You’ve seen “them” riding on their 10 speeds, hunched over, no fenders, wearing colorful stretchy biking outfits and zooming by you barely managing a nod. Cyclists!
I swore this would not happen to me as I turned up my nose while riding (sitting up) on my 31-year-old touring style bicycle on the Bay Trail. Of course, in no time I was wearing colorful stretchy (in my case Yoga) outfits zooming by people…and nodding.
I was “one of them”!
There are all kinds of bikes to choose from sporting all types of riders but there is a common thread throughout that bonds us together as cyclists. The rituals and quirks that rub off on us all as we navigate our lives around our bicycles. Isn’t it good to belong?
Photo from MapMyFitness
Signs You Might Be A Cyclist
You can’t recognize your biking friends when they aren’t wearing colorful stretchy biking outfits.
The “check engine” light in your car has been on for months, but the most minor mechanical issue on your bike is fixed first.
You have at least one Facebook profile shot of you posing on or next to your bike with a gorgeous landscape behind you.
Your bike has a nickname.
When your driving you watch out for other riders, you slow down to a near crawl and give them plenty of room. You know what it means to be in that bike lane.
You also know what it’s like to use choice words when a vehicle cuts you off or a hater honks and nearly startles you off your bike. (They are out there.)
You run errands after your bike rides while wearing your colorful stretchy biking outfits. (Don’t forget to take the helmet off!)
You spend more time biking spending weekends and planning vacations around bike rides and rides with groups.
Stripes on your thighs and ankles, cut-out shapes on the tops of your hands, your colorful stretchy bike outfits tan lines will incite laughter at the beach and pool.
You ride to and from work because it’s the fastest way, and you’ve become a pro at changing in the office bathroom.
You don’t notice the grease on your clothes or tear in your pants until you’re at that meeting.
If you’re a woman, you take better care of your favorite bike clothes than your finest lingerie. (They can be expensive.)
If you’re a man, you have smoother legs than your wife or girlfriend.
You embrace fluorescent jackets, vests, and shirts. The brighter, the better.
You know what it means to do time in the saddle.
You’ve felt the shame of having to walk your bike up a hill and the pride of conquering that climb on your bike after a few weeks’ of riding.
You have more colorful stretchy biking pants (or shorts) in your laundry basket than jeans.
You’re baffled when your roommate or partner doesn’t understand why your bike can’t be stored outside.
Some of your hardest falls have happened when you’ve stopped or slowed to a crawl, which doesn’t make sense but happens none-the-less.
You take a bad fall with bloody hands and knees, but your first question is whether or not your bike survived.
You look and feel better than you have in some time, can’t stop smiling, and have oodles of extra energy.
My bicycle photo made into a GIF using Masterpiece Art Filters from PhotoLab Pro and LunaPic.
Rules 2 Remember While Riding
Use Your Hand Signals
You may not have fallen prey to all of the signs yet but I predict you will. If you fall in love with cycling you’ll enrich your health and life becoming stronger with more energy. You can do it.
You’re a cyclist! One of us, one of us, we accept you, we accept you!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.