On November 23, 2003, I attended the Velo Girls' Basic Bike Clinic that's held on the third Sunday of every month. I took copious notes while I was there and am posting them here.

Welcome & Introductions

About the Velo Girls

  • Lorri Lee Lown ("Lown" rhymes with "clown") is the founder of Velo Girls
  • General website is VeloGirls.com
  • Activities - online calendar at www.VeloGirls.com/current.html
  • Email Group - www.yahoogroups.com/group/VeloGirls. It's free to join and ladies only! I've posted to the group several times already and I've always received tremendous help and support, even from people I don't know
  • Membership - Check out the enrollment page to see the various types of membership (juniors, ladies, with/without option to purchase the spunky Velo Girls cycling jersey) and benefits (ongoing discounts on gear, frames, etc.)
  • Special discount at Summit Bicycles the day of the clinic: unless you're buying a bike ;-)

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Bike Anatomy

  • Familiarize yourself with basic bicycle anatomy
  • If you have a road bike, the handlebars warrant special mention because there are three basic hand positions:
    • Tops - as the name suggests, the flat part on the top of the handlebars. Typically used for ~10% of riding. This is an appropriate climbing position because your body is more upright and you can take deeper diaphramatic breaths while chugging up hills. Also used when you want a free hand to signal, take a drink, etc. because the hand on the bike is close to the stem to provide the most stability
    • Hood - also on top of the handlebars but in a position where you can also control the brakes. Used for ~80% of riding. You should place your hand on the hood as if you're shaking hands with somebody, i.e., straight wrists that are not significantly flexed
    • Drops - in the lower curved part of the handlebars. Used for remaining ~10% of riding. Use this hand position for descents since you'll have the most leverage on the brakes. You'll be leaning forward so more weight will be placed on the front wheel to give it traction
  • The left hand side of the bike controls the front of the bike. Conversely, the right hand side of the bike controls the rear of the bike
  • Brakes (left=front, right=rear)
  • Shifters (left=front, right=rear)
    • Front derailleur - high (outside) = more difficult. Good idea for new riders in the Bay Area to have a triple chain ring for going up steep hills
    • Rear derailleur - high (outside) = more difficult. Controls the cassette or rear gear stack
    • The above may be counterintuitive and is easily explained by the following: if you lay your bike on its left side (to prevent damage, always lean the left side of the bike against the floor/wall - the side AWAY from the gears), you'll notice that the gears will look like a stack that sticks up in the air. Notice where the chain is. If you are in the hardest gear, the chain will be around the highest ring (hence the term "high gear") on both the front and rear derailleur. The chain will be simultaneously around the biggest ring on the front derailleur and the smallest ring on the rear derailleur.
    • Use your higher gears for flat road riding and descents. Use low gears for riding uphill. Just like a manual transmission (stick shift) car.
    • You may hear people tell you not to "cross your chain". This happens when you're simultaneously in the biggest ring in the front (high gear) and the biggest ring in the back (low gear), or if you're simultaneously in the smallest ring in the front (low gear) and the back (high gear). Your chain will be stretched excessively in these two configurations. Chains are designed to stretch, but not for extended periods of time or else they may become loose and "jump". If possible, shift such that if you were to look down on chain while you're cycling (not recommended, keep your eyes on the road!), your chain should be more or less parallel to your bike frame, and not at an angle.
  • If your bike is well maintained, it should not make any exterraneous noises. Have it checked if something doesn't feel/look/sound right
  • Avoid spraying high powered streams of water into parts of the bike that have ball bearings including the headset and the bottom bracket. These are some of the most expensive parts of the bike!
  • Quick release on brakes are handy for speedy tire changes. They are located in different positions on the bike depending on whether you have Campagnolo ("Campies") or Shimano components.
  • Quick release on wheels
    • Should be tight enough so that you make an indent in your hand when you press down to lock them in place.
    • The handle of the release should be at an angle to the fork (not directly on top of it) to make it easier to pull and release them later. If it's directly on top of the fork, there may not be enough space for your fingers to wrap around it and pull.
    • Tighten the quick releases yourself - don't have a much stronger person do this for you or you may not be able to release them yourself later.

