With the weather finally starting to cooperate, it seems riding season is upon us. Hopefully for many of you, it has been in full swing for a while now, and this post is a couple of months late. For me, however, it fits – as I have been nursing an injury and have been completely off the bike for over three months. Just last week, I was finally able to get back to it. And then, about 100 yards from my house, I crashed.
This got me thinking about things to consider with early-season riding. I will superficially touch on a few of my musings here, but if you want any more detail, feel free to let me know and I will be happy to elaborate.
Things to consider:
- Bike: This one might be pretty obvious, but I am always amazed at the condition that we find bikes in during the early season. It is understandable, I suppose. At the end of last season, I think people just hang up their bikes with the plan to get them serviced prior to the next riding season. But then the weather turns nice and they are anxious to get out and ride, so they kind of forget to follow through with scheduling that tune up. A few of the things that we often find that need attention include: shifting adjustments, stretched chains, worn brake pads, and hydraulic brakes that need to be bled. If you’ve been riding on an indoor trainer, that opens up a whole other can of worms due to the special forms of abuse that bikes take in that environment. With sweat dripping down onto the bikes, corrosion can wreak havoc – and since much of it is hidden, you might not know. When cables corrode, braking and shifting performance is compromised so at least you are aware of it. The real concern comes when handlebars (usually hiding under rather disgusting bar tape) or frames are corroded and their integrity (and therefore safety) are severely compromised. The solution: take the time to have a professional safety-check and tune up your bike. Your safety and your enjoyment on the bike will both increase dramatically.
- Clothing and Equipment: Weather can change quickly and frequently this time of year, so be prepared for anything. Whenever in question, I try to pack a small wind/rain jacket in my pocket. I usually don’t need it but when I do, I am really glad I have it.
- Trail and Road Conditions: If you are a mountain biker, check your local resources for trail conditions before setting out. (Like bouldermountainbike.org for the Boulder area). Doing so will help you avoid getting turned around mid-ride due to mud or snow, and will also help to preserve the condition of the trails that we all love. If you are a road cyclist or a commuter, pay close attention to road conditions. That innocent-looking puddle might not be so innocent after all. This is pothole season too, so you never know what that puddle is hiding. There also tends to be increased road debris this time of year – whether it be sand, gravel, roadkill, or just garbage left by our less-environmentally-conscious fellow humans.
And a couple of late additions to the list that are hitting particularly close to home for me right now:
- Fitness: If you haven’t been out riding much (or any) for a while, be aware that what might have been an easy ride a few months ago, will feel quite a bit more difficult now. (Or is that just me…?) Plan your rides, efforts, and distances accordingly.
- Bike handling: This is not one that I would have considered to be an issue until last week, but I really think it played a part in my silly crash. Nothing major, but I don’t think I would have gone down if my skills were as sharp as I thought they were. So, my unsolicited advice would be to take things a bit less aggressively than normal for you, until that bike feels like it is one with your body again. Perhaps this will help you to avoid making a stupid mistake like I did last week, and preventing an unpleasant and equally unnecessary encounter with the asphalt.
That’s all for now. Happy Riding.
Trent Newcomer is a veterinarian and the franchise owner of Velofix Colorado, a mobile bike shop operation that serves the Front Range, from Fort Collins to the entire Denver metro area. Book a bike service appointment to roll up to your home or business at velofix.com.