Whether you’re ready to kick your weekend cycling game up a notch, or if you just yesterday went home with a brand new shining Ridley road bike, it’s never too early to start unraveling the mysteries of riding well and with confidence. Because let’s face it, show me a cyclist who doesn’t want to ride better, and I’ll show you a cyclist in denial.
You won’t be ready for the Tour de France just for following these tips, but you can feel more like a boss when you hit the streets of your city. And isn’t that enough?
Learn to change a flat. Full disclosure: I ride with my phone, my husband alerted to be on standby when possible, plus a card for a cab in case I get a flat in a bad situation. I can get through changing one. I just sincerely don’t like it.
Check with your local bike shops and attend their workshops on basic bike maintenance and tire changes. Pay extra attention to the rear tire change as it will require finesse for the derailleur. Then take it a step further. Practice changing your tire tube in the comfort of your home. This makes things faster when you’re inevitably punctured on the side of the road with the sun on your back and sweat pouring into your eyes.
While I fully intend to “make that call” if I get a flat and don’t feel like going to the trouble, here’s what did happen to me. I was on my favorite local descent when I saw a cyclist standing on the side of the road staring at her bike. She had a puncture. She knew the basics of changing the tube, but had never done it. We got the tube changed out together. I had little intention of doing that for myself, but knowing how still managed to come in handy.
This leads me to the next tip.
When you go out, prepare a little for others and not just for yourself. I once showed up with low tire pressure to a group ride. Another rider had his pump with him. On another ride, someone generously shared salt packets with the rest of us so we wouldn’t cramp up. Yet another rider came out of a gas station having purchased an icy gallon of water so everyone could refresh water bottles that had been baking in the summer midmorning heat.
You don’t have to do all that, but carry an extra gel or CO2 cartridge. Be attentive to other cyclists when safe to do so. Remember, if you ride long enough, it’ll be your turn one day to receive help.
Fix a dropped chain without getting off your bike. When you feel that unmistakable lockup of a slipped chain, attempt a slow pedal while shifting into your higher front ring (this is typically done with the left shifter). This can guide the chain right back into place, and you can keep riding!
It doesn’t work in all cases, and sometimes you might have to stop and deal hands-on with the chain. Always carry a couple of degreaser wipes in your seat bag for those times you end up chain wrangling. Or end up with grease on your face, white bar tape, and new jersey. I’m speaking from greasy experience.
But take heart! When you’re prepared and whip out the degreaser wipe, you’ll still feel like a boss!