After months of glorious sunshine, even the most reticent fair weather cyclists may be thinking that it’s time to get back in the saddle. For many of us, some of Yorkshire’s finest cycling country is just a short ride away. Whether you want a steady amble down quiet lanes or the challenge of some of the Dales’ steeper hills, there’s something for everyone.
The first thing to do, of course, is to check your bike is in good working order. If you haven’t been out on it in a while, it would be worth having it serviced professionally at a reputable bike shop to make sure everything is running smoothly and it’s safe to ride. Most services will include: adjusting or replacing brakes; checking the gear indexing; inspecting the wheels and tyres; changing cables; checking the headset and frame; and degreasing and re-lubing moving parts. If you have been maintaining your bike regularly, just work through your usual checklist. Don’t forget – always make sure you pump up your tyres and lube the chain before every ride!
Like anything, bicycle design is constantly being updated and improved, so if you feel that yours is past its best, it might be worth a trip to a decent bike shop to view the latest, energy-efficient models. Make sure you go to a bike superstore which can offer you the widest choice; ask the staff for guidance on your particular needs; and, ideally, try out a few bikes before making a final choice. If you’re also going to use the bike to get to work, the Government’s Cycle to Work Scheme is a great way of helping to offset the cost of investing in a new bike as staff at many places of work can benefit from tax exemptions on their purchase.
You’d also be well advised to prepare for any unexpected mechanical issues – a small under saddle kit bag, equipped with on-the-road essentials such as a spare inner tube, tyre levers and a pump plus some basic tools, is a must. A small CO2 inflator can also make the job of changing a tyre much quicker and easier if you are unlucky enough to get a puncture.
Wearing the right kit will ensure that your ride is as comfortable as possible. Even if it’s sunny when you set out, be prepared for the vagaries of the British weather and take a compact, high performance waterproof jacket with you. Some lightweight arm warmers or ‘warms’, also give flexibility as they can be easily slipped on or off as needed, and cycling leg warmers are another useful piece of kit. Cycling glasses with interchangeable lenses will keep the sun (and flies) out of your eyes and it goes without saying that good quality, padded cycling shorts are another essential – and an investment you won’t regret!
Finally, keep eating and drinking regularly – you don’t want to risk hitting the wall or ‘bonking’ as it’s known in the cycling fraternity. This is actually a serious condition which affects endurance sports; it is a sudden fatigue caused when you haven’t taken in enough carbs and have, therefore, used up your body’s glycogen stores. The golden rule is to eat and drink little and often. Always take two water bottles with you, one of which should contain a proprietary sports drink which has been specially designed to provide the sugars, carbohydrates and electrolytes needed by athletes. There is also a wide range of high energy snacks available, including energy gels which are a concentrated form of sugars, designed to give a quick energy hit in a very compact form. Or you could choose from hundreds of energy bars and chews, all of which give a swift boost as they are easily digested.
So having checked over your bike, your kit and your on-bike supplies, you’re ready for a fantastic day in the saddle, enjoying some of Britain’s most stunning cycle routes. But don’t forget, while it’s lovely to be able to ride in fine weather, use lots of sunscreen– and keep drinking plenty of fluids!