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Cycling

For people who have always enjoyed bike riding, taking the sport up a level by using road cycles and doing longer rides can be a terrific hobby. Whether you are racing in competitions or just riding around with friends, this can be an extremely fulfilling hobby which is easy to get started in.

Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Cycling resources. We have a Cycling forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with Cycling how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Cycling books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis

 

Introduction To Cycling


Cycling can be enjoyed by almost everyone, regardless of your age or your physical ability. You might enjoy a heart pumping downhill ride on a narrow dirt track. On the other hand, you may prefer to explore the open road. Either way, cycling offers entertainment, exercise, and an excellent way to just get around town.




Cycling, also called bicycling or biking, is the use of a bicycle for transport, recreation, or sport. Not only is cycling highly efficient, cycling is generally low cost and no matter how you cycle, you will be exercising while you save money. In addition to the cost savings, cycling as a whole is easy to pick up. From learning to ride your bicycle to finding the equipment you need, this sport has a dedicated store in even the most average of cities.




Racing and Competitions


If you are considering bike racing and you are new to cycling, then you need to know where to begin. Here are some tips to help get you on the road:




• In order to compete in bike racing successfully, you need to be in good shape. Most competitions require that riders be able to stay on their bike for as long as two or three hours of riding. If you really love to ride and have spent a great deal of time training, then chances are you are ready to take your bike riding to a competitive level.


• Group rides are a great way to train for bike competitions. Your options for group rides include club rides, pick-up rides and shop-hosted rides, many offering rider groups of various levels. A beginner group with a leader to help with skills is a great way to get into group riding. If you join a club, you will enter the races under the club name, benefiting from options to buy team clothing. Pick-up rides are less structured, with some open to everyone and participation in others is by invitation only.


• Having an experienced racer as a mentor is incredibly helpful for anyone interested in the sport. With someone taking you under his or her wing and showing you all the ropes, you will benefit from an amazing learning curve.


• Watching the professionals is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with bike racing. You can watch bike races such as the Tour de France on the Internet or on television. Following along with the commentators will help you learn racing tactics and skills.


• Reading about bike racing is another great way to familiarize yourself with racing. VeloNews is an excellent bike racing resource, as is Thomas Prehn’s Racing Tactics for Cyclists.


• USA Cycling is a non-profit organization that supports an Olympic movement for cycling in the United States. Through their website, you can find locals bike teams and clubs. You can also find information on race officials, mechanics and coaches.


• As you prepare to become a racer, one thing that you must consider is the type of race you want to try. Many people prefer a circuit race, a road race or a time trial. According to where you live, your only option for a local race may be a criterium, which requires advanced skills and involves some bumping and close quarters.


• Another thing that you need to know about bike racing is that the racers are divided into different racing categories. If you are new to bike racing, you will most likely begin with Citizen’s Races, which are divided by gender and sometime by age as well. These are events held for non-licensed racers. There are a number of categories in bike racing from Seniors and Couples racers to Cat I, which are the fastest and most experienced racers.


• In order to become a successful bike racer, you must always be eager to improve. However, although you may want to train and train and train, it is just as important to take some time off to rest. Consider reducing your training every fourth week or so to allow your body time to recover.


• Getting started in a new sport like bike racing may seem a little over whelming. All great racers had to start somewhere. Simple choose a race and go give it your best shot. Once the race is over, you will be able to work on improving fitness and nutrition, enhancing your skills and honing your race tactics.




Bicycle Touring


Here are some tips that you may find helpful if you decide to take up bike touring:




• In order to save weight, carry a small bottle of concentrated dish detergent that you can use for all your soap needs, including washing your hair, hands, dishes, clothes etc.


• If you need to clean yourself during a bike tour, you can effectively wash off completely, including your hair using just an outdoor fountain, sink, bike bottle or stream. If you have money to spare, a campground or hotel may be more up your alley.


• To stand you bike upright if you do not have a kickstand just place the bike against the curb with your rear wheel touching the curb. Turn the front wheel a little inward, touching the curb. Lean your bike slightly away from the street and rotate the crank backward until the pedal flattens against the curb. If you bike is carrying a heavy load, use caution not to put too much weight on your pedal.


