Bike Like Me

Every time I see a new article about biking I get excited. After reading it, not so much. I feel that my kind of bike riding is totally ignored by the so-called specialists or athletes and that’s just not right. Yet, I see many bicycle magazines and websites that aim for just that.

It’s no wonder more people aren’t motivated to get back in the saddle and ride because like them I’m not interested in racing or setting up my bike so that I can be hunched over my handlebars trying to be aerodynamic while wearing racing jerseys and shorts.

Most of the people I see on the Bay Trail are like me, people on their bikes just trying to have fun and maybe lose a little weight. I see whole families biking together with big smiles on their faces and I know that’s what it’s really about!

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I smile at other bikers on the trail as they pass by me smiling back on a beautiful spring day.

Another thing that I notice is how many people seem to be riding bicycles that don’t suit them. They go to look at bicycles and buy the first shiny thing they see getting misdirected by the seller or pressured by their friends to buy a bike they aren’t going to want to ride. Or even worse a bicycle they will hate riding because it’s not the right type for them.

I see people on mountain bikes that never go on trails or expensive high-performance bikes made just for racing looking uncomfortable. If you don’t get the right bike for your body and where you ride you may be asking for a painful ride that will never get better.

If you are older you may not want to bend over on a ten-speed bike anymore and if riding on pavement most of the time you don’t need a shock absorber on your front fork you need a decent seat with springs underneath. Of course, that depends on you, we all have different needs and there are many types of bikes to choose from.

A warning up front, bikes are not made like mine anymore (my bike is over 30 years old) and if you aren’t careful you could end up with a cheap bicycle that will break down more than you’d wish. Chains coming off easily, derailers with plastic parts that snap, bad breaks and pads, I’ve seen it all. Expensive doesn’t always mean quality spend a little time when you look. Get on the bike and take a test ride most good shops will let you ride first. Or better yet, rent a bike and see how you like it then buy it.

Even my roommate bought a mountain bike, it has 21 gears (versus my 10 gears) but when he rides with me on the Bay Trail he has to go through his gears constantly because they are for offroad use. Where my bike has stiff springs under the seat that make my bike incredibly smooth to ride, his has a front shock for landing on the wheel while doing jumps or taking large bumps on dirt paths. My bike has large wheels that roll further when I pedal and he has small knobby tires. It makes more of a difference than you’d think.

Touring bikes are your best bet you can ride them on the street but take them on the occasional trail or gravel road but they have changed! Most come with without fenders, have tiny seats without springs and drop handlebars (like a ten-speed bike.) There are “city” (or commuter) bikes that are meant for city streets that have almost straight handlebars. The “Dutch-style bikes” look more like the old touring bikes with fenders, good seats, and upright handlebars but don’t always have over 7 speeds. There are so many different styles of bicycles to buy now so decide what you want on your bike and stick to it.

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Here you can compare a touring bike and a mountain bike. These are both Schwinn bicycles one old and one new. My frame (the silver bike) is a girls “dutch style” bike and the red one is a boys “mountain” bike. Mine is a 10-speed geared for the street and the other is a 21-speed bike geared for the dirt.

 

Make sure the bike frame fits you and you can get on the bike. Make sure your seat is high enough and that you’re sitting up comfortably. If you want an easier ride, get more gears on your bike. I like at least 10 gears and think anything above that is just extra shifting unless you go off-road. Go to a reputable bike store and let them help you but be firm about what you want.

I hope I’ve given you some things to think about. The important thing is, get the right bike so that you’ll be comfortable riding it so you’ll keep riding it. Shop around and you’ll find that dream bike and love it as much as I love mine.

If you love your bike it will take you places and put a smile on your face!

Avoiding Painful Rides

Whether you are a beginner or just doing something wrong biking can be a real pain. It’s no fun to find yourself 30 minutes into your ride wishing it was over with already. Hands falling asleep, arms hurting, backaches and backside aches are common complaints that make us want to give up but with practice, we can avoid some of that pain.

What hurts you beforehand?

Before taking up any sport it’s good to be aware of your weaknesses. Prior injuries or disabilities will haunt you if you don’t plan ahead and protect yourself. It’s a good idea to have a talk with your doctor about biking and whether it’s something you can do first. Your doctor will tell you the best way to protect yourself so you don’t make any problem areas worse.

A pain in the butt.

Not many people come away from a bike seat saying it feels great. Most bikes come with the smallest size seat you can get similar to what comes on a 10-speed bike. There are 3 sizes of seats and unless you want to buy a new seat you can learn to use the one that comes on your bike.

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My bike has a medium size seat which is standard on a touring bike but even my seat was painful at first. Instead of buying a new seat, a cheaper alternative is a seat cover. They cost about $20 and come with memory foam or gel to give you a more comfortable ride. Easy to install and remove you can take your seat cover with you if you change bikes.

When riding your bike you’re not always pedaling. When coasting, lift your rear off of the seat a little resting it. You can always stand while coasting stretching out your body and giving your rear a rest. Added up these small breaks can really help.

