Teach a kid to ride

This excellent video by Isla Rowntree shows us the best way to teach most kids how to ride a bike. Some key points are:

  • Avoid starting with stabilisers. These teach kids the opposite of what to do when they go onto two wheels;
  • Start with a ‘balance bike’. This is a simple sit-on bike with no pedals. Kids scoot along learning balance at their own pace;
  • Use a bike that is the right size – never too big;
  • Teach them to brake off the bike so they get the feel before riding;
  • The balls of the childs feet should be able to touch the ground (rather than being fully flat);
  • Find a big open space on flat tarmac. Grass is too difficult for the child to get momentum and balance;
  • Stand behind the bike when supporting the child under the armpits (I find it easier to hold onto their hoodie or rucksack);
  • Have fun and let them learn at their own pace.

Click on the video below to see it all in action

Shammy Shorts and Cream

Well, this is all a bit embarrassing – time to talk about ‘barnacle bum’ syndrome.

As riders get more experienced, and find they are spending longer in the saddle, a few problems can occur in the ‘lower regions’. Sores, in the form of spots or even abscesses, can occur around the ‘saddle area’ of your body. This is caused by a combination of friction, sweat and/or grime that builds up during the ride.

To combat saddle sores you should wear freshly laundered cycle specific clothing and change out of your sweaty gear as soon as you can – even if there’s no shower nearby. Keeping cool and dry will certainly help things post-ride.

If you are doing longer rides, or even just riding a lot more frequently, then consider getting cycle shorts with a build-in padded area. This padding used to be made of chamois leather – like the stuff used to clean car windscreens – hence the name shammy (or chammy).  The chammy liner is there to wick away moisture, reduce friction and to provide a bit of padding. Getting the correct fit is important too, otherwise you’ll be missing out on getting the most comfortable ride. You mustn’t wear underwear beneath your padded shorts, either – it’s important that the ‘chamois’ is next to your skin so it works as intended.

Even wearing shammy shorts may not be enough to ensure comfort for longer hours in the saddle, so consider getting some chammy cream. This cream is applied to your skin around the contact points of your saddle, reducing friction and providing an antibacterial barrier. Apply it liberally to your skin, and possibly also the padding: you’ll have to learn by experimenting on yourself. It feels a bit odd when you first start using it, but it can dramatically improve your comfort.

There are lots of shapes and sizes of chamois shorts: bib shorts; ladies specific; built in armour, and creams come with different formulations too – from £20 tubs of cycle specific goo, to nappy cream (Bepanthen), or even a humble tub of vaseline. If you find that you’re getting post-ride problems, or you are simply looking for a lot more comfort, then pop into your local bike shop and get some well-fitting padded cycle shorts and a tub of chamois cream.

Even with chamois shorts and cream, remember to change out of your damp stuff as soon as you can – even if you can’t get to a bath/shower right away.

Happy riding.

 

Riding two-abreast

Should we ride two abreast on public highways? Many road users think not, but may not appreciate the benefits for everyone in doing so.

Highway Code rule 66 includes the statement “never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends”. The confusion for some is that narrow, busy and the curvature of a bend is not stated, and for good reason. As responsible road users we all have a duty of care to others so everyone must make a judgement on the prevailing conditions to maximise safety for everyone. Safety and consideration is more important than speed.

Here’s an explanatory video that makes things a lot clearer.

The relevant sections of the highway code for cyclists (which must be understood by all road users) can be read from this link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/rules-for-cyclists-59-to-82

Please share this with others that use the road so they can understand the reasons why sometimes we must ride two abreast.

What to carry on a bike ride

Your bike is clean and prepared,  you have the right clothes for the weather,  lights,  helmet,  gloves,  and you’re ready to go on a ride. You’ve told someone where you are going and what time you’ll be back,  but what if you have a puncture or some other mishap? Here are some suggestions for the things you may want to take with you:

Basics

  • Water
    it’s important to stay hydrated so it’s good to get into the habit of taking on fluids regularly. You can carry a cycle specific water bottle in a ‘cage’ mounted on your bike,  bring a bottle of mineral water bought from a shop,  or use a hydration pack that allows you to sip while you ride.
    Keep your water container clean or you may pick up a tummy bug.
    Check out our cleaning tips: Quick Tip #3
  • Food
    For rides over an hour it’s a good idea to carry a snack to keep your energy levels topped up. A longer ride will require more food. Get some ideas from our blog on the subject:  http://cycleseahaven.org.uk/nutrition-for-cyclists-where-to-start/
  • Tools
    You can carry separate tools, like allen (hex) keys and spanners which you may already have in the house. Or you can opt for cycle specific ‘multi-tools’,  which are all-in-one devices like a Swiss army knife for bikes. If you’re thinking of getting one you’ll need to know if it includes the tools that are specific to your bike. As a minimum you’ll need to be able to remove your wheels and tyres to fix punctures. Take your bike to the local bike shop and they can advise what will fit your bike.
  • Puncture repair, spare tube & pump
    Even if you don’t know how to fix a puncture it’s a good idea to carry what you need in case you meet a helpful soul who can help you.

    • Find out what size inner tube fits your bike and carry one as a spare;
    • A puncture repair kit is a sound investment and you should always carry one. Traditional kits include rubber solution (special glue) and patches, while newer versions have self adhesive patches;
    • A pump. Make sure it fits your type of valve.
  • Safety
    Some form of ID,  a credit card and/or some bank notes, a mobile phone. All these can help you out of a fix. Pop them in a sealable plastic bag (freezer bag) or wrap them in cling film to keep them nice and dry.

Additional

If you are going a long way without a support vehicle, or you intend to do an epic ride where there are very few shops or people, then you may want to take things that will make you more self sufficient.

  • First Aid
    You can get first aid kits from many places. Include plastic gloves for first aid (and also greasy repairs on the bike) and sterile wipes for cleaning cuts and your hands.
    Consider also adding an antihistamine for bites and stings and a space blanket to keep warm if you get seriously stuck.
  • Whistle
    If you get really stuck somewhere remote and away from a road a whistle is the great way to get attention. Six good long blasts for an emergency. Also good if you have a puncture and you’re at the back – three long blasts should get some attention.
    http://www.mountain.rescue.org.uk/mountain-advice
  • Suncream
    You’ll be glad of it when you’re stuck in the same riding position, exposing the same part of your body (neck, ears, one arm) to the sun for a long time
  • Anti histamine or sting cream
    For hay fever, nettles or insect bites. These come in various guises from tablets & ammonia pens to gels & creams.
  • Cable Ties
    A couple of these don’t weigh much and can fix an amazing number of problems, including (at a push) a snapped chain.
  • Duct Tape
    Easily carried when wrapped around your pump, and fixes an amazing array of problems. See Quick Tip #2
  • Toilet paper
    Doesn’t weight much and can be used for many cleaning duties,  including the obvious. Pack it in a waterproof sealable bag (sandwich or freezer bags work well).
  • Master link
    Also called a Quick-Link, it’s a special link that can be used to fix a broken chain. They come in different sizes depending on how many gears you have (chains get narrower the more gears you have). Bear in mind you may need a special “chain breaker” tool, shown below…
  • Chain Breaker
    Sometimes you get this special tool as part of a multi-tool, or you may need to buy one separately. It’s used to (partly) push out the pins of a chain so you can split it open and re-join it. Handy for removing damaged parts of a chain and joining it back up again (or replacing a broken section with a few spare links you just happen to be carrying). A chain can often be re-joined with a few links missing – at least until you get home. Carry a few Master Links (Quick Links) or even some short sections of spare chain (if you replace the chain you often have a spare bit left over, which is handy for running repairs).
  • Map
    Much more reliable than a smartphone if you get stuck. You may know exactly where you are going but a map may highlight some interesting options you’d never considered before,  or a quicker way home if you get in trouble.
  • Tyre Boot
    A ‘tyre boot’ is a shop bought patch to temporarily repair a torn/split tyre so you can at least get home. You take part of the tyre off and slip in the ‘boot’ to cover the hole. Without it your repaired inner tube will poke through the split/hole in the tyre, expand like bubble gum then pop.
    You can also cut the top and bottom off a toothpaste tube and cut it open along one side to make a square of strong and pliable plastic, or use a section cut from a plastic milk carton, or even a section cut from an old tyre. The new plastic £5 note is also quite sturdy, and so are the wrappers from gels or bars. All will block the slit/hole so you can ride home.
  • Mech Hanger
    A small piece of metal that connects your rear gear changer (mech) to your frame. It’s designed to be a weak point to protect expensive parts – it breaks so that your frame or mech doesn’t. They come in lots of different sizes so you’ll need to make sure you get the right one. Your local bike shop can advise.