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Mounting & Dismounting Your Bike

Cycle with the balls of the feet on the pedal - not the arches!

Clipless Pedals & Toe Cages - leg position.

  • With clipless pedals, your cleats should be installed to guarantee correct foot placement. Since you will be physically attached to your bike, you'll have much better control. You'll also generate more power since you benefit from the upstroke as well as the downstroke as you pedal.
  • Toe cages are much cheaper than clipless pedals. They provide similar functionality but to really use them effectively, you're supposed to reach down and really yank on the straps to lock yourself in. It takes a lot more skill to get out of tight toe cages than to unclip out of clipless pedals.

Starting

Sheldon Brown provides step by step instructions as well as explain WHY you should use this method over other ones. Here's a how-to summary:

  • Straddle top tube
  • Clip in at 6 o'clock (bottom of pedal stroke). If you use toe cages, put one foot in the cage
  • Lift clipped/caged foot to 1 o'clock or 2 o'clock position
  • Push off/pedal down with clipped/caged foot while simultaneously lifting your body onto the saddle
  • Sit in saddle and keep peddling. Don't worry about clipping in the other foot right away - it will happen eventually!

Stopping

  • Clipless pedals
    • Step by step instructions
      • Twist one foot to unclip when it's at the 12 o'clock position (top of your pedal stroke). Your other foot will be down
      • Dangle the unclipped foot down
      • As you gradually slow down, step forward off your bike with your unclipped foot. Do not stand straight up. Your other foot should remain clipped it.
    • Which foot should you unclip? I've heard different theories on this. One is that you should always unclip on the same side (whichever side you are most comfortable) so it becomes instinctive. Ideally, it's best if you can unclip with your right foot since you'll be leaning away from traffic as you stop. You also won't get gunk on your calf either since your leg won't touch your chain because your bike will tilt to the right when hyou stop. Another theory I've heard is that you should practice to become equally effective at unclipping on both sides in case you're in a situation where it's not possible or safe to unclip on a particular side.
    • If you are just starting out with clipless pedals, you can use an allen key to loosen them to make it easier to unclip. Gradually tighten them as you become more proficient so you don't accidentally pop out. Those with weak ACLs may have a harder time unclipping - you can use the inner and outer thigh machines at the gym to strengthen them.
  • Toe clips and regular pedals - same theory as clipless pedals. Keep one foot on the pedal while stepping off with the other. Develop these good habits early to make a smooth transition to clipless pedals!
  • Left (front) brake vs. right (rear) brake
    • Squeeze both brakes evenly
    • A lot of people are reluctant to use their front brakes because they are worried about doing an "endo" (end over end on their handlebars). You would get pitched over if you use only your front brakes. If you use only your rear brakes, you'll skid and fishtail.
    • For an emergency stop, apply both brakes evenly while shifting your weight back (lift yourself off the saddle and push your butt towards the rear). I was thoroughly impressed with Cayce's demonstration: she was able to unclip after coming to a complete stop!
  • Drill #1 - Mounting, Starting, Emergency Stop
    • I can finally start and stop with great confidence on flat ground! One of the things that helped me was to look ahead when starting. I used to look at my feet/pedals which was a hindrance because I wasn't able to see where I was going and had more trouble balancing.
    • Starting on hills (especially uphill) will take a little more practice. The key there is to start in a low (easy) gear. I learned the hard way that starting in a high gear up a steep hill doesn't work.

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Shifting

  • Slightly reduce resistance before shifting - keep cycling, but decrease the torque (pressure) on your pedals. My husband used to ride his gears really hard, and he ended up warping the teeth of his front rings so badly that his chain would slip every time he tried to switch his front gears.
  • Increase cadence before shifting to higher gear - if you cycle too slowly, your chain may jump and come loose
  • If your chain falls off, you have two methods of putting the chain back on:
    • Keep cycling, and shift into your big ring in the front
    • Loosen the rear derailleur and reattach it by hand

