I’m not attempting to “tell” you anything!
After all, you’re “YOU”!
All this post attempts to accomplish is to help you learn, and avoid, what the author only learned through his often embarrassing, tiresome and frustrating mistakes! Below are some tips that go far to ensuring a good riding experience:
Proper preparation should not begin on the day of a ride, especially if one is riding with others. Whenever possible, check in advance for any gear, riding food (sports drinks, energy bars) and anything else that might be required for the ride. Procure it well in advance of the ride. Having to shop for needed items on the day of a ride has many drawbacks. It can delay ride start time, force the change of the original ride plans and sometimes result in the cancellation of a ride altogether. Any of those eventualities will not make you popular if you are intending to ride with others. Those possibilities can, also, result in a severe case of the “should haves”!
On ride day, always go through at least a mental checklist to make certain you are bringing everything you want with you. That really cool, lightweight titanium tool you paid big bucks for won’t help you if it is back sitting in your garage when you need it!
Always check your bike! This should not be limited to checking tire pressure and whether the brakes are properly functioning. Results from the Hebron collider have provided possible evidence for a theory widely held by many cyclists. They theory holds that some cosmic comedian is taking almost identical bikes from different universes and switching them at night! Cyclists go out the next day only to inspect their bikes and find that there are maintenance needs they would swear were not there the previous day. It is always preferable to learn of a maintenance need while in the safety of one’s own well equipped garage!
Finally, good preparation includes taking whatever steps you personally require to ensure that you have successfully met your bathroom needs prior to the ride! Some ride routes do not pass facilities with modern plumbing, with the proper accoutrements, nor do they afford much in the way of privacy. There are few experiences worse than cycling while experiencing a growing need for damming. Remember that bike shorts cannot be used as a substitute for Depends!
(Hey reader! How is that for a transition)!
I’ve found that what I consume the night before a ride can effect both my pre ride night’s sleep and how I perform on the day of the ride. Personally, I try to avoid heavy foods and dairy products. Most of all, I don’t drink any alcohol, especially red wine, the night prior to a ride. I don’t want to feel too “heavy” from the food nor too dehydrated from the drink. However, what foods work for you both the night prior to a ride and the day of a ride are a matter of personal experience. I’m just saying determine what works best for you and stick with it. (Over consumptions should, also, be avoided. You paid good money for that lighter bike. Don’t cause your bike to gain weight)! Eat something before the ride! I, too, once believed that eating anything prior to a ride would cause me to feel sick during, at least, the initial stages of a ride. Experience has taught me that isn’t the case. I would recommend such consumption occur far enough ahead of the ride as to allow the food to be properly digested. However, eating something does help one’s stamina on a long ride. Also, drink water prior to a ride. Proper hydration is vital for a comfortable ride. While both food and water may be consumed during the course of a ride, your well-tuned, Lycra/ cool max covered machine of a body will perform much better if you begin the ride properly fueled.
On the road food is, also, important. Carrying gels, energy/protein bars or other food items that can be placed on one’s person or in a camel back are a good idea. You can’t predict when you will get hungry and eating establishments aren’t always plentiful. While “pocket” food is a good idea, years of cycling have lead me to believe in stopping for “real” food (e.g. sandwiches, burgers or burritos). Real food seems to be the best delivery system for bring need protein and carbs into my body. Its impact last the longest. It provides a good excuse to get off the saddle and enjoy a “butt break”.
All food and water consume should be timely so as to avoid the much dread “bonking”! “Bonking” occurs when one’s body simply says “enough” due to insufficient food or water. It makes riding miserable and sometimes even causes the need to end a ride. Eating or drinking after the “bonking” stage has been reached is only minimally helpful and rarely completely defeats “bonking”. Again, drink water (or your sports drink) and eat something when you feel the need!
What you drink on the ride is determined by personal experience. Some cyclists have their own personal “super sauce” (and are referred to in the literature as “Cycling Super Chickens”). Others use a favored sports drink or even chocolate milk. I prefer water. It is refreshing and doesn’t mess up my camel back. Whatever one drinks, always carry water. If nothing else, it far superior to any of the other drinks mentioned when the need to remove foreign matter from eyes or grit from cuts and scrapes occurs.
AVOID THE CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL ON A RIDE! No, don’t tell me how it is “ok” and you can “handle it”. Alcohol consumption should be reserved as a post ride reward. Knowing that there is a good, micro brewed IPA in my post ride future has certainly proven to be a great motivator for me!
