President John F. Kennedy once said “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.” While this remains true, there are still many people who return from their rides without having as much fun as they could have. Thankfully, a bicycle is a relatively simple device, and making a few simple adjustments is all that is necessary to create an enjoyable exercise out of a frustrating experience.
If there is one thing that most recreational cyclists have in common, it is a lack of attention to their tires. Bicycle tires loose a little bit of air every day, so it is essential that you properly inflate them before every ride. Look at the sidewall of your tire to learn the proper pressure required for the tires. Following these guidelines will make it easier to pedal while reducing the possibility of an annoying flat.
Regular athletic shoes are not suited to the demands of bicycling. Most shoes are designed to absorb impact with the contact, not to place pressure on the narrow surface of a pedal. To understand why, see how easy it is to fold the sole of your shoe in half with little effort. Now imagine you are putting all of your weight behind it and you can see how flimsy it is. A casual cycling shoe will include a rigid insert that prevent the sole from bending while still offering some comfort when walking.
Cycling can take a brutal toll on your hands if they are not protected, as handlebar grips are designed to generate friction. This friction keeps your hands from slipping but will rip up the skin on your palms. The bar itself can also pinch the delicate nerves in your hands. A basic pair of cycling gloves costs less than $20 and can easily prevent these issues.
Aside form the obvious safety benefits, a good helmet offers several other qualities. Newer designs have been shown to actually improve the flow of air over your head compared to riding helmet-less and many models now include sun visors. Finally, mountain bikers can use their helmets to deflect low hanging brush and branches while they zip down wooded trails.
Beyond shoes and gloves, wearing proper cycling clothes can really add to your enjoyment of the sport. There is no need to wear skin tight shorts as many new designs offer the same padding with a more conventional appearance. Synthetic materials also make for comfortable shirts that wick moisture away and keep you cool.
A properly fitting bicycle is essential to both comfort and performance. To ensure your bike is fitted for your body size, make sure to properly adjust the height of your seatpost and the position of your saddle. Your seatpost should be raised so that your leg is almost fully extended when the pedal is closest to the ground. Your seat should be level, with most of the pressure resting on your pelvic bones. Slide the seat forward or backwards in order to adjust your position over the pedals, and to a lesser extent, your distance from the handlebars. These adjustments take just a few minutes and will be the most significant factor ensuring your bike fits you as well as it can.
Although bikes are simple compared to other vehicles, there are still many small things that can go wrong. Fortunately, most bikes need just a small number of tools to make any necessary repair while on a ride. Be sure to carry a small multi-tool the size of a pocket knife containing Allen wrenches, screw drivers, and other popular fittings. Also try to carry a mini-pump, a spare tube, tire levers, and a patch kit in case you have a flat tire. Finally, spend a little time learning to use these tools before you need to actually fix something during your ride.
Mountain bikes are extremely popular, yet most people make the mistake of using off-road tires on hard surfaces. These knobby tires work great in the dirt but have several problems on the road. On pavement, they are loud and use a lot of energy to pedal. They corner poorly and will wear out quickly when used on hard surfaces. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to purchase a smooth, narrow set of tires for your mountain bike that work great on the road. Of course, using road bike tires on unpaved surfaces is also a recipe for problems.
Cycling is healthy, fun, and good for the environment, but many people give up when they find themselves overly tired and sore after a ride. While many bike shops will be happy to sell you an expensive new bicycle to correct your problems, the solutions are often far more simple and affordable. By paying attention to details such as clothing, tires, and fit, you can achieve the maximum enjoyment from your current bike with a minimum of expense.