Friday, July 5, 2013

Guest Post- Cycling for Beginners

A big thanks to Mahaley and Bailey for allowing me a guest spot on their blog.   With the 100th Annual Tour de France on it's way, how appropriate to have cycling as the fitness topic for today.  

The thing I love about cycling is that it can be catered and adjusted to just about any personality and fitness level, not to mention the simple practically of getting from point A to point B.  

For starters, you should ask yourself, what do you want to get most out of cycling?  Is this the third component of a triathlon?   Do you wish to use it as endurance training? Do you want to attempt a century? Charity ride? Do you want to bike to work?  How about the mountains?  Do you wish to shred single tracks in the plentiful trails around us in California?  All of the above?  Regardless of purpose, I guarantee once you get back on two wheels, you will feel like a kid again.  Before you had car keys, your bicycle was probably your first sense of freedom. 

So what kind of bike?  Let me first start by saying there are an overwhelming style of bikes (road, commuter, mountain, cruiser, cyclocross, fixie), price ranges ($0-$15,000+), materials (aluminum, titanium, carbon, steel), and fits (women/mens).  Forget all of that for a moment and just let me say this.  It doesn't really matter.  ANY apparatus that will allow you to pedal is a win in my book.  Whether it's a hand-me-down, a garage sale gem, or a brand new machine from the shop, it's main purpose is to be your vessel of transportation and fitness.

That being said, you do need a bike.  Ahh.  Bike shopping.  It's way more fun than car shopping!  I would highly recommend finding a personable local bike shop.   I honestly tried 3 or 4 bike shops before I found one I liked.  One had no customer service, one had rude customer service, the other had pretentious customer service, and the winner, Cynergy Cycles, had fantastic customer service and great products.  Specifically for me as a female, I don't really do a lot of hands on maintenance...and feel confident letting Cynergy do the work for me.  The reason I would advise finding a great local bike shop is two-fold.  Go there enough, and they will give you discounts.  Also, having a relationship with your sales guy/mechanics will be beneficial to the longevity of your bike.  Not to mention, bike shops will host demo events and group rides.  (<---NEW FRIENDS!!)

In terms of what bike is right for you, I would leave that up to a discussion with the bike shop rep and you.  But real quick, if you plan on doing any type of long distance charity ride, I would recommend a true road bike.  Also, you don't need to spend thousands of dollars.  You don't need carbon (unless of course, you want it).  A lot of bike companies market on the lightness of the bike, and while this is nice, honestly, you aren't racing in the Tour de France.  I mean, losing weight will make you and bike lighter, right?  If you just want to pedal around town, I would go with a commuter/hybrid.  They are super comfortable, affordable, and can be used for long distances. (I have hammered out some decent miles in the Malibu canyons and my friend did a triathlon on my hybrid bike!)  

Keep in mind, along with the bike you're gonna need, for lack of a better word, a ton of other crap.  A helmet is a must.  $50 brain insurance policy!  Enough said.  You'll also need a pump, water bottle, cage for your water bottle, sunglasses, a light, and a saddle bag to hold spare tubes and tire levers.  And once your butt starts to hurt, you're gonna love lycra shorts like you've never loved them before.    

Ok, since this is for beginners I would like to throw in a few things about safety.  

•  Always wear a helmet.
•  If you are riding at night, legally you are required to have a rear light.  I would recommend a flashing one on the front as well.  I have a helmet light I wear at all times.
•  Do not ride with headphones.  Especially as a beginner, you need all of your senses to be aware of your surroundings.
•  Do not ride on the sidewalks.  Besides being unsafe, in some places, it's illegal.  I believe you can get a ticket in West Hollywood.

But you want to ride on the sidewalks because you are afraid of traffic?  I know, riding in traffic can be scary.  But you must be fierce!   Thanks to some recent bicycling legislation, there are more bike lanes, bike shares, and bike paths in LA than ever.  Also, drivers are required to give cyclists 3 feet of space!  Watch out for people opening doors on parked cars, and always have a look out for glass or other particles on the road.  (By the way, cycling in LA has me fairly convinced STREET CLEANING does nothing, except to give me a $70 parking ticket when I forget to move my car!) 

You've got your bike, you're feeling good, now it's time to ride.  Always carry enough water and nutrition with you!  Whether you like gels, chews, or real food like almonds, raisins, etc ... if you are going on a long ride it is important to make sure you have enough with you.  It is July and SoCal is starting to heat up!  It's a wonderful thing.  But make sure you have enough water and electrolytes.   I usually ride with a bottle of water and a bottle of Nuun.   They are little tablets you throw in your water bottle for electrolytes.  It's like Gatorade without the sugar.  

There are plenty of resources on the internet for ride routes, but if you're just getting started you can just pull up google makes and click on the bicycling button.  It will highlight bike lanes with green lines.  Once you get comfortable, I would recommend joining in on some group rides.  I bought a bike because I wanted to start riding again for leisure.  But after riding every Sunday with a group I have learned to truly love and appreciate the sport of cycling.  My group members have taught me a lot and inspire me on a weekly basis to ride harder, stronger, and faster.  

So that's it!  Time to get out and ride!

~Ashley Rath   

A big thank you to Ashley for todays post! If you want to find our more about Ashley, you can check out her blog here

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