Taking a few extra minutes going over your bike and your equipment ahead of time can make all the difference on how you experience your first ride of the year.
After a long winter, avid cyclists are chomping at the bit to get outside for the first ride of the season. There are some people that ride outside all year round, but for most of us, we wait until the warmer weather of Spring before we head outdoors. When the first nice day comes, and the sun is shining, it is tempting to just jump on the bike and go. Taking a few extra minutes going over your bike and your equipment ahead of time can make all the difference on how you experience your first ride of the year.
BikeIf you had your bike hanging up for the season, it is time to dust it off and go over it. If you had the bike in the bike shop at the end of the year for a tune-up, you might just need to check the chain for oil, and add air pressure to your tires, but if you didn’t make sure you go over it thoroughly. If you didn’t get it in for a tune-up at the end of last season, I would recommend taking it into your local bike shop as early as possible so you can beat the mad rush of enthusiastic cyclists who wait until the first warm day.
Cycling ComputerWhat will you be tracking this year? There are so many digital gadgets to track distance, average speed, heart rate, routes, maximum speed, and the list goes on. If you like to record information about your ride, make sure you have it ready to go before that first ride. There is nothing more frustrating than fiddling around with a new GPS when daylight is burning, or after you ride you realize your equipment didn’t record the information you wanted.
Safety FirstBe Visible
Spring is here, so make yourself as visible as possible to help everyone stay safe on the road. If you are riding first thing in the morning, or after work, make sure you have a rear flashing light and front light on the bike. Make sure you check to see that the batteries are good. A cycling vest that is reflective, preferably in a fluorescent yellow or green, offers added visibility for drivers. Drivers need to get back into the routine of sharing the road with cyclists again.
Remember there is salt and sand left on the roads from the winter, so take extra precaution when riding and take the corners carefully.
Add sunscreen to exposed skin and lips. Even when the weather is cool, or it is slightly overcast, it is better to be safe and protect against damaging UV rays.
It is estimated that wearing a helmet helps to reduce head injury risk by 85 percent . A helmet should be replaced if it is damaged, and it is recommended by reputable manufactures, such as BELL, that helmets be replaced every three years . If you are uncertain about the integrity of your helmet contact the manufacturer. BELL offers a free inspection for their customers.
To protect your eyes from flying debris (including bugs), glare, and UV damage, it is recommended to wear sports specific eyewear. A variety of lens tints are available for different weather conditions. I like to wear a red tint for overcast days. It brightens up the day, still cuts down on some glare, and offers UV protection.
NutritionEven on short rides, make sure you have water with you. Use a re-usable cycling water bottle, NOT a plastic water bottle from the grocery store. Not only because a re-usable water bottle is better for the environment, but having to reach down and unscrew a lid is not ideal. Rule of thumb is one water bottle for every hour on the bike; adjust this based on temperature. Always make sure to carry money in case you need to stop somewhere to fuel up, and carry an energy gel and/or food with you depending on the length of your ride.
Just in Case KitThere are a few items that every cyclist should carry, and some ‘good-to-have’ just in case you have a mechanical issue or run into ‘trouble’. Whether these essentials are stored on your bike, such as a saddle bag under the seat, or on your body, such as your jersey pockets, make sure you have the essentials to be able to get home in case something happens.
Here is a basic checklist to get started
- Inner Tube (make sure you have the right one for your bike: size & valve stem type)
- CO2 cartridges & adapter / mini-pump
- tire levers
- Allen Keys (metric)
- personal ID
- patch kit
- mobile phone
These are only suggestions based on my own cycling experience. Depending on your ride style, route, and experience, you will need to customize the recommendations above to meet your own personal needs. Stop by your local bike shop when looking to purchase any of the above items.
Passionate about cycling, wellness, and community, Laura was involved in the cycling industry for over 20 year; bike shop owner, sales rep for Shimano, mountain bike racing, and organizing community cycling events. Now living in Niagara with her family, Laura works as a marketing & communications consultant, and whenever possible, she is out exploring the beautiful roads and trails of Niagara on her road and mountain bike, and volunteers to support a couple local charity rides. She lends a helping hand whenever she can to help build a greener, healthier community here in Niagara.