I have never been a huge fan of cycling, my bottom gets sore, my legs ache and well sitting and pedalling just feel like hard work! Running was more my cardio of choice, that was until after 2 years of not listening to my body and blindly continuing my summit to Mont Blanc, then a marathon, a half marathon, several pink army races, only to jump over a log at the survival race where my injury troubles began and my running days started to dwindle. PING! Grade III torn calf... of course I hobbled around the rest of the race (I will not be beaten by a wounded leg- obviously I know better).
Clearly not, as much to the chagrin of my cousin begging me to stop and even my own tears wouldn't stop me. Northern stubbornness is not a good attribute in these moments! I did hop to the end, jump onto a physio's table only to be told I wasn't allowed any pressure on my leg at all and I'm an idiot for finishing. (That bit I had already figured out!). This happened to be the final straw to what was already a injury disaster waiting to happen.
For the past 2 years, I have been riddled with calf tears, achilles tendonopathy, muscle inhibition and nerve decompression and through it all I havent given my body long enough to remover or do the right thing to help. So now i am listening, listening to the experts, listening more importantly to my body and understanding that what i originally thought were my go to exercises are now having to be readjusted and changed, as well as embraced. As like most things change when forced on you, doesn't always sit as easy as change which has come directly from you. So one part of my change is going from running to cycling, to not over stretch the achilles and also provide cardio output and all round workout. Have to admit i am somewhat of a scardycat when it comes back to cycling; being on the roads, knowing where to go, the road rules, sitting and not getting sore, not getting hit but cars or buses, other cyclists.. the list goes on. Thankfully with a bit of patience and steadfastness i have begun to found the love and enjoyment of cycling and I wanted to share with you my tips on how to be a better cyclist so you can navigate the roads with confidence and ease.
Follow the Rules of the Road
Sounds obvious but it really does help. Stop at the lights as you are expected to. Follow the cycle paths which are scattered all around, it will help you on the roads. Make sure you are aware of your personal space and are checking your surroundings, look left, look right and watch out for the unexpected, whether thats other cyclists, buses, cars, crazy drivers (because they are all out there). Make sure that when you are turning, you need to use your arms to indicate and be consistent. Stick your arm out and make it known (tighten the core for an even better abdominal workout at the same time for balance and its a win win!). Make sure YOU know the right way to cycle on a road, so there is no doubt and you reduce the risk of incidents.
Wear the Right Clothing
Wear a helmet, even if its going down the road or even on tracks. There is no reason why you should go without a helmet. It will save your life, forget what it looks like, it has the magical power to save your skull, surely that is more important than any look you are trying to achieve? Make sure you have lights, whether reflective or battery powered, always make sure you have lights so you can be seen in the dark and so you can also see where you are going. Same applies to clothing, whether its wearing a reflective jacket, backpack, neon spangley outfits are the best.. Channel your inner 80's child and rock the neon and reflective look, it may save your life.
Make sure you have everything ready before you ride, bags packed (typically use a backpack for ease), You know where everything is, in case you have to get things, clips for your trousers if you need them, helmet, reflective jacket. The last thing you want is to have forgotten something as you'll be spending the trip rapping yourself for it and not be concentrating. If you are riding to work, make sure you have your outfit in your bag, all these things help the enjoyment of the journey as you don't have to be stressed that you have forgotten and the more relaxed we can be when riding the better the experience.
Not everyone knows how to be a good driver/rider on the road so you have to assume you are the only one that does and most importantly be mindful of others on the road. Be present for every moment you are on the bike, do not wander off in your head or start day dreaming as that when accidents happens. Focus on your foot strike, your pedal action, where you are sitting in relation to the balance of the bike, how your hands are holding the handlebars and most importantly where you are on the road, the people around you and whats coming up ahead or from the side. Being present allows you to fully embrace the bike ride and get the most out of your cycling.
Be Confident and Patient
Own your position on the road, if you are in the cycle paths, be certain, but when you have to come out, indicate and then own that part of the road. Don't let other cars bully you off the road or to the side. You have to be confident on the bike, so cars see you, the recognise that you are on the road and they need to be aware of that. Along with that, have patience, not everyone understands the rules of the road, or they are in a hurry and may undercut you with no word of apology.. Just take a breathe, let it go and move forward, being mindful that you are on this road and you need to be present at all times.
The main point with cycling is to enjoy it, whether you are with someone or alone, whether you are riding to work or on a day out for fun. You are out in the fresh air, getting some much needed vitamin C and exercise and fresh air. Embrace all the good and lets get cycling.