Bicycle Information

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Bicycle Information

This section of our site is dedicated to encouraging you to further increase your enjoyment from cycling.

Subsections of bicycle information

Cycling to work

Did you know it's possible to ride from one side of Melbourne to the other, virtually without seeing any cars? Cycling can make you fitter, healthier, and less stressed. It's easy to find time to cycle when it becomes an integrated part of your lifestyle.

Like many things, Cycling can be dangerous, but not nearly as dangerous as thought by people who only ever drive a car.

With a bit of thought and preparation, you can greatly reduce the risks.

There are two ways to interact safely with traffic. For more information see the page on Commuting.

Be PREDICTABLE and be AWARE

Being predictable means being in a visible place on the road and riding in a straight line, not steering in and out around parked cars. This also involves CLAIMING SPACE on the road as rightfully yours to occupy.

Of course, the amount of space claimed will be determined by the speed of traffic and room for vehicles to detour around you. Use common sense.

Predictability: Statistics show that bicycle accidents often involve unpredictable behaviour such as suddenly darting onto the road from a footpath. It goes without saying that it is vital that you obey all road rules. If being predictable is YOUR message to drivers, then being AWARE is about reading THEIR messages.

Defensive riding means watching for signs that someone or something is likely to cross your path.

It means using all your senses and being aware of what is happening 360 degrees around you. It helps to be relaxed, but cycling in traffic is no time for daydreaming. A big cause of accidents in the city is an opening car door. Sometimes there's no choice but to ride in the "door-zone". In this situation, watch carefully for signs of people in parked cars, but most importantly reduce your speed to minimise the risk of injury. An important practice is establishing eye contact with drivers before passing in front of them. If you can't, assume they haven't seen you. Another good habit is to never assume a car is going to turn just because their indicator is flashing. Don't move until you see them actually making the turn. On cycling tracks, other hazards await; children (on and off bikes) and dogs, the most unpredictable of all track-users.

Don't assume adults are necessarily predictable. Your only defence is a safe speed.

Many BUG members commute to work and when we tell people we cycle to the city, I'm sure they imagine us ONLY struggling through peak hour traffic. Sure, there is an element of this, however, the fact is, while drivers are inching their way to the next set of lights, many cyclists are often pedalling along a combination of bushy tracks next to rivers, creeks and parks, quiet backstreets shared pathways and on-road bike lanes.

Cycling Etiquette

When approaching pedestrians from behind, it's a good idea to warn of your approach with a bell or a polite call. The trick is to do it early, so that they are given plenty of notice, are not startled and do not think they are being forced off the track. Give pedestrians a WIDE BERTH, at least one metre and reduce your speed. If the track is wide, go as far over to the other side as possible. Sometimes simply clicking the handbrake lever or changing gears is sufficient to alert pedestrians of your presence. At night, this is where it's great to have a high-beam light to flash on. Don't ring or call using a tone of "I'm moving fast; out of my way!" This attitude has no place in the cycling world. Some pedestrians will be listening to music; others will be hearing-impaired, so don't be surprised or overly annoyed if they don't immediately respond. Yes, dogs should be controlled on a leash, but that's in an ideal world. It just doesn't always happen. Ride with an attitude of friendliness and try not to become angry with anyone, even if they are doing something really stupid. It will only upset YOUR concentration. As with road riding, behave predictably. Don't suddenly brake unless it's an emergency. Take care overtaking. If a rider overtakes you going just slightly faster than you, it's tempting to catch a ride, sitting in their slipstream. This is certainly common practice in racing. You are in their personal space though and many people don't like it. In short, use common sense in each different situation and respect others.

We're all out there to enjoy ourselves.

Fitness

If you're concerned that your fitness level is well below what is needed to achieve your goal, that's no problem.

The trick is simply to break it down into smaller achievable steps.

When you begin riding to work, you may take the bike on the car and ride for the last ten minutes, ride only one day a week, catch the train home, ride really slowly and walk up hills.

If you're over 35 you should see your doctor for a checkup first. Your doctor should also tell you if your age means added risks associated with brittle bones.

Fitness is built by pushing your body to the right degree and resting. It's a gentle process. Bodies aren't built for sudden extremes.

This concept applies to a week of training sessions meaning Monday will be a gentle ride, Tuesday a little harder, Wednesday reaching a peak, Thursday easing off, and Friday a recovery ride back at the level of Monday. This principle also applies to individual rides.

Start a ride gently for ten minutes, work harder (at the level of only being able to talk in short sentences) for twenty minutes, then ride gently again for the last ten. Following this pattern will give you the best results for time spent. It's based upon how muscles function over time, responding to increased demands but needing rest.

The alternatives are pushing too hard and lowering the body's immune system (and getting sick) or spending hours not actually challenging the body and having little effect on fitness.

Apart from cycling, it's worth doing extra work on the abdominal muscles (core strength) and upper body as well as stretches, especially of the calf muscles and hamstrings, which tend to get tight.

Only warmed-up muscles should be stretched. For details, see the classic Bob Anderson's book "Stretching" which has suggested stretches for many activities including cycling.

Healthy Diet

There's a joke about cyclists being banned from all-you-can-eat restaurants! There's no doubt that as the kilometres increase, so does the appetite. Eating to travel means choosing food that will supply energy to the muscles for a sustained period, as well as providing all the ongoing nutrients your body requires.

Follow the well-known principles of a balanced diet shown in food pyramids; lots of fibre and carbohydrates, fresh fruit and vegetables, and protein. Avoid fat which is harder for your body to break down, and sugar, which provides fast but short-lived energy. Water is vital, especially in hot weather. It's important to drink before, during and after a ride to replace fluids. There's a concern now that sports men and women have begun to overuse energy drinks, which really just contain a large amount of sugar and caffeine. For maximum performance, eat often, eat well, and consume lots of different foods each day.