BIKING 101
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9 Tips for Beginner Cyclists

  1. Protect your head. Head injuries are the cause of 60 percent of all cycling deaths in the U. S.every year. Many of these deaths could be avoided if everyone wore a helmet while cycling. Always wear a helmet when riding and make sure your kids do as well. Many states have bike helmet laws, but you should always wear one even if you don’t have too.

  2. Don’t pedal in high gear for extended periods of time.You want to try and keep your cadence between 70 and 90 rpm’s. When you pedal in a high gear it puts added strain on you knees.

  3. Use your gears.When climbing hills shift into a gear that will keep your cadence in the right range of rpm’s so you can make it up the hill without putting undue stress on your knees.

  4. Get a proper bike fit.Having your bike set up to fit your body will make riding much easier, more efficient and cause you much less pain and soreness during and after the ride.

  5. Get the right saddle.Getting the right saddle will make a huge difference when riding. Don’t think the thickest padding will give you the most comfortable ride. A longer seat with a cutout will generally be the best type of saddle. Read reviews online and find out what others like, then test ride a few.

  6. Change position while riding.Move your hands around on the bars, and move your rear end around on the saddle. This will keep your hands, arms and rear from getting numb due to prolonged time in a given position.

  7. Don’t ride with headphones on.It can be extremely dangerous if you don’t hear an emergency vehicle or other commotions behind you or off to the side. If you have to have music, look at our RBSM SPORTS Bluetooth helmets with bone conduction speakers

  8. Know the rules.Ride with traffic and obey all road signs. Closely watch all cars in front of you so you can try to anticipate what they are going to do.

  9. Keep your head up.Look out in front far enough ahead so you can react to any obstacles in the road or on the shoulder in front of you.  Things like storm drain grates are very bad for skinny road bike tires.

If you follow these tips you will have a better, safer and more enjoyable time on your bike.

15 Things a Beginning Cyclist Should Do

  • Get Lost

Ride somewhere you’ve never been, or somewhere you think you know where you’re going but you aren’t sure. Explore. There is an element of childhood to riding a bicycle and before you had a car this was your means of exploration. Rediscover that.

  • Fix a Flat

On the side of the road, mid-ride, cars zipping by. It’s going to happen. You’re going to have to do it. Might as well get it out of the way.

  • Fix It Again

Welcome to the Most Frustrating Thing About Cycling. The learning curve on flat fixing can be brutally steep. You will miss something, some little sliver of glass in the tire, some piece of the tube sticking juuust out on the rim waiting to be pinched, and that tire is going to go flat again. I don’t care how many YouTube videos you watched. Failure is learning. Welcome to class.

  • Visit Every Local Bike Shop

Then make a list of best to worst by customer service. You are going to be close with these people, you might as well find the friendly ones. Amazon is great when you don’t need stuff in a hurry but when the race is tomorrow and you just discovered your tire is flat or you’re out of air canisters these people will be your saviors. Be cool to them and find the ones that are cool to you. Pay a little more for friendlier service. That comes around.

  • Make Friends

Talk about riding. Be That Guy. Talk, tweet, blog, text, and find forums online. Make friends who also enjoy cycling. They are all over the place and will be fonts of information and motivation. Plus, it is safer to ride in a group.

  • Little Hills/Big Hills

There are hills in your neighborhood that look like mountains. Hills that suck to climb. Attack them. Ride them. Suffer and strengthen. Graduate to bigger hills. Then, in six months, go back to that first brutal hill and zip up it thinking, “What was so bad about that?”

  • Don’t Apologize for Being New

Everyone was new once. Even Lance sucked for a little while. Ride in a group and try to keep up. If they are cool then they won’t complain, or they’ll drop you then wait a few miles up the road or at the top of the climb. Everyone remembers their struggles at the start. Ride, don’t complain, and try.

  • Adjust Your Own Bike

It feels so good to buy a book or look online and then get in there and make adjustments. Your instincts and this book say your seat should be higher? Raise it.

  • Take Your Bike to the Shop

Make the adjustments, feel right but weird, talk yourself into being positive you did something wrong and a horrible tragedy is waiting around the next pedal stroke, take the bike to the shop, watch them make miniscule adjustments, and feel better about your instincts. A proper bike fit changes your life, but you won’t know it until you feel it.

