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Learn best by doing

In referring to myself as a cycling novice, I was not understating the truth.
Here are a few things I’ve learned so far, hopefully they can help other beginning cyclists along their way.

  1. Wind at your back is much different than wind in your face, and gusty wind on your patio is much, much different to gusty wind buffeting you in the face as you cycle up a hill. It’s important to listen all the way through the morning news, to note more than the daily temperature or weather pattern – take advantage of the timeline feature attached to the weather news, and take cues from that information. A spike in the temperature in the afternoon nudges me to head out early for a long ride in the morning, whereas morning wind may prompt me to stall my ride until later in the day. It’s also smart to pay attention to the weather in the distance: regardless of what the weatherman may say, dark clouds moving in your direction usually mean rain.
  2. Having nothing but coffee before a ride is not a sufficient source of fuel when riding longer distances. Water is critical a long ride; warm water, not so great. Plan ahead and freeze water bottles to keep them cooler, longer. (That might seem obvious, but it wasn’t to me!) Some sports drinks seem to freeze fairly well, and be willing to experiment to find a flavor you like, and even add water to make them less overpowering. You need to hydrate, and you’re much more likely to drink something you actually like.
  3. I’ve learned that two hours in downtown traffic can make the world of difference, as does the route you choose. My ride out on Sunday morning was quiet and easy. The ride home in Sunday church traffic forced me to adjust the route to avoid the now high traffic areas. The upside of that turned out to be seeing the houses and yards I don’t normally notice when driving in my car. It was a good ride with a good change of scenery…win-win.
  4. I’ve recently learned the meaning of the words ‘hot spot’ – it will no longer conjure up fun dining or adult beverages. From this time forward, I will connect those two words to chafing, friction or damp irritation, any of which I now know how to treat and hopefully, prevent: a sports lubricant such as Body Glide works wonders, as does baby powder, cornstarch, and beautiful new, padded bike shorts. Google is an amazing tool, by the way. There is simply no shortcut to having a seat that fits right and is comfortable.

I live in Fountain, CO. We have great roads leading south and east of town; they roll and wind and stretch for miles and miles. I realized today that if you don’t plan your time, it IS possible to get carried away. At the turnaround point, I also realized that what you ride out….you must ride back.

Some of this is going to be trial and error, with simple and even obvious lessons. There’s no shortcut; we learn best by doing.

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By Meredy Brownstein

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