Have you ever heard other riders say things like, “My saddle hates me right now!” Cyclists are referring to those sore glute muscles caused from riding. A little change that makes a big difference in terms of comfort is to wear cycling shorts that have padding. They reduce chafing and work in tandem with your bike’s seat cushioning to relieve pressure on your sit bones. To help you become less frustrated and more likely to ride regularly, here is a quick rundown of all things bicycle.
The best way to set up your bike for your individual needs is to get a professional bike fit. The bike fitting is used to achieve the riders maximum comfort level, and transfer power more efficiently all while being less prone to injury. Controlling bike position, bike aerodynamics, equipment weight, etc. is not a substitute for hard work, strength training and conditioning. However, these variables can make small improvements in your results. There are three points of contact namely the pedal, the saddle, and the handle bars. The tilt of your seat, height of the handlebars and how far forward you have to reach to grasp the handlebars all affect where pressure is felt on the body. The saddle height is set for proper extension of the knee. Fore and aft position of the saddle is adjusted for proper knee alignment. If your knees are not in alignment, it may be an issue with the cleat placement on the shoes. Next, is teaching the correct mechanics of engaging and disengaging from the pedal system. On average, the bike fitting follow up visits that are within 2 weeks are free of charge. After 2 weeks adjustments are charged at $75/hour (minimum of 1 hour). After 4 months changes needed may require a new fit from the start ($300).
A professional fit includes:
* Range of Motion / Functional Muscle Assessment
* Structural Assessment
* Foot/Footbed Assessment
* Assess Cleat/Pedal Interface
*Shims applied as
as necessary with relation
to proper hip, knee, foot alignment/force line
* Assess injury, surgical history and any acute or chronic pain concerns
* Stem Length and Rise Assessed
* Bar Width, Reach, and Drop Assessed
* Computrainer evaluation of pedal stroke
* Permanent Record of Physical Assessment, Measurements, Equipment
Pro Cycling Coach Jim Rutberg and resident of Colorado Springs is the editorial director at Carmichael Training Systems. He says “Work on mastering the balance between gear and cadence — how fast you pedal. You can check your pace by tracking your revolutions per minute. The standard speed is 80 to 90 times, counting one leg. If your pedal strokes are closer to 60 per minute, the gear you’re in is likely too hard. Finding that sweet spot provides steady cardiovascular training without potential harm to your joints.” Rutberg also says, “The muscles of the neck and shoulders hold up your head and support the upper body, so they’ll need time to strengthen along with your legs.” You can maintain the cadence or repeat the process, depending on how hard you want to ride. Once you find a comfortable cadence, shift your gears to help you maintain that cadence for as much of your ride as you can. A minimum of two weekday rides of 30 to 45 minutes plus a longer pedal on the weekends is a good place to start. A gradual buildup in distance increases the chance that you’ll enjoy cycling and stick with it.
When buying or upgrading a bike, you’ll need to determine how hard or easy your bike is to pedal: how many times you turn the crank vs. how many times the wheel rotates. Consider both your fitness level and the terrain you’ll be riding. If you’ll be riding mostly uphill and you find climbing challenging, then you’ll want to buy a bike with more gears. If you’re a strong cyclist or you only ride flat terrain, you won’t need as many low gears to power up a hill. If you have fewer gears, your bike will be lighter. If you’re an average rider, it’s best to ride in the low gears for climbing hills. Smaller chainrings, also called lower gears, make climbing hills easier, but you should try to keep your cadence consistent in hilly terrain or over longer distances. The shifters will allow you move the chain between your front chainrings and the cogs of your bike’s rear cassette. If you’re considering which components to upgrade, opt for the higher quality shifters and the cables that move your derailleurs. As your drivetrain components go up in price, they typically get lighter and more precise in their performance. However, the lightest parts may lose their durability.
To indicate the number and type of gears, look at the crankset 48/36/26, rear cogs 11-34, 10 speed, and the number of gears 30. In this example, the three numbers in the crankset (48/36/26) indicate the bike has three chainrings in the front (a triple). The specific numbers indicate how many teeth each chainring has: 48 teeth on the largest, 36 on the middle and 26 teeth on the smallest. In the rear cogs spec, “10-speed” tells you that the there are 10 cogs in the rear cassette. The specific numbers indicate the range of teeth from the smallest to largest cog (11 teeth for the smallest to 34 for the biggest). This bike has 3 chainrings in front and 10 cogs in back, or, in other words, 30 gears (3 X 10). In your front crankset, the larger chainrings with the higher numbers of teeth are for going fast, and lower numbers are for climbing. In the rear cassette, it’s the opposite. The bigger cogs with the higher numbers of teeth are better for climbing.
It is recommended to shift just before you need to. For example, you want to shift during a climb before it gets too difficult and as you approach stop lights. On flat ground, shift through several gears at a time. If you shift on a hill, shift one gear at a time, and try to release pressure from the pedals as you’re shifting. When you shift, don’t pick a gear that will put your chain on opposite extremes of the front cogs and rear cassette at the same time. When this happens, it is called cross chaining. This may cause you to drop or break your chain. To maximize the performance of your bike, you can change out the rear cassette. If you ride where it’s mostly flat, choose a cassette with a narrow range. Try one with 11-25, it will let you find exactly the right gear while riding, and will keep your shifting smooth. For rolling hills, try a larger cassette. A 28 cassette will make going uphill easier. For mountain areas, you’ll want a low gear. Look for a cassette with a large cog that has 30 or even 32 teeth on it. The downside to cassettes with larger cogs is that they can make your shifting feel less smooth and it can make it more difficult to find the right gear for the climb.
Gearing options for touring bikes are similar to those for road bikes. You’ll want to gear lower since you’ll be carrying camping gear, food and clothing. Most road bikes have at least 18 gears, but can have 30 or more.
Mountain bikers should also gear for the hardest climbs. Mountain bikes have 9-11 cogs in the back and 1-3 chainrings in front, indicated by 1×9, 1×10, 2×10, 1×11. Mountain bikes with one chainring are lighter and simpler because you need only one shifter to move through the gears on the cassette.
Now that you are ready, you can read through The Top Ten Tips For New Road Cyclists by The University of Colorado Boulder’s head cycling coach, Jeff Winkler. It is the perfect guide for beginners. Just because the year’s cycling season is coming to a close, doesn’t mean you can’t learn more about your fitness level, flexibility, and power. To keep in shape during the winter months, attend a few indoor cycling classes. Check your local bike shop or health club for prices.