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5 Must-Know Tips for New Cyclists

Curds 'n' Weigh: 5 Must-Know Tips for New Cyclists

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

5 Must-Know Tips for New Cyclists

In my 48 hours of experience as a cyclist, I have learned a few poignant lessons that I wish someone told me ahead of time.  Consider this the new cyclists' Bible of sorts (well, maybe not so dramatic...just some things you really really really need to know!)

1.  Texting while driving is bad; texting while biking is INSANE!  I admit that I do some pretty unsafe things while driving: putting on lipstick, texting/talking on the phone, searching through my glove box.  I have the skill of a circus juggler behind the wheel...sadly, this doesn't translate well to biking.  I have been using an application called Endomondo to track my speed and distance, but one problem is that the touch screen causes me to accidentally hit pause while I'm riding.  The simple motion of me attempting to remove my phone from my shoulder strap sent me shakily wobbling and subsequently overcorrecting.  Thankfully I was on a dedicated cyclist/runner's trail so there was no danger, but all I could picture was my face kissing asphault!  I rode past a young guy texting with both hands...he was quite skilled.  I, on the other hand, am not.  YET!

2.  Don't sing while biking (probably shouldn't talk either).  Secretly, I am Beyonce.  She only comes out behind closed doors: in the bathroom mirror to the song in my head, in my office when everyone has gone for the day...and when I'm exercising.  I sing and dance, make the faces and poses...I am Beyonce.  Yesterday evening I learned that Beyonce should not ride a bike!  As I was pedalling full force, rocking to the diva anthem bumping in my headphones, singing and performing the routine for my audience of moi, I rode right through...a swarm of gnats!!!  Motorcycles have lovely windshields and face visors to protect from head-on insect collisions, bicyclists are only given an alien-inspired styrofoam hat.  I always thought cyclists were trying to look cool with their sun shades...maybe it's to protect from bug guts in the cornea.

3.  Hills are not fun...especially going down.  I didn't realize that the trail I was riding had a slight incline.  Yes, my thighs were on fire and my calves begged, but I switched to a higher gear and pushed through the discomfort.  I finished the first mile turned around at the end of the trail...and then I realized I'd been going uphill the whole time.  Going back down, my bike took off on its own.  This would have been a great thrill ride, except that every 1/3 mile or so, the trail intersected with traffic.  Remember when I said I was too impatient to wait for my custom brakes and picked up the bike with only coaster brakes...BAD IDEA!!!  Several times while flying down the hill, I started to apply the coaster brake, only to realize that I should have started sooner.  Afraid to cause a skid and tire blowout, I didn't want to brake too hard but the intersection was so close!  I braced myself, braked urgently...and then had the not-so-bright idea to use my foot to help stop the bike!  Um...that was just plain idiotic.  I left the trail with all tires and limbs intact, but I will be overjoyed when the custom front brakes arrive. 

4.  Know your your booty!  One of the selling points of my bike was the plush embroidered seat and handlebars.  Cute is not always practical...especially when it comes to a bicycle seat.  I figure that I'll be spending much more time on the saddle, so I need to buy something designed more ergonomically-correct.  We all have sit bones...and while mine are well-insulated beneath a thick layer of cellulite, sit bones hurt like hell when you sit on them!  I didn't realize this while I was cycling and having a great time...but when I got home and stretched...sat on the edge of the couch to get a reeeeeallly good stretch...I found my sit bones!  OUCH!!!  I know it will improve with time, but even now as I'm typing this message, I'm very aware of the sharp pain when I sit in certain positions.  I found a seat with a gel cushion and a separation between the sit bones to relieve pressure...hopefully that will work.  In the meantime, I'm finding kind things to do for my butt (massage, standing instead of sitting, impromptu booty shake) to make up for the torture of the saddle.

5.  Lycra is very ugly...but probably useful.  My standard workout wardrobe consists of sweatpants and old t-shirts...I might do a matching set if I'm feeling fancy.  This is not the best thing for biking; rolling in the wind, I felt like a parachute.  My too-big tee in combination with the upright sitting position of a beach cruiser made for some pretty UN-aerodynamic riding.  According to Endomondo, my average speed was 8mph, though I felt like I was pedalling enough for 50mph.  Once I've been riding a while, I will definitely invest in some riding shoes and cleats along with some tight little ugly lycra shorts.  I'm too sexy for my lycra!

One thing that I'm loving about biking is that I can set attainable goals for myself to keep things fun and challenging.  One of my previous problems with working out is that my goals were always about how many pounds I lost and when I didn't hit the goal, I would feel like a failure.  The scale has not been so friendly to me this go round (though I only have 2 1/2 more pounds to go before I hit my first goal), so I figure if I focus on my health, stamina and performance, the weight will follow. 

I completed 2.25 miles in 16:38 yesterday.  My first phase of goals:

1.  Complete the 2.25 mile loop in 15 minutes flat.
2.  Complete 2.5 miles in 15 minutes.
3.  Complete 4.5 miles (the loop twice) in under 30 minutes.
4.  Complete 5 miles in under 30 minutes.

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