Words of Wisdom for Novice Road Riders
Here are the top 10 “words of wisdom” for novice riders, from experienced riders.
- Group riding
If it is your first ride with a group, tell the leader. Arrive 15 minutes early (the posted time is the time they usually leave the meet area). Talk to the people on the ride if you’re having trouble and don’t know how to change a tube. The posted speed is the average speed, you may go faster and slower than that speed. Be aware of people and obstacles around you. Always tell the ride leader or at least someone when leaving the group. If you ride in front of the ride leader, the leader is no longer responsible for you. If you are in a paceline, keep it smooth. Don’t brake and don’t speed up when taking your turn at the front. Be careful when standing up, so as not to cause your bike to kick back. Point out obstacles. Don’t stare at the person’s wheel in front of you, and please don’t hit it.
- 50% Rule
Don’t try a ride longer than 50% more miles than you have previously ridden. Be able to drink while you are riding. People start a ride that is 50, 70 or more miles, but they have never ridden more than 15 miles at a time before. They suffer badly and may possibly “hang up the bike.” If a new rider wants to ride a century, they should build up to it by doing successively longer rides each weekend in the six weeks leading up to the big event. There are several bike clubs that post rides on a calendar. The largest bike club in the Lehigh Valley is Lehigh Wheelmen Association.
Don’t wear it unless absolutely necessary. That includes underwear – all kinds of underwear too! Bike shorts are designed to be in direct contact with your skin and the wicking fabric pulls the moisture away. The padded chamois usually has antimicrobial fabric. Cotton soaks up moisture and can cause chafing or blisters.
- Tire Pressure
Check it before every ride. Riders often overlook pressurizing tires and ride on underinflated tires. This can increase the chances of pinch flats. Inflating to the maximum pressure on the tire sidewall is almost always too much. Too hard tires handle poorly, are more susceptible to punctures, wear faster, and don’t significantly lower rolling resistance, as many are lead to believe. Be careful keeping your bike in the car in the summer, the tube may burst or go flat.
Clean and lube the chain often. The chain is a critical part of the bike’s performance and safety. There are tools available to check chain stretch. Most chains should be changed after about 2,000 miles. When purchasing a new chain, know if you need an 8-, 9- or 10-speed chain. You will need a special chain tool to remove and replace the chain, unless you have a master link. Measure the new chain again once the old chain is removed. If you are unsure how to do this, visit a local bike shop and they will replace it for you for a small fee.
- Seat Height
Correct seat position allows for a slight bend, about 30% at the knee, at the bottom of the pedal stroke. You’re not supposed to reach the ground while sitting on the seat. A low saddle stresses the tendon that connects your kneecap to your tibia. A high position forces you to reach for the pedals, which can strain the tendons in the back of the knee. So if your knee hurts in the back, lower your seat. If it hurts in the front, raise your seat. Only move the seat in small increments until you reach the best height for you. All this assumes your bike is the correct size for you.
A professional bike fitting is well worth the money. Visit your local Performance Bicycle shop for more information on a professional bike fit.
- Proper Nutrition
Drink before you’re thirsty and eat before you’re hungry. Some believe you should drink every 15 minutes and eat every 15 miles. Hunger and thirst signals mean that your body is already lacking something. You don’t want to bonk; it can be ugly. Handy fast snacks include gels, Fig Newton’s, food bars, honey, trail mix, PB&J, etc. This is really important when riding more than 50 miles.
You really need to pay attention to eating nutritious foods and stay well hydrated in the days prior. In addition, make sure you bring more water and food than you think you’ll need on the ride. On rides longer than an hour, a recovery drink should be consumed within 20 minutes after getting off the bike.
Ditch the flat pedals and toe clips. You will become more efficient when pedaling with clipless pedals. Learn to pedal circles. Imagine tracing a circle with your heel. Concentrate on pulling up, pushing the pedal across the top, and pulling backward at the bottom, as if you’re trying to scrape mud off the sole of your shoe.
Shift them. When you slowly push hard gears, your leg muscles do most of the work. Spinning smaller gears and pedaling faster transfers the workload to your aerobic system. You’ll find a sweet spot where no part of your body feels like it’s working too hard. So if you’re tired in the legs, shift to an easier gear, if you’re tired in the lungs, shift to a harder gear.
Also, remember to clean your cassette at least monthly. If shifting is rough, makes a lot of noise or the chain skips, the cables may have stretched and you will need an adjustment. If you are unsure how to do this, visit a local bike shop and they will do it for you for a small fee or no fee, if you purchased the bike at the shop.
- Road Rules
Hold your line. Don’t cross the center line. Ride no more than two abreast. Don’t ride on the shoulder. Obey the traffic signs and signals. Ride and act like you are driving a car, and always signal in which direction you intend to turn.
By: Sallie Urffer
Performance Bicycle Store Associate