Biking or cycling can be a great form of exercise, and the late summer months provide the long days and warm weather required to get the most out of biking for fitness. The Capital Region offers plenty of bike trails and CDPHP recently helped to launch a bike share in the Capital Region. And if you are someone who hasn't biked in a long time, don't worry, it's easy to get back into it. You might even say, it's just like riding a bike!
Here are a few tips to help you stay safe as well as get the most out of your workout.
- Wear a Helmet – A bike helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment for biking. When biking, you are often riding with traffic or traveling at high speeds, which could lead to a serious head injury if you were to get into an accident. Simply wearing a helmet can help to prevent a serious head injury in the case of an accident.
- Check your brakes – Especially if your bike has been sitting for a long time or if you haven't ridden it since last season. Make sure the brake pads are not worn down too far and make sure they clamp down firmly on the wheels when you press the brakes. You may need to adjust the brakes or oil the brake cable if they aren't firmly clamping the wheel when you apply the brake.
- Adjust seat and handle bars – You want to make sure the seat and handlebars are the correct height for you and are properly adjusted for maximum comfort. If your bike is not properly adjusted ergonomically, it could lead to injury or chronic pain. Taking the time to make these adjustments when you first start or at the first sign of discomfort can help to prevent this type of injury.
- Ride with Traffic – When on a bicycle, you are considered another vehicle on the road which means riding with traffic and obeying all traffic laws. This is not only a smart idea for avoiding a traffic ticket, but it is also a smart way to ensure you stay safe. Stay with traffic and use common sense on the road to keep yourself and others safe. Attaching a rear-view mirror to your handle bar can help you to see what the traffic behind you is doing as an added safety measure.
- Use Proper Signaling – Do you remember your hand signals for cycling? On a bicycle, you are the only turn signal. Extend your left arm straight out to indicate a left hand turn. To signal a right hand turn, extend your left arm out at the shoulder and bend at the elbow, pointing your hand straight up in the air. To signal you are stopping, point your arm down with your open palm facing behind you.
- Stay Hydrated – If your bike doesn't have a bottle holder on it, it's a good idea to install one, especially if you plan on taking longer bike rides. Just like with any form of exercise, staying hydrated is important to avoid cramping, injury, or a more serious illness such as heat stroke.
- Dress properly – Be sure to dress for the weather and environment in which you will be riding. For example, the way you dress for mountain biking will be different than how you would dress for road biking. Depending on your skill and interest level, there may be additional safety and performance gear you will want to wear also.
- Wear light colors in dark – While most bike riding should be done in broad daylight, often long bike rides will begin early in the morning or end around dusk when it may already be dark. Be sure to wear light colors and make yourself visible. Also having a head lamp and a blinking red tail light will help to make you more visible in the dark.
- Pace Yourself – Don't over-do it your first time out. If it's been a while since you've exercised or ridden a bike, pace yourself. It may take a little while to get back into it. Listen to your body, and if it's telling that you have pushed far enough, listen to it.
- Gear Down – You may be inclined to pedal in the highest gear possible for most of the ride in order to go faster and have more resistance. The higher the gear, the more resistance and strain it puts on your knees. You want to be at about 60-80 revolutions per minute, so if it is much less than that, gear down into a more appropriate gear for better fitness and less wear and tear on your joints.
Biking or cycling is just one of many great exercises for cardiovascular fitness with numerous benefits to your overall health. If you are beginning a new exercise routine and are unsure of the best way to get started, talk to your doctor before beginning your new routine.