Tuesday, April 22, 2014

TriTalk Tuesday - Life's Better on Two Wheels

Happy Tuesday!  Once again I'm linking up with Courtney at The Trigirl Chronicles and Cynthia at You Signed Up For What? for our second weekly chat about all things tri-related.  This week our subject is my favorite of the three triathlon sports, biking.  If you have a blog and a post about biking, please post it below and join us!

The Bike

Confession time - my head isn't 100% in the game lately.  I have a lot going on in my non-triathlon, non-cupcake life.  Decisions to be made that will have serious impacts to the Cupcake Tri family.  Adding that to the pain in my hips that seems to have moved in, unpacked boxes, and hung photos on the walls - I've not been training as hard as I should.  Or perhaps, I'm contemplating taking it easier the next few weeks (I keep deleting workouts on Training Peaks, which only partially works because my coach puts them back on).  So I hope it's understandable that, when faced with writing a post about biking, I feel a bit a fraud.

After all, this was my ride Sunday.  Just under 3 miles on the rail trail with my kids, working with my little girl towards ditching her training wheels.  Not the 20 miles that my coach and I agreed on.  I couldn't get my mojo up enough to head out.  Since riding my bike outside on a gorgeous day is just about my favorite activity ever, this was concerning in a similar way it's concerning when your preschooler declines chocolate.  Something must be wrong.....

In my family, biking isn't a sport.  It's a way of life.  I grew up biking with my older brother and parents - up down and around our yard, our gravel road, and the state parks where we would vacation.  Some of my earliest memories are trying to keep up with my multi-speed parents pedaling my single-speed child's turquoise blue Mongoose bike.  When we relocated, we tried all the bike trails within a two-state radius within the first year.  The Jedi wasn't a huge biker when we met, but it wasn't long until mountain bike rides were a major form of dating.  That trend has continued with our weekly bike dates in the summertime and annual charity rides together.  My kids started on a balance bike as soon as they could walk.  My son ditched his training wheels at age three (a fact I bragged to even passing strangers for at least six months after it happened), and my girl is well on her way.  In short, I really love biking.

However, I do understand that not everyone shares my obsession.  To some, biking is a frustrating, scary, expensive enterprise.  I've converted several friends from runners to triathletes since I started my own triathlon journey.  I'll share here some of my thoughts about how to make the transition from feet to two wheels.

  1. Get a bike.

This is the correct number of bikes have.  Take the number you currently own, and add one.  So logically, if you don't have a bike, get one.  Any bike is better than no bike.  Many beginner triathletes are intimidated, thinking they need to drop several $K on a tri bike.  There's lot of kinds of bikes out there, and as long as it has two wheels, fits you ok, and brakes it is appropriate for trying your first (short distance) triathlon.  Mountain bike, road bike, commuter bike, tri bike - they will all do the trick of letting you experience your first race.  There are tons of bikes for sale on used sites like Craigslist.  Head over to your neighborhood bike store, try out some models, get yourself sized, and then go forth.  You can also borrow a bike.  (As you might infer from the picture above, those of us who really like biking often have extras)

2.  Learn how to safely ride it

This one is huge.  If you are a novice biker, you might feel more comfortable getting your wheels under you on a rail trail, bike path, or similar place where there is no traffic.  Once you feel confident about your ability to ride straight, shift, brake, and turn, you can head out on the road.  

  • Whatever your level, try to stick to roads with nice wide shoulders.  
  • If on a road bike with skinny tires, watch out for gravel, sand, and other obstacles.  Do not bike in rain (its slippery).  
  • Learn the rules of the road and follow them.  You have to follow the same rules as if you were driving a car. Hand signals are a must.  
  • Wear bright colors, reflective clothing, and deck out your bike with blinking lights if you are riding anywhere even close to sunrise or sunset.
  • Do not ride side by side with your buddy, unless you are 100% sure you have the room.  I see this in races - not all races have closed courses.  Cars should move over to accommodate you - it's not safe for them to do so for side-by-side riders.  
  • Do not ride with headphones!  
  • Wear a helmet at all times!!!
American Lung Association charity ride last fall.

These things seem basic, but you've be amazed at some of the shenanigans I've seen.  Sadly, bike vs. car fatalities do occur.  Two weeks ago a group of riders doing a test ride of the IronMan New Orleans 70.3 course were struck by a car.  One rider died, one was critically injured.  This is one of many heartbreaking stories.  Your best defense is just that - defense.  Stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.  It's still much more likely to die in a car accident or as a pedestrian than on a bike. 

3.  Overcoming obstacles

Like any new activity, getting your body used to biking coming from another discipline (or the couch) might take some time.  To minimize discomfort (both physical and mental), follow these tricks:

  • Get a bike fit.  This means you take your self and your bike to a store, and they make various adjustments to make it as comfy as possible
  • Get some padded bike shorts.  You will eventually want to transition to tri shorts, which have a little less padding, but these will get you started.  If your bum is really uncomfortable you might even want to try different saddles.
  • Get some friends.  Most areas have ride groups at various times and paces.  Riding in groups is a great way to both challenge yourself, make new friends, find new routes, and be more visible to cars (as there are more of you).  Check out local bike stores and the internet for local groups.
  • Get some chamois butter. (Just google it).  
  • Build up your endurance and muscle strength in spin classes.  These are a lot of fun - great way to get a bike workout when the weather or roads are cooperating.  Plus, as spin bikes are stationary, it should be harder to fall off of them (though I have done it!).  
  • Do a few [just bike] races or charity rides before your triathlon.  There many nonprofits that organize group rides, such as the American Cancer Society, Tour de Cure, the Pan-Mass Challenge, and the American Lung Association, that coordinate charity rides all over the country of all lengths.  Do good and train at the same time. 

Do you have some bike-related wisdom or stories to share?  Add yourself via the link below!!


On the rail trail - don't I look happy?
After I wrote this post on Monday lunchtime, I decided I just couldn't stand the nice weather.  I took the kids' teeball practice as an opportunity to take my mountain bike out for about 14 miles before the sun set.  Gorgeous ride, and my brain felt so much better.

Join us next week for THE RUN!
My mountain baby....

Biking really does make everything better.....


Courtney Fields said...

Nothing is more freeing that the wind in your face during a bike ride in the sun! Love it!

Axel Kussmann said...

Great post! I love "The Correct Number of Bikes" especially since I recently +1ed my bike population....

Cynthia S. said...

Love it - great tips. I do love biking but I'll admit I'm nervous to get out on the road, even with a safety vest. Cars are big!

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