by Diane Pittmann M.D, of True North Health Care
The weather’s beautiful. Your bike is out of winter storage and you’re enjoying rides around the neighborhood. Trails are beckoning. How do you go from being a casual rider to the joy and adventure of pedaling longer distances? It’s easy and fun to build your miles. Good for your health too! Here’s how.
First, make sure your bicycle fits. When your leg is at full down stroke you should have a very slight bend in your knee but it should not lock. Your hands should rest comfortably on your handlebars without supporting much upper body weight. There should not be too much stretch in your back. Make sure the padding on your seat matches up with your sit bones and there is not too much padding in the front part of the saddle. Any of these can make you very uncomfortable very fast. Consult a bike expert if you are having trouble.
Prepare well for every ride. Dress in comfortable clothes that won’t chaff. Layers appropriate to the season and a light wind/rain jacket will give you lots of options if the weather changes. Learn how to fix a flat and carry a small repair kit, it’s easy and will give you confidence as you venture farther from home. Check tire pressure and chain lubrication. If your bike hasn’t had maintenance for a while, take it to a pro. Make sure you have a way to carry water and food, your cell phone, camera, sunscreen, etc. And don’t forget your helmet!
Start with a ride of an hour or so, for most people this is about 10 miles. If you are sore afterward give yourself a day rest day and do a shorter ride the day after. Most discomfort should improve with conditioning. Numbness in hands or crotch should prompt a consultation about bike fit, seat change, or padded gloves. If your knees get sore try riding in a lower (easier) gear and pedal fast instead of hard.
When I’m building miles, each week I do three-five short rides and one long one, adding 5-10 miles of distance to the long ride weekly. During longer rides, plan to get off the bike and stretch from time to time. Drink plenty of water and eat real food. Except in very extreme conditions there is no need for electrolyte drinks like Gatorade or energy bars.
Now you are off. Ride around Lake Bemidji (17 miles), the Migizii Trail in Cass Lake (14 miles), or an out and back to Guthrie on the Paul Bunyan Trail (23 miles). A trip to Walker is 30 miles, Park Rapids, 60 miles, all on paved trail. Why not stay overnight and come back the next day? Or for a challenge take the 80 mile loop of Bemidji-Cass Lake-Walker.
Set a goal for one of our regional bike events. The Loop the Lake Festival on June 20 is right here in Bemidji; Yikes Bikes out of Walker July 11 offers distances of 18, 40, and 60 miles, and the Headwaters 100 in Park Rapids offers shorter distances as well as the ultimate 100 miles (a century!). As you fall in love with distance cycling you’ll be tempted by multi-day events like The Ride Across Minnesota, 300 miles in five days! There is no shortage of opportunities. Get out and do it! The doctor says “Take two wheels and join me for a bike ride!”
Diane Pittman was featured in the Summer 2015 issue of inMagazine.