This week's On Yer Bike comes from Jake Backus, a Level 2 British Cycling coach.
Now that spring has sprung it is time to get the bike out (if you haven’t already).
Perhaps you are already riding around with your chain making the noise of an advancing tank after the winter salt on the roads. Cycling should be a joy and give you the feeling of freedom.
However, this can sometimes be marred by a bike that isn’t working well or is not set up properly for you.
• Do your tyres bang on the road because they are so flat?
• Do your knees just about chin you?
• Do your hips wobble when you grind those gears?
• Does your neck or back hurt?
If the answer is yes, it is time to make friends with your bike and get to know each other a little better!
You and your bike
A significant number people have their seat at the wrong height. Perhaps it hasn’t changed since you were a teenager. If too low this can put extra pressure on your knees, and it is less efficient. If too high it can cause knee and back problems and make your hips rock. Since most people want to feel comfortable, a good rule of thumb is to be sat on the saddle and be able to touch the ground with the pads of your feet –i.e. just a bit more than tip-toes.
You can then put a foot down but pedal efficiently. The fore-and-aft setting of your saddle is more complicated and you can ask a local bike shop or look up Bike Fit on You Tube. Also, make sure that the reach of the handlebars is not too far – if it is, you might be able to get a shorter stem fitted. Generally you should just be able to touch the handlebar with your fingertips if you put your elbow on the front of the saddle.
Bike check – the play factor Check your bike over like an M. Start at the back with the tyre –pumped up properly? The tyre should be hard when you press it, or if you put your weight onto the saddle the tyres shouldn't 'bulge' more than a little.
Try to wiggle the wheel side to side–any play? Play on your bike is not a good thing, it’s when parts that shouldn’t move do, or move in the wrong direction. Now up to the seat –is it level with the ground? Ideally it should be. Does it move side to side?
Down to the cranks –pull side to side –any play? Up to the brakes –test the front and back brake –how long before it grips? If it is too much, or touches the handlebars, then it might need adjusting or the brake pads replacing. Test the front tyre and wheel as with the back. Then stand with the front tyre between your legs and pull left and right with the handlebars –all tight?
I see many people pushing a really hard gear. If you are building your power and preparing for a time trial that may be fine, but you might be better to change to an easier gear. (However, let’s be honest, mostly I can’t be bothered to change gear either.) Your chain should ideally be approximately straight.
Many people cross-chain, which is to be in the big chain ring at the front and the big cassette ring at the back, or the inner small chain ring at the front and the small cog at the back.
It’s not ideal. As you stop at the inevitable red light (let’s hope so anyway), change down to an easier gear before you stop ready to start again, rather than struggle to get going (unless you are a youngster wanting to practice your Velodrome track start).
Whatever you do, and however you ride, have fun, be confident, and be safe.
Oh, yes, and give your chain some oil love!
Cyclox members get 10% off at most Oxford bike shops: firstname.lastname@example.org