As the dawn of a yet another new job approaches, I’ve made a belated New Year’s resolution. I’m going to cycle to work.
Hold on, I need a sit down. And a gin.
My crunchy knees still haven’t forgiven me for getting into running last year (what was that all about!?) So I started cycling last year and it lasted for several months, I lost 18″ and a stone in weight … then I started a new job, put half the weight back on, went back to driving and put the bike in the garage.
Well, I’ve decided that cycling is the new running – for me at any rate. Petrol, road tax, car insurance … it all adds up. However, when venturing out on a bike for the first time (in a long time,) you need to bear in mind that with a change in regime comes new rules, tips and tricks to ensure a smooth transition … and a not-so-sore undercarriage. (Now there’s an interesting vision for you all – sorry bout that.)
1. Buy a bike. OK, goes without saying but bikes are expensive! Try to see it as an investment. Ask family to club together for a birthday/Christmas present or put a shout out on Facebook/Twitter and ask if any friends want to sell theirs. You’d be amazed at how many lone bikes are pining in a cobwebby (what? it’s a word,) shed, just looking for some TLC. Failing that, just borrow one. Until you know whether you’re going to like bike riding or not, it’s probably the best option.
I bought mine four years ago and I can’t believe I just left it outside to rust. So … do as I say, not as I do, and when you buy your bike make sure you find somewhere dry to keep it. If you can’t afford a brand new bike (and quite frankly, who can these days?) buy second hand. A friend of mine bought her bike from eBay for £50 – she’s forked out extra for a seat to put her baby in and now she’s all set! Just got to persuade her that it’s actually fun to ride it now. I’m working on that.
As for what bike to buy? No idea. Always best to ask a bike shop for advice but please bear in mind that some of these bikes go for thousands of pounds … seriously … so be cautious if they start advising you to spend more than a couple of hundred.
One more thing, if you are going to buy a new bike and buy online, sometimes it pays to just take it all to a professional and get them to put it together. I may, just may, have originally put the handlebars on backwards on my son’s bike.
2. Maintenance. Think about investing in a maintenance/repair plan with Halfords. I don’t know if there’s anywhere else that does something similar, (probably) but for £20 per bike, per year, (reduced price for four bikes,) you can take your bike in and they’ll repair it for free (you just have to pay for the parts.) Considering a local bike shop quoted £165 to repair my bike, bear in mind that some shops will try and take you for a ride. Take you for a ride! Geddit? Oh never mind …
3. Be realistic. I hadn’t cycled for twenty seven years before I began again last year. The phrase, “Like riding a bike,” kept coming into my mind as I wobbled from side to side, barely able to stay upright. I thought it would be easy riding a bike again. It’s not. It feels weird and it takes a little practice to get your balance again. If you have weak core muscles like me, it’ll take a while to strengthen them up. You may want to practice in your back garden before going out in public. Just sayin’.
4. Clothing. Let’s face it, lycra is hard to wear even by the fittest of women. I look hot in my cyling shorts though, obvs. Ahem. I tend to stick to wearing baggy tracksuit bottoms and layer my clothing up top as you’ll surprise yourself at how hot you’ll get. The further I ride, the more layers I take off and tie round my waist. Not a cool look, granted, but with this in-betweeny weather you need to go out prepared. Haven’t had to take my pac-a-mac out yet …. don’t think my town is quite ready for that kinda cool.
Sunglasses are a must though … they cancel out the baggy arsed tracksuit bottoms. Also, find some comfy trainers to wear – I cycle in my Converse which are just fine.
As for wearing a helmet, you don’t need me to tell you whether you should wear one or not. It’s your choice … and probably dependent on where you’re doing to be cycling. I’d say if you’re choosing to cycle on busy roads it’s a must. I tend to stick to quiet pavements … at least I did until a man told me to, “Get my f*cking bike off the f*cking pavement.”
Which was nice.
5. Chafing. Not much you can do about this, other than eat copious amount of lard covered cakes to ensure a big bum in preparation for all that cycling … but prepare yourself for the fact that riding a bike for the first time in years is going to hurt. Having a big bum might help to begin with but you’ll get pain … not only in ur butt-ocks region, but your … ahem … under carriage. I have what is deemed a ladies seat on my bike (fnar fnar,) ie. it has gel padding, but it doesn’t stop that area hurting. A lot. It just needs a lot of TLC after. What? I’m talking about a hot bath!
So try and prevent this occurring as best as you can. Make sure your bike is set up correctly. A saddle that is too high can force you to reach for the pedals, causing either pressure or chafing … and no-one likes chafing! But a saddle that is too low doesn’t allow the legs to support the body and puts excess pressures on your crotch. Ouchy!
I researched this bit but apparently you can, “… help prevent chafing by slathering your genital area and upper thigh with a good chamois cream (whatever that is,) or BodyGlide.” So now you know.
And if you get a boil on your butt? Get your Other Half to give it a good lancing ☺
6. Start slowly. Don’t go for a ten mile ride on your first outing. Cycling to Tescos for a packet of Hob Nobs is just fine to start with. Like with every exercise, build up your stamina slowly. Your body will thank you for it – believe me!
7. Make it part of your daily routine. Instead of driving to the shops, cycle. It’s not easy riding with a couple of carrier bags on your handlebars but be more prepared than me and take a rucksack with you. You’ll be surprised at how quickly it becomes second nature to get on your bike instead of in the car. Cycle to the office if you can but bear in mind you’ll look like shit when you get there. You have been warned. (Just keep reminding yourself of the Kelly Brook-esque figure you’ll end up with. But don’t quote me on that.)
8. Your Joints Will Love You. If you’re anything like me and suffer from CKS (Crunchy Knee Syndrome,) your body will thank you for taking the stress off your knees, back and ankles. Your knee should bend just slightly (about 25 degrees) on the down pedal stroke. If it’s too straight or too bent, you’ll need to adjust your seat until the angle is right.
9. Avoid the bonk! Running low on energy, or ‘bonking’ as cyclists call it, will prevent your cycling enjoyment. You now have the perfect excuse to snack your ass off!
10. Enjoy. That’s an order!