The shops have been emptied of bikes, old bikes have been dusted off and dragged out of the shed, tyres pumped…the bicycle has hit boom times! If there’s one bonus this darn virus has brought us, it’s the return to the bike for many, while for others it’s brought a whole new activity into their lives.
But getting back onto the bike after many years’ hiatus isn’t always as easy as it seems. There are paths to negotiate, the question of what to wear, understanding the road rules that you might never have considered for the bike, knowing your ability and understanding of bike handling and of course where to find the best coffee!
In our series of blogs ‘Join The Ride’ we’ll cover all that info you need to know to keep you going, and we’ll throw in a few videos too that show you some practical know-how from the Wheel Women Coaches. It won’t cost you anything other than your enthusiasm, and we’re happy to answer your questions. It’s like a mini course, online, for free from the team at Wheel Women.
STARTING THE RIDE… ARE YOU RIDE READY?
If you’re reading this you’ve probably just started riding over the last few months, or super keen to get going…or maybe you just want a refresher! So let’s start with some basics and over the next weeks we'll add to our info base for you. So let’s get rolling…
STEP ONE: CHECK THE BIKE
Tyres and Pressure
• Pump tyres to the correct pressure (see our video coming soon for pumping tyres).
• Feel the tyres and if they press in a little when you press with your fingers they may be too flat.
• Check on the side of the tyre and find the set of numbers that lists the ‘PSI’…this will usually give you a range of numbers from x to x. Using a pump with a gauge, pump up the tyres to sit somewhere between the numbers listed. The closer to the higher number you pump to, the firmer the tyre, the easier the roll.
• If you haven’t ridden your bike in a while, it’s a good idea to check the tyres for any splits or cracks…old rubber can perish!
You can see the PSI numbers on the side of the tyre telling you correct inflation.
• Test the brakes by pressing each brake on separately.
• When you press the front brake (right hand), can you push forward on the bike and make the rear wheel lift off the ground…if so, great!
• Pressing the rear brake on (left hand), see if you can drag the back wheel along the ground as you push the bike forward. If you can, terrific!
• Make sure those brake levers aren’t pulling all the way back to the handlebars and if they are you better get to the bike shop for a fix.
• When you squeeze the brakes on, make sure the brake pads on rim brake bikes are actually connecting with the rim of the wheel, not on the actual rubber of the tyre and that the lever pops back into position after squeezing.
• If you have disc brakes, make sure the stop action is smooth and not jerky.
Squeeze the brakes and make sure they don't pull all the way back, check pads are lined up to the rim.
• A bit of oil goes a LONG way to helping a sad and neglected chain feel happy again…it’s easy to do.
• Purchase some bicycle chain oil from your local bike shop and just drop, drop, drop onto the top of the chain while turning the pedals.
• Rotate it so you can oil every bit of it if you can…you don’t need much, just a little drop.
• After you’ve oiled it, spin the pedals a bit so the oil works itself into the chain links.
• Check if the chain is ‘stretched’…no, metals doesn’t stretch, but the links in a chain can become worn and loose which gives the effect of the chain lengthening. When this happens, changing gears can become difficult and the chain may slip off easily. If the chain is really loose you may need a new one.
• You can check the chain by grabbing an old stick, or wearing some gloves, then push the chain away from the big cog at the front…push it towards the front wheel. If it moves more than about ½ a centimetre it is probably getting a little too loose. That’s a bike shop fix!
Is the chain black and grimy or clean and shiny...push the chain towards the front wheel to check if it is stretched.
Lights on, ding ding…Legal!
• Did you know it is a legal requirement to have reflectors on your bike? Reflectors are okay if you’re riding during the day and not on the road, but best practice is to have lights on the bike always in anticipation of bad weather.
• You MUST have lights on the bike if you ride on the road and the lights must be powerful enough to be visible from 200mt away.
• Don’t skimp on a set of decent lights…they make you visible. Many riders choose to have their lights on even during the day if they are on the road. You can also attach lights to your legs so they create a moving light feast.
• Don’t attach lights to your helmet as it is questionable as to whether this alters the integrity of the helmet and therefore makes it not legally compliant.
• Your bike must also have a WORKING bell to be legally compliant…we see a lot of bikes with bells that don’t work! It’s a great way to extend courtesy to others on the bike path too. A gentle ding, one only, just to let walkers know you are approaching from behind is a great idea…don’t be incessant about it. One ding is enough, a second if you think they didn’t hear.
Don't ring the bell incessantly...once will do to alert passers by and walkers, twice if they didn't hear. Don't be afraid to call out 'Passing!' when you notice they have earphones in.
CHECK FOR YOU
It’s great that your bike is ready, but are you? Here are our tips for making sure you’re ready to ride…
• check the weather forecast before you ride…will it rain and if so, are you experienced to ride in these conditions? Always ride to your own capability, not what somebody tells you you SHOULD do.
• check your gear…don’t wear floppy pants that can catch in the chain
• make sure your shoe laces are tucked in, especially on the chain side, so they don’t get caught in the running gear
• pack your myki or transport card in case you need to train it home
• make sure you have your phone and maybe a little bit of cash or a card for emergencies
• have a spare tube packed and some tyre levers
• Always ride to your ability and don't bite off more than you can chew
• Be predictable when riding...sudden turns and weaving sets you up for a disaster!
• Always stick to the Road Rules and know what they are. Check out the Bike Law booklet here.
• most importantly, check the helmet to make sure it fits correctly, straps done up correctly and no dings or cracks in the helmet.
Helmet checked, phone, myki, money, lights...ready to roll! Don't go too far on those first rides!
Stay tuned for our videos with more tips and explanations....follow the Facebook page and sign up to the Blog so you stay updated on all the free info!
NOTE: These are very basic checks and for a thorough check you should always visit your local bike shop for a bike service, or to check on things if you feel unsure.