Bicycling on a Mountain Bike or Road Bike - dummies

Bicycling on a Mountain Bike or Road Bike

Cycling outdoors on a mountain bike or road bike is perfect for people who can’t take the relentless pounding of running or find the slow pace of walking or running a real drag. Cycling is the best way to cover a lot of ground quickly. Even a novice can easily build up to a 20-mile ride.

Essential cycling gear

Cycling can be a hassle. You can’t just grab your shoes and head out the door. You need your helmet, water bottle, gloves, sunscreen, and glasses. And even with all your protective gear, you can never be too cautious. Cycling is a low-impact sport — unless you happen to impact the ground, a car, a tree, a rut, or another cyclist.

Mountain bikes, the fat-tire bikes with upright handlebars, are somewhat less expensive than comparable road bikes, the kind with the curved handlebars. In both categories, you won’t find many decent bikes under $500; many cost more than $2,000. What distinguishes a $500 bike from a $2,000 steed? Generally, the more expensive the bike, the stronger and lighter its frame. Find a bike dealer you trust and know that bike prices are negotiable.

Don’t even think about pedaling down your driveway without a helmet snug atop your noggin. Cycling gloves make your ride more comfortable and protect your hands when you crash. Glasses are important to protect your eyes from the dust, dirt, and gravel. Buy a pair of padded cycling shorts and a brightly colored cycling jersey so that you can easily be seen.

Cycling the right way

To protect your knees from injury, position your seat correctly (ask your salesperson for advice) and pedal at an easy cadence. Cadence refers to the number of revolutions per minute that you pedal. Inexperienced cyclists tend to use a higher gear than they can handle, which forces them to turn the pedals in slow motion; their legs tire prematurely, their knees ache, and they cheat themselves out of a good workout. Set your bike’s gear so you’re pedaling at a comfortable cadence.

Road cycling can wreak havoc on your lower back because you’re in a crouched position for so long. Relax your upper body and keep your arms loose. Grasp your handlebars with the same tension that you’d hold a child’s hand when you cross the street. Pedal in smooth circles rather than simply mashing the pedals downward. Imagine that you have a bed of nails in your shoes, and you have to pedal without stomping on the nails.

Cycling tips for rookies

You can learn a lot about cycling — and get faster in a jif — by riding with a club or friends who have more experience. Here are some pointers to start your cycling career:

  • Remember that you are a vehicle and are required to follow the rules of the road. Ride with traffic, not against it.

  • Stop at all signs and lights, and use those hand signals you learned in driver’s ed. Don’t trust a single car, ever. Assume that the driver doesn’t see you, even if he happens to be staring you in the face.

  • When you go off-road, start on wide fire roads rather than narrow “single-track” trails that require technical skills. And don’t think that you’re immune to injury because there are no cars. More crashes happen on mountain trails than on the road because there are more obstacles and riders get careless.

  • Head into a turn at a slow enough pace that you maintain control, and never let your eyes wander from the road or trail. Never squeeze the brakes — particularly the front brake — with a lot of pressure. You’ll go flying over the handlebars, a maneuver known as an endo, and go right into a face plant, a maneuver that is self-explanatory.