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Cornering

  • Leg position - inside leg up, outside leg down. This means that if you are going around a right corner, your right leg should be up and your left leg should be down.
  • Lean the bike into the turn (tire design)
  • Weight distribution - put your weight on outside leg & inside bar with your body leaning out. Continuing with our example of turning a right corner, your weight should be placed on your left leg and on the right side of your handlebar.
  • Steering - use your body, not your hands. It's *not* like driving a car where you steer by turning the steering wheel with your hands. Instead, steer from the saddle using your core muscles.
  • Focus your eyes on where you want to go - your body will follow
  • Don't look at what you're trying to avoid! If you stare at an obstacle you're trying to avoid, you'll invariably steer right into the obstacle
  • On some smaller bikes, you may experience toe overlap which is when your front tire hits your toe when it is turned at almost a right angle. Your front tire shouldn't ever be perpedicular to the rest of your bike anyway, but be wary of this
  • Drill #2 - Cornering - Counter Steering
  • Drill #3 - Hula Hips
  • I've read a lot about counter steering and I've come to the conclusion that I can't think too much about it. If I follow the instructions above regarding leg position, leaning the bike etc., everything that's supposed to happen happens. Lorri pointed out that I need to practice making nice and wide turns from my body and not make sharp turns like I'm driving a car.

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Comfort

  • Yes, you should be comfortable!
  • Bike Fit - if you don't what this is, you need to have one done. Your LBS (local bike shop) should give you a complimentary fit when you purchase your bike. I'm a big believer in having a proper bike fit done. In fact, I'm going to get a pre-fit for my next bicycle.
  • Posture on the bike
    • Keep chin up
    • Upper body should be relaxed - keep your shoulders away from your ears!
    • Arms should be slightly bent with soft elbows - they'll act like shock absorbers when you go over bumpy spots
  • Saddles - "One man's seat is another's instrument of torture". Unfortunately, there's no magic saddle that miraculously fits all body types. You may have to try a few until you land on something that fits. A few things to consider:
    • In general, women need wider saddles than men because our hips are wider. I had a men's saddle for the first few weeks of road bike riding and it hurt like an *expletive*. I could not ride for more than an hour without being in excruciating pain. An article called "Love Your Butt" sheds some light on women and cycling
    • A common mistake in the quest to find the comfiest seat is to select one by pressing on it with your fingers and then choosing the one that feels the cushiest. I'm not sure why but I've been told that that doesn't work.
    • Some women specific saddles have indentations, cut-outs &/or gel inserts to alleviate pressure on soft tissue.
    • A firm saddle may cause some initial brusing but is better over the long term (I forget why)
    • For what it's worth, I really liked my Lady Selle Italia saddle and will probably get another one when I buy my next bike. Terry Bicycles saddles are also very popular.

