Do you remember the first time you actually rode a bike without training wheels? It’s a rite of passage for kids. Those first few rides which felt a bit dangerous and thus exhilarating at the same time are so freeing! And the sense of independence that comes from being able to travel to a friend’s house on the other side of the neighborhood is awesome!
As an adult during this pandemic, my bike has been my escape from isolation in my home. It’s taken some time for me to adjust again to riding on rural roads. It can be a bit unnerving to be passed too closely by a car. And it’s also a bit humbling to be passed by a “real” cyclist on a fancy road bike.
Nevertheless, I’ve enjoyed taking to the streets in a different way than running, and have quite enjoyed exploring my area by bike. Even though I’m a novice, I’ve learned a few things already. I’m going to share some tips I’ve learned over the past few weeks, and I hope this helps you to feel more comfortable biking, too. I’ve got a few friends who have some tips for you as well! And if you don’t have a bike, maybe you will be inspired to borrow, rent, or buy one, and try biking yourself!
This is a graphic I created with Bike Walk Hanover to highlight some safety suggestions when you take to the roads by bike:
I have a few more suggestions for your comfort that I’ve learned through my own experience:
- Yes, really, wear a helmet! Having treated patients following traumatic brain injury, it’s super important to protect your noggin in case of a fall. The cost of a helmet is far less than your ER copay, too.
- Dress for the temperature. For running, we always suggest dress for 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature, but for biking, I’d say dress for about 10 degrees cooler. You generate more airflow on your bike!
- Wear form fitting shorts that are longer, like bike shorts at least 7” long or capris/tights for cooler weather. You do not want loose clothing getting caught in the mechanics of your bike! And the longer shorts help prevent chaffing.
- Wear clothes that will protect from the sun. I feel like I’m exposed to more sun on my bike than with running, so I wear short sleeves, even when hot, to keep my shoulders covered.
- Invest in some padded shorts for longer rides. It will definitely keep your backside happier! If you have a road bike with a smaller seat, they also make padded covers. I can find these occasionally at stores like Ross.
- Invest in some type of pouch, whether it’s something that you wear or something that attaches to your bike, so you can keep your phone with you and have a place for snacks, etc. I’ve used mine to store an extra layer when I’ve dressed to warm for a ride, too.
- Keep a quarter with you on your ride, that way, if you need to inflate a tire, you’ve got the change to pay for it.
- Wear gloves to protect your hands for longer rides. I use an old pair of weightlifting gloves. You don’t have to get fancy!
- Keep your tires properly inflated. This will make your ride safer and more comfortable!
I asked two of my fellow MTT coaches who are also accomplished triathletes for their advice for newbies. Here’s what they said:
“My biggest piece of advice is a helmet!!! You should ALWAYS wear a properly fitting helmet, and you should research safety ratings before buying! It’s your brain! I’m always on a soapbox about this issue!”Lisa Zirapolous
“Be aware of the rules of bike riding if you are on the road. And trail. Like right of way and courtesy. Don’t ride alone, don’t not have ID, and have your phone. Know the area where you are riding.”Kelly Hall
I also queried my fellow Bike Walk Hanover members, and they suggested the RABA website as a resource. This link provides tips on safety for group runs, too.
Don’t have a bike, but still want to ride? Finding one to purchase can be tough right now, so renting is a great option. A fun day trip from Richmond is into the Town of Farmville. You can rent a bike in town and ride the High Bridge Trail. It’s about a 12 mile round trip on flat trail from town to the bridge and back. Check out a brewery or one of the many restaurants in town when you’re done! Restaurants are now open in Phase 2 of Covid-19 recovery.
Looking for more motivation for biking or an activity for you and your friends? Check out these virtual events with Sports Backers: the Virtual Virginia Credit Union Moonlight Ride and the Great American Ride. Taking part in these virtual events will not only keep you working toward a goal, but will also help support a great non-profit in the Richmond area so they can support community wellness programs.
Hopefully you are inspired to dust off your bike or try a new adventure! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy!