Cycling and Training for the Beginner
The size and fit of your bike are critical. If you do not have a bike and need to borrow one, take it to a bike shop to ensure it is the right size for you and then have it fitted to you. When choosing a bike, the preferred bike for the Unity Tour is a road bike. Some might choose a gravel style bike, designed more for off road type riding, but this should not be your first choice. A mountain or hybrid style bike is not a good choice because their design is not conducive to long distances of riding. A good fitting session will take at least 2 hours. If you are going to buy a new bike, try out as many as you can; they all ride differently and will fit differently. Once you select a bike, have it fitted to you. Without having the bike properly fitted, you may end up suffering a lot.
Start your training in small increments, 15-20 miles 3-4 days week and moving up to longer distances as you progress. You will need to be able to do a multi-day ride, with 102 miles being the longest one-day distance with lots of hills. This may sound easy, but it takes time to get conditioned for that distance. The first month should be just riding distances that you can tolerate, this is known as base miles. Your goal needs to be the Overnight Training Ride, which is generally one month before the Tour. This will be the best way to gauge if you are ready or need more work. To get where you need to be you should be riding 3-4 days (20-25 mile a day) during the week with one day being longer (30-50 miles) than the others. If you can’t get out on the road there are alternatives. You can put your bike on a stationary/smart trainer. With the available riding apps. that are available such as Rouvy, Zwift, Trainer Road, Peloton that simulate all the aspects of riding outside, with hills, group, etc. or join a spin class. The spin class is great because it will push you hard. But you must ride outside as much as possible because it’s a different feel than a trainer. Finding a group to ride with can be very beneficial as they will push to help you improve and riding with a group helps you get used to having other riders around you.
The other thing you need to be concerned with besides getting mileage in is speed. The average speed of the Tour is 15 mph so you need to be able to maintain that speed for anywhere from 80-100 miles, with breaks of course. The best way to improve speed is to do repeat sprints with a break in between. Start with picking a sign, a post, a tree, etc. and sprint to that location, then wait for your heart rate/breath to settle and do it again. Slowly extend the time or distance as you get stronger. The best way to improve overall is to do as many hills as possible.
This may be very elementary to some but to others it may be very difficult. There are a couple of principles to remember. One is that everything on the left side of the handlebars controls the front of the bike, including the brakes, front shifting of the derailleur that controls the large and small chain ring and the right side of the handlebars controls the rear of the bike, brakes and rear derailleur that control the multi-gear cluster, usually 10-11 gears. For the sake of understanding we number the gears in the back 1-10/11, with the smallest being the hardest gear being 10/11 and the biggest easiest being 1 and, in the front, the smallest chainring being 1 and the largest chainring being 2.
The other is that you should not cross chain the gears, being in the 2-1 or the 2-10/11 That would be, not having the chain on the large chain ring (2) in the front and the largest gear (1) in the back, or the smallest gear (1) in the front and the smallest gear (10/11) in the back. Doing either of these causes excess wear on the chain and makes a lot of noise. The correct way would be to divide the gears in the back into two segments, (1-5/6-10/11) and split them with the two gears in the front. For instance, if you are using the large chainring in the front, typically used for going downhill, you would use the first five gears, small to medium, (10/11-6) in the back. If you were climbing a hill, you would use the small chainring in the front and the second five or six gears (5-1), moving the chain towards the back wheel. When climbing uphill remember that as you shift gears up, let up on the pressure on the pedals for a second to allow the chain to shift with less pressure which will make shifting easier. Creating less problems with the chain. When approaching a hill, you’ll want to get ready and shift into the small chainring and a gear in the back that will be easy but still give you some power to start the hill and then work your way up to the easiest/largest gear. When you get to the top of a hill and you see another hill coming at the bottom of the downhill, pick-up speed and push down the hill, so the momentum will carry you part of the up the other side and make getting up the hill easier.
Never shift the front and the back at the same time as it will cause the chain to come off.