Clothing, Helmets, Gloves, Shoes & Eyewear

  • Clothing
    • You should feel slightly cold with your full gear on just before riding. If you are warm just standing around, you're wearing too much
    • When you're cycling on the road, wear nice bright colors like yellow, orange, red and pink. Dark colors like green and black aren't advisable since you'll blend into the scenery and motorists are less likely to spot you.
    • Dress in layers! Very often, you'll be cold at the start of a ride, but sweat later during the ride. If you dress in layers, you can remove excess clothing as necessary.
      • Leg warmers are worn underneath your bike shorts in cold weather. When you warm up, you can just pull then down. Hubby advised against them for me because he says the elastic stretches over time and falls down. Since he wears size small (and he's a big guy), I don't think I could find anything that would fit me. I bought long cycling pants instead. They're awesome.
      • If you heat up too much with leg warmers or long cycling pants, at least consider knee warmers. Your knee joints will feel and work much better if you keep the synovial fluid in them warm.
      • Arm warmers are worn underneath your cycling jersey. You can easily take them off when you are sweating bricks during lung-busting climbs, and then slip them back on for long, chilly descents.
      • Windbreakers are great for winter riding. Long sleeved ones are a pretty big commitment unless you get the kind I have with detachable arms.
      • Cycling jerseys are form fitting to reduce wind resistence. They are designed to wick sweat away from your body to keep you cool, dry quickly (unlike cotton which soaks up sweat and retains it like a sponge), and keep you warm when you need it. Most of them have a long zipper in the front. From watching Tour de France, I think it's so you can pull it down and allow air to flow through when you're really hot.
      • Buy the smallest pair of form-fittng lycra bike shorts you can squeeze into. Compression helps.
      • Terry skorts (combination bicycle shorts and skirts) and mountain bike shorts may look cool, but they'll creep up as you ride and may cause chafing
    • Helmets
      • Always wear one when you ride. Always. It's called a "brain bucket" for a reason.
      • Make sure you use an ANSI &/or SNELL-approved helmet.
      • Belle and Giro are the most popular ones you'll see.
      • Ensure your helmet fits! More information can be found at the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
      • Inspect it regularly. If you see a crack either inside or outside, replace it immediately. Any sign of damage means that the safety integrity has been compromised.
      • Even if you never crash or get into an accident, you should still replace your helmet every 3-4 years because the styrofoam inside degrades over time from sweat.
      • Wash your helmet occasionally with mild soap and water.
    • Gloves - Protects your hands if you crash. I like ones with thick padding, but make sure they're not so bulky that you cannot control your brakes properly. Most people use fingerless ones for summer riding, and full gloves for winter riding. If you get a flat and are wearing gloves, you can run your hand over your tires to brush away any shards of glass or other sharp objects that may have given you a puncture.
    • Shoes - You'll need cycling specific shoes if you use clipless pedals. Unless you intend to race, get the softer mountain biking shoes because they are easier to walk around in and won't expose the cleat and make a ruckus when you walk (not to mention damage the cleat). My cycling shoes have two velcro straps and a plastic buckle. They're great for road riding because they're super stiff and hold my foot securely in place. However, they're terrible for triathlons because they take forever to put on. There are triathlon specific cycling shoes that are secured by only two velcro straps (no buckle). Don't wear boots because they'll keep your ankles too stiff.
    • Eyewear - They do a lot more than merely act as sunglasses! They improve visibility and protect your eyes from sand and other foreign objects, especially during descents. Avoid metal frames and cheapie drugstore ones unless they are shatterproof. Lorri recommends those which come with interchangeable lenses. The different lenses are for different riding conditions: dark (sunny), yellow (rain/cloudy), clear (night).
  • Lubricants - The most popular kind is called chamois butter, and it's lotion that you rub on your body (not your shorts) to prevent chafing. Apply it on areas which come in contact with the saddle. You may even want to carry some in a little bottle and apply it intermittently on very long rides. Body Glide also works well.

Nutrition & Hydration

  • [Update from Lorri] The caloric expenditure for cycling varies with body weight and ride intensity. It's tough to give a guideline there, but the total caloric expenditure might range from 150 calories (for a small person at low intensity) to about 900 calories (at high intensity). Polar HR monitors use the ACSM guidelines which are actually pretty good estimates. The Velo Girls website has a more extensive discussion of this on the "tips" page. Look for the link called "Eat Right for your Ride!". I'm not linking directly to the document to avoid stealing bandwidth! Plus you should check out the other great articles listed on that page.
  • Eat a hearty breakfast at least two hours before you ride. Have some oatmeal, orange juice, raisins, yogurt etc.
  • Bring easily digestable snacks to eat on the ride. Gu is popular but it's mostly simple sugar so once you start taking it, you have to keep on ingesting it every 30-60 minutes or else you'll crash. According to my adventure racing hubby, complex carbohydrates (carbs) are better.
  • The latest sports snacks have a protein in them too, not just carbs. food that has 60/20/20 mix of carbs, protein and fat is ideal.
  • It is imperative to nourish your body with carbs because that's what your body burns for fuel. Don't just eat protein even if you're on a low carb diet like Atkins. Protein is difficult to digest. Your brain needs glycogen to function. If you don't ingest enough carbs, you'll "bonk".
  • Cycling is an endurance sport and thus a "deficit sport": even if you eat throughout your workout, you never eat quite enough to make up for the glycogen used. So eat well before and after your workouts.
  • Drink lots of fluids on rides. If you ride for more than an hour, you'll need to bring more than just water. I use diluted Gatorade. Hubby uses Perpteum. It's all good - choose something that tastes good to you so you'll gladly drink it at regular intervals.

