for the Best Cycling
Millions of adults ride a bike at least once a year, many cycle
regularly for recreation, others even commute by bicycle, according
to a recent article in American Demographics.
Those numbers may rise in the next few years, thanks to federal
legislation that encourages local communities to build cycling
into their transit plans. That's good not only for the environment,
but also for the nation's health, since cycling is one of the
best forms of exercise around. It gives the heart and circulatory
system a workout; it puts little stress on joints (except perhaps
the knees); it can burn 400 to 700 calories per hour; and if
you own a bike, cycling is free and can be done just about anywhere.
are some steps you can take to improve cycling performance,
safety, comfort, and enjoyment:
Absolutely crucial: always wear
a helmet. Of the nation's 800 annual cycling deaths, head injuries
account for about 60%. If all cyclists wore helmets, perhaps
half of these deaths and injuriesespecially in childrencould
be avoided. Choose a bright color, and make sure the helmet
fits properly. It should sit horizontally on your head and shouldn't
the right thing
Brake right. To exert optimal pressure, brake with your
hands at the ends of the levers. For a quick stop, as you press
the brakes firmly, slide your buttocks to the very back of the
saddle. This will keep the rear of the bike down so that you
don't flip over the handlebars.
On a long downhill, don't stay
on your brakes. That may overheat the tire's rim and could cause
a blowout. It's safest to "feather brake"that
is, tap the brakes, applying intermittent pressure. This is
wise in wet weather, too.
Don't pedal in high gear for long periods.
This can increase the pressure on your knees and lead to overuse
injuries such as biker's knee. Shift to lower gears and faster
revolutions to get more exercise with less stress on your knees.
The best cadence for most cyclists is 60 to 80 revolutions per
minute (rpm), though racers pedal in the range of 80 to 100
Going uphill, shift gears to maintain
normal cadence. On a long hill, conserve energy by staying in
When cycling at night or when
visibility is poor, wear brightly colored, reflective clothing,
and use your headlight. In fact, wearing bright colors is a
good idea at any hour. Also consider a rear strobe-type light
(attached to the bike or your belt) to enhance visibility at
Make sure your bike fits. Handlebars,
saddle, wheels, gears, and brakes can all be adjusted to match
your size and riding ability, but the frame has to fit from
the start. To find the right frame size, straddle the bike and
stand flatfooted: on a road bike, there should be one to two
inches of clearance between your groin and the top tube. On
a mountain bike, the clearance should be two to three inches
or even more.
Position the saddle right to protect
your knees. At the bottom of the stroke, your knee should
be only slightly bent. If your knee is bent too much, the seat
is too low, and you will lose stroking power and strain your
knees. If the knee locks when extended, or if you have to reach
for the pedal, the seat is too high, which can also stress the
knee. The saddle should be level.
Position the handlebars correctlyone
inch lower than the top of the seat. Drop handlebars (preferable
because they allow you to change your riding position) should
be about as wide as your shoulders or slightly narrower. Some
cyclists who suffer from neck or back discomfort may prefer
To avoid saddle soreness, get
the right seat. The hard narrow seats on racing bikes
can be particularly uncomfortable for women, who tend to have
widely spaced "sit bones." Special anatomically designed
saddleswider and more cushioned at the backare easy
to install. Gel-filled saddles or pads or sheepskin pads can
ease the pressure and friction.
Change your hand and body position
frequently. That will change the angle of your back,
neck, and arms, so that different muscles are stressed and pressure
is put on different nerves.
Don't ride in the racing "drop"
position (with your hands on the curved part of the handlebars)
for a long time. This may cramp your hands, shoulders, and neck.
Unless you're an experienced cyclist, don't
use those special aerodynamic handlebarsshaped
like an upside-down "V"which let you lean forward
on your forearms and thus reduce wind drag and increase your
speed. These increase the risk of injury.
After a long uphill, don't coast downhill
without pedaling. As you climb up the hill, lactic acid builds
up in your muscles and can contribute to muscle soreness. By
pedaling lightly but constantly while coasting downhill (even
if there's little resistance) you can help remove the lactic
Keep your arms relaxed and don't
lock your elbows. This technique helps you absorb bumps from
the road better.
Wear the right shorts if you cycle
a lot. Sleek cycling shorts have less fabric to wrinkle or bunch
up, so there's less chance of skin irritation. For extra protection,
choose cycling shorts with special lining or padding to wick
away perspiration and no seams at the crotch.
Don't wear headphones. They
can block out the street sounds you need to hear in order to
ride defensively. Cycling with headphones is a misdemeanor in
Ride with traffic, obey all signs, and
give right of way to cars.
Use hand signals to alert drivers
to your intentions.
Try to make eye contact with drivers
as you pull into an intersection or make a turn, so they know
your intentions and you know that they've seen you.
Don't ride side by side with another
Watch out for storm drains, cattle guards,
and rail-road tracks. They're all slippery when wet.
And if you don't cross them at a right angle, your front tire
may get caught.
When cycling in heavy traffic,
on a narrow road, or on winding downhill roads, ride in the
lane with the cars, not to the side, where you're not as visible
and may get pushed off to the side. Of course, if a car wants
to pass, move out of the way.
Reference Source 98