Saturday January 5, 2013
Gear up for OCBC Cycle event by learning safety tips and skills
By LEONG SIOK HUI
Pictures by LIM CHENG KIAT
If you’re a beginner cyclist who has signed up for the OCBC Cycle Malaysia event, know that it’s never too late to glean some tips for a great cycling experience.
If you are all hyped up for the ride of your life but feel a tad intimidated by your first road-riding experience, then glean some useful tips from Australian-certified Level 1 cycling coach Darcy Steinhardt.
Steinhardt of Zero2Hero, a coaching outfit that runs beginner-to-advanced clinics on road and mountain bikes, has been coaching in Australia and Malaysia for more than a decade now.
He doles out some great tips to get your road-cycling adventure rolling – from gearing up, to road safety tips, to mastering the essential skills. Once you’ve got a handle on it, you can hit the road and have fun!
The right fit
“Whether you are buying a new bicycle or borrowing one, choosing the correct size and having the right fit is essential, says Steinhardt. An inappropriately-sized bike, whether too large or too small, is tricky to handle and can cause injuries through muscle strain.
“The rule of thumb: when you are sitting on a bike, you should be relaxed,” he says.
If you are stretched out and feel like you’re reaching out, the bike is too big. If you’re hunched up and your knees hit the handlebar, your bike is too small.
One aspect that many riders miss out is the saddle/seat height. It should be positioned in a way that your legs are almost fully extended but not quite with a small bend in your knee when your foot is parallel to the ground when on the pedal. If unsure, you should ask the bicycle store for advice as improper fitting can cause injuries to knees or hamstrings.
You don’t need fancy cycling apparel to hit the road. Wear something fitting with quick-dry materials to ensure comfort, Steinhardt advises. Stay away from tracksuits or baggy pants as they tend to get snagged in the gears. Carry at least a 750ml-bottle to get you through at least an hour’s ride. A helmet is a must! Invest in a good-quality helmet to protect your head and brains.
Safety, safety, safety!
For total beginners, it is best to train on a safe, closed environment like Taman Metropolitan Kepong unless you are confident with your bike handling. If you are planning on an evening ride, get bicycle lights so that other road users can see you.
Be sure to hydrate and eat something if you are planning to ride more than 90 minutes. Proper stretching beforehand is essential as tight and cold muscles tend to get injured easily.
“Be aware of other cyclists around you and don’t panic if someone comes close to you; simply keep your line and let them find their own path. Keep your bike on a steady straight path and do not make any sudden changes in direction, Steinhardt says.
If someone on your right bumps into you, for example, try to push back firmly towards the person in order to balance yourself.
Stay calm and enjoy the ride!
When riding in a group or alone, it is important to be composed and calm. Some people panic when they encounter road hazards and that is when accidents happen. Communication is a very crucial part of riding on the road. You can use hand gestures or you can verbally signal other road users or riders. Keep a habit of looking behind for potential dangers when riding on the roads. Many accidents happen when you least expect it.
“To practise your balancing, you should ride on a line or an imaginary one at the slowest speed possible. You may be wobbling initially, but this is a great way to learn to balance a bike properly, Steinhardt points out.
As you get more confident, try riding with one hand and turning. These exercises are meant to develop balance and bike control. Keep experimenting with the bike, especially with the gears and brakes like stopping suddenly if an obstacle appears out of the blue.
To get the most out of pedalling, you’ll want to use the balls of your feet rather than the heels or the arches. Centre them directly over the axles of the pedals. Think of the pedal stroke as a circle, not an up-down motion.
Push forward at the top of the pedal stroke and pull back at the bottom (this works best when you use toe clips or clipless pedals). For beginners, move up to clipless pedals (a pedal that has spring-loaded cleats that clip to a rider’s shoe) once you’re really confident with your riding skills.
Counting down to OCBC Cycle
Good news! It isn’t too late to log in some pedalling hours before the day. Get out and do a riding session of 30 to 45 minutes, non-stop, three times a week. Instead of flat roads, you ride on an undulating course. If, say, the 24km Community Ride starts at 8.30am or the Kids’ Ride starts at 3.15pm, then you should train at the same time of the day to get used to the heat.
It may be too late to join a bike group for training. But if you catch the cycling bug and wants to do more of it, check out local cycling groups like Pedalholics Cycling Club (http://www.pccmalaysia.com/index.php). Folding Bike Malaysia (Facebook) Bike shops are also a good place to find out about informal cycling groups in your neighbourhoods.
The OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013 event – organised by Spectrum Worldwide – runs from Jan 18 to 20. The Star is the official media partner for the event. For more info on cycling clinics offered by Zero2Hero, check out: http://zero2hero.asia/.