Benches give us a great place to take a break but rather than sitting again stretch in place or take a small walk.

If all else fails a new seat may be in order but make sure you get one with springs underneath they make all the difference in smoothing out your ride.

My aching back.

Back pain is always a sign that you are straining rather than letting your legs and core do the work. When riding a bike you don’t want to “put your back into it” you will be in extreme pain. Before your legs are strong enough to take the slack it’s easy to pull or tense your back going up that hill rather than relaxing in the seat and using your legs.

Concentrate on letting the bike carry you. Sit high in the saddle and don’t hunch forward or round your back. Don’t lean heavily on your hands keep a light grip and relax.

When you are tired this is the time you should be the most careful with your back. Take a break, stretch your back and remember to pull with your thighs and core when you pedal relaxing your back. Develop a good riding style watching the angle of your back and stay comfortable.

Make sure the balls of your feet are on your pedals pushing forward. Be patient, in time you will build the core and leg muscles it takes to bike with less effort without back strain or pain. The key words are bike fit, core muscle stability, and riding style—all of these likely contribute to back pain.

 

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Use the correct bike posture for your type of bike.

My hands are falling asleep and my arms hurt.

If you are grasping the handgrips too tightly you will be on pins and needles. Leaning heavily on your handlebars will cause your arms and shoulders to hurt moving into your back. It’s good to have some options so you don’t have to keep your hands in one position during your ride. Changing hand positions is a big help.

If it’s possible, ride with one hand resting the other. I can do this with my touring bike because the handlebars are upright. Put the weight on your seat not your arms or hands. Keep a light but firm grip on your handgrips.

Watch your wrist and arm position with elbows bent depending on your handlebars. It’s possible to get padded riding gloves and handlebars that offer more than one hand position if you can’t get used to your setup.

My neck is killing me.

Whether in a bike lane or on a path when cycling you must watch for traffic. On bike paths, you ride on the right-hand side and get passed on the left, always. You need to be aware of what’s around you. It can give you a sore neck. If you are tense this can get worse.

Relaxation goes a long way in bike riding. I look at it like Yoga on a bike. If you keep the parts of your body relaxed you will have less pain. It takes concentration and if necessary, stretching beforehand. Do some neck circles before riding…simply sit and gently move your head in full slow circles one way, and then the other.

Keep your head moving when you ride. You’ll want to take in the view and watch for other bikers, people walking, objects in the path and cracks in the path that can capture your tires. Keep your eyes and ears open.

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The position that you ride in makes all of the difference. Get acquainted with your type of bicycle and select the right bike fit for you. Adjust your seat and handlebars as suggested for your bike. When done right it will serve you well and keep you comfortable while you ride.

Pick the right bike for you and where you are going to ride. 

There are many kinds of bikes to choose from when you buy your bike do some research and get what you need. If you are going to bike on pavement but take the occasional dirt or gravel path a touring bike is your best bet. A 10-speed type of bike is good for paved bike trails.

If you don’t mind a little extra weight on your bike you may rethink having fenders on your bike when there’s a puddle or you drive over hot asphalt. I’m not talking about high-performance biking on Bike With Bekkie I’m talking about biking for good health and enjoyment.

Many people ride mountain bikes on the Bay Trail but they are made for mostly dirt paths and don’t offer the best ride on pavement. They make the mistake of buying mountain bikes for everyday riding but they are uncomfortable for long rides and the gearing is different. The right bike makes all the difference.

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If you still have pain after doing all you can with your bike it might be time for a new bike. I feel biking is for almost everyone and see people of all ages biking when I am out. The common denominator is the smile I see on everyone’s faces.

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Here I am taking a break to stretch. I do this at least 2 times while I’m on a ride. I used to have terrible back pain, a nerve would get pinched and half of my back would go numb. One day it hit me that I was putting my back into it not my upper thighs and on hills, I’d tense up my back muscles. When biking into the wind I’d yank my back around instead of gearing down and relaxing. It is so easy to ride the wrong way if you don’t think about what you’re doing. Now my back never hurts and the pinched nerve has not come back.

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Keep these tips in mind and ride pain-free.

Got any questions or comments leave them behind and I will give you the best advice I can muster. It’s summer in the US and prime riding time.

The more you ride the better you feel!

I Want To Ride My Bicycle

My bike is a 1986 Schwinn World Tourist bicycle I’ve owned since it was new. (Featured photo.) From road bikes to mountain bikes and everything in-between, there’s something for everyone.

When picking a bicycle look at where you will ride. What kind of trails will you be on? How do you want to sit on your bike? Can you get a leg over the bar? The best way to know is to go to a local bike shop and with their help, try a few out. Don’t be afraid to ask to ride it around the parking lot. With so many hybrids and specialized bicycles, (like recumbents,) there really is a bike just for you out there!

