Cycling in the 'Meda: Cycling for fitness (part two)

Cycling in the 'Meda: Cycling for fitness (part two)

Marty Beene

Photo by Marty Beene.

To me, there are four keys to fitness cycling:

1. Safety
When you think about cycling safety, Rule #1 is to ALWAYS wear a helmet. I hear people say, "I'm only riding 10 miles per hour on a bike path, so I don't need a helmet." However, keep in mind that the pavement doesn't really care how fast you're going - it can still hurt you even if you aren't going very fast. Another key safety issue is bike handling skills. Developing good bike handling skills takes practice. You need to be comfortable knowing how to avoid or manage hazards like potholes, cracks in the pavement, railroad tracks, and countless other things you will encounter on a ride. Being mentally focused and obeying the traffic laws are other keys to a good fitness cycling routine - I'll address those in a future blog.

2. Bike
While it is certainly possible to get a good workout on almost any bike, you might consider investing in a high quality one. Some time ago, I read an argument in favor of spending $5,000 on a bike that went like this: If you spend $5,000 on a bike, you will probably ride it often (perhaps out of guilt), and your improved fitness will probably save you more than $5,000 in health care costs over the life of that bike. There was no actual economic study to determine if that was true, but I like the concept. It's important to realize, however, that you don't have to spend that much to get a good quality bike. You can get a brand-new, very functional bike to use for fitness for well under $1,000. The moral of the story is simply to be smart when you shop. If you don't know what kind of bike you should get, that's what the sales staffs at our local bike shops are for. I have yet to meet a sales person at any local bike shop who doesn't want to help you get the perfect bike for you. 'Nuff said.

3. Clothing
Bike shorts are a must, with the pad in the crotch area. Buy black ones. Why? Because if your chain comes off or you have to repair a flat, you can just wipe your greasy fingers on your shorts. Bike jerseys are great because they are made of fabric that does not hold perspiration very well, and they have pockets to hold your energy bars, jacket, or whatever. A relatively breathable windbreaker-type cycling jacket is essential for the coolest days, and even for when there are a few sprinkles. Arm warmers and knee warmers are great accessories designed for cyclists that bridge the gap between those cold and hot days.

4. Group rides
The group rides I went on to learn all of the great routes here in the East Bay were the ones offered every weekend by Team Alameda. Group rides are great to refine your cycling skills and knowledge, as well as to meet other cyclists. Most clubs (including Team Alameda) offer multiple rides to accommodate the range of cycling and fitness levels of people who join the rides. Contact the club offering them to find out if it's a good fit for you. Trust me: These clubs love to welcome new members into their group.

So what are you waiting for? Let me know about your fitness cycling experiences or ask me questions in the comment section below!

In other, non-cycling news, congrats to the 69 Alameda runners who finished either a half or full marathon at the San Francisco Marathon this past Sunday. Top Alamedans in the full marathon were Diego Palao (3:31:38) and Cindy San (4:14:28). In the half marathons, Gary Wong (1:43:44) and Caroline Galle (2:00:39) led the Alameda contingent on the First Half course, while Cameron Beene (1:29:42 and fifth in his age group) and Charlotte Bowles (1:43:34) were the best Island residents in the Second Half.

Marty Beene, a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and specialist in senior fitness and fitness nutrition, is owner of Be The Runner; he trains adults of all abilities individually and in groups. He can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.