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Group Riding Etiquette

  • Ride single file - leave room for others to pass and leave room for yourself to maneuver
  • Hand Signals - Hold the signal for at least 2-3 seconds to make sure you have been seen. Better still, use them in conjunction with vocal signals (see below).
    • Left Turn - Stick your left arm straight out to the left horizontally to point left (fully extended to the side)
    • Right Turn - Stick your right arm straight out to the right horizontally to point right (fully extended to the side). [Update from Lorri: You can also use your left arm upturned but it is a hold-over from learning to drive (since our arms aren't long enough to reach through the right window). If you take your left hand off the bar and initiate a right turn, you lose stability on the bike.]
    • Slowing & Stopping - Stick your left arm out horizontally and then bend at the elbow so your forearm is perpedicular to your upper arm. Your hand points to the ground.
    • Obstacles - Point to cracks, bumps, potholes, and whatever you consider hazardous to warn cyclists behind you.
  • Vocal Signals - Great for those (like me) who may not have the balance to ride with one hand yet. If somebody in front (or behind) you calls out a signal, you should call it out and the next person should do the same so the signal moves up (or down) the chain of cyclists. Remember that your voice will project forward (since you're looking ahead) so you'll need to shout loudly for folks behind you to hear what you're saying.
    • "Car back" - first called out by the cyclist in the rear warning riders up ahead that a car is coming from behind
    • "Car up" - first called out by the cyclist in the lead warning riders behind that a car is approaching ahead (especially on narrow/windy roads where oncoming traffic may crossg the center line)
    • "Slowing" & "stopping" as required
    • Turns
    • Obstacles
  • Passing: always pass on the LEFT and call "on your left" BEFORE you pass

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Rules of the Road & Safety - Sharing the Road (or the bike path)