Whether you buy your bike at the shop or at Walmart you’ll be glad you tried them out first. The worst thing you can do is buy a bicycle you’re not going to be comfortable on because you won’t ride it. If a bike fits you it’ll feel like it does. It’s a great feeling!

What kind of bike do you have?

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So you want to ride your bicycle, what should you expect?

Even on a sunny day when starting out, you will hate the hills, the wind will push you around and you will wonder what the hell you are doing on a bike. You may feel like you forgot how to ride! We all feel these things but after a few weeks, you will gain confidence and start to feel a difference. It took me over a year to get over the hump but good things take work and time.

I suggest biking 2 to 3 times a week to start. You don’t want to let too many days go in between or it will take longer for the good benefits to add up. You will want to rest at least every other day to recover. Eating healthy food and getting a good nights sleep is a must because your body needs sleep cycles to heal.

Ride as far as you can each time (which for me was a few miles) as you get better you’ll find yourself wanting to go further. Part of the fun is starting to find the riding trails in your area. No places to ride? Get a bike carrier for your vehicle from the bike shop.

What are some of the benefits of riding your bicycle?

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Ok so these aren’t exactly the physical benefits but all are good examples of how awesome bikes are.

I love how quiet it is when I ride and I notice things that I wouldn’t when driving my car. Little critters cross the path in front of me and birds glide on the wind alongside me. The other day a crow flew over me with a dead mouse held in its beak dripping blood happy to catch lunch and I saw a hummingbird as small a large bug. I feel like I’m flying through a wonderland when I ride my bike.

What about the physical things that happen to you in the first hour?

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  1. 10 Minutes-A sense of freedom hits your system. You immediately grin from the joy you’re feeling as you pedal faster and faster.
  2. 20 Minutes-Your enjoyment spikes, causing a burst of activity. Your body is ridding itself of the stress hormone that can prevent deep regenerative sleep. You start to smile.
  3. 40 Minutes-Blood flow and oxygen to the brain is boosted. Keep smiling, because if you’re riding 5 days a week for 40 minutes at a time you’re likely to take half as many sick days as couch potatoes.
  4. 45 Minutes-Serotonin and endorphins are released into the blood system, helping improve your mood. This is the addicting part that I love because it lasts even after you stop riding.
  5. 60 Minutes-With every mile you tick off you’re helping reduce your risk of heart disease to less than half of those who don’t exercise. You’re burning fat and getting stronger.
  6. After an hour, your mind comes into play. To me, it’s like meditation I even think of poetry and music. As a side note, I’d like to say that this is a good reason NOT to listen to music while you’re riding it’s extremely dangerous not to pay attention to your surroundings on a bike. We all need time to think in this crazy world and this is an excellent way and time to do it.
  7. As the rave inside of you continues you might want to think about how much longer you want to bike. I bike about 2 hours at a time roughly 20 miles and I take along an apple or pear. Nothing beats choosing a bench and noshing on the trail not to mention you’ll burn it off going home.

These are just some of the good things you have to look forward to. Exercise promotes good hormones and helps relieve inflammation in the body. Stress and the effects of stress melt away. Endorphins really are addictive and feel amazing even after you get off of the bike! Exercise relieves pain, helps weight-loss and promotes quality sleep.

I have a saying, “There’s no belly in bicycling.” That’s because it helps bloat and gives one a flat stomach.

Warning: If you’re starting an exercise program, or have medical problems, you should consult your doctor first to be safe. Nothing feels worse than hurting yourself just as you are getting used to riding, then having to take the time off to heal.

What kinds of bikes are there?

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Even with enlarging and sharpening this didn’t come in as well as I’d of liked but it gives you an idea of all of the different bicycles there are. If you want to know more about one of these styles a search would be good if you can’t read it. The “at a glance” info is interesting.

What kind of bicycle would you want?

Whether you buy a vintage or a new bike be sure and try it out first. An old bike can always be fixed up like new so don’t neglect your old bike it can be your best friend again by taking it into a shop or doing your own work if you know how.

Your bicycles seat should be high enough so that you have room to extend your legs when pedaling but not too high as to have to stretch for them. There are different size frames, wheels and the seat and handlebars are adjustable. Fenders become important when it rains if you don’t want water on your back. A bike may not “fit” you perfectly have someone who knows help you figure out what fits you.

Having a bike with no speeds or one with many speeds is another personal choice. You may want to sit up on a bike and not bend over with 10-speed handlebars. There are different kinds of breaks and shifters to consider. There are large cushy seats if you don’t like the tiny ones and no matter what kind of bike you get you can always change these out. Get what you want not necessarily what the store tries to sell you.

It’s good to have a holder for a water bottle (a must) and a saddlebag of some sort to keep your things in. Saddlebags come in all shapes and sizes. Taking your cell phone is important for reasons I’ll get into at another time. I even carry a small first aid kit in mine.

Now that you have a bike that fits you to a T it’s time to start riding it. When you do you’ll be glad you took the time to get the right bike it will carry you well and make you insanely happy and healthy.

Do it right and it’ll do you right!