The Bike Basics

It’s that time of the year, when I’m at holiday parties and being a cyclist, I get asked about a lot about cycling. And that’s cool. I don’t mind answering the same questions over and over again. Just like when it’s bike-to-work time or Seattle to Portland season, many cyclists just don’t know the basics we know.

I’m posting the typical Q/A here as a collection and asking our readers to add to the tribal knowledge with your tips and suggestions. Those can range from eating on the bike, to riding in the rain, to what you carry in your saddle bag.


Cycling Q/A

In no particular order …

Shaven legs?
We do it cause it feels good in tight jeans! Actually for racers it’s to prevent infection in case you crash. Road rash is especially nasty with hair all gobbed up in the wound. With shaven legs – old school dudes oil their legs before a race – you can brush off the debris and actually slide on pavement better. It does keep you cooler in the Summer as well. No, it has nothing to do with aerodynamics. Does it show off the muscles? Yes it does and why not show off those big guns?
Carbo Loading?
Sports science goes back and forth on this one. For me, it depends on the length of the race or ride and the time. If I’m racing or touring in the morning, I eat big the night before and light the next morning. If it’s an afternoon race or big ride, I do the opposite. Recreational cyclists and amateurs, I don’t think burn enough calories to ever have to “carbo load.” The simple rule is eat until you’re almost full. More importanly, hydrate and learn to eat well on the bike. When it’s cold, eat more on the bike, because you’re burning more calories trying to stay warm.
Bike Paths?
I cringe whenever I see a cyclist out in traffic, when there’s either a good bike path or lane available. The lanes are there, we should use them. Sharrows do help yes. I ride with a bell and bling that thing all the time as I pass other cyclists, joggers, and bladers. Yes, I think teams, including my own, that ride fast on the paths and trails are assholes. Show me how fast you are out on the roads.
Riding in Traffic?
Cyclists must ride defensively and balance that with riding aggressively. The main issue is being seen and operating your bike as a vehicle. No, I don’t think we should blow stops signs and act like we own the road. But we shouldn’t cower along the side of the road, hoping we don’t get hit. I ride in industrial areas of Seattle, out where the warehouses are and lots of Semis. Never, ever had a problem with a semi or a truck. I’ve been yelled at and yelled at cars. I think that’s in your hands as a cyclist and I do my best to not yell anymore or give out love taps.
I wear a helmet and think everyone else should, but I don’t get on a soapbox about it. I’ve been in hard falls, seen hard, nasty bone-breaking crashes. I watched my wife land on a curb with her head and later held her hand in the hospital while she recovered from a concussion. I think cyclists often don’t realize the risks in cycling and any activity that puts you out on the road. If you choose to not wear a helmet, ok, but I don’t believe the thinking that helmets actually cause injury or other nonsense found online in some dark helmet-hating corner of the Internet. You live in Amsterdam, where there are more bikes than cars and don’t need helmets? Cool. I wish we had that here.
We’re naturally competitive. Whether you’re into cargo, fixed, urban, racing, touring, or unicycles, if two cyclists are within a wheel of each other, it’s game on. I train and race and also enjoy riding, touring, and traveling with my bike. I don’t think any type of cycling is exclusive of the other. It’s all good.

Someone actually riding a Trek Lime!

When Shimano rolled out Coasting, they were addressing the biggest problem newbies and people returning to their bikes have: shifting them. It’s too complicated. Two rings, triples, 10 speeds, 11, and so on. Think of you and your bike as a bio-mechanical machine and that machine should strive for efficiency. You’re like Data in First Contact getting 1/2 a face of skin grafted on from the Borg queen – the bike will take you farther, get you in shape, and it’s fun. The bike is an extension of your body. Learn how it works and like a car, you’ve got a drivetrain with low, medium, and high gear ranges. Low is for climbing, medium for cruising, and high for going fast. Soon you’ll function like a Terminator, challenging your fellow commmuters with personal best times. Try to spin, but not at crazy spin class cadences, just comfortably.


Added new items as a think of them and fellow cyclists tell me.

Don’t skimp on tires, unless you’re riding around on a swept bike path. For riding in the rain, I’ve found the best way to avoid flats is run high-quality tires with the most rubber. I cycle out Michelin Pros from racing into training duty and also use Continental All-Seasons. I do not use Mr. Tuffys. I think they cause more flats from pinching and it feels like you’re pedaling in sand.
Want to get home a bit faster from your commute? Hang on the group ride or starting your first race? Spend your money on a new set of wheels. The most difference you can make, besides a new racing bike, is getting a fast set of wheels. Check with your local bike shop for recommendations. We’re fans here of Hed, reports are that dudes love the R-Sys, and of course Zipps.

From our Twitter followers

5691gerg said: Put air in your tires, fuel in your tank and oil on your chain. a little passion goes a looooooong way.
Common Sense
otakgila said: The majority of cyclists don’t use common sense any more: Use hand signals. Don’t wear headphones. Watch out for car doors.
Support your local bike shop
probikewrench said: Find a good local bike shop and develop a good relationship with them. They will come in handy someday.
Check your equipment, brake with care
profileracing said: align the valve stem with the label on the tyre. Apply the rear brake and then the front brake. Smile more. Wave at everyone.
Good Saddle
Lindseym said: invest in a good saddle. I had real girly issues until I got one with a cut out. Always carry a spare inner tube.

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