  • Predictability, Visibility & Consistency
    • As a cyclist, you have the same rights to be on the road as a car. However, this is small consolation if you get hit by a 2,000 pound vehicle. You'll often see drivers do stupid and dangerous things. For the most part, they're done out of ignorance, not ill will. To increase the chances that a motorist will see you and treat you like a vehicle it is a good idea to be predictable (act like a car), visible (wear brightly colored clothing, and have a flashing light for night riding, not just reflectors) and consistent.
  • Ride to the right of the road - with the flow of traffic
    • Ride as far to the right of the road as is SAFELY possible. There's no need to squeeze right to the edge with only 4 inches to spare. Rather, leave 12-18 inches from the curb so that if a car beside you suddenly swerves right, you'll have somewhere to go. Leave a wider margin (4 feet) if there are cars parked on the side of the road to avoid becoming "doored" in case somebody suddenly opens their car door as you go past. If necessary, you can take up part of, or even an entire car lane.
    • Ride with the flow of traffic. Don't ride in the opposite direction, even if there's a bike lane on that side and not the other. First of all, it's illegal to ride against the flow of traffic. Secondly, if you are traveling at 15mph, and a car is traveling at 35mph and hits you from behind, you will be hit at a relative velocity of 20mph (30mph - 15mph). If you are traveling in the OPPOSITE direction (against traffic) however, you will be hit at a relative velocity of 50mph (35mph + 15mph). In an accident, this difference in relative speed could be the difference between getting hurt and getting killed.
  • "Taking the lane" - when the road is very narrow, you can and should take up the entire lane. If you try to be too nice and stay too far right, drivers will try and squeeze by you even if there's not enough space. They'll end up either running you off the road or hit you.
  • Obey all traffic signals & signs as though you are a car. STOP AT LIGHTS AND STOP SIGNS. You may be fined. For instance, if you are caught failing to come to a COMPLETE stop at Canada & Woodside, you'll be fined almost $300 - same as a a motorist.
  • Sidewalks & Crosswalks
    • As tempting as it is, don't ride on the sidewalk. It is illegal in many municipalities to ride on the sidewalk or in the crosswalk. It's dangerous for you (since pedestrians don't expect cyclists on sidewalks and will suddenly unknowingly cross your path) and you will be endangering pedestrians.
    • Riding across crosswalks is even worse. Motorists making turns don't expect something as fast as a bicycle whizzing by. They won't see you until the last minute and may hit you! If you need to cross at a crosswalk, get off your bike and walk your bike across.
    • If the thought of riding on the road petrifies you, then ride in low traffic areas. The best place for beginners to ride is Canada Road on Sundays ~9AM-3PM (I think). When the weather is nice, they close the roads to cars. It's a pretty flat stretch of road approximately 7 miles long extending from Ralston to Edgewood Road. From 280, take the Edgewood exit, and park you car right where the closed section begins. You'll see families there, rollerbladers, some runners and lots of cyclists!
  • Turning left
    • You'll be riding at the right edge of the road most of the time. When you need to turn left, however, you'll need to signal, slowly merge left when it's clear and turn from the rightmost side of the left lane. Trying to turn left from the right lane is guaranteed disaster. If you're not comfortable making a turn this way, stop at the intersection, get off your bike, and walk it across like a pedestrian (see "Sidewalks & Crosswalks" above).
    • After you have successfully navigated yourself into the left lane, if you are stopped and are waiting for the light to change, position yourself such that drivers can see you and know that you are turning left. Don't be shy - get their attention to clearly communicate what you'll be doing! Wave, tap gently on their window, whatever. What you're trying to avoid is a situation where you're turning left but the car beside you is going straight ahead.
  • Dedicated turn lanes (left & right) - they make life easier, but don't assume that drivers automatically know what you'll be doing if you're in that lane. Signal to them what you intend to do.
  • Pass on the left - ALWAYS!
    • Theoretically, slower cyclists will stay right, so you pass on the left. BEFORE you pass somebody, warn them with a loud but friendly "on your left!" so they know you'll be coming through. They'll know not to suddenly veer left and will make room for you to pass.
    • "On your left" means "I'm passing on your left side". Cyclists will know what you're saying, but pedestrians may not. Some will mistakenly interpret this to mean "move left" and go precisely where you don't want them to go. The easy solution to this problem is avoid riding in high pedestrian traffic areas like sidewalks or even on bike paths. I used to think that bike paths were safer but they're not. You end up having to dodge a lot of people, and it's a pain in the butt trying to get them to move, especially when you encounter groups that insist on walking side by side and end up taking the whole width of the path. You'll also encounter little kids who don't pay much to their surroundings and run around haphazardly. Worst of all, you'll encounter newbie cyclists who don't know what they heck they're doing (e.g, me, circa July 2003).

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What to Bring on Rides

  • The Velo Girls website has a comprehensive list of what you should bring: tools, ID, health insurance info, emergency contact info
  • I always carry a cellphone just in case I need a SAG truck (aka my husband)
  • If you are carrying sheets of paper (e.g., emergency contact info), put it in a zip lock bag so it won't get wet from rain, sweat, etc.
  • Road ID is a great idea if you cycle alone.
  • Bike safety quick-check before EVERY ride - brakes, air pressure, tire condition, quick release, chain
    • Test your front brakes and rear brakes separately. Check that your brake pads are not rubbing against your rim by spinning your tires. Your tires should spin freely.
    • Pump your tires before every ride. Tires lose a little air every day, even without use.
    • Inspect your tires. Brush off any broken glass, rocks, etc. that may be wedged in your treads and may cause a flat later.
    • Quick release - Make sure they are engaged and tightened.
    • Chain - lube your chain for smoother shifting. As a general rule, use wet lube (e.g., Tri-Flow) in wet conditions and the winter, and wax lube in the summer. If you use wet lube, wipe off any excess and don't allow it to drip. Never spray it into components that have bearings (bottom bracket & headset).
  • Drill #4 - "The Look" - one handed, under arm & under leg
  • Optional Drill #5 -- Bumping (we didn't get around to doing this)

