This week's BWL column provides tips for making sure your bike fits you. So, if you haven't biked for awhile or are just getting started, here are some ways to make your ride more enjoyable and safer.
One of the biggest complaints for first-time bicyclists — and even those experienced cyclists just getting back in the saddle — is soreness, particularly in some of the body's more sensitive areas.
Bicycling doesn't have to equal pain, but you need to be proactive to stay active (and pain-free).
Aside from muscle soreness — the price one pays for using them, alas — the typical troublesome issues with cycling come at the three place your body makes contact with the bike — the saddle, the handlebars and the pedals. There are a number of things you can do to lessen the pain, or avoid it altogether — and they will also make your riding more enjoyable in general and safer to boot.
First, make sure your bike fits you. This is an important and often overlooked issue, and can bring on a whole host of hurtful responses if your bike is not set up to suit your body and style of riding. If you bought your bike from a bike store, the helpful folks there may have helped fit you before they let you ride away. If not, or if things have recently changed in a painful way, it may be time to head back to your local bike professional (or find one if you don't already have one on hand) to check the fit.
The fitting will focus on three areas:
- Saddles: Too high or too low? Too far forward or too far back? Any of these can cause knee problems and make your ride more unstable and unpleasant.
- Handlebars: Is the reach too long or too short? Are they set too high or too low? These can affect how your shoulders and arms are feeling, as well as your weight distribution overall.
- Pedals: Fewer adjustments here, but if you're using cleats to clip in they need to be checked to ensure the cleats hit your foot just right.
The other approach to easing your pain comes through equipment — what you wear when you ride. All those specialized bike items have been developed for a reason, and if you want to get serious about riding, you need to look at your options.
- Hands: Numb or sore? That's what bike gloves are for. The padding helps ease pressure and improve grip, and they'll also protect your hands should you use them to break your fall.
- Feet: If you're a serious cyclist, then you already have your bike shoes clipped in. But if you spend any time at all on the pedals, you'll want a rigid sole to help keep your feet from getting tired due to lack of support. You may also want to protect your toes by avoiding sandals or flip flops… while very beachy, they're not very stable or secure, and if they let your foot bend over the pedal you'll regret it the next day.
- Seat: Aside from considering your options when it comes to saddles, consider trying some bike shorts. Sure, spandex may not be your fashion friend and the padding can feel funny the first time you try it, but when it comes to making your butt happy on the bike there's nothing better. There are also a variety of padding lubrication options to reduce chafing.
- Saturday: Cape 5K, Jaycee Park, Cape Coral. Entry $20 adult, $15 youth, $25 day of. Race starts at 7 a.m. (3dracinginc.com/races.asp)
- Saturday, Aug. 23: North Collier Regional Rampage 5K. North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, Naples. Pre-registration $28, students $21, race day $35. (eliteevents.org/north-collier-regional-rampage-5k.html)
- Saturday, Aug. 30: Dr. Piper Center Annual 5K Legacy Run/Walk, Dunbar Middle School, 4750 Winkler Ave. Ext., Fort Myers. Race starts at 7:30 a.m. Registration up to Aug. 26 $20 adult, $15 youth; Aug. 27-29 $25/$15, day of $300 all. (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
- Saturday-Monday, Aug. 30-Sept. 1: 32nd annual Tour of Sebring, based at Kenilworth Lodge, 1610 Lakeview Drive, Sebring. Early registration deadline Aug. 22, prices for 1-, 2- or 3-day rides, (highlandspedalers.com/tos.php)
- Sunday, Sept. 14: Paradise Coast International Triathlon, Duathlon, and 10k Run, Sugden Regional Park, 4284 Avalon Drive, Naples. Triathlon is 1,500m swim, 40K bike, 10K run; Duathlon is 5K run, 40K bike, 10K run. (eliteevents.org)