Friday, May 26, 2017

Let's Ride!

Everyone who knows me knows that I love to ride my bike.  During triathlon season, I ride 3-4 days a week, usually alone.  I don't ride bike paths very often. I ride roads - state park roads, roads in Highlands Ranch, Morrison, Golden, etc.  I don't think twice - I just get the bike ready, get on and ride.

But, I hear very often from women who say they don't like to or won't ride alone.  These women are often training for half or full Ironman triathlons.  In longer races like that, the bike can be the most important piece of the race.  So, getting in the miles is important.  And, you might not always have a buddy to ride with.  So, what can you do to be more comfortable riding alone?  Below are a few thoughts I've had recently.

1.  Ride with people at first.  If that is your comfort zone, then by all means get some rides scheduled with friends or find a local group ride happening in your area.  On these rides, be aware and learn from other, more experienced cyclists.  Watch how they handle turns, reach for their water bottles, etc.

2.  Work on your bike handling skills.  You can actually work on some of these things on the trainer or on a straight, safe stretch of road, maybe in a state park.  Work on reaching for your water bottle, taking a drink, putting the bottle back with only brief glances down to do it.  Practice unclipping from one pedal early - much before you need to actually come to a stop.  Practice mounting and dismounting your bike - note - your butt should NOT be ON the saddle as you start/stop.   Relax.

3.  When you start riding alone, stay in an area where you are comfortable.  In the Denver area, Cherry Creek State Park and Chatfield State Park are great.  The park roads are easy to follow and you will only be exposed to park traffic.  No stop lights and very few stop signs.  Stay in the park for a while until you are comfortable riding there.  Then, consider riding in an area with large bike lanes (Highlands Ranch) or fairly wide shoulders (Boulder).  

4.  Map out your ride first or get a route from a friend.  To really get the lay of the land, consider mapping out a route for yourself and then going to drive it.  Make notes of intersections, available shoulders, etc.   Know where you are going - upload the route or write down your important turns.

5.  Always ride defensively.  I ride defensively all the time, but even more so when I'm alone.  Ride as far to the right as you safely can.  Clearly indicate your movements to other cyclists, pedestrians, motorists - turning, slowing, stopping.  You can also put flashing lights on your bike for use at all times of day.

6.  Always wear or carry ID.  I use Road ID.   Text a friend and let them know that you are headed out to ride, let them know your approximate route, how long you think you might be out there (include a cushion of time for bathroom breaks, stop lights, etc.), and then text that person when you return home.  I also carry a copy of my AAA card in my seat bag and some cash.  AAA provides bike roadside assistance in case of a mechanical where you can't ride home.  

7.  Know how to change a flat tire and how to get your chain back on if you drop it.  These are the very most basic skills that you MUST know how to do.  It's simple to learn, I promise!  Bike shops often teach this in a monthly class or a coach can show you.  You must also carry all your own gear to change a flat - seat bag, extra tube, CO2 cartridges, CO2 adapter, tire levers.   If you are not awesome at changing a flat, often another cyclist is willing to stop to help but you need to have all the gear.

To some extent, you will just need to bite the bullet and do it!  Just like with almost anything, the more you do it, the more comfortable you will be.   Have fun and be safe out there!

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