• Adjusting your cycling cap to keep the flow of air out of your eyes will prevent insects from hitting your eyes and protect you from the headlights of cars when your ride at night. In addition, it will also keep the sunlight out of your eyes when you ride in the daytime.


• When you go around downhill bends, apply your brakes lightly. This is similar to the effect you get when you gear down a car. You will be able to turn faster because some traction is maintained going around the bend. If you need to make an emergency stop, you will be able to brake faster.


• Carry a toothpick in your bike tire repair kit. You can use it to make the hole so you do not lose sight of your leak. In addition, the toothpick works great to puncture the glue tube.


• A handlebar bag works great for carrying small items that you need to access quickly.




Surviving Long Bike Rides


So, you like to ride your bike all the time, going maybe two to five miles a few times a week. Why not go for a longer ride?




In order to train for a long bike ride, you need a way to keep up with your riding, such as a simple cyclometer. You should be able to find one at a reasonable price. Before your bike ride, map your route with a car, noting landmarks every two and a half and every five miles, then just every five miles for the first twenty-five miles. These landmarks should be places where you can stop for water or a small snack. You should not stop at a landmark for more than ten minutes, nor should you make stops in between your landmarks. Begin with a thorough inspection of your bike, making sure that it is properly adjusted and ready to go. Then put your helmet on and head out to your first two and a half-mile landmark. Once you get there, think about how you are feeling. Are you ready to keep going to the next landmark, or do you need to turn back?




Every five days of your training period, increase your distance. Within a month, you should be able to reach a goal of around fifty miles or so.




If you travel at beginner’s speed, then you will be riding at a speed of somewhere around eight to ten miles per hour. Therefore, a fifty-mile ride should take you about five or six hours to complete.




Riders with more experience and multispeed bicycles may be to do a fifty-mile ride in under three hours. In fact, some seasoned riders can do a hundred mile ride in just over four hours. However, rides at this great of a distance should not be attempted unless have an interest in becoming a professional cyclist.




History of Bicycles


The history of both bicycles and cycling are both lengthy. However, we do know that with every new innovation, cycling grows in popularity. Throughout the 1800s, as cycling became more simple, more streamlined, and more affordable, the innovations came more quickly. The popularity of the bicycle with consumers drove innovation sky high. As a result, we have the modern bicycles we use today.




Bicycle racing itself has a long history. However, the popularity of cycling events is less so now than ever before. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, there were races held all over the world. Today, there are still many opportunities for racing but the crowds are smaller and the racing venues are disappearing rapidly. Events like the Tour de France draw international media and swarms of spectators. There are still several excellent classic races held across the country including the 51 year old Fitchburg Longsjo Classic and the 50 year old Nevada City Bicycle Classic.




Cycling Benefits


The list of health benefits associated with cycling is almost infinite. Cycling produces documented results in increased flexibility, stamina, strength, and concentration. You might just choose to cycle for the purpose of sightseeing or entertainment. The physical benefits that accompany your recreation are good enough to justify cycling daily. Overall, the health benefits associated with cycling make the argument for city support of cycling and the expansion of bike trails all the more powerful.




Cycling Injuries


With every sport, there comes the risk of injury. There are many injuries associated with cycling. Many of these injuries can be easily avoided by following safety precautions and maintaining a constant level of awareness. However, even expert cyclists make mistakes. Common injuries include road rash, bruising, cuts, scrapes, and bug bites. These injuries will heal.




There are some cycling injuries that will not heal by themselves. These injuries can be prevented if proper cycling techniques are employed and the cyclist does not train too hard, too quickly.




Where To Start: Choosing Your Equipment


Almost all of the equipment you need to begin your cycling hobby can be purchased from one store. You may find big box stores, like EMS and North Face, that sell bicycles in your area. You can also look for small cycling shops in your area. The staff in these stores are highly trained. Not only can they help you outfit yourself for cycling, they can point you in the right direction of trails and resources in your area.




Before you purchase a bicycle, think about the type of cycling you plan to do. Pick and choose from the myriad of options to find the combination of features that best suits you and your cycling goals.




You might be tempted to buy everything available for your bicycle. In the beginning, you may not need a bicycle computer, GPS, and heavy winter gear. As your experience and skill level improve, you can add items to your gear collection.



