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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Back to the basics

  • Back to the Basics

    In a time when fuel prices are topping out over $4.00 a gallon many people are turning to bicycles as an alternative form of transportation. Riding a bike around the neighborhood and even to and from work is an excellent alternative providing you have the extra time and is also a good way to get in shape. On the downside though as I have seen more and more adults riding bikes I have also noticed that most of those people are putting themselves in unnecessary danger. So now it’s time to review the basics starting with purchasing a bike.

    If you are planning on purchasing a new bike you should stay away from the ones sold at the major “chain” retailers. These bikes are not only poorly built with marginal components and are extremely heavy but they are usually assembled by people that are not trained to properly assemble and tune a bike. Unless you are willing to spend upwards of $800 don’t even bother looking at the full suspension (shocks on the front and rear) bikes. The small amount of “squish” that you might get out of these poorly designed models is far outweighed but the actual weight. If you have the means, it is best to start shopping at a shop that specializes in bicycles. By shopping there, the professionals that assembled your bike will usually allow you to test ride several sizes and models so that you are able to find one that fits your size and riding style. At a bike shop you should find that most of the bike styles will start at about $300 which is well worth it.

    Chances are that if you are like most adults that already own a bike you haven’t ridden it since college. If this is the case you should take it to a qualified repair shop for a tune-up. The professionals there will check your tires and tubes, lube your chain adjust your brakes and make sure that everything is bright and tight.

    Getting ready to ride
    Now that you have your new bike or finished cleaning up your old bike these are a few things to keep track of before every ride.
    Check your chain. Chain slippage or breakage can cause you to fall not only off your bike buy potentially into traffic.
    Chain should be well lubed and free of rust
    Every link should pivot smoothly
    Check for sag
    Check you tires
    Follow the manufacturers rating for tire pressure keeping in mind that more pressure = less rolling resistance but also less control.
    Check for nicks and dry rot in the tread
    Check your axles
    Axel nuts should be tight and the wheels should turn smoothly
    Check your handlebars
    Check your handlebars by gripping the front wheel between your knees and pulling upward or pushing back and forth. There should be no movement of the bars and stem independent of the rest of the bike.
    Check your seat
    Make sure that your seat clamp is securely tightened
    Check your pedals
    Make sure that your pedals are securely tightened
    Check your reflectors
    Check to make sure that your bike is equipped with reflectors and that they are clean and easily visible
    Do you or will you need lights?
    If there is any chance that you will be riding near dusk or dark be sure to use a bike light on the front and rear of your bike. It is also a good idea if these are flashing lights which will make you more visible to cars.



    Now that your bike is in order it’s time to make sure that you are ready to ride.
    Avoid shoes with laces.
    Shoes laces can become wrapped around your pedals causing sprained ankles and falls resulting in more serious injuries.
    If you don’t not have shoes without laces, find a way to tuck them in or tie them so that they do not hang down where they can be entagled.
    Avoid long pants.
    Long pants legs can and often do get caught between your chain and chainring (gears) causing you to fall.
    Wear proper body protection.
    Depending on the type of riding you will be doing it may be a good idea to invest in knee and shin pads
    Always wear a helmet! This is not just for children. Adults are can fall just as easily as children and closed head trauma can kill an adult just as easily as it can a child.
    Bike helmets have come a long way in the last decade, while still hot and less than cool looking they can help prevent serious brain injuries that can take place if and when you fall.
    Florida State Law requires children to wear a bike helmet when riding a bike.
    Make sure you have enough water.
    It’s summer time folks. If you plan on riding for more than about 15 minutes make sure that you have a water bottle with you.
    Make sure you have enough energy for your trip.
    You wouldn’t take your car out on an empty tank, when riding a bike you are the fuel tank and engine. Running out of steam on a bike trek can leave you stranded. Make sure that you have eaten a balanced meal within the last few hours or even take some energy bars with you
    Once you’ve run out of steam, even after eating it can take hours before you have the energy to get back home.

    On the road.
    Now that you have checked out your bike and geared up it’s time to hit the road.
    Stay off the sidewalks
    Riding a bike on the sidewalk is against the law in most areas
    Riding on the sidewalk puts pedestrians at risk
    Cars on cross streets usually pull up past the cross walk before turning which means that either they will hit you or you will hit them.
    Ride with traffic
    Riding with the flow of traffic reduces your chance of being hit by a car.
    If you are hit riding with the flow of traffic the impact will be less severe
    Obey traffic signals
    If you are riding a vehicle on the road you are expected to follow the same rules as other vehicles.
    Do not cut across traffic
    Cutting across traffic puts you in a location where you are not easily seen or expected to be and drivers will not usually see you.
    Expect to be unseen
    Bikes are small and drivers are usually not paying close enough attention to see you.
    Make sure that you are watching around you for other vehicles and be prepared to dodge off the road if necessary.
    Do not expect drivers to see you or yield the right of way at intersections, keep you hands on the brakes ready to slow down or stop if necessary.


    Keeping all of these tips in mind every time you venture out with you bike will not only help to ensure that you have a successful enjoyable trip but they may even save your life.







2 comments:

Danibee said...

You forgot to mention that spandex is against the law as well...

kerbouchaud said...

I actually put this together and sent it to one of the TC palm staff writers in hopes that they would be able to use this information to put together an informative article. That being said, I didn't think they would like the spandex would fit in too well...But....It is true, Spandex use by men should be outlawed in all 50 States.