If you've not been on a bike for awhile or the last bike you rode had a banana seat and a white basket with plastic daisies on it, it can be a little daunting getting, well, back on the horse or in this case bike. So to help you out, Alex from Cycling Australia has come up with a few pointers to get you peddling. We've sourced some cycling fun from the vaults.
Cycling is a great activity for everyone, whether you are younger, older, out of shape or already active and looking for some variety in your exercise regime. Cycling will improve your overall cardiovascular fitness and strengthen and develop the muscles in your legs, hips and bottom. It is also a fantastic stress reliever and develops a strong mind; whether it is by riding a large hill, pushing yourself to ride that little bit further each time or by taking a new route or path and exploring new territory. It’s also great fun and can be a great way to socialise!
To get started, your bike should be well maintained, either by yourself or by taking it to be serviced at your local bike shop. If you are looking to purchase a new bike, visit your local bike shop to be sized up and to chat about the type of bike that will best suit the type of cycling you wish to do. There is a common misconception that the bigger the bike seat, the more comfortable the ride. Do not be fooled! Find a bike seat that is most suited to your body shape (your “sit bones” should be the width of the seat).
Aside from a bike, an Australian Standard helmet that fits well is a must. Shorts or leggings and a shirt with sleeves and a collar should be worn. If you wear long pants, they should be fitted at the ankle to ensure that they do not get caught in the chain. If you intend to cycle regularly or go for longer rides, a cycling jersey and knicks (padded bike pants) can be purchased and will provide you with pockets for your phone and house keys (and perhaps a little change for a coffee!) and additional comfort for sitting on your bike for longer periods of time.
A pair of closed in shoes (with the laces tucked) is recommended. For additional protection from the sun, a soft brimmed hat can be worn under your helmet (not hard peak caps with the buttons on top, if you do happen to fall off and land on the top of your head the button can cause serious damage), wear sunscreen and avoid cycling in the hottest part of the day. Make sure your bike is fitted with a water bottle holder and remember to drink regularly before, during and after your bike ride.
Once you have all your equipment and clothing sorted, it’s time to get riding!
Training & Skills
Training for cycling is easy as you can do as little or as much as you like, whenever you like. As long as there is a road (for road cycling), ideally low in traffic, or an off-road route (such as a shared pathway or mountain bike route), you can cycle for any length of time on any type of terrain you like, such as flat, hilly or undulating routes.
Developing your cycling skills is very important to ensure that you can safely negotiate your way on your bike ride and to maximise your enjoyment. To improve fitness or lose weight, riding at a low intensity for extended periods of time (e.g. A road or mountain bike ride for anywhere from 30 minutes onwards) approximately three times a week is a good start. If you are new to cycling, start out with a shorter ride on flat terrain close to home. Slowly build up to longer rides, including some hills and undulating terrain to add variety and new challenges. To build strength and improve your fitness further; ride for longer, alternate your gears to make pushing the pedals harder or easier, ride hillier routes or alternate standing or sitting in the saddle (seat) when climbing hills.
The amount of cycling required will depend on the type of cycling you wish to do. If your goal is simply to be fit enough to cycle in your local area with your children or to cycle to the local cafe for coffee with friends, the training time to do this will be minimal. However, to take part in a long distance participation ride, a person new to cycling may need to allow 3-6 months to prepare, beginning with cycling 1-2 times per week and gradually building up to 3-5 times a week. Gradual increases in time, distance or intensity can be made to prepare the body for the 100km ride. In comparison, to commute to work by bike may only require 1-2 weeks of training time, given the distance from home to work will be substantially less than a 100km.
The most important parts of any cycling you do are that you ride safely and enjoy yourself.
To race in a cycling event, aside from the physical training, you need to learn the essential skills relating to cycle racing. These skills can be learnt over time through the support of a qualified cycling coach who has experience coaching cyclists. To take part in a cycle race, whether it is on the road or on the track (velodrome or BMX), a cyclist should first consult a coach or the local club to find out more about how to get involved. Consider joining your local cycling club and signing up for a cycling tour, mass participation ride or perhaps trying your hand at racing.
Cycling also has many major events on its calendar, both internationally and domestically for competition and participation. You can cycle competitively on the road, velodrome (i.e an enclosed cycling track made of wood or concrete), on a BMX track or in the bush on a mountain bike. If competition is not your thing, you can take part in a number of annual participation events around Australia including the annual Amy’s Ride in memory of Amy Gillett (held in various States), Around the Bay in a Day (Vic) and Gear Up Girl Challenges held in SA and NSW just to name a few.
Tell us about your first bike in the comments below
Vintage Bike Pic Sources: