By Stephanie Bernaba
I’d love to say I love the great outdoors – what with all the bugs and heat and danger. Truth is, it’s alright, and it’s only become that way recently because I am learning the ropes of outdoorsing.
We recently traded in our stationery exercise equipment in favor of doing what comes naturally – gardening, lawn maintenance, and other activities our family enjoys together, like biking. I’d like to share a few of our biking tips.
How to choose your bike
There are many types of adult bikes out there ranging in price from $89 into the thousands. If you’re a beginner, I’d skip the racing bike. The best, sturdiest beginner (or intermediate) bike, in my opinion, would be a trail bike, which is relatively inexpensive (in the $200-$400 range) and can be adjusted to fit your body. Bikes are arranged by the size of the frame, so you will need one that corresponds to your height. An experience bike shop employee will be able to help you choose.
If your bike came off a department store rack (or from a bike shop) and you have pain at all, please don’t stop riding. There is most often a fix. Heading to a bike shop and explaining any issues you may have (back pain, pain in the buttocks) can be remediated with handlebar adjustments, seat cushion pads, and even new seats. If you’re willing to take the time, they can help you fix it. I’d recommend East Providence Cycle or Stedman’s in Wakefield. They can get you fitted properly and on the move in no time.
Gear makes the bike
When it comes to biking gear, I have a few recommendations. Everyone needs water on a long trek. Though I do not personally prefer ‘camel-back’ type bags, those are amazingly helpful in staying hydrated.
If you’re like me, and prefer the ‘old-fashioned’ water bottle, opt for a side-mount water bottle holder. You can find them in bike shops around the state. So, instead of fighting with your bike rails to get your water in and out, you can simply slide the bottle in and out the side. Much simpler.
A biking gear bag (backpack) has helped me tremendously. Its strong woven fabric is unbustable, it provides bright color and reflection for oncoming cars, and it’s oh-so-roomy. I use mine to carry my phone, wallet, keys, toolkit, and my bike lock.
You can find these relatively inexpensively (I found mine for $19.99 at Aldi) at sporting goods stores around the state.
I would opt for a combination lock for your bike. I’ve had many locks, and find the combination lock most efficient. I tried locks with keys for the sake of ease, and found myself misplacing the keys, rendering the locks inoperable. Locks can be found at places like Benny’s and Job Lot in three packs for the whole family.
Everyone who rides a bike needs a helmet. Helmets can be found just about everywhere bikes are sold, and at second-hand shops like Second Time Around Sports in Cranston. I prefer a vented helmet because it keeps the sweat at bay, but it will let the sun through to your scalp, so if you’re bald or shave your head and ride in the sun, you are at risk for a sunburn.
There are a few types of helmets (recreational, road, and mountain bike), so choose according to your needs. If you need information about which helmet to choose, try REI’s website (https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/bicycle-helmet.html) for a list and video tutorial.
To keep your grip from slipping due to perspiration, it’s advisable to pick up a pair of gloves. As always, try them on –don’t be shy to try on men’s gloves in addition to women’s. The men’s gloves, I found, provide better grip, and are less narrow. They are usually sized small through extra-large.
If the size you perceive is yours fits snugly, please try the next size larger. My gloves are Pearl Izumi (available at REI and bike shops) and are a men’s style. They have Velcro® at the wrist to provide an adjustable fit.
Remember to make sure your tires are always properly inflated. Have your toolkit handy and be sure your bike has been properly tuned up (about $50 per season at a bike shop).
There are many other biking accessories out there – from rear-view mirrors to bike baskets. Choose according to your needs. The more you personalize your bike, the more you will love riding it!
Stephanie Bernaba, of Richmond, is an independent journalist specializing in life in the digital age and entertainment. View her recent work and digital portfolio at www.whiteorchidmedia.com.