A good-fitting helmet is essential for bicycling and should be worn at all times, even on a leisurely ride. In addition to a helmet, you may want to consider bike gloves, which give your palms some padding while leaving your fingers uncovered. Although special biking clothes are not strictly necessary, many people find bike shorts with a gel pad in the seat area to be comfortable, and moisture-wicking shirts (generally made of synthetic material) can keep you drier than 100% cotton tops. Wearing clothing, such as a vest, made of reflective material is a good idea if you will be biking at dawn or dusk or after dark; it makes you much more visible to motorists.
Biking is an aerobic exercise, so you will want a way to carry some water with you to drink as you ride. If you have a bottle cage on your bike, you can carry a water bottle in it. Another alternative is to wear a small backpack with a refillable bladder in it that has a hose with a mouthpiece that reaches over your shoulder. (Two popular brands of such bladders are Camelback and Platypus, although there are others.) The backpack can also be used to carry food, extra clothing, and other supplies.
To carry bike wrenches and extra tubes (in case of a flat tire), you may want to buy a small pouch that attaches right below your seat. Also helpful for dealing with flat tires is a small travel bike pump, which attaches to your bike. If you may be out after dark, a white headlight and a flashing red rear light are necessary to make you more visible to motorists. Reflectors on your bike will also make you more visible on city streets.
Before every ride, it is important to perform a quick inspection. Here are some things to check:
- Check that the brakes are working properly, the tires have plenty of air and are not worn, and the wheels are secure (lift your bike so one tire is on the ground and shake the other tire in the air from side to side).
- The rims and spokes should have no bulges, dents, or dings in them.
- The levers on your quick-release hubs (if you have them) should be in the closed position.
- Your chain should be well lubricated without any kinks or gunk in the links.
- The pedals should be securely attached to the bike yet move freely.
- The seat should be secure.
If your bike is muddy after riding, clean it with soap and water (preferably gentle soap made for bikes) and dry it off right away. Dirt and mud are abrasive and can destroy your bike components.
The Haynes Bicycle Book, by Bob Henderson, is great for basic step-by-step repair and maintenance. With nice illustrations and easy instructions, you will learn about every part of your bike, how to make easy repairs, and how to clean your bike and care for it. (Click here to learn about other cycling resources.) However, if you ride often, you should get your bike tuned up by your local bike shop at least twice a year.
Choosing a route
Bike shops are usually a good source for local route and trail information. They often have maps and books that contain detailed information such as mileage, difficulty level, and terrain.
Participating in a group ride organized by a bike club is also a good way to discover places to ride. As the sport of biking continues to increase in popularity, bike clubs have sprouted up across the United States. Again, bike shops are often a good way to find a club in your area.
As you would with any new sport or physical activity, start with a route that you can cover easily, then build up your distance and difficulty gradually.
Bicycling is great exercise and it’s fun, to boot, but accidents, delays, or simply the unexpected can happen, so it’s best to be prepared. In addition, bicycling will probably lower your blood glucose level, so you may need to stop for a snack or adjust your diabetes regimen in some other way to account for bicycling’s blood-glucose-lowering effect. Here are some things to remember before you head out:
- If you have a cell phone, bring it with you.