Before you head out and hit the bike trails, take some steps to make sure you and your bike are ready for an excellent, safe summer season.
1. Stay Healthy with a Good Fit
Make sure your bike is properly fitted and maintained (e.g., gears change smoothly, tires are adequately inflated and chain is oiled and not rusted). A good bike fit can prevent neck and back aches, and shoulder and knee strains. It can also help you maximize power while minimizing fatigue. You can ask for help at a local bike shop. Or try these basic measurements:
- Stand over the bike on flat feet. You should have a minimum 1–2 inches of clearance above the frame.
- When sitting on your seat, your straight leg (with the pedal at the bottom of the stroke) should be bent about 20 to 30 degrees. And with your feet off the pedals, you should be able to touch the ground with just your toes.
- Handlebar height generally should be at or lower than the seat height and should be in a comfortable position for the rider. Ideally, you want to minimize strain on your hands, wrists and shoulders. And the height may vary with the type of bike—mountain or road—and the rider’s flexibility.
- The tilt of your seat should feel just right—not too far forward or backward. You should feel balanced and not like you’re sliding either way.
2. Protect the Old Noggin
Wear a helmet to prevent head injuries. Helmets should fit snugly and cover the top of your forehead. If they are tilted back like a bonnet, your brain is not protected! The straps should be comfortable and close to your face and chin, not dangling loosely. Take the time to play around with the straps to make your helmet fit right. If you can’t get it to fit properly, ask a friend or experienced bike shop to help. This is critical to your safety and health!
3. Work Up to It
Train before riding long distances to avoid injury. If you plan to do a race or long trip, start with a short ride and then add a few miles each time (but avoid increasing your mileage more than 10% per week). Build up to your full distance gradually (especially if you’re a novice rider). You’ll enjoy the event more and will feel better for the training!
4. Change It Up
Vary your exercises, instead of biking every day. Cross training with exercises like yoga, weight lifting and running can help strengthen other muscles that you don’t use while biking. This will help to prevent injury in the long run.
Now, hit the bike trails!