Proper braking can make a difference on whether you stay upright or go down. The most important braking procedure to learn is EMERGENCY BRAKING. That would be if a car, person, dog, etc. steps out in front of you as you’re riding down the road. The procedure is to ride your bike on the street or somewhere there is little or no traffic. As you are riding, pretend that a car pulls out in front of you, you would do three things; one grab both brakes and apply them as hard as you can equally, level the pedals, (3-9 o’clock) and stand on the pedals and shift your weight back as far as you can over the seat. If you don’t grab the brakes evenly, grab too much front brake and not enough back brake, you will probably end up going over the handlebars. You will need to practice this several times to get the hang of it. Remember, both brakes evenly.
Going into or in a turn. There are two things to do, one is to shift the pedals to 12-6 o’clock so the pedal at 12 o’clock is on the inside of the turn. If you are going right the inside would be at 12, if you’re making a left turn the inside pedal would again be at 12. This prevents the pedal from grabbing the ground during your turn if it is too sharp of a turn. The other thing to do is shift your weight at the hips so you’re putting more pressure on the outside pedal in the 6 o’clock position, commonly know as loading the pedals to give you more traction when turning.
Stretching is extremely important to preventing injury.
One way to stretch the hamstrings is to sit on the ground with your legs out in front of you. Cross one leg over the other at the knee and lean forward trying to touch or gab you big toe and hold it for 30 sec. Then switch to the other leg and do the same thing.
Another stretch is to stand and hold on the something while again crossing one leg over the other at the knee and squat like you’re going to sit on a chair, then do the same with the other leg. This will stretch the gluts.
To stretch the calves, lean on a wall or table with your feet back behind you, put one leg over the other at the ankle and you will feel the calf and hamstrings stretching. Do the same with the other leg.
To stretch the gluts/hip flexors, from a standing position go into a squat like you’re trying to sit in a chair.
Eating & Drinking
Before going for a long ride, especially in the morning, you must eat!! Do not go out for a long training ride on an empty stomach, you will bonk!! The most common foods for cyclists before they ride are oatmeal, bagels with peanut butter and a banana. If you are doing a long ride, say 50 miles, take food with you. Power or Cliff Bars are very common. Take 2 water bottles and get in the habit of drinking every 15 minutes to avoid dehydration. Use your bike computer or smart watch as a timer. If you’re doing a short ride, up to 25 miles, plain water will work. If you are doing a longer distance you will want a drink designed for re-hydration, such as Gatorade or Cytomax. If you have never used either, mix it half water and half solution until you know your stomach can handle it. When you get home, have some protein and carbs within 30 minutes to help with your recovery. Very important!!! And hydrate throughout the day. This will flush the lactate acid out of your muscles. Make sure you practice riding and pulling out your water bottle to drink while you are still riding so you’re not swerving.
Cycling clothing is very simplistic and functional. Below are recommendations that work very well for riders.
Sweat shirts, heavy jackets, etc. do not work well because they are bulky and when you warm up you have no place to put it. Never, ever tie clothing around your waist. It will eventually come loose and fall off into the rear wheel and cause an accident.
They have three pockets in the back so you can carry, vest/ arm warmers when you take them off, so you don’t need to carry a bulky pack. Hydration packs are ok if you are more comfortable with it. You will need at least two Unity Tour jerseys for the Tour itself. So you cma wash one on the first day and have a clean one for the third and final day. You may put one patch and only one patch representing your department or the department of the fallen officer for whom you are riding on the middle pocket of the Unity Tour Jersey. Jerseys may not be modified in any way, such as cutting off the sleeves, rolling them up etc.
They should fit snugly but be comfortable for better compression which helps with better circulation. The padding, better known as the chamois, is very important and should be thick enough to give you all-day comfort. Some riders will apply more chamois butter, bag balm etc. in the middle or later in the ride for more comfort. The thickness and quality of the shorts and chamois will increase with the cost, but you don’t need to spend a lot to get decent shorts. Bib shorts work best as they keep the short tight and eliminate bunching in the crotch which causes friction and discomfort.
