"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
Cycling is a fairly new venture for me, or at least it feels that way still. I’ve been riding a road bike for a year, off and on, but still feel like a neophyte to the wide world of bicycle commuting. But for the cyclists who are just getting started, I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned over the past year.
1. Find your own pace. It will get faster as you keep riding.
When I first started cycling, I put so much pressure on myself to keep up with people who had far more experience. You’ve really got enough to worry about just riding in a straight line sometimes. Focus on your stuff. And if you’re riding with a group, ride at the front of the pack to set the pace. Your friends won’t mind.
2. Wear your helmet!
For serious. I’m not a fan of looking like Toad from Super Mario Bros. (the resemblance really is uncanny) but sacrifices must be made! Even living in an area like I do where cyclists are common and drivers are used to giving us a break, things still can go wrong. Protect that noggin!
3. Get some glasses and gloves.
Come summer, you’ll be glad you did! I only had to do one commute in to work last year before I realized I needed glasses, desperately. When you’re coming down a hill hitting 30 mph the last thing you need is a bug in your eye. The pain! The distraction! The stopping to rub wings out of your cornea! You get the idea… Oh, and on the topic of bugs, don’t be a mouth-breather – unless you’re looking for a little extra protein on the go. Yup! Bugs will fly right down your maw. In through the nose, out through the mouth whenever possible. And gloves? Your hands will thank you for saving them from all those callouses.
4. Adjust your bike.
This is crucial if you decide to make any considerable commuting trips on your bike. It NEEDS to be the right size, height, length, reach, all of that. Cycling for any major distance makes you sore enough without adding bone structure problems because your bike doesn’t fit you well. Stop in to a bike shop if you don’t know how to make those adjustments on your own. It’s well worth it.
5. Assume you’re invisible.
And not in a fun, “I have superpowers” way, unfortunately… You take up so little of the road and drivers have plenty to distract. Do everything off of the assumption that people can’t see you. Make eye contact with drivers at intersections, and do it again for good measure. No flick of the wrist for hand signals, throw that arm out there and let the world know you’re turning left!
6. Use those gears!
First problem for me was that I really couldn’t figure out how those gears worked in the first place. If you’ve got that down, you’re way ahead! Second, I don’t know what my issue was, but when I first started riding I thought I should be able to power through any hill on whatever gear setting I wanted. Just varying degrees of difficulty, right?! Not so much… The idea is to keep the same pace of spinning with your legs regardless of the road grade. Your gears will need to change to help you do that.
7. Saddle soreness will happen.
Okay, not that we need to delve into this too much. Just be aware that your arse will be sore. It’s getting on your bike the second time in one day that’s really a pain in the a–… well, you get the idea. If you’re desperate to relieve the situation, the solution is a pair of bike shorts. I’ve got my eye on a pair of black capri leggings with a built-in butt cushion for when I do my 44 mile race. Money well spent!
Whether you’ve got an hour long commute or a 15 minute ride, enjoy it. I get this awesome sense of accomplishment knowing that I got from Point A to Point B on my own power. Enjoying a beautiful, sunny, crisp morning ride through the county at 15 mph is unbeatable. The increased energy level is great. And it really is fun!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, the saddle of my bike is calling…