Bootcamp Blog Part 1 – Equipment

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GREETINGS from the Cycle Against Suicide Bootcamp team. Over the next few weeks we will be feeding you some helpful information and training tips to get you started on your road to Cycle Against Suicide 2014. We will also be looking for Bootcamp Ambassadors to write their own training blogs to help others who are getting to grips with training for the cycle, but more about that later.

Cycling can be a great way to get in shape and explore the beautiful countryside on this wonderful island of ours. Whether you prefer mountain biking or road cycling, this short beginner’s guide will teach you the biking basics you need to know to make your journey an enjoyable and comfortable experience.

Beginning to Bike

  • Start Slowly – Even if you’re in good shape, it’s a good idea to start slow. Biking utilizes different muscles than other exercises and it may take  some time for your body to get used to the new routine. Start with just a few miles and gradually work your way up to longer rides.
  • Use Caution – Safety should always be your top priority as a biker. Since you often share the road with motorists, cycling is inherently more dangerous than many other sports and subsequently requires a high level of constant vigilance.
  • Map your Routes – Before hopping on your bike, map out your routes. This will allow you to measure the distance to and from home and also give your nearest and dearest peace of mind while you’re out on the road.

The Bike

It’s important to note that you don’t need to break the bank to get the right bike for you. One thing I would recommend is to make sure that you have a good range of gears; this will help on the hills.

When someone asks you if you’d prefer drops or flats, they are not talking about some kind of shoes! They’re talking handlebars. Flat handlebars are good for the beginner but only offer one hand position. So if this is your preference then I would recommend adding a pair of bull horns, short add-on handlebar extensions giving a second hand position.

Drops or racing handlebar may feel a little uncomfortable to the complete beginner but have many advantages. They offer three hand positions, on the top of the bar, on the hoods of the brakes and on the drops. Cycling on the drops isn’t just for going fast it is also good when cycling into a head wind.

Some of the most important things to remember when starting out are:

  • Any old Bike will do – Truly, if you are just starting out, you don’t need anything fancy; use any old bike you can get to assess if you actually enjoy the sport first.
  • Adjust the saddle – A bike that fits properly does more than just ensure comfort. It can also prevent pain and serious injury. Make sure the saddle (or seat) is level so it can support your full body weight. To adjust for proper height, try pedalling backwards; you should be able to fully extend your leg straight in the down position.
  • Inflate the tyres – Before you begin a ride, make sure the tyres are fully inflated and there are no holes or punctures. If there are, replace the tyres.

We will talk about bike fitting next time.

Biking Equipment

  • Buy a helmet – The one component of biking gear that should be non-negotiable is a helmet. Every cyclist, whether amateur or pro, should wear a helmet for obvious safety reasons. It’s important to wear one that properly  fits, so head to a local bike shop, where they can properly fit you for a helmet. Helmets can range upwards of €200 so once you know how one should properly fit, look for a helmet that falls within your budget. Remember the more expensive does not always equate to better protection.
  • Stock up on water – If you don’t have one already, purchase a water bottle that fits into your bike’s water bottle holder. If your bike hasn’t got one, you can get one for about five euro.  No matter how short your ride, make sure you have plenty of water and drink it throughout your ride to stay hydrated.
  • Purchase a bike repair kit – A simple repair kit is relatively cheap and an absolute must if you’ll be travelling more than a mile or two from home. The important items to carry are a spare inner tube, a small all-in-one bike tool, some tyre leavers and a small pump or some way to inflate your tyre after changing your puncture. Keep it all in a small bag that attaches directly to your bike, it couldn’t be simpler. We will go through some minor repairs in our ‘how to’ guides at a later date.

Biking Clothing

  • Start with what you have – We’ve all seen the bright, pro biking gear worn by cycling pros but you certainly don’t need that to get started. Simply wear comfortable sports clothing that won’t catch in your wheels or chain.
  • When you start getting some kit, opt for light, breathable clothing and make the jump from casual biker to amateur rider. Start by purchasing a jersey, long sleeve for winter and short for spring. You can layer up with thermal or compression tops when it is colder.
  • The Lycra shorts or bibs made from lightweight, breathable fabric, not the most flattering on most but they have one thing that your bum will thank you for; “the chamois”, this is the foam pad in the seat of the shorts. Most biking clothing is made from fabrics designed to keep you cool by wicking away sweat and moisture from your skin. If the thought of Lycra scares you, you can always use mountain biking shorts. These have an under short with the chamois pad and a standard knee length short over them.
  • A jacket for the wet days. You don’t need to go too high tech, your local coffee shop or cycle friendly cafe will keep endless amount of rain off any cyclist! But on a serious note, do get a cycle specific rain jacket with a drop tail (longer back) to keep you covered when leaning forward on the hoods or crouched on the drops.
  • Mitts for your hands take the pressure off the bones in your wrist and reduce road vibration on long rides. Try and get mitts with gel pads as they work best on long spins and will last quite a bit longer too.
  • Glasses are not quite an essential but a nice little luxury. There is nothing worse than getting a fly hitting you in the eye when doing twenty kilometres per hour. If you get ones with interchangeable lenses it will cover you for all weather. No need to go too expensive, Aldi and Lidl have them from time to time for less than five euro. You will have eye protection for all seasons.
  • Cycle shoes are another nice thing to have. Running shoes will do but the stiffer the shoe the better. Cycle shoes have a very stiff sole that will help with power transferring to the pedals. The stiff sole stops the foot flexing over the pedals and foot pain. Most cycle shoes have threaded holes in the soles to fit cleats to use on clipless pedals. It is quite difficult to walk in road cleats so some beginners and touring cyclists like to use a mountain bike or touring shoe with an embedded cleat.

Regardless of your motivation to start cycling, these beginner tips can help your first few rides be safe, comfortable, and most importantly, enjoyable! Over the coming weeks we will endeavour to bring you some cycling knowledge that will make your journey to Cycle Against Suicide 2014 just that. We will make our journey shoulder to shoulder and I am looking forward to riding out with you all come April 28th 2014.

All the best,

Niall 🙂