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cycling thoughts

Jase Alexander, Experienced club cyclist shares his cycling thoughts, especially for those who are venturing back on the road after a break from this great sport.  here he offers guidance on keeping ourselves and our bikes in good shape.

So here we are  in what seems like a completely different world. These really are tumultuous times we are living through and some days it’s very hard to stay upbeat.  We all have off days or weeks, but it’s important to try and stay positive, not just for family and friends around us, but also for ourselves. Exercise is just one way to look after our health and mental wellbeing, and with so many areas of fitness being so badly affected, such as gyms being closed and large exercise classes being restricted, cycling is a great way to keep ourselves fit and motivated.

For those of us who already cycle, we have been very lucky to be able to continue for most of the last year, even with restrictions on distance and the size of group we could ride with.  It’s been my small piece of normality and has kept me motivated to stay fit and healthy.

Cycling has seen a huge surge in popularity during the pandemic, with many people buying new bikes or just dusting off the old one that’s been sitting around for a while. So if you are new to cycling, or just starting out again after taking some time out, here are a few things to consider to help you on your way.

cycling thoughts

Cycling thoughts: Before Setting Out

If you are in the “there’s nothing wrong with my old bike category” and you’re not too confident with fully maintaining your own bike, it’s a very good idea to have it checked over by your local bike shop.  Listed as essential, bike shops have been open during lockdown restrictions but it’s worthwhile checking opening times before making the trip. I know my local bike shop prefers to make an appointment so the bike can be dropped off and picked up safely. In any event, you should always carry out a quick check of major parts before taking to the road.

If you have a new bike or are considering buying one, the shop should make sure it’s the right size and comfortable for you.  This is essential, no matter what kind of cycling you intend to do whether it be on the road or hitting the trails, it can prevent any unnecessary injuries.

Clothing is also an important factor. A well-fitting helmet, a pair of gloves and some high visibility clothing will keep you safe and help your confidence.  As you start to spend more time on your bike a nice pair of padded shorts will be your new best friend. Bear in mind these are a different fit for men and women and do vary in price, and try to look for a nice thick pad, you’ll thank me later!  Being caught out in bad weather without a good rain jacket can be soul destroying, especially if you are a long way from home.  You can buy rain jackets that fold and pack neatly into your pocket.

Once you are ready to head out check what your local pandemic restrictions are and always remember to keep a mask with you.  On one ride last summer I had run out of water and couldn’t stop anywhere as I had forgotten my mask. Saying that, make sure you have plenty of fluids, food and a few emergency euros just in case.

If you haven’t done any exercise or cycling for a while, try to take it easy and not overdo it on your first few rides. Build up your time and distance gradually to avoid injury and when you return home relax, rehydrate and slowly stretch your muscles.  You will find some very good tips on stretching on YouTube.

The most important thing is to enjoy your cycling, don’t put yourself under any pressure in terms of distances or speeds as these, along with your fitness, will improve naturally the more you do. Hopefully as the year progresses we will all be able to ride with friends again for coffee and cake stops, because these truly are the best kind of rides.

So good luck in your new adventures, maybe I will see you out on the road, stay safe and enjoy!

 

cycling thoughts

 

Basic Maintenance

These tips are aimed at a pre-ride inspection on a daily, weekly or monthly basis depending on how often you ride.  Nothing can replace the safety and peace of mind that comes with regular checks by a trained mechanic who will ensure that hard-to-evaluate, complex components such as derailleurs, spokes and cables are inspected.

Check that the brakes are working (left, right and then together)

  • Tighten any loose nuts and bolts (not too tight).  For bikes made from carbon, the tightening specs should be written on the frame.
  • Check that the spokes are in place and not loose.
  • Are the tyres inflated correctly?  The pressures can be found on the tyre side wall.
  • Check the tyres for glass, stones and cracks etc and carry your patch kit and pump with you.
  • Is the saddle secure and at the correct position for you?  Your saddle should be level which will stop any extra pressure on the arms and shoulders on long rides.  Use a small spirit level to check.
  • Are all moving parts moving freely and quick-release components functioning as they should?
  • Are the cables correctly positioned and not causing obstruction?
  • Check that the reflectors are still in place
  • Do the wheels spin freely and straight?
  • Lubrication is key to keeping your bike moving safely and can also extend the life of the parts such as the chain, cables, mechanics and certain types of clip-in pedals.  Lubricate when the bike is dry and make sure you avoid placing oil on the brakes and braking surfaces, wheel rims or discs.

Understanding the anatomy of your bike and how to lubricate essential parts will really help and, again, you can find many support documents online.  For instance a series of cycling guides, in English, can be found at cyclinguk.org which also includes a useful diagram explaining the structure of the bike.

cycling thoughts

As well as Cycling Thoughts, Jase has written several features on cycling which can all be found in the sports section of our website articles pages.

First published in the Feb-Apr 2021 issue of The Local Buzz

 

Images: Jase Alexander and Shutterstock

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