously, it gives the heart and circulatory system a workout and can burn more than 500 calories per hour. The development of new types of bicycles—notably the hybrid, which combines the speed of a road bike and the ruggedness of a mountain bike—has made riding easier and offers more options to suit your specific needs. What’s more, cyclists now have more places to ride. Here, ways to improve your performance, safety and comfort when cycling.

    1. Wear a Helmet

    More than 6,000 cyclists seek emergency care for head injuries each year in the U.S., and head trauma accounts for 75 percent of cycling fatalities. Used properly, bike helmets are nearly 90 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. Choose a helmet that meets the standards of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Or, look for a sticker from the Snell Memorial Foundation or the American Society of Testing and Materials. Pick a bright color and a helmet that fits snugly.

    2. Make Sure It Fits Your Frame

    Buying a new bike? To find the right frame size for your body, straddle the bike and stand flat-footed. On a road bike, there should be one to two inches of clearance between your groin and the top tube. On a mountain bike, the clearance should be at least two inches.Your handlebars should be one inch lower than your seat top. Buy your bicycle from a reputable dealer who will help you find the right bike and fit.

    3. Pick the Right Seat

    The hard, narrow seats on racing bikes can be particularly uncomfortable for women, who tend to have widely spaced “sit bones.” Special anatomically designed saddles—wider and more cushioned at the back—are easy to install. Gel-filled saddles or pads or sheepskin pads can ease pressure and friction. Position the saddle so that your knee is only slightly bent at the bottom of each rotation. If it’s bent too much, the seat is too low; if the knee locks when extended, or you have to reach for the pedal, the seat is too high. Adjust the seat’s “fore-aft” position and make sure the seat is level (or that the nose is just slightly higher).

    4. Start Slowly

    If you are out of shape, it’s best to start slowly. Pedal just 30 minutes or so a day on flat terrain for the first three or four weeks. Gradually, you can increase the intensity of your riding and your choice of terrain, adding hills for a better workout. Also, share the fun with others. Riding in a group can make the miles zip by faster and motivate you to become a better cyclist.

    5. Dress for Comfort

    If you cycle a lot, consider wearing a pair of sleek cycling shorts. They have less fabric to wrinkle or bunch up, so there’s less chance of skin irritation. For extra protection, choose cycling shorts with no seams at the crotch and special lining or padding to wick away perspiration. If you use clipless pedals, you’ll need to wear special cycling shoes with a cleat fitted to the sole; they lock into a mechanism in the pedals, holding the shoes in place. These can be a little hard to get used to, but help you pedal more powerfully and efficiently.

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