Riding with kids

  • Disposable wipes
    Great for cleaning up after an ice cream or a fall. Also good for cleaning your hands after putting a chain back on.
  • More Drinks and Snacks
    As a reward or a bribe you can’t go wrong with treats. Try to mix simple and complex carbs to give them both short term and long term energy.

Do you have any other ideas?  Leave a comment below or use our CONTACT page. We’d love to hear from you.

Nutrition for cyclists – where to start

If you ride for longer than 90 minutes in one go then you start to use up your body’s store of easily accessible fuel – glycogen. Rather than go into the chemistry and biology of what’s going on,  I thought I’d share my personal tips for keeping energy levels topped up –

  • Before the ride eat a mixture of simple and complex carbohydrates. I like a breakfast of porridge with raisins or blueberries. Whole wheat toast and fruit/bananas are also very good. I’ve had excellent results from Belvita and Weetabix breakfast biscuits. For particularly long rides (6 hours or more) try topping up with bucket loads of pasta and other carbs one or two days before the ride.
  • About 90 minutes into the ride it’s a good idea to eat a few hundred calories. Some raisins, a banana or a commercially produced ‘energy bar’. Keep taking on small amounts at least every half hour. Eat too much and you could get stomach cramps or that bloated feeling.  An alternative to energy bars are flapjacks (Tesco’s tray bake are my favourite). You can also put energy powder in your drink, so you take on fluids and calories at the same time. If you are on a very long or fast ride then start to take on calories after 45 minutes,  and keep snacking regularly.
  • After the ride it’s best to take on lean protein to help your muscles recover. Chicken, an omelette or a tuna sarnie are great. Eat protein as soon as you can after the ride – within half an hour if possible.

Every body is different,  so you need to see what suits you best. Try a few options and gauge how you feel during the ride,  after the ride,  and a few days later. It takes a lot of trial and error so don’t expect it to find the ideal formula immediately. There is a lot of advice on the internet so do a spot of research and  find out a few combinations that suit you.

Here’s a few ideas for food I like to to take on a ride:

  • Malt loaf. Squidgy energy goodness. I can’t eat much of this as it doesn’t agree with me when riding, but I’ll carry a few slices for variety on very long rides (over 6 hours). You may find it ideal;
  • Flapjacks. Mmmm. Shop bought ones are cheaper and more convenient (got to mention Tescos again) but home made ones allow you to experiment. There are plenty of recipes out there and you can include fruit and nuts, coconut, almond and cherries, apricot and mixed nuts (my favourite, if you’re bring some along), whatever takes your fancy;
  • Trail mix. This is a shop-bought or a home made concoction of dried fruit, nuts and cereals. All dry and lose on a bag for snacking on. Again, there are plenty of recipes out there. Lidl do a nice granola mix you can eat straight out of the bag – good for making flapjacks with, too;
  • Fruit or bananas. A classic favourite, but they can get bruised when riding off road or long distances;
  • Sandwiches. Go with your favourites and see which makes you feel stronger for longer;
  • Biscuits. Kids love ’em too, but they do tend to get turned to a bag of crumbs. Fig rolls are ideal as they stay in one piece;
  • Energy bars/drinks/gels/sachets. Mr Cycles stocks a range of energy products. You can buy them in singles and they have a long shelf life, making them easy to try out;
  • EZ Fuel energy bars. My favourite because they are simply dried fruit and oats. They don’t squash or deform in my pack, and they have a long shelf life. They also suit my digestion, they are relatively cheap, and I love the taste. I buy these in bulk and always carry two;

Mix it up,  too. You’ll get bored with the same old option week in,  week out. This is especially true on very long rides where you will crave variety. Hopefully you will soon find a few trusty favourites.

I’ll say it again – try things for yourself to see what your body likes and dislikes, and see how you feel. What suits one person may not suit another. Got some energy bars you don’t like or can’t stomach? Try swapping them with another rider to see if their choices make you feel superhuman.

 

Hydration

You should also keep hydrated – drink before