Always remember your helmet! If you don’t wear a helmet, don’t present me with your insipid arguments as to why helmets are not needed. People who don’t wear helmets are referred to by other cyclists and in the literature as “no brainers”. Almost everybody who has ridden for any length of time has a “helmet” story about how wearing a helmet saved him. For most of us, the head’s contents have proved quite useful. Heads do not like to assume the part of a “landing gear”, but some form of “forced landing” is not always avoidable. Helmets help keep head contents where they belong when such occasions occur.
Spare inner tubes, as well as patch kits should always be brought. If you haven’t had a flat, you haven’t ridden for long. These items can be readily placed in most camelbacks or in expandable bags that are attached under the saddle. Placing these items in the “under the saddle” type of bag helps to ensure you will always have these much needed items with you. It is also good for carrying such items as maps. These bags can be especially good as a place to conceal items you wish to hide from a spouse! Nobody would think to check there!
Eye protection is very important! Cycling glasses or goggles can protect one’s eyes from the wind or airborne foreign bodies or those that get shot up from the ground. Being able to see clearly is a great help to any cyclist. Additionally, there are many cycling glasses (nonprescription) that come with changeable lenses that allow the cyclist to select a tint that is best suited for a given day’s lighting conditions. Riding with properly tinted glasses not only helps with visual clarity, but can help prevent eye strain and eye tiredness. (Many of us have found that wearing yellow tinted lenses on a grey day not only provides better contrast, but it places one in a “happier” state of mind. I would caution to avoid using too dark a tint of lenses if your route will take you from bright light directly into shadow or darkness. You don’t wish to be temporarily “blinded” while steering a moving bike! (The same thing applies to a ride that may not end until nightfall. Obviously, one can always resort to carrying multiple lenses.
Water bottles are ok for short rides, but for rides of any duration I prefer Camelbacks, or the otherwise named Personal Hydration Systems. (Too P.C. a name for my tastes)! The advantages to a “camelback” are many. You don’t need to reach for and remove a bottle from some place down on the bike frame. Your first sip won’t taste of the grit than can cover objects riding near the ground, like the nipple on a water bottle. Most “Camelbacks” provide pockets, netting and adjustable elastic straps for carrying needed stuff, including cycling clothes not required at the moment. The expandable, zippered pockets on some “camelbacks” make it a good “grab” bag for storing whatever cycling items you want to ensure you take with you when you ride. (As long as you return items or replace them as needed, every time you grab your “camelback, you’ll know you have those items you keep there for a ride).
One needs to bring a proper assortment of tools, or ride in the company of somebody who does. This need can easily be addressed by owning a cycling related “all-in-one” tool. You will be amazed at the practical design and ingenuity that some of these products demonstrate. There are many such devices that are fairly small and lightweight. Such a tool will generally get you through most tool needs. It’s a person choice as to whether there are some other tools you choose to carry.
Cell phones can be extremely helpful in emergency situations. They can, also, be extreme pains in the hands of Pavlov Ian cyclists who insist on breaking a riding rhythm in order to take a cell phone call about a meaningless matter from a family member who would have happily left a voice message! Let me continue to run on about cell phones! Some of us can remember that we were able to cycle before cell phones existed! I don’t even own a cell phone! Equally annoying are those cell phone owners who don’t consider the possible needs of their fellow riders, such as myself, and leave their cell phones at home!
Thanks. I’m better now.
Otherwise, the rule I use when determining my “must bring” equipment is the probability of its use versus whether I wish to carry the extra weight. If you find yourself internally debating whether to bring a tool, bring it. It is better to learn it wasn’t necessary than for the reverse to be true.
Beer is my POST-ride drink of choice. I’ve found it to be the most refreshing and satisfying drink to have post ride. It seems to give the body exactly what it craves and to do so quickly. Of course, one must moderate one’s consumption to account for the fact that it is a POST ride drink and the body will be somewhat dehydrated. So, it’s best to limit oneself to consuming a REASONABLE amount. Another idea is to have the ride finish at your home where you can share your microbrew collection. Just be responsible. Don’t ruin a riding experience with your post ride behavior!
That is most of what I’ve learned from my riding experiences.
Another thing I’ve learned from experience is to retain the reader’s attention by limiting my writ….