5 tips for getting your bike and body ready for the cycling season
If you’re a keen cyclist, you’re probably impatiently awaiting the arrival of spring. The short, cold and wet days of winter have us yearning for warmer temperatures and putting away the indoor trainer to make way for the months of fun outdoor riding.
In the northern hemisphere, the cycling season isn’t too far off now. Spring is only just over a month away. The daylight hours are gradually becoming longer and the weather will soon go from the chilly winter temperatures to the pleasant springtime conditions, paving the way for the prime cycling season.
With months of either winter sports or mostly indoor activities, it is time to start preparing for the start of the cycling season and hit the roads and trails with a renewed enthusiasm for your favorite sport. This preparation is twofold: you need to make sure that your bike(s) are in sound mechanical condition and ready for use and 2) you need to prepare mentally and physically to maximize your cycling fun throughout the spring and summer seasons.
Below we present five tips for doing exactly this. These tips are relevant whether you are new to cycling and want to make sure that you are well prepared for your first season, or a keen rider with many years of ridding experience.
#1 - Set some goals and make a training plan
While it is perfectly acceptable to want nothing beyond occasionally venturing out on the bike to enjoy a bit of exercise, if you’re reading this article then it is very likely that you want more out of your cycling hobby. Goals could be in the form of a certain cycling mileage you would like to complete by the end of the year, participating in one or more amateur cycling races, or increasing your fitness and strength on the bike.
Once you have one (or more) goals in place, you will want to have some kind of structure to assist you on achieving it. This can be in the form of a simple training plan leading up to the events you signed up for, a certain weekly or monthly mileage you would like to ride, or whatever will assist you in getting the motivation you need to consistently enjoy getting out on your bike.
#2 - Give your bike(s) a thorough mechanical inspection
If you live in a place that gets very cold winters, chances are your bike has been in storage for the winter months (yes, we know that there exist a few tough riders who ride throughout the year, whatever the conditions, but that’s a topic for another article). When the time comes to get the bike out to hit the roads/trails, it is critical to give the bike a good check to make sure that all components are in good working order.
If you are comfortable with doing your own bike repairs, the list of things to check are fairly simple:
a) Check your tires: make sure there is adequate tread and that they’re holding air pressure. Otherwise replace as required.
b) Check your drivetrain: Are you able to shift into all gears smoothly? If not, you might need to either do a gear indexing procedure, or replace any worn out components, like your chain or sprockets. You might also need to replace any worn out or frayed shift cables.
c) Check your brakes: It goes without saying that brakes are a critical component of any bicycle. Check that your brakes provide adequate stopping power to bring you to a stop from any peed, especially in an emergency situation. Replace any worn out brake pads, clean all braking surfaces or bleed your brake system (or replace mechanical brake cables) as needed.
d) Perform a full safety check: check that all bolts and fasteners o the bike are tightened to correct manufacturer spec. This is especially important for your contact points with the bike (handlebar & stem, saddle & seat post and pedals).
You can also simply check with your local bike shop about their seasonal bike service package, which would likely cover all the above checks, and more.
#3 - Make sure your cycling gear is in good shape
a) Check that you have a well-fitting helmet free from any damage or cracks.
b) If you use clip-in pedals, check your pedal cleats for wear and replace them if needed.
c) Make sure your cycling wardrobe has the proper seasonal clothing according to your personal preferences (bib shorts, jerseys, etc.).
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#4 - Join a cycling club
While many cyclists prefer to ride solo, there is no denying the fun and motivation that can be had from riding with a group of like-minded people. If you’re not part of a cycling club already, research your local cycling clubs and get in touch with them to check the type of rides they organize and their group ride schedule. Making cycling friends is one of the best things about cycling!
#5 - Get in shape!
Most of us have busy schedules, and the weekend rides are perhaps not enough to become as string as we would like to be on the bike. For that reason, it is often a good idea to supplement your cycling activities with cross-training sessions throughout the week. Two things that can result in significant performance gains on the bike include strength training and yoga/stretching sessions. Remember: to get started you don’t need a gym! All you need is a few minutes set aside a few times a week to work on some fitness fundamentals, and you will certainly feel the difference on the bike.
Finally, remember to mix things up a bit! As with many hobbies, there is the chance of your cycling habit becoming monotonous and some boredom can set in. To get out of a cycling rut, change your routine. For example: explore new routes, do different kinds of riding (road, mountain, gravel, etc). Remember: always be safe and have fun on two wheels!
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