Nothing can ruin a great day on the bike path like having trouble with your bike or aches and pains from riding. These things can be that your chain keeps coming off, or your tires go flat, or your feet go numb, or your posterior is suffering from pressure points. Many of these problems can be alleviated or reduced by simply being prepared.
Get a tune-up
If you know how to tune up your bike, that's great. If you don't, get it down to the local bike shop and spend around $80 to $100 for a good tune up. A tune up might include:
- Brakes: inspection, adjustment and possible pad replacement
- Tires: inspection, inflation to the proper psi, possible replacement
- Derailleurs: Adjustment in front and back
- Wheels: inspection and alignment
- Chain: cleaning and lubrication
- Drive train: cleaning
- Headset/Handlebars: adjustment
Another thing to look at is if your bicycle seat is comfortable and adjusted to the proper height for you. Also, is your bike helmet fairly new? The technology in helmets is always improving their performance and also the materiel in older helmets can break down with time. Be sure that your inner tubes are in good shape and that you have two spares that are the right size for your tires. Are the tires that you have the right kind for the riding that you plan to do?
Get your body ready to ride
Are you in good enough physical condition for the riding you want to do? If not, you should really work up to the rides you want to take by taking shorter rides for several weeks prior to the big rides. Even if you work out in a gym on a regular basis, there is nothing that prepares you for riding like riding itself. You likely go to the gym for 45 minutes to an hour at a time, but a twenty mile ride will take up to two hours of constant exertion.
If you are going to ride at higher elevations, it is best to spend a day or two at that elevation first. If that isn't possible, take it easy on the first few miles of the ride. You may ride a lot down in the flat lands, but the reduced oxygen at elevations over 8,000 feet can have an effect on anyone. Even the pros riding in the USA Pro Challenge Race through the Colorado high country can have problems with High Altitude Sickness.
Know your bike
You should become familiar with how your bike rides. Many times people are here on vacation and renting a bike, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the bike before heading down the path.
- Is the seat adjusted properly?
- How do the brakes feel? Are they mushy or tight?
- How do the gears shift? There are many different types of shifters and derailleurs.
- Are the tires inflated properly?
- How does if handle on curves and hills?
- Are the tires the right variety for the ride you plan to take?
Bring the right equipment
You can be down and out 5 miles from civilization and not have the right equipment and your day is ruined.
- Tire Pump and/or CO2 Tire Inflater
- Spare Tube: (of the right size for your tire) bring one or two depending on the conditions and how foar out you are planning to go
- Water: bring one or tow water bottles depending on how long your ride will be, how hot the weather and if you are passing by drinking fountains where you can refill your water
- Cell Phone: if you have one, bring it. Smart Phones are even better as you can located yourself on Google Maps if lost. Be sure you charge your phone the night before your ride.
- Helmet: always wear a helmet, even on bike trails. In the case of your cranium vs. concrete, the concrete will will every time.
- Gloves: Gloves help with fatifue of your hands and they protect your hands from the sun. Mainly they protect your hands if you fall.
- Eye Wear: Proper sunglasses protect you from the sun, but when riding should protect you from flying debris and bugs and also from your eyes getting dry
- Tools: You should at the minimum cary tire changing tools and and all-in-one adjustment tool.
- Cash and or Credit Card: This is for emergencies if you need to buy a spare tube on the fly or if you want to stop at a local bistro for lunch
- Bike Lock and Key or Combination: Will you be stopping anywhere? Even to go into a port-a-pottie? What if something happens and you need to leave your bike?
Know your route
Familiarize yourself with the route before you set off. Study it on a map. Make a mental note of things you will be seeing, road names and landmarks. Also note if other trails will be splitting off from the main trail. Be realistic about how far you will be travelling and if there are large hills to climb.