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By: Zdenko Kahlina
The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer
The sport is expensive, dangerous, time-consuming, mentally draining, emotionally exhausting and physically demanding and it permeates every aspect of a Roadie’s life. I would describe it as a chess game, boxing match and stampede disguised as a sport encompassed by a lifestyle surrounded by a community on a never- ending road trip to the brink of bankruptcy. One can dabble in tennis, golf, softball, basketball and other sports. There is no dabbling in bike racing — JAMIE SMITH.
REV UP FOR SPRING CYCLING
Cyclists around the province are reaching for the tire lever to scratch that spring-time itch. The good news is that officially we are already in spring. The not so good news is that this is Alberta and there’s still cold weather ahead. And lots of gravel on the roads!
Maybe it’s the creeks and lakes thawing, the new green buds peeking out of the snow, or just the finally lengthening days, but a tool from the saddle bag just isn’t enough – the only cure is to get out and ride.
Every year, as the days get warmer and longer, and we become more determined to whip ourselves back into cycling shape, we hop onto our bikes, pedal to infinity and wait for the results-with no real structure. At this time of a year, I always start my bike rides at the Ardrossan hockey arena or from small community of Whycliff and Whycliff Bible Chapel parking lot, just east of Sherwood Park. These two places provide secure place to leave my car behind and begin my bike rides on rural Strathcona County roads without any traffic issues.
Spring Cycling Tips
Though I hit the roads very early, you don’t have to. If the chill weather is still confining your bike to storage for now, you can channel your energies into cycling-related activities that keep you connected to the world of two wheels. Most of these activities will pay dividends when sunshine and rising temperatures lure you back to spring cycling. Employ the following tips to make your early season rides safe and enjoyable for yourself and for your terrain!
Here are some tips to help inspire you:
- Beat the crowds — Lines at bike shops for seasonal tune-ups are short right now. After the first whiff of warm weather — not so much.
- Shop smart — Have you been dreaming of a new ride, an upgrade or a spruce-up? Do your homework online. When it’s time to buy, you’ll walk through the bike shop doors with a better handle on your needs and budget, and you’ll get more out of your shopping experience. Now is also a good time to browse clearance or preseason sales on bikes and accessories.
- Build your base — Pedal indoors. Spin classes, especially those with high-energy intervals, are your best bet for building spring cycling fitness.
- Keep your resolutions — One of the surest ways to stay motivated — whether to lose weight, improve health or just to try something new that feels a little brave — is to set a tangible goal. Register now for a cycling event that challenges you to step out of your comfort zone. Then reap the satisfaction this spring or summer. Early-bird discounts may save you a few bucks, too.
- Expand your horizons — For quality sofa time, pick up a book to build your skills and knowledge base, or just to savor cycling’s history, romance and culture. One of our all-time favorites: It’s All About the Bike; The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels etc.
- Learn to fix a flat already! — Local bike shops and advocacy organizations teach bicycle maintenance. For example, check out activities at local ‘Velocity’ bike shop.
- Cozy up – Spend Saturday night with a special somebody in front of a great cycling film. It’s April, which is the month of THE cycling classics on TV!
- Commune — You don’t have to be riding right this minute to talk about riding. Gather with fellow cycling fans to watch race coverage on TV or commune over coffee at one of these bike-friendly spots around Edmonton.
- Be social, virtually – Follow bicycle-related feeds (including ‘Zdenko’s Corner’!) on Instagram and Pinterest. Warning: May be habit-forming.
- Build safer streets — More bike lanes in Edmonton mean safer streets and stronger neighborhoods for all of us. What can you do? Share your personal cycling experiences and speak up for improved infrastructure at a community board meeting, write a letter to your elected officials, join an advocacy organization like ‘Transportation Alternatives’.
- Route selection
Pick a ride that’s dry by keeping to lower elevations early in the season. South facing slopes tend to dry sooner and feel warmer. Also, plan an alternate route in case the one you intended is icy, muddy, or otherwise not looking like such a wise choice. If a ride is “colder than you thought” or “longer than you remember,” shortening the ride can be a smart decision.
- Stuffin’ your pockets
If your ride includes a climb to higher elevations, the temperatures may drop – and feel colder yet on the descent you just earned. Make sure to throw in an extra layer or two including wind barrier. The extra calories you burn to stay warm may help lose that “winter coat” but also deplete your energy faster so bring extra food to prevent that dreaded bonk.
- Spring road surprises
The good road you had memorized last fall can change dramatically over the winter. Snow and wind, toppled trees while run off from the spring thaw can create pot holes, expose rocks and even completely block the road. Always ride under control and expect the unexpected. Don’t ride roads you know will be in bad condition due to a winter weather and muddy.
- Spring surprises – sand on the road
Snowplows spread sand to aid traction on snow and ice, but it gets mighty slick when cornering or braking on dry pavement. Look out for icy patches in the shade and realize that you’re not the only one who could slip on it – so can cars. Glass and sharp stones are harder to see when mixed in w/ other debris so consider using tire-liners or bringing a spare-spare tube.
- Guard your gear
Bring along a rag and small bottle of lube so you can tend to sand, mud and salt accumulations after the ride, before they become a problem.
- Take it easy
Resist the temptation to set your personal record on your first ride back. Start out slowly, particularly if you haven’t been riding over the winter. Rebuild your base and endurance before you start going hard and when you do, a good warm up is a key to not risking injury.
Most importantly, get out there, have fun, and enjoy your bike! And in the meantime, hurry spring!
If you are a cycling weekend warrior please join me again this year every weekend during the cycling season, for the ‘Tour of Strathcona County’ bicycle social rides! These rides are free of any charge and are open to experienced bike riders (both gals and guys) who can manage bike rides of 2-3 hours, at an average speed between 25-35 km/hour. You will make new friends, or just relax and discover the joys of cycling. Please note these rides are not designed for the beginners.
Where: Ardrossan Recreation Complex
When: Every Saturday and Sunday morning 09:30 AM.
Beginning from Sunday April 3, 2016
Last ride: Sunday, September 25th, 2016
Hope to see you on the road. Have a good and healthy season.
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