Cycling Gear

Friday Biking Buddy

Friday morning I had a buddy join me for my bike ride into work! Michael decided to go with me, which was a fun surprise. First things first: adjust my bike seat. For a few weeks now my lower back has bothered me on the bike. I need to take my own advice to prevent injury and get refitted. Or adjust the seatSomething. Something is not right and my body has been telling me. Stop ignoring it! Adjusting my seat at 6 a.m. was not preferred but it had to be done.

We ate a quickie breakfast–he had two turkey sausage links and toast. I had plain Greek yogurt with strawberries and Fiber One cereal. Then we hit the road.

It was fun having a riding buddy. It’s pretty quiet early in the morning. We rode together on my usual route and then took a detour through Sellwood that I didn’t even think about taking. It was easier and safer.

We made our way through the Springwater and downtown where Michael left me at the Steel Bridge. We stopped at the “Breakfast on the Bridge” people (see below) where I’m pretty sure Michael got a donut 🙂 and I continued on to downtown and work.

Biking to work gives me a lot of time to think. And observe. And ponder. Being out there on the road, I see a lot of stuff. Sometimes weird stuff. Sometimes things that make me angry (like the jerky cyclists that break all the rules of the road and give the rest of us a bad name or the drivers that blow stop signs and near miss me on the bike). Here are some things I wanted to share:

Breakfast on the Bridge

There are a lot of cool things about Portland and this is one of them. While I’ve never had the chance to partake in it, I think it’s a very awesome idea: Breakfast on the Bridge. It’s hosted by Shift volunteers and I think it’s a great way to encourage a positive community in the biking culture.

They have coffee, fruit, cookies and donuts. It’s fun to see cyclists just hanging out, meeting new people.

Spandex Sucks…But It’s Necessary

Spandex is not fun. Ever. Unless you look like a greyhound. (See below.) While spandex cycling clothes may look ridiculous, there are major reasons for wearing it.

First, it’s made of wicking material that is quick drying (which is nice if you sweat buckets like me). Second, there’s pockets in the back to carry snacks, sunscreen, keys, etc. so you don’t have to have a backpack. I also hear that they have UV protection built in.

Finally,  it’s form fitting so it doesn’t flap in the wind. I see so many people on bikes with these jackets that billow out like a parachute. Not only is it uncomfortable, it slows you down. Spandex just has less drag. So yeah, it sucks wearing it but it works.

My morning calories were about the same as they usually are. Oh–and yes, the bike seat adjustments Michael made were great! The back pain was reduced a lot.

My ride home in the afternoon was solo. It was also really quiet, very light traffic I’m guessing as a result of the upcoming holiday. It was also one of those rides where everyone SAW me! No scary incidents but incredibly polite and patient drivers. It’s always a nice thing when I complete a ride without feeling frustrated.

The last mile of my ride introduced rain. Luckily it was not much and actually felt quite refreshing. I made it home with a decent time and calorie burn. Unfortunately, my knees weren’t very happy with me. I don’t know if it was the seat adjustment or something else. Time will tell.

It was a nice way to end the week, despite my creaking knees. Ice, ice and more ice. 22.6 miles for the day. 45.21 miles for the week (two rides). I’m glad I got in a second ride. I really really hope I can get 3 days a week very soon!

QUESTION: Do you wear spandex for cycling or running? How did you get over the embarrassment?

Preventing Cycling Injuries

If you are prone to sports injuries, there are two activities I’d suggest for you. The first would be swimming. It’s always my suggestion for people who want to lose weight but have issues (joints, knee injuries, back pain, etc) but I’m biased because I love swimming. The other alternative is cycling. Cycling is a very body-friendly activity and a good way to get fit without getting hurt.

Like most young people, I thought I was invincible. I started running with no training plans other than listening to my body and doing what I thought I could do. I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning, but luckily had no injuries. I had a bout of bursitis in my ankle, sacrum strain and some very sore muscles, but nothing awful. But I realize now that I made the common rookie mistake: doing too many miles, too soon.  (Read 8 Mistakes I Made While Injured)

With cycling, though, the injuries are fairly limited as long as we do a few things right.  (Read Bike Buying Mistakes) Obviously follow the rules of the road, pay attention to cars around you, wear a HELMET at all times on the bike, and wear reflective clothing. Continue reading for more tips.

The first thing is crucial: get a proper bike fitting. Don’t ride a bike that isn’t right for your body. You’ll regret it (and so will your lower back) if you don’t get fitted!

Strengthen your core. Strength training is so crucial and I noticed that when I spent a good amount of time weight training that all my other sports improved tremendously. Balance in the body is key! A strong core will make those long bike rides much easier, more comfortable and you won’t be sore afterward.

Another common injury is saddle sores. I never really had this issue, even as a newbie rider, but I did have soreness. The tip to overcome this: good cycling shorts. They also make creams to put on your nether-regions before biking long miles to prevent chafing. It’s uncomfortable but they work.

The other body issues that can come up are really about tension. Is your neck and shoulders sore the day after a ride? Check your posture on the bike. Are your toes going numb? Maybe your shoes are too tight, or you need to wiggle your toes periodically while riding. Are your hands and wrists hurting? Maybe you’re gripping the handle bars too tightly. Just being aware of your body while riding can help a lot of issues.

Just like with running, you don’t want to do too many miles too soon. A friend of mine who has started biking recently asked me about the “cycling marathons” I do. 🙂 I had to laugh at that terminology. It reminded me that maybe not everyone knows that a Century means 100 miles on the bike! My friend wanted to do a Century with her friend and when I told her that meant 100 miles she was like…um, no thanks! You don’t go from biking once in awhile to completing 100 miles!

When I first started commuting to work, I did part of the route. It ended up being about 11 miles roundtrip to and from work. That was a good starting point. As I got better, as I got more comfortable and more confident on the bike, I tried biking the full route–22 miles roundtrip. It took some time. I’m glad I took it slowly and built my endurance up. This year I didn’t need to do that because I spent all winter in spin class!

Just to give you an example of a few week’s worth of mileage, here is a weekly example:

Week 1 – 10.89 miles

Week 2 -22.18 miles

Week 3 – 36.03 miles

Week 4 – 20.2 miles (spin class)

Week 5 – 44 miles

If you follow some of these tips, I think you’ll be much happier on the bike and your body will thank you!

QUESTION: What are some of your “body aches” after cycling?