Cycling is a great way to fit more activity into your life. Just cycling to and from work or taking your bike out into the country side on weekends can do wonders for your health. If you are currently not very active and haven’t sat on a bike since you were a kid, here are some tips we have for you that will help you ease back into this enjoyable exercise.
1. Chose the right bike
If you’re cycling to and from work, a road bike might be best for you. These bikes have thin tires and can go very fast, however they don’t suit rough terrain so it would be difficult for you to ride on grass or over rubble. A mountain bike won’t go as fast on the road, but if you aren’t going to go off road the features they have may be unnecessary. You sit higher and more upright on a mountain bike than you do a road bike, so it may be more comfortable for you if you have back problems.
Hybrid bikes are a compromise of a road bike and mountain bike, so if you’re planning on cycling on a variety of surfaces this might be the best option for you. A cruiser bike is not good for going fast as they can be heavy and have a limited amount of gears, but riding one of these bikes means that you wont have to hunch over. They are comfortable to ride, ideal for flat surfaces and so are the bike of choice in places like The Netherlands.
2. Get the right bike fit
To avoid injury, it’s essential that you’re riding your bike with the right fit. This is something that can be offered in some bike shops, we offer this service at Sheffield Physiotherapy. Getting a correct fit for your biomechanics will ensure that you don’t get micro-traumas on your muscles and tendons every time you ride, which can turn into a more serious injury. The most common cycling injuries; back pain and ITB syndrome are usually caused by an incorrect bike fit.
3. Build up your activity gradually
You wouldn’t expect to be able to run 10 miles if you haven’t run for ten years, cycling is no different. With the Sheffield hills even a short ride into town can be a challenge (and riding back uphill can be even more of a struggle). Ease into cycling gradually. Before you commit to taking your bike to work, cycle around your neighborhood to see how you go. If you’re struggling, pace your time cycling and add 10 minutes onto your ride each week. If you do manage to cycle to and from work, give yourself days off to begin with so that you don’t become exhausted. If you push yourself too hard right away you risk injury or giving up through frustration. Even competitive racing cyclists give themselves days off to recover.
4. Get the right equipment
A helmet is essential, if you fall off your bike or have a collision you could suffer from a serious head injury without one. Make sure you get one the fits you properly, a well fitting helmet shouldn’t be too tight or too lose. You don’t need to have proper cycling clothing, if you’re on a budget and don’t want to buy clothes specifically for cycling, just try and wear clothes that have a snug fit.
If you’re cycling far from home, you may wish to take a small bike pump and tire repair kit with you. On all journeys it’s best to take a water bottle, which can be secured to your bike, or put in a back pack or saddle bag.
Bicycle bells are cheap and are a helpful way of letting pedestrians and other cyclists know you’re there. The more visible and heard you are, the safer you will be.
5. Secure your bike
You’ll need a bike lock if you’re leaving your bike somewhere outdoors. A U lock is better than a chain lock, which can be easily snipped open, but you could use both for extra security. Put the lock around the back wheel and part of the frame and make sure it is securely attached to a bike stall or pole. If your front wheels are expensive and may be desirable to thieves then use an additional lock to secure the front wheel, which can be popped off by someone wanting to take it. The larger your U-lock the more thieves can maneuver it and the easier it will be for them to remove it, so use a small one.
Always leave your bike somewhere well lit and populated, if possible.
6. Warm up and cool down
Like all exercise, a warm up and cool down will help prevent injury. However for cyclists, this is often overlooked. Stretch before and after cycling, and be sure to cycle slowly at the beginning and end of your ride.
7. Avoid falling off your bike
Improper bike fit puts you at risk from injury but a correct bike fit wont stop you from falling off your bike and spraining or breaking something. If you’re cycling on the road wear high visibility accessories and keep to the normal traffic laws. Do not insist on right of way, cycle in the wrong area or go too fast. The main problems road cyclists face is having to swerve or being unseen or overtaken by people in cars. A common cause of accidents is opening car doors, be vigilant of people getting out of cars or stepping into the road, swerving at high speed can cause you to come off your bike, or have a collision.
If you’re on a narrow lane cars may be tempted to try and pass you, which could result in you getting hit. Although it doesn’t feel like it, sometimes riding in the middle of the road so that you can’t be overtaken is your safest bet. You could also stop your bike and pull over to let them pass (although you have as much right to the road as they do).
If you’re riding into an intersection or roundabout be sure that all cars can see you. You’re going at a different speed to cars and are less visible so there is a high risk someone could drive into you or knock you off your bike. On tricky areas, it might be best to walk with your bike on the pedestrian crossings. The university roundabout in Sheffield City Center, for example, is a difficult area to go around in a bike and has been dubbed ‘the worst roundabout in Sheffield by The Star, but has plenty of safe pedestrian crossings.
8. Dealing with hills
Try and build momentum and speed by shifting up your gears as you approach a hill, once you’re halfway up and peddling becomes more difficult, start lowering your gears. Don’t pump the pedals too hard, too early to avoid wearing yourself out.
When going downhill, the speed can be scary. To avoid burning out your brake pads brake intermittently not constantly. Don’t brake hard and suddenly when going downhill, squeeze the brakes gently.
9. Make sure your wheels are turning
Before taking a new bike out, spin them and check that they move freely. Brake pads rubbing against your wheel can make a ride ten times more difficult than it needs to be. Always make sure that your tires are correctly inflated, flat tires can turn a fun ride into an unpleasant slog.
10. Try cycling in a group
Exercising in a group can be fun and give you a lot of added motivation. There are plenty of cycling groups in Sheffield that are suitable for the novice or the competitive racer.
At Sheffield Physiotherapy, we can help assess your bio-mechanics and provide a professional bike fit. If you’re serious about cycling or are totally new to it and would like help getting started give us a call on 0114 268 6677 or email email@example.com. You can always send us a message on Facebook or Twitter (@sphysiotherapy) too!