Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
- Find a hill that's 1/4 to 1/2 mile long - not too steep.
- Find the gear that lets you spin at 100 rpm all the way to the top.
- Keep your breathing steady. If you start panting, the gear is too high.
- Then find a higher gear that reduces your cadence to around 50 rpm, but again without causing you to have labored breathing.
- Now the exercise:
- Climb the hill in the low gear with a fast cadence. Work on spinning smoothly.
- Coast back down and then climb the hill in the higher gear (slow cadence) concentrating on applying an equal force all the way around the pedal stroke.
- Repeat the cycle (4 total climbs)
- Uphill. Cycling uphill is not that hard if you shift to the right gears. It took me a little while to learn this. What I like to do is build up some speed going into a hill, shifting to a bigger front gear and getting some momentum. This will carry me a little ways up the hill. As the pedaling becomes more difficult, I gradually shift to easier gears until I'm on the smallest front gear and largest back gear. If I'm lucky, I do not get to that point. It's also good to learn to pace yourself - do not pump the pedals too hard early on in a long hill, or you'll tire out.
- Downhills. Steep downhills can be scary for us beginners because of the speed. I recommend slowing yourself down with intermittent braking. If the downhill is not too steep, I recommend shifting to your big front gear and smallest back gear - you can really build up some speed that will carry you when you hit the flat or the next hill.
- Down hills. The temptation going down hills, to limit your speed and make sure you do not get out of control, is to brake the whole way down. It's recommended that you do not do this, though - the brake pad could burn out. You want to do it in spurts.
- Front brake. Many beginners use both brakes simultaneously to brake. But more experienced cyclists (and I'm not one yet) use the front brake most of the time. If you practice using the front brake, you will lose the fear of flipping over the front wheel.
- Rear brake. This is good For certain situations, especially if it's slippery or your front tire blows out.
- Three front gears. There are usually three gears in the front - the large, medium and small. There is one shifting mechanism at the handlebars for switching between these gears (marked 1, 2 and 3). The large one is for when the pedaling is the easiest, and can go the fastest. Good for downhills and flats. The small one is for hills, and takes a lot of pedaling to go the same distance as the other two, but is much easier to turn. The middle is between them, and is probably going to be used most often (at least by us beginners).
- Seven back gears. These also go from small to largest, and have a shifting mechanism for switching between them (1-7). I usually pair the small front gear with the largest three back gears (1-3), the medium front gear with the middle back gears (3-5), and the large front gear with the smallest back gears (5-7).
- Basic premise. Basically, you want to pedal using the largest front gear with the smallest back gear that you can handle while still pedaling at a high cadence (pedaling fast). That means that if you can shift to a larger front gear while still pedaling at a high cadence, you should. But if it begins to get too tough for you to pedal at a high cadence, shift down to a smaller front gear (or larger back gear or both). This will take a little practice, but it's not hard. And as you get better at cycling, you will be able to pedal faster with the harder gears, over time.
Always be safe on the road. Do not be daring, do not insist on the right of way, do not break traffic laws (yes, you have to follow them too), and always be as visible as possible. If you know the common causes of accidents, you can look out for them:
Opening car doors. This is a common one — someone opens their car door, right into your path, and you don’t have time to swerve. Slam! The only thing to say is to be on the lookout for any doors that are about to open, and don’t ride too close to parked cars.
Sideswiped. If you right on the outermost edge of the road, as many cyclists do, cars will be tempted to try to pass you in the same lane. As this is a tight fit, this could result in you being hit. It’s safest to take the center of the lane, even if that doesn’t seem as safe, until you can safely move to the shoulder to let cars pass if necessary. You have just as much a right to that lane as the cars do.
Intersections. If you are making a left turn across an intersection, be very careful. You might think that the oncoming traffic, or the cross traffic from either side, will see you, but you could be wrong. Be very sure you are seen by all drivers. Right turns can also be dangerous if the traffic going into that lane doesn’t see you — or if the driver behind you also making a right turn doesn’t see you, as he is busy looking to his left.
- Helmet. Do not ever ride without one. It can mean the difference between a bad headache and being a vegetable. Make sure it fits well (see this guide for tips on that, along with other equipment needed to get started).
- Water bottle. Get one with a cage that attaches to your bike. Regular bottles do not fit in this cage, btw. An alternative is a hydration backpack. You really only need hydration tools once you start cycling beyond an hour, but it's good to have just in case.
- Pump. A portable pump that you attach to the bike is necessary, in case you get a flat or a slow leak. You do not want to be walking your bike back home. A floor pump is good to have at home, too, for easier pumping, but is not absolutely necessary.
- Repair kit. A simple repair kit would include a patch kit, a spare inner tube, 2 tire levers, a multi-tool for bikes, all in a small bag that attaches to the bike.
- Gloves. I actually have a pair of these, and you could consider them essential. They absorb shock from the handles (cycling gloves are padded), but more importantly, if you crash, your palms are protected.
- Bike computer. This attaches to the bike (no, they do not have it in Linux or Mac flavors) and tells you how far you've gone, how fast you're going, your RPMs, and all other kinds of good info. Very useful, but not absolutely necessary. I do not have one at this point, but it's on my to-buy list.
- Gel-padded seat. For beginners, riding on a hard seat cycling can be very uncomfortable. This gel padding has saved me a bit of pain. Experienced riders tell me that you get used to it after awhile, and I have, to some degree.
- Glasses. To some, these are a must. I have not gotten them yet, but they block bugs and other debris from hitting you in the eyes. Has not been a problem for me yet, but then I do not go that fast!
- Shoes / pedals. The most efficient way of peddling is if you are using your up-stroke as well, not just your down-stroke (pulling the pedals up and pushing them down). To do this, of course, you need either cage pedals to put your shoes in, or the kind of pedals that lock into your cycling shoes. So You'd need special shoes for that, of course. I plan to get these some time, but have not gotten to it yet.
- Lights. These are a must if you ride when it begins to get dark. I do not do that out of safety concerns.
- Racks. Important if you want to transport anything. There are all kinds of racks and panniers (cycling bags). Awesome for touring or commuting.