If you have stumbled across my twitter account, chased me to any of the other sites I contribute to, stopped to look at the image attached to my profile-of-Doom, or taken a close look at the banner for this little series, you might begin to deduce that I am into cycling. It’s the truth, I am a lycra-wearing, two-wheeling, bell-ringing, cycling fool. In truth, cycling is really the only sport I actually care about, though a few years ago that wasn’t the case. When it came time to get in shape I decided that a bike would be my means to a healthier life. Cycling is a low impact activity, which is important to a bigger dude because just the act of carrying all your weight can present challenges to various work-outs like running. If you are really interested in the play by play of that story I created a Tumblr account when I started riding and chronicled everything up until a short while ago. It’s fun to re-read now and hear the excitement in my words over riding 10 miles and then to see the transformation to riding 100 miles a year later, and eventually to my first race earlier in 2012.
The most important thing to remember, above all, is to get a bike that fits you. Regardless of the type of bike you are riding, you need to make sure that it is comfortable. You want to pay close attention to a couple specific aspects of the bikes geometry to get a good fit. Your knee should be just barely bent when the peddle is all the way at the bottom of a stroke. Hold yourself up against a wall or counter while you sit on your bike and extend your leg. Raise or lower the seat accordingly. A good rule of thumb (though it doesn’t always apply) is that if the stem that holds the seat has text on it, you shouldn’t be able to read all of it. Your stem and bike seat can be up pretty high, but you don’t want to risk it falling out of the tube it is set in when you hit a bump.
When you reach for the handlebars you don’t want to be leaning over too much. The type of handlebars and bike can affect comfort a lot, but the idea remains the same across the board. You don’t want your back to hurt when you grab the bars or to feel like you are holding yourself on the saddle with your arms. Drop bars (typically on road or track bikes) curl under and offer a more aggressive stance to ride in. Rest assured that if you choose a bike that has handlebars like this it will take some getting used to for the muscles in your back to be ok with staying bent over on long rides. Stick with it though, they are quite comfortable after your body is adjusted.
If you go to a quality bike shop they should help you with the fit; however, this is typically not the cheapest way to get a bike. The great thing about bicycles is that they have been around forever and it’s not hard to find a nice used bike to get started with. Look on Craigslist or your local classifieds in the newspaper. I started with a hybrid bike which has slightly smaller tires than most mountain bikes which allows for a little more speed but still will take you down a gravel road. Eventually I moved to a road bike which have skinny tires that allow for a faster ride as long as you stay on paved roads and paths. Of course, the traditional mountain bike has the thickest tires and allows for the largest variety of terrain options. Choose your steed and get ready to ride like the wind!
Keep in mind you should still budget money to buy a helmet and a bike pump of some sort. Hop on Google maps and try to map out a route before you head out. If you can, choose roads that have lower speed limits or lighter traffic. If you can head out into the country for some nice long flat stretches that will allow you to ride for a long time without stopping that is always great for a workout. Do a quick search for cycling laws in your area because they vary quite a bit depending on where you are located. Always ride your bike with traffic, not against traffic. This is a common misconception and leads to lots of accidents every day. Use hand signals when you turn and stop in traffic. Don’t ride your bike on the sidewalk. You are a vehicle and typically are expected to abide by the same laws as other vehicles, not pedestrian laws. Getting a good workout is easy. Try to find a gear that lets you pedal fast, but without rocking your hips. Try to flatten your feet at the bottom of each stroke so you get a good power transfer which helps you pedal more efficiently. Lastly, control your breathing. Try not to pant. Breathe in for three seconds then breathe out for three seconds. Do your best to maintain that rate of breathing while you pedal and just keep riding. Even if you only go out for 30 minutes a day, go out every day, and ride your hardest. When you think you have had enough, push yourself a little further.
Be sure to tune in next time when I explain why those hipsters on the fixed gear bikes might not deserve quite as much ridicule as they get. Thanks for reading #GeekFit.