Until you get your back side accustomed to the saddle/seat, you should apply Chamois Butt’r(Good) comes in a tube, Assos Chamois Crème(Most popular), comes in a tub or Bag Balm (Best) which comes in a square green tin. Chamois Butt’r , Assos Chamois Crème and Bag Balm can be found on Amazon. All will reduce friction, the main source of saddle soreness and have medication to help heal any problems. Try to stay away from chamois products that have menthol in them, especially ladies. Nothing will be a substitute for riding time in the saddle.
Arm, Leg Warmers, Knee Warmers, Jackets and Vests
Arm warmers cover the arm from the wrist to the arm pit. Leg warmers, from the ankle to the top of the thigh. Knee warmers, below the knee to the top of the thigh. All of these can be removed, rolled up and put in a back jersey pocket. Jackets can be very limiting but must be kept light weight so they can be rolled up and stored in a back jersey pocket. Some jackets have zip off sleeves and make into a vest, which will serve two purposes. Vests do a great job of keeping your core warm. A combination of a vest, arm and leg or knee warmers will do a great job of keeping you warm. It will be cool when you start riding, but you will warm up as you ride and find yourself overheating and stripping off clothing. Another source of warmth is undershirts. Sleeveless and short sleeved undershirts work best. Long sleeves can be difficult because you can’t take them off like arm warmers when you get hot. There are many companies that make cycling specific undershirts, i.e. Craft, Defeet, Under Armour, etc. with a variety of warmth levels. It can rains on the Tour and we have been rained on several times, sometimes all day. Having a good rain jacket, shoe cover/toe covers, long finger waterproof/insulated gloves designed for cycling is critical. One of our sponsors, who offers a discount is Showers Pass and they make very good rain gear. If it rains for any period of time, you’re going to get wet. The big problem is staying warm, hypothermia when riding at 10-15 mph (wind chill factor) can set in very quickly. If you start shivering (first stage of hypothermia) you need to get in the van if you can. Remember, we ride rain or shine.
75 % of body heat is lost through the top of your head. A good skull cap or cycling cap with a bill will prevent a lot of that, especially if you are balding or have a shaved head. It will also help to prevent sunburn. If it rains, one trick is to put a shower cap, from your hotel room, over your helmet.
How to take care of your bike
Keep your bike clean. Cleaning your bike is one way of making sure there are no problems, such as cracks in the frame, cables or housing that needs replacement or worn parts. Lube your chain and all moving parts. To lube your chain properly, it should be done about every week if you are riding 3-4 days a week. Apply the lube to the top of the chain, at the bottom of the run, after it leaves the rear derailleur and before the chain rings. As you apply it, turn the pedals backwards slowly to make sure you’ve covered the entire chain. Let it settle in for at least five minutes, overnight is best. Then wrap a rag around the chain in the same place, lower run, and pedal backwards changing the rag several times until all the exterior oil is gone. This will keep it from splashing up on you leg and all over your bike. The oil needs to be on the inside, not the outside of the chain. Oiling the chain will extend the life of your chain considerably. If you wash your bike, use a cleanser like Dawn and a sponge so you don’t scratch your frame. After it has dried, lube the chain and all pivot points on the bike, such as where the derailleurs pivot, brake pivots and the chain pulley wheels on the derailleurs.
Once a year have all your cables and housings replaced, headset serviced, bottom bracket and wheels checked for play or roughness. One important point, learn the nomenclature, the parts, of your bike so you know what you’re talking about and don’t get taken advantage of at the local shop.
You should also make sure you know how to change a flat tire. Always carry at least one spare tube with a Co2 cartridge and dispenser or a small pump. The Lezyne Road Drive Mini Pump is a great choice. Two tire irons and a mini tool should be in your saddle bag, you will not need these items on the Tour as they will be provided for you in our mechanics trailer. On the tour riders put bags on their top tube, a saddle bag or handlebar bag on their bikes to carry small articles such as sunscreen, lip balm, phone and rain jacket if necessary.
Should you have any questions or need clarification, don’t hesitate to contact Craig White at email@example.com or 818-522-0744.
More coming soon