  • Fall Over Unclipping

We all have done it. You’ll do it too. Forget to unclip, do the slow unstoppable fall to one side, get up, glance around like you meant to do that, and move on.

  • Find Chain Grease Somewhere

“What the? How did I get grease on my elbow? And I swear I scrubbed it off my calf. Keep a Small Version of Your Stuff With You

George Carlin did a routine about Stuff. You need a small Bike Version of your Stuff. Money, ID, cell phone. So you can buy a snack, a drink, or an emergency supply. So people know who you are. So you can call for help when you blow your second spare tube 10 miles from home. Ziploc baggie, back pocket, ready to go.

  • Ride Somewhere Pretty

No matter where you live there is somewhere pretty you can ride to. Find it, ride there, take cell phone pictures and text them to your friends who slept in with snarky, superior, only half-joking messages about how awesome you are and how cool where you stopped is.

  • Have Fun

Of course! This should be fun. Like I mentioned right at the start, you are basically using a grown-up version of a child’s toy. Sometimes you need to stop and remember that.

Conquer a Small Mechanical Problem Using Only a Multi-Tool

Your seat slips. An aero bar loosens. Your chain gains sentience and tries to make a break for it. Bust out that multi-tool in your pocket or seat bag and fix it right there on the side of the road. Leave your helmet on, don’t trust cars, then get back out there.

8 Tips for Transitioning From Road to Dirt

Pick a Trail That’s Good for Beginners

Sadly, many roadies have been directed to a mountain bike trail that is much too hard for beginners. You’ll have a better experience if you begin on a relatively easy trail and increase difficulty as you improve skills. If this isn’t possible, for whatever reason, be willing to walk your bike across the hair-raising, death-to-the-left sections.

Pedal, Pedal, Pedal

Most of the time, power to the pedals and momentum are your friends. It is tempting to stop pedaling right before an obstacle. Your inner voice is telling you that the obstacle looks scary and you need to take a second or third look at the thing. Assuming you are beginning with a trail that is appropriate for beginners, much of the time just keeping the pedals moving and keeping even power to the wheels will get you around or over the technical section. Steady, even power will also help you climb a loose section of trail.

Tell yourself, “Pedal, pedal, pedal!”

Look Where You Want to Go and Trust the Bike

You have to be looking well ahead of the bike. Decide where you want to go and keep looking ahead on the trail. Don’t look at a section of trail and keep your eye on that section or obstacle until it’s under your front wheel. If you’re looking at what’s under your front wheel, there’s no way you can be ready for the next section of trail.

Once you’ve decided where you want to go, trust that your fork, shock and bike can handle the rough treatment. Mountain bikes, unlike road bikes, like it rough.

Sometimes you Need to Aim for the Rock

This tip is completely counter-intuitive for roadies. On the road bike we all try our best to avoid obstacles—including rocks. In mountain biking, sometimes aiming right for the rock and riding over it is your best line.

Equipment Selection and Set-Up Makes a Big Difference

Of course you want a bike that fits you correctly, that’s step number one. After you have the right bike, have your local shop help you set up the fork and shock pressures. If your suspension system is set up correctly, you’ll be capable of riding much more of the mountain and do it more comfortably. Know that your suspension set-up will likely change as you gain more experience riding, improve your skills and increase the difficulty of the trails you ride. Some riders change suspension settings between the beginning of the season and the end of the season as their fitness changes.

In addition to suspension, tire selection and tire pressure have a big influence on your ability to ride different types of trails. Of course, a larger and more aggressive rider will want to ride higher tire pressures on technical trails than smaller and more timid rider that is staying on mostly easy terrain.

No matter the terrain or your riding style you want to set-up the equipment for you. It’s all about optimizing performance and making it easier to ride the terrain that makes you smile.

Lower Your Seat on Descents

If you feel exposed and less confident on technical descents, try lowering your seat for only the descents. Know that many companies make seat posts that you can adjust on the fly. You may or may not want a full-time adjustable seat. In fact, you may find that after only a handful of rides, you can put your seat back to the optimal position for climbing and leave it there.

