Getting ready to ride

It's in the Mind
94% of adults under-estimate their own capabilities. So its more than likely that you are one of the 94%. Hence you would think that you cannot cycle long distance. The number in kilometers intimidate you. You actually joke about your incapabilities. You would have lots of excuses - the commonly seen are

  • I cannot wake up that early
  • It disturbs my morning routine
  • I  do not need to do this much cycling
  • Sundays are for sleeping late
  • I have allergies and the polluted air makes me sick
  • The road and highway traffic is bad. Did you hear that the truck ran over a bystander?
  • My skin is allergic to sun / dust.
  • I have a backache / knee pain - so I cannot cycle
  • Saturday nights are social nights - so its pretty late going to bed - so I hardly get any sleep
  • Its hot / its cold / its humid / its too dry / its too polluted / its too windy / its too dusty outside . . . .etc.

None of these are valid in 99% of cases. So be ready to leave the luxury of the couch and join the ride. There are several ABC members, who started cycling after a 30 year break and are now cycling 150+ kms a week - in just 4 months. Go ahead and take that plunge. Its not easy - but ABC preaches to get fun out of challenges. You can succumb to any of the above 10 points - but then the circumstances will be winner - not you.

Choose the right Bicycle
In the indomitable words of our wisest member Dr. Bhas Bapat - "It should catch your fancy". Be it an inexpensive local make or a flashy looking mountain bike with jumpers and all - unless you "like" your bike, you are not going to ride it. But "liking" is not limited to the looks only. You need to know the bikes.

Type: Gujarat has pretty much flat terrain and no off-rode biking. Hence the best type suited for Gujarat terrain is a road bike. Mountain bikes (MTB) have thick tyres for gripping the soil in off road trails - Gujarat does not have that. MTBs have jumpers to negotiate rough terrain - fortunately most Gujarat roads are pretty smooth. MTBs sell more in the cycle shops because they look fancy. The two distinct advantages of an MTB are that it has a better gear ratio for hill climbing and it has a horizontal handle bar to allow more upright posture. Road bikes on the other hand have no jumpers, thin tyres and a drop bar handle bar for more aggressive bent position suitable for speed.

Saddle pain
Most new riders have an immediate problem of pressure of the seat causing pain. This leads them to go for wider and softer saddles (seat). Actually its not very difficult to overcome saddle pain.

  • Make sure that your saddle is correctly fitted - for height, fore-aft position and tilt
  • When you ride, do not sway from side to side but keep upper body fairly still
  • Do not pedal too fast so as to jump on the saddle
  • Remember to get up from the saddle every 5 minutes or so and roll the cycle in that standing position for 10 seconds.
  • Do not carry heavy back packs which will put additional pressure on the saddle
  •  Keep your gluteal muscles tight while riding
  • Wear good quality bicycling shorts (with a built in pad)
  • Keep sliding back and forth on the saddle a little bit to avoid pressure building up in the same area
  •  If things seem to be getting out of hand, get down from the bike and take a break

Long distance cycling makes you sweat a lot. When you sweat - you tend to loose water, sodium, potassium etc from the body. To stay alert and healthy, you need to replenish whatever is lost. A dehydrated state, loss of sodium and loss of potassium can lead to early fatigue, muscle cramping and loss of power very quickly. So its necessary to carry sufficient amount of fluid with you - which is rich in carbohydrate (not more than 6% concentration), sodium and potassium. Plain water will not replenish lost sodium and potassium and will lead to muscle cramping.

Remember, on a long ride you need lot of fluid. On a rough calculation (this varies widely from person to person), the fluid requirement would be in the vicinity of about 1 liter per hour. You need to drink enough. When you come back from the ride and have immediate weight loss (compared to start of riding), you are dehydrated. If the urine formation is too small or too concentrated after the ride - you are dehydrated. Dehydration can be a health risk also. Its always safer to slightly over do it rather than under do it. Because if you over drink, functioning kidneys are best suited to expel that extra fluid from the body.

Bicycle Fitting
Begin by learning where to put your feet on  the pedals. Most beginners try to place the pedal under the arch of their feet,  which is inefficient and uncomfortable. If you've never used toe clips or  clip-in pedals before, this is almost certainly what you've been doing. The  proper placement is with the ball of your foot directly over the spindle so the  power of your stroke transfers to the crank smoothly and naturally. Getting the  foot into the proper position may require a minor adjustments.

Testing your bike
If you have not ridden for a while, or if you have purchased a new bike, its necessary to get a feel of the bike to know its breaking distance, the sharpness of the breaks, the pressure required on the break levers to bring the cycle to a stop of slow it down, location and position of the break levers etc. Its also necessary to get a feel of gear changing as once on the ride - any difficulty will seem to multiply the difficulties. Then there are minor issues like how to use the cycle stand, carrier etc. And finally testing is required to ensure the bike is properly fitted to the rider. Remember the bike is fitted to the rider and not the rider to the bike. If your bike shop owner adjusts the bike height and handlebar position without actually making you sit on the bike - he does not know what he is doing.

Tyre pressure issues
One of the commonest problems which spoils an early morning ride is the tyre pressure. All bikes require proper inflation of the tyres to required pressure. Most commonly used valve tube tyres are incapable of measurement of tyre pressure (due to only one way nature of the valve tube) - you have to go by an approximate pressure reading on the pump dial or by manually checking the tyre for tightness. Generally the you should not be able to press the road surface of the tyre more than a mm with hard thumb tip pressure. But if your tyre has a different valve (Schreder or Presta) - you can actually measure the tyre pressure (just like in the cars and two wheelers). Thinner the tyre - higher the pressure. Most MTBs with thick tyres will take about 60 psi pressure where the very thin road tyres of 25 mm will take more than 100 psi pressure.

Another frequent problem is loss of tyre pressure on the morning of ride. This happens mainly if you have not checked the tyre for minor leaks - which could be coming from a small puncture or a leaking valve. Its imperative that you inflate you tyre fully by Thursday night and check tyre pressure on Friday morning and Saturday morning. If the tyre pressure loss is identified on either of these days, you have Saturday to rectify the problem - however if you inflate it only on Saturday night - you will find out the problems only on Sunday morning - which leaves no option but to miss the ride.

Getting rid of the accessories
Most cycles are fitted with front and back fenders, a luggage carrier, a stand and a chain cover. For long distance road cycling none of these things are necessary. You should have your bike as light as possible by getting ride of these extra things. A lighter bike goes longer with less effort. The fenders are necessary only during monsoon times (that too only the rear fender) and rest of the other things just make you struggle more. You carry bare essentials on rides which are a fluid bottle (in a bottle cage fitted on the frame), small kit and some money (in the saddle bag) and small other items (in a small backpack). So you do not need a luggage stand. Get rid of all these.

Recommended Reading

Encyclopedia of Technical Knowledge of cycling

Oldest Cycling Club

Members Sharing


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