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Cycling tips for those getting back on a bike

March 28, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Spring is here and it's time to hit the trail-- not running, but pedaling. If it's been awhile since you've given bike riding a spin, here are some tips on smart cycling.

"When people buy a bike it's my job to make sure that bike fits them perfectly," says Steven Carre of Bike Effect in Santa Monica.

Carre works hard to make a perfect happen since many spend a good amount of time on their cycles. With a long coastline and fabulous weather, many consider Southern California cycling ideal.

It used to be that you simply straddled the bike and if it had an inch clearance between you and it, you were good to go. Now there's a litany of assessments.

"The distance from the saddle to the handlebars, your reach, the drop between the saddle and the handle bars, making sure that is all appropriate for you and your body. It's different for everybody," said Carre.

For the occasional rider, Carre says a heavy mountain bike is just fine with its wide tires and stable upright positioning. A decent one costs $200 to $300.

Road bikes start at $900 up to $20,000. This bike type is suggested for those putting in big miles as they are light, fast, responsive and efficient, with varied ways to position hands and plenty of gears to make riding easier when going up steep terrain.

Carre says if you get either type running in the $2,000 range it can last 15 years if you take care of it.

Use some type of bike lubricant once every couple of weeks and have a shop give it a tune up every half year.

Serious riders use special shoes that clip on to the bike while recreational riders on fixed gear bikes are just fine with tennis shoes on the pedal.

Tight shirts wick moisture, hold snacks, keys and necessities and don't ride up in the back, while tights offer a padded chamois to help cushion your ride.

Compression bands and gloves help with circulation on those long rides. Comfort and function is foremost.

"The catch with getting a good saddle is making sure that the width of the saddle is appropriate for you and your sit bones," said Carre.

While not everyone looks good in one, get in the habit of wearing a helmet. Emergency physicians say head trauma accounts for 75 percent of cycling fatalities, yet when used properly, it can prevent brain injuries by 90 percent.

Carre says a helmet should sit nice and low.

"You should feel that snugging up right against you. Generally we would tighten this up to where this is comfortable against your chin," says Carre.

A good rule of thumb for replacing a helmet is if it looks damaged, especially if you've dropped it hard enough to crack the foam. If you ever get in a biking accident, replace the helmet. One impact can seriously damage the inner foam.

If you choose to ride when it's getting dark, wear bright clothing and put reflective tape on the back of your clothes and helmet.

So how about forgetting routine gym workouts for a little while. Get outside and try an exercise that has had a huge following since its invention in the 1800s. The bicycle is a fun and healthy way to get around and experience the outdoors.

If you can bike vigorously - all the better! A workout on a bike can burn more than 500 calories per hour, and not only that, a recent study has shown that women who biked regularly were less likely to gain weight over a 15-year period than those who didn't bike.

If you're getting back into biking, start out slowly. Pedal for 30 minutes a day on flat terrain for the first three or four weeks. Then you can gradually increase the intensity of your riding and choice of terrains. Be sure to keep your arms and shoulders relaxed, and don't lock your elbows. One way to ensure a good ride is to share it with others. Biking in a group can make the miles go by faster and motivate you to become a better biker.

"We're really in a pretty unique place in Southern California in terms of road cycling," said Carre.

Suggested rides around the Southland:

  • Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu north of Pepperdine. The coast will take you up to the Oxnard area.
  • Bike through the canyons near the Santa Monica Mountains.
  • San Gabriel River bike trail, a 38-mile scenic path that starts at the base of the San Gabriel mountain range and heads south to the Pacific Ocean.
  • Biking near the Rose Bowl is a pleasant route, with hundreds of other bikers and runners surrounding you.
  • Other cyclists say Griffith Park is fun as there is little traffic. Start at Forest Lawn Drive and you can go all the way around the park.
  • There is also a good path from the Los Angeles River at the 134 freeway that goes all the way to the Harbor Freeway.
  • In Orange County, the bike trail that runs from Seal Beach through Huntington Beach along the sand is safe and nice with an ocean view.
  • The Santa Ana River trail is also good in spots. Some like the trail starting in Anaheim Hills that goes into Riverside. If you head further east go the other direction and it extends to the ocean. (But some say near Santa Ana near Memory Lane can be dangerous, so if you are trying it, ride with a group)

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