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Basic Road Side Repair

  • Changing a flat - demo - handout on website - "tips" page
    • What you need - tire irons, spare tube patch kit, pump or CO2
    • Rest the bike on its side. Don't put your bike upside down. All it takes is a small gust of wind for it to be blown over (most likely on the side with the expensive derailleurs and chain rings).
    • Common mistakes to avoid
      • Snakebite - pinching the tire against the rim
      • Not getting the object out - so it punctures the new tube
    • Practice changing a flat in the comfort of your own home. Learning how to do it on the fly when you're on the road is not a happy thing. Better still, practice with your rear wheel because it's the more difficult of the two because you have the cassette at the back.
    • Even if you plan to use CO2, it's always a good idea to have a hand pump anyway, especially if you have a mountain bike. Hubby ran a special test for a practice adventure race which required people to deflate one of their tires and then reinflate it. Those who only had CO2 cartridges ran out because the tires are fatter and require much more air.
    • Hand pumps usually have the ability to adapt to both presta and schraeder valves. Learn how to switch between the two.
  • Brake adjustment
  • Derailleur adjustment

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Riding

  • Cadence (leg speed)
    • How to determine cadence - computer or counting
    • Flats: 80-100 rpm recommended - don't bounce at hips
    • Hills: 60-80 rpm recommended - don't mash gears
  • Climbing
    • Body Position - relaxed and upright
      • By being upright, you make room to take deep diaphrammatc breaths
      • If you hunch over, you'll develop back pain and crush your internal organs
      • Some people stand when they climb. Do this sparingly [Note: I can't remember where I read this. I'll dig up a resource and post here later.]
    • Hand Position - on bars with wide grip
    • Cadence - not too slow (60-80 rpm recommended)
      • Instead of cycling uphill slowly in a high gear, shift to a lower gear so you can spin at a moderate pace (60-80 rpm). It's much easier on the knees.
    • Gearing - shift before an ascent - spin in an easy gear - don't mash gears
      • By shifting before an ascent, you'll save your gears because there won't be as much torque. Your legs will also maintain a faster cadence and you won't be struggling to maintain the pace while shifting.
      • If you wait until the last minute to shift, i.e. you can't pedal any more without shifting to a lower gear, you may not shift in time and topple over!
      • When you pedal, instead of thinking "push, push, push" to press your feet down with each pedal stroke, think "spin, spin, spin" - imagine you're making big circles with your feet.
  • Descending
    • Body Postition - low with butt slightly back on saddle
    • Hand Position - in drops (road bike) with weight on bar
      • By riding in the drops, your hands will be able to put much more pressure on your brakes if you need to stop
    • Leg Position - either cornering position or parallel
    • Cadence - continue to spin during descents - keeps legs warm and controls bike
      • Don't ride your brakes while going downhill! Your rim will heat up and may blow out your tire.
      • If you want to slow down during a descent, feather your brakes lightly
      • Your bike is most stable while it's moving
      • Come out into the car lane during steep descents. Cars will most likely be traveling faster than you (so you won't slam into one right after turning a corner). Also, you'll have more room to maneuver to dodge any obtacles in the road. If you stick to the bike lane, you may not have time or space to avoid a pot hole, fallen branch etc., as you go screaming downhill

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Maintenance

  • The first thing you must do after purchasing your new, shiny bicycle is to write down the serial number and register it with the National Bike Registry. You'll have a much higher chance of recovering it if it ever becomes stolen.
  • Never, ever leave your bike unattended.
  • If you buy a new bike, have your LBS (local bike store) look at it after you've first ridden it for 100 miles. You'll require minor adjustments at that point, e.g., tighten cables.
  • Replace your chain every 1,000-1,500 miles. This will vary depending on the weight of the rider (heavier riders will put more wear on their chain), the conditions they ride in (wet, dirty conditions will wear a chain more quickly), and how they maintain their bike (if you keep your chain clean, it will last much, much longer, as will your other drive train components). If you don't replace your chain regularly, it'll wear down your chain rings and cassettes. Chains are much less expensive to replace than those other components.
  • If you ride in the rain (or get your bike wet), wipe it down to avoid rust
  • Get a maintenance check done by your LBS at least twice a year, and keep all the documentation. If you're told something needs to be replaced - DO IT. It's for your own safety.
  • If you ride in the dark, get a flashing light for visibility. Reflectors are not enough.

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Copyright 2003-2004 Lauren Wu. All Rights Reserved.