An early morning excursion on the weekends will reveal the fact that the number of cyclists on the road is increasing. There are lots of possible factors affecting the apparent increase in the popularity of cycling:
- The positive impact cycling has on health and fitness
- An increase in participation in Sportives, triathlons, duathlons and other cycle events
- High fuel costs motivating people to turn to two wheels to help reduce their commuting costs
- The Governments Cycle to Work scheme
- The success of our cycle teams at the World Championships, Olympics and the Grand Tours.
Whatever your reason for hopping on the saddle, the following information is aimed at providing the rider – whether you’re new to the activity or old school – an opportunity to review your understanding of some of the basics associated with cycling, bike sizing and cycling biomechanics.
Unless you intend to build your bike from the frameset outwards, purchasing and adding all the components individually (which can often be very costly), the average individual will typically buy a pre-built off the shelf bike.
How well the bike fits the individual can often depend on factors such as whether the rider is blessed with an average leg length, an average arm reach and an average size torso; the bike type (eg: mountain bike (MTB), hybrid, road, time trial or triathlon specific) and aggressiveness of set up (ie: aerodynamic position), along with an individual’s overall biomechanics (how well your body moves).
Consequently, when considering any new bike purchase, it’s advisable to speak with a reputable bike shop which is prepared to discuss your needs, take some basic measurements and possibly even allow your to test ride your dream machine prior to parting with your hard earned money.
Having spent a number of years setting up and reviewing various bikes, and their riders, I’ve found its not uncommon to find riders riding bikes where the set up is far from optimum. Even after they’ve been fitted, assessed and topographically analysed with computers.
If we also take into account that mother nature often blesses us with varying asymmetry’s (eg: leg length, muscle bulk, power etc), yet as a bike rider we are now asking our body to straddle an engineered piece of machinery which has a high degree of symmetry… and then peddling anywhere from around 70 to 100 revolutions a minute, whilst possibly attaining a good aerodynamic position; it’s not uncommon for the rider to either end up with pain, an injury or to find that they are under performing.
If you do suffer from aches, pains or inefficiency on the bike you may be able to improve your fit on your bike by undergoing one of our Cycle Assessments.
To help improve your biomechanics, and therefore your efficiency, on the bike, cycling orthotics have been found to be helpful.
Custom cycling orthotics, along with proper bike fit, can play a huge role in making sure your body is in biomechanical alignment with the mechanics of the bike. Custom cycling orthotics can help re-align the foot on the pedal and assist in preventing injury down the road.
Hydration & Fuelling
Of course you can cycle without proper hydration and fuelling, but if you want to stay energised and get the best performance out of your ride, you have to pay attention to what you’re putting in your body. Ensure you are properly hydrated before you head out – half a litre a couple of hours before you head out, and another half a litre an hour before.
When you are cycling you need to pay attention to the weather and intensity of the ride, and adapt your hydration to them, but generally speaking half a litre for each hour of cycling in cooler weather – up to 2 litres in hotter weather. On easier and shorter rides, water should be a sufficient hydrater. On longer and intense rides, consider using a sports drink.
After the ride you want to replace any loss fluids and elecrolytes as soon as you can. This will help your body recover quickly.
Following on from some articles which have already highlighted both the need and benefit for proper hydration and fuelling pre, during and post activity, cycling based activities should also encompass these ideas. (http://www.drummondclinic.co.uk/articles/running-event-preparation/)
Clothing, whether for fashion, speed, or safety, should always include a helmet (http://www.drummondclinic.co.uk/news/helmets/).
There is a lot of high visibility clothing available to make sure those pesky motorists see you coming.
Cycling specific shorts/underwear will help to make those long rides a lot more comfortable. Some cyclists often find chamois cream can also help to reduce friction and sores from occurring down below.
Cycling specific shoes which allow the rider to work the pedals through the entire 360 degrees of the crank, offer the rider the opportunity to work multiple muscle groups, and detract from overloading one or two larger muscles groups.
As obvious as it may sound to some, prior to riding your bike, checks should be made to tyre treads and pressures, as well as chain tension and oiling to say the least.
Thereafter, its highly advisable to carry tyre levers, a puncture repair kit (maybe even a spare tyre), a hand / gas pump and an allen key set for minor adjustments whilst you’re out.
If there is any risk of poor visibility you should also make sure you have the appropriate lights for your bike. Also consider use of a head torch.
Naturally speaking (although, I’m still amazed how many people I’ve spoken to who have never repaired a bike puncture themselves), I would add that its equally important to have practised changing a tyre / repairing a puncture in the comfort of their own home/garage /shed etc, prior to being caught out on the side of a road or in the wood… which as the law of sod would have it, would probably also be in the pouring rain
If you are riding in an event, you obviously want to keep equipment to a minimum from a weight point of view, but you still need to carry enough equipment to get yourself out of trouble to ensure you finish the event and get home safely!
And so to…
Preparation for any sport or activity would not be complete without the addition of general safety review. The Department for Transport releases statistics on the relating to cyclist injuries and fatalities.
Early reports for 2011 statistics indicate that total injuries have increased by an additional 8%.
RoSPA (Royal Society Prevention of Accidents) have also produced a fact sheet that adds some additional insight into the statistics: Read more.
What does this mean for you?
Learn what you can from the reports and minimise your exposure where possible. Knowledge of, and adherence to, the highway code is obviously essential. Also maintain focus and attention whilst cycling to preempt any adverse maneuvers by other road users and pedestrians and to save yourself from an accident caused by a pothole!