We asked Jase Alexander, a keen club cyclist, for tips on how to literally “get on our bikes” and enjoy the sport. Bicycles come in all shapes and sizes, as do their riders. In this first of a two-part feature, he talks about bikes and saddles. Comfort is essential and, as he explains, can be surprisingly easy to achieve.
When I first moved to this region of France some years ago I, like most people, was struck by the beautiful surroundings, the laid back atmosphere and of course the amazing summer weather. As the weeks rolled by one other thing I started to notice was how many cyclists there were. Cyclists of all ages, from the older gentlemen with thousands of kilometres in their legs, to the younger generation riding with their family on a Sunday.
I was a runner at the time and enjoyed the very peaceful roads and rolling hills. However, the more I saw the small pelotons spinning around the countryside and through the old towns and villages, the more my desire to get back on a bike grew stronger.
So, with no more experience than cycling to school on my BMX and, later, on a racer back in the 1980’s, I decided to purchase a road bike.
Now this all happened about eight years ago and, to cut a long story short, I was totally addicted from my very first ride. I also have to say that from that moment to today, sitting here writing this, I am sure I have made every newbie rider mistake possible, some of them pretty painful. So I feel it’s my duty to help anyone interested in cycling to avoid the same mistakes that I have made, from hours spent in bike shops (which my girlfriend will attest to) to many visits to the doctors and local pharmacy.
Are you Sitting Comfortably?
The first thing I will always advise a new rider looking to buy their new bike would be to obtain a proper bike fit from a reputable bike shop. Although this all sounds a bit Sir Bradley Wiggins and pro-peloton, a good bike fit can stop you from making a costly mistake in frame size (believe me, I know), resulting in uncomfortable kilometres and possible injuries. A good bike fit will ensure you find a bike that’s comfortable and a joy to ride, your bike should feel like your favourite old sofa when you climb aboard.
Which brings me to the saddle. Along with frame size, your saddle is going to be a very important part of your cycling adventures. Your bike fit should include a measuring of your seat bones, again this can sound a bit daunting but don’t panic! All it usually takes is sitting on a foam cushion for twenty seconds and then your fitter measures the dents you left behind. This is to ensure you have a good solid base to sit on and, also, for your legs to power those pedals from. You might need to experiment with a few different brands of saddle to finally find the one that’s right for you.
Another big factor to this whole process is what kind of cycling you want to do, from just cycling down to the local boulangerie or joining your local cycling club, your fitter will advise you on the best options for you.
Together with a bike that fits you correctly, a good saddle and some comfortable cycling shorts should save you from any dreaded saddle sores, the cyclists’ nemesis. If your derrière is totally new to cycling, a good chamois cream will also help. Your bike shop will stock this and I can personally recommend Assos or Rapha chamois creams.
To Cycle or Not? That is the question:
Cycling gives everyone, young or old, the opportunity to see the countryside in ways that you simply cannot do in a car. Fresh air, exercise and fun are what it should be about.
If you are worried that you don’t fit the standard cyclist “form”, may not suit the gear or you just want to take it a bit easier, don’t despair.
Electric bikes take the hills out of, well, hills. You can still pedal if you want to but you basically select the gear you want to be in. The bike can do none of the work, some of the work or all of it! You can hire or buy them for all ages, with or without baskets. Accessories such as helmets can also be hired so no financial outlay is required until you decide if it is for you or not.
Scared that you might not be able to breathe in those tight skinny cycling tops or hide any of those “little bulges” that we all have? Fear not, there are companies out there who are making plus size cycling clothes for those of us who are a little larger than the rest.
A comprehensive list of cycling holidays, bicycle hire and cycling shops throughout Gironde, Dordogne, Lot et Garonne, Lot, Gers, Tarn et Garonne and north Haute Garonne can be found in our business directory pages under Sports and Recreation and Vehicles and Cycling
Images: Shutterstock and Jase Alexander
First published in July/August issue of The Local Buzz