Use a Bigger Gear to Climb

On the road, most riders use a relatively low gear and try to “spin up” a climb. On the mountain bike, sometimes a bigger gear allows you to get over obstacles and it prevents you from spinning out. Be willing to try a bigger gear on some sections that give you trouble and see if it helps.

Stand Up and Move Around

In the same vein as the last tip, sometimes it takes a combination of a larger gear and a change in body position to help you clear an obstacle. Standing up allows you to move the bike—or yourself—to a position that helps you ride a particular section. This can be

Get Dirty

If you are a strong road rider, you can be a strong mountain biker as well. Knowing a few of the tricks can help speed up the learning curve. This column is only a beginning for tips to help you improve your skills. Additionally, riding with other people that are interested in helping you be successful can make a big difference. If you can see how someone else rides a technical section of trail, it becomes less intimidating.

Riding off-road is not only fun, it will make you a better road rider. Get dirty.

10 Ways to Improve Your Mountain Biking

1. Maintain Your Bike

It is difficult to focus on the trail when you are listening to strange noises coming from your bike. Basic bike maintenance only takes a few minutes and it can save you from a long walk, or worse, a trip to the emergency room. Even if you can’t fix your bike, checking it will give you the chance to take it into the shop before you hit the trail.

Go over the entire bike and look for anything that is worn out, cracked, broken or just not working right. Remember that minor problems at home can become big problems on the trail. Also, be sure that the bike is set up to fit you. A bike that is too big or too small will be hard to control.

2. Ride With Better Riders Than Yourself

Not only will this help you to push yourself a little harder, but it will help you learn some of the riding habits of people who have been doing it longer. Watch how they position their bodies when going up or downhill. Watch how they handle rough, rocky sections. Watch how they fix a flat tire when they’re miles from anywhere.

These valuable skills can easily be picked up when riding with other riders. Check with local bike shops to find group rides in your area.

3. Focus on Where You Want to Go

When you are on the trail, look where you want to go, especially on trails with plenty of roots and rocks. If you look at the rock or tree that you are trying to avoid, you will probably hit it. Instead, focus on the line that you want to take.

This is called target fixation. There is a complicated explanation as to why this works, but don’t worry about that—it just does. Always look ahead and find the line that you want, and you will ride smoother.

4. Relax

Whether you are riding a rigid bike or a full suspension, the best suspension you have is your arms and legs. Stand up, relax and allow them to absorb the bumps and ruts on the trail. Once you learn to let the bike move beneath you, you will be able to float over most obstacles.

It also helps to relax your grip a bit on the handlebars. Be sure to hang on firmly but not too tightly. A white-knuckle death grip will cause your forearms and hands to fatigue sooner and then make it tougher to be in control.

5. Spin

Cadence, or the rotation of your cranks, is a very important aspect of cycling. Professional cyclists spend a lot of time developing a good spin. If you pedal in squares, or with jerky downward strokes, you are actually throwing yourself off balance and working harder. Spinning is not only more efficient, but it helps keep traction on loose trail conditions.

Good cadence incorporates pedaling in circles and being in the right gear. If you are geared too high, it will be difficult to power over things, and if you are geared too low, you’ll spin out and jerk the bike around. But if you change gears to keep the same pedaling RPMs, around 70 to 100, you’ll find that it is much easier to climb and pedal through rough sections.

6. Learn the Wheelies

Wheelies and nose wheelies (having the back wheel off the ground) are fun little tricks, and they are quite useful on the trail.

You can pull a little wheelie to get your front wheel up and over an object, and then shift to a nose wheelie so your back wheel doesn’t hit. Even if you can’t get either wheel off of the ground, knowing how to take your weight off them will make some sections of trail smoother. These are easier to do with clipless pedals, but less intimidating to learn with platform pedals.

Starting with one pedal up and one down, a basic wheelie is a combination of pulling up on the handlebars, shifting your weight over the back wheel and pushing down on the up pedal. You can just do it for half of a pedal rotation, or try to maintain the wheelie and keep pedaling. Either way, keep your hand ready to pull the rear brake if you are going too far back; grabbing it will get your front wheel down.

