Bart Haynes here in sunny San Diego, continuing my series on cycling health and necessities in honor of the beginning of the cycling season. For many of us, May means the beginning of regular outdoor cycling. The weather is nice, it’s not too hot, and you’re probably sick of your trainer (or sick of not riding at all!)
Before you get started riding, there are 5 things that are good ideas to do to start your riding season off the right way: namely, to avoid injuries, prevent pain, and ensure your bike is in good shape. Let’s look at how to do this.
To change: shorts and tubes
For me, saddle soreness is always one of the biggest pains at the beginning of the riding season. Sometimes, the saddle soreness means having to skip riding if it is severe enough. Sometimes it leads to saddle sores that are particularly unpleasant.
Buying a fresh pair of riding shorts is an extremely effective way to avoid this.
Also, especially if your bike has been sitting idle and dormant all winter, it’s important to replace tubes for your bike. A majority of my tube problems occur at the beginning of the season in tubes that have been sitting idle on my bike. Before my first ride, I always replace my tubes.
Spend some time just sitting in the saddle
I’m going to harp on the saddle soreness again, because it’s a largely avoidable problem. In addition to getting new riding short, just spending time sitting on your bike is an excellent way to adjust to riding. This is especially important if you haven’t been riding on your trainer during the winter.
Even so, riding on the road will always be much more taxing on you than riding on a trainer. Bumps, potholes, and vibration of the road are just some of the reasons for this.
When sitting in the saddle, that’s all you’re doing. Read the paper, read a book, check emails, or simply do anything just to log in hour sitting on your bike. Once you start to get sore, you can get off and repeat later. Do this every day for about a week before your first ride.
Going into the cycling seasons limber will provide some serious benefits, namely:
- Less soreness
- Less cramping
- More comfort on your bike
I’ve discussed best stretching techniques before cycling in this post.
Get a tune up
In addition to making sure your body is ready for cycling season with proper gear, stretching, and saddle preparation, also make sure your bike is in tip top shape:
- Gears are tight and cables are in good shape
- Breaks are full
- Chain is in good shape
- Gears are lubricated
- Bike is clean last year’s road gunk
- Everything is aligned properly
Tune ups are inexpensive, quick, and will ensure you don’t get stranded on the side of the road because something broke.
Get bike fitted
Lastly, getting your bike fitted to you can be a very good idea when you get a tune up. Over the off season, your body may have changed in ways that mean your riding form may have changed.
For example, you may have:
- Gained/lost weight
- Become more flexible
- Had injury or pain that prevents previous riding form
- Changed gear (such as new racing cleats)
Additionally, last year’s riding season may have subtly changed your bike in ways that affect the fit. On the other hand, your bike may end up being perfectly fitted. In any case it certainly doesn’t hurt to ensure that your bike still fits you optimally.