It’s ironic, really. A wealth of information available on the internet and yet there are simple bits of lore that can easily get overlooked by newer cyclists. Here’s ten in no particular order.
Number One: See those three screws on the back of your rear derailleur? If your gears aren’t shifting properly, don’t grab a screwdriver and turn them. Since they only control the overall range of derailleur motion, turning them won’t help you get the gears in the middle. That’s what the barrel shaped adjuster that the cable enters into is for.
Number Two: Soft wide seats aren’t necessarily more comfortable. They’re okay for a short jaunt to Timmies on your summer cruiser but for an afternoon ride they might not offer enough support. A firmer seat that offers stabilisation for your lower back is much better. If you need some extra comfort, a pair of padded shorts will be exactly what you are looking for. Less squish is sometimes the way to go.
Number Three: Match the number of water bottle cages to the number of mounts on your frame. Cycling is thirsty business and water is your gasoline. It’s absolutely zero fun to have to conserve water on a hot day because you didn’t bring enough and there isn’t a store around. It’s a much better idea to dump extra water into the flower garden when you get home because you didn’t drink it all. Need even more? You can get seat bags that have a water bottle pocket on them. Even more? There are cages available that attach to your handlebar. Be a camel.
Number Four: It’s actually better to wear a helmet on a hot day rather than go bare headed. First off, it becomes protection from the sun. Secondly, air is directed across your head through the carefully designed openings, keeping you cooler. You can always wet the pads with water too. Like black? Go ahead and buy a black helmet. They aren’t hotter than the other colors due to the relatively small surface area and the fact that air is constantly moving over it.
Number Five: Pump up your tires every day that you go out. Tires do bleed air over time, and the narrower the tire the faster it can happen. Having a floor pump in the same spot that you park your bike can help you easily develop a good routine. This small step can prevent something from puncturing the tire and save you a walk home. Oh, and wear shoes when you ride.
Number Six: Don’t forget to put a bell on your bike. No, they aren’t considered stupid. Cycling has increased in popularity and the trails in the evenings and on weekends can be really busy. Once the summer foliage comes in, those corners can be pretty blind. Ringing your bell when you’re heading into one can save you from a head on collision. It’s also a good courtesy towards other types of trail users. Depending on where you live, it’s most likely traffic law to have one as well.
Number Seven: This one’s easy. Learn to anticipate the hills and shift into the gear slightly before you need it. Even though modern bicycle drivetrains are made to do it, derailleur systems don’t really like to shift under extreme load. Neither do your knees. Stay seated, exhale slowly and try to keep a light touch on the handlebar. Having a death grip saps energy.
Number Eight: Install a cyclocomputer on your bike. It’s better motivation than pedalling empty miles, it helps you keep tabs on the progress that you’re making and lets you set realistic mileage goals. New “non serious” riders are always surprised at just how much mileage they pedal in a year. When the new year comes, it’s always fun to see if you can beat last year’s tally!
Number Nine: Remember that pump that we talked about? Well, flats are inevitable. You might go ten years without one, but eventually a flat will probably happen. It’s a good idea to carry a small portable pump and a spare inner tube that is the correct size for your bike. Cyclists are a friendly bunch. As long as you have the repair stuff with you, someone will usually come along and be willing to help you out if you aren’t sure how to tackle it yourself.
And Number Ten: Lycra cycling clothing isn’t just for pros. Far from it in fact. I’ll bet you that there are WAY more non-professional regular bike riders wearing this stuff than there are that get paid to ride a bicycle. What’s it do? It wicks moisture away from the skin, preventing chaffing. In the summer you can be soaked with sweat, but you won’t feel the chills as moving air hits your jersey. It can prevent saddle sores due to skin breakdown and it adds a ton of comfort, allowing you to tackle rides that are longer. It’s a big secret to riding far. In the winter it does the same thing, wicking moisture and preventing you from becoming chilled. Don’t like that tight spandex look? You can get loose fitting bike wear as well. It does exactly the same thing.
There you have it. Ten simple tips that you may or may not have considered. Let’s get out there and put them to use!