The Bicycle


If you plan on a combination of road and mountain biking, pick a hybrid. Road bikes are for the road and mountain bikes are for off-road use.




The most important part of bicycle shopping is finding the right frame size. A frame that is too small will place unnecessary strain on your joints. A frame that is too large will decrease the level of control you have over your bike. If the frame is not properly fitted to your body, your center of gravity will be greatly compromised.




When choosing your bicycle, pick the best combination of features for the type of cycling you plan to do. For example, don`t put off-road tires on a road bike.


 



The Shoes


Many road bikes along with mountain bikes include clipless pedals to which special shoes attach, via a cleat, permitting the rider to pull on the pedals as well as push.




The right cycling shoes will support your foot on the pedal. This can reduce cramping and foot fatigue as you ride. The shoe you pick will depend on the type of pedal you plan to use with your bicycle.


 



The Helmet


Helmets offer essential protection while cycling. Modern designs are sleek and lightweight. There is no longer a question of style when choosing to wear a helmet. Helmets are proven to save lives and prevent life altering injuries from having their full effect. A good helmet will cost you at least US$50 and the best helmets can cost hundreds of dollars.



The Clothes


Dress for the weather. Lightweight, breathable fabrics are excellent for keeping the body cool and dry in warm weather. Moisture-wicking, heat retaining fabrics like fleece are best for winter riding. Gloves, glasses, socks, and extra outer layers are important regardless of season.




In general, fabrics suited for most outdoor sports will be appropriate for cycling. However, avoid loose fitting clothing as these clothes may get caught in your spokes, chain, or handlebars.




Important Cycling Skills


As you begin cycling, take your time. Until you are familiar with what your body is capable of, avoid bicycle overuse. Try short, easy rides to start. Gradually increase your distance and difficulty to develop your strength, stamina, and ability without causing injuries.




Before You Ride Learn to adjust your bicycle to fit your body. You can adjust the saddle, the handlebars, and the location of the brake levers.




Gauge your fitness level prior to beginning a new sport. If you have been largely inactive for several years, you may wish to begin your training indoors and progress to outdoor cycling as your fitness level increases.


 



Basic Skills


Braking


Pay attention to your surroundings and prepare to stop if necessary. On flat surfaces, use your front brakes more. When braking on a downhill slope, use your back brakes more. On steep hills, use your back brakes to prevent flying forward.




Changing Gears


Again, preparation is key when changing gears. Try to switch to the gear you plan to use before you need it. When shifting, remember to keep pedaling to allow the chain to move to the correct gear.




Pedal Properly


Pedaling isn`t just pushing your pedals around and around. There is technique to proper pedaling. Instead of pushing down right away, push forward a little. Lower your heel as the pedal drops and pick it up again as the pedal nears the bottom of the turn. Pull the pedal back with your toes and then relax. Practicing efficient pedaling will reduce stress on your muscles and improve your cycling ability.


Turn Corners


Try to center yourself in the trail or road to take the straightest path possible around the corner. Once you are in the corner, stop pedaling. Keep your outside foot low and your inside foot high to stop your feet or your pedal from hitting anything. Straighten your bike and accelerate out of the corner.




Safety and Legal Requirements


The first rule of cycling is to pay attention. Road surfaces are irregular and an unexpected change could cause you to have an accident. Wet surfaces are slippery and dark areas reduce your ability to see hazards.




If you are out of practice, take a cycling class or practice in a safe area until you are ready to ride in public. These classes are available through bicycle shops, cycling clubs, bicycle cooperatives and even some local emergency services.




Always wear a helmet. You might think you look silly wearing a helmet, but your brain looks a lot less silly when inside your skull. If you are planning to ride with children, fire departments across the country provide thousands of children with free helmets every year.




Traffic safety is also important. Pay attention, don`t make sudden moves, and always let pedestrians and motor vehicles know which direction you are planning to pedal. Maintaining control over your bike is essential in traffic. Always be prepared to brake and never assume that a vehicle is aware of your presence.




Cycling is an exciting and challenging sport. You can make this sport as easy or as challenging as you desire. Across the United States and the world, there are trails that guide the beginner through gentle scenery and others that prove a little tricky for event the most expert rider. There is virtually no room for boredom as cycling offers endless challenges for every experience level.