The nose wheelie is a little different. You definitely don’t want to do this if there is something in the trail that is going to stop your front wheel, and you don’t want to grab your front brake. Either one will toss you. In one motion, lean a little forward, push forward on the bars and pull up with your feet. Even if you are using platform pedals, you can hook your feet and still lift the back of the bike up.

7. Stop

Hopping and balancing skills really pay off when riding technical trails. Having the ability to come to a stop and then start again without putting a foot down makes it easier to keep your momentum.

These are both done while standing still, though you can lunge with the bike while you are hopping to go up and over stuff (stairs, rocks, people, etc). Pure stationary balancing—also called a track stand—is done without holding on to the brakes. To learn this, practice going as slow as possible and feathering your brakes to cut your speed. It is easiest to learn this on a slight uphill slant. Soon you’ll be able to balance without going anywhere by shifting your weight and moving the bike beneath you.

Hopping is sort of the same concept but done with both brakes locked while you pick up both wheels to keep the bike underneath you. With your body centered between the two wheels, compress your body, then push down to raise your body up and then pull up with your arms and legs. It takes practice, but it will soon become easy and useful.

The little tricks may seem silly, but they do help develop overall bike-handling skills.

8. Take a Brake

Actually take two brakes. Better braking will allow for better bike control. Many new riders think they only have two brake settings, locked and not in use. You’ve actually got less control with the brakes locked, much like a car.

Learn how to use both brakes effectively. Most of your braking power comes from the front brake. But be careful not to use it too much if you are going downhill or cornering. You’ll either get tossed over the bars, or your front wheel will slide out. It is all about moderation and modulation.

When cornering, practice braking before the turn, rather than in the middle of it. You’ll soon be able to carry more speed through the turns. When descending, learn to feather the brakes so that they don’t lock up. If they do lock up, ease up a bit. You’ll not only have more control, but you’ll save the trail from excessive erosion.

9. Go Yonder

Once you’ve mastered your local trails, venture forth into the world and explore new ones. New trails and challenges will make it more exciting to be riding, and they’ll help sharpen your skills. This is the key to becoming a well-rounded rider.

10. Ride Everywhere

The more time that you spend on your bike, the better you will get. Ride to the mailbox, to the store, to the coffee shop. This will help to reinforce your riding skills as you ride up and down curbs, dodge potholes and outpace angry chihuahuas. Once you can easily ride down two or three stairs, you can approach trail obstacles with a little more confidence.

You can read about cycling as much as you want, but nothing replaces saddle time. So with that in mind, put this down, gear up and get out and ride.

10 Tips to Improve Your Mountain Biking

Learn to Bunny-Hop: A Skill For Every Mountain Biker

Every mountain biker needs to know how to bunny-hop, or how to jump over rocks and other obstacles on the trail.

Beginners should start in a large area free of obstacles. Load yourself like a spring by crouching on the bike with extremely bent elbows, knees, and hips, rolling slowly along, pedals parallel to the ground.

From the crouch, explode straight upward, keeping pressure on both pedals and pulling upward on the handlebars with a forward twisting motion (reverse to that of a motorcycle throttle). The twisting motion helps bring the rear end up.

In the beginning, don’t worry about which crank arm is forward and which is back. Just do whatever comes naturally. Then, after you get comfortable with the basic lifting, make sure to practice with either crank arm forward, and learn to direct the handlebar twisting motion so it turns the front wheel slightly left or right.

On the trail you’ll want to be able to hop with either side forward, depending upon which side an obstacle is on, and you’ll need to be able to turn the wheel toward the best trail line.

Once you can get over six-inch obstacles on a regular basis on flat terrain, you’re ready to do the maneuver on a slope, hopping as you traverse across it. Start near the bottom of a gentle preferably grassy slope. Do a series of slightly upward and downward traverses, hopping forward, right and left as you go.

Note that on a slope, you want to keep your weight to the uphill side to keep the frame upright, and to keep from tumbling down the hill sideways.

Once this becomes comfortable, you’re ready to use the gravitational pull of a slightly downhill traverse to begin mastering standing bunny hops. Rolling across the slope with the uphill crankarm forward, touch the brakes, bringing the bike to a quick momentary halt. Play with this maneuver until you are at ease holding the bike still for a couple of seconds without tottering.

Next, get in a mild crouch, and just when the bike stops moving forward, make a small sideways hop downhill, keeping the front wheel pointed forward or ever so slightly downhill. Release the brakes as you begin the twisting and pulling jump motion on the handlebars. After a landing/rolling exit becomes routine, begin pedaling forward as soon as your wheels touch the ground and straighten the bars to maintain your line on the slope.

Once you get that move down, expand the length of your standstill until you are no longer using the momentum of your traverse to hop. Then try hopping the bike upslope.

If you ever feel yourself falling, try to fall uphill. With luck, you’ve picked a spot clear of obstacles, maybe even one with grass on either side of the trail for a soft landing. Large fields or lawns are great places to practice bunny hopping.

How to Look Like a Cyclist

In cycling, “Fred” is code for newbie—someone whose knowledge is incomplete. Naturally, it’s the last thing anyone wants to be called. This info, if it does nothing else, should help you avoid being labeled a Fred.

Riders rarely call someone Fred to their face. Even using the term can seem rather third grade, but riders’ regard for the health of the herd trumps their care for any one rider. The issue isn’t whether someone is fast enough or has a cool bike, but really one of skill based on the need to stay safe at high speed.

In the view of the group, a Fred is a rider who lacks skill and knowledge and those deficiencies are seen as potentially dangerous. The logic goes: If you don’t know how to dress like the riders in the pack then you might not know how to ride like them, and you might not be safe to ride near.

There are two ways to be a Fred. The primary way is through your appearance, but a secondary way is through your behavior when riding with others. Your ability to act with consideration for other riders will determine whether they treat you like the Pied Piper or an infectious disease.

The biggest problem new riders face when joining a group is simply looking the part. Here are a few simple rules to keep in mind. They are as good as knowing the secret handshake.

Cotton

In short, don’t wear it. Cotton offers none of the technical benefits that come from wearing wool or synthetics. When it gets wet, it stays wet and therein lies the rub—metaphorically and literally. Tube socks, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or shorts—they are all the antithesis of technical garments that make comfortable cycling for hours at a time possible.

Chainring Tattoo

Nothing says, “I’m new!” like a chainring tattoo. You never see a pro cyclist with a big, black, greasy chainring mark on his right calf. Unfortunately, it’s common among new riders. Avoiding this one is easy. If you have a leg over the top tube, keep one foot clipped in. Never straddle your bike with both feet on the ground; it’s a recipe for disaster, or at least a badge of dishonor.

Because rest is a big part of going fast, when you are stopped, keep a foot clipped in and sit on your top tube. It doesn’t matter which foot remains clipped in; to remain stable, the foot on the ground will be extended out to give you a stable stance; either way your calf can’t hit the big chainring. If you want to stand up with both feet on the ground, get off your bike completely.

Skirts

Riders who wear jerseys two sizes too big are said to wear skirts. A jersey’s pockets should sit on your lumbar, not at your hips. Wear a jersey too big and you are likely to catch the tail of the jersey on the saddle nose when you try to sit down. While some riders may not mind the baggy look, the effect the wind will have on the jersey causes it to flap around like a flag, making it harder for riders behind you to see what’s going on up ahead. Form-fitting clothing reduces the number of visual distractions other riders must process and cuts down on noise.

Bellbottoms

Similarly, riders who wear shorts two sizes too big are said to wear bellbottoms. If the leg grippers flair out instead of fitting snugly around the thigh and if the Lycra bunches up rather than running smoothly over the rider’s skin, not only is the look terrible, but chafing is inevitable. It’s as comfortable as a sandpaper sock. Loose shorts also present another liability: plumber’s crack. When you ride in the drops in a group no one should see your skin—from your back…or elsewhere. Bibs take care of this problem and are more comfortable to boot. And again, form-fitting clothing eliminates visual distractions caused by flapping fabric.

10 Things I Wish I Knew From The Start

We all slowly gather more information and experience the more we ride our bikes. We learn by reading, making mistakes, talking to people, observing others and much of the time by generally figuring things out as we go along. However, there are a few “light bulb” moments, as I like to call them, where in the past I have learnt something that I truly wished I’d known from the first moment my butt touched a bicycle saddle.

Since then I’ve seen my clients go through the same enlightenment process time and again with cries of “why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”. Some of them may seem simple, maybe you already know them all, but for some of you out there…prepare for some cycling enlightenment.

Can’t Reach Your Brakes When You’re in the Drops?

You can ask your bike shop to move the hoods down, thereby bringing the brake levers closer to the drops, to prevent that awkward reaching feeling (especially for those with small hands).

You can also have the levers themselves adjusted to bring them in closer, making it easier to get your fingers on the brakes.

A Dropped Chain Doesn’t Mean You Have to Get Off Your Bike

Allow the bike to coast but keep pedaling and gently shift your front derailleur away from the direction that the chain has dropped. Be gentle and the chain should catch back onto the chain ring.

Obviously if you’re going uphill this becomes more difficult but don’t be surprised if you feel a helping hand on your back pushing you to keep you rolling as you ease the chain back on. Still not sure? Try it off the bike just turning the pedals with your hands and you’ll see how it can work on the road.

Taking Your Rear Wheel off Doesn’t Have to Leave You Covered in Oil

Before removing a rear wheel, make sure you are in your small chain ring and smallest cog on the cassette. This puts your rear derailleur in its most relaxed position and gives the chain the most slack. When you put the rear wheel back on simply line up the chain over your smallest cog again and ease the wheel back into the dropouts. You may have to use a finger to push the rear derailleur down but you shouldn’t have to mess around grabbing hold of the chain with your hands.

 

Struggling to Eat on the Bike?

Cut open bars and blocks before you ride and have them ready to slip out of wrappers easily while you’re riding (not recommended with gels I’m afraid—use your teeth for that one!).

Not Confident on a Descent?

There are many things to learn about descending better, more safely or more quickly. However the one learning point that people seem to gain the most from is learning to put their outside pedal down when taking a corner (for example, if you are cornering to the left put the right pedal down) and apply pressure to the pedal. Real hard pressure, not just putting the correct foot down, it should feel like you are trying to snap the pedal off! It’s amazing how much more confidently you can descend when you start doing this.

Feeling the Pressure?

One hundred pounds is a very popular tire pressure for some reason, no matter what the terrain or rider weight. Actually,the correct tire pressure varies a lot depending on the rider, where they are riding, the tire width and manufacturer. You can usually call the tire manufacturer or look on their website and find the correct pressure for you, your bike and your riding. Be aware—too much air can slow you down too by causing a bumpy ride!

Feeling the Heat?

If you’re going to be riding on a very hot day, prepare both water bottles in advance and freeze them overnight. Have one filled 70 percent full. When you remove them in the morning top up the slightly less full bottle so you have some liquid immediately. As you ride, they’ll melt but they’ll stay cool for much longer.

Correct Quick Release Skewer Position

For a quick release to be properly closed it has to be fully closed and in order for it to be fully closed it has to be pushed in beyond the level of the seat or chain stays or the front fork. So don’t line it up with the frame or the fork, close the lever to the side of the seat stay, rear stay or front fork to ensure it is properly engaged.

 

Check Your Helmet Regularly

On a slightly gloomier note, be sure to check your helmet regularly for cracks. Even a knock while transporting it can cause the foam to crack and certainly if you’ve had any kind of fall inspect it well. Your helmet is designed to break instead of your head so please, please make sure it’s up to the task.

Don’t Run on Empty

Imagine you had a fuel tank in your car that steadily leaked fuel out. A bad approach to taking a journey would be to leave in the morning, forget to fill up with gas, run out of fuel on the way and end up pushing your car home, then when you get home fill the tank up with gas and subsequently leave your car sitting outside steadily dripping gas out before you climb in it the next day and repeat the same mistake all over again.

Crazy? Yes, but that’s very often the approach people take to fueling themselves before and during a ride: limiting fuel when it’s really needed and trying to make up for it after all the hard effort has been done. So, do yourself a favor and fill up before you go and then keep topping up as you expend the energy. Life will seem much more pleasant that way and you won’t end up doing the cycling equivalent of pushing your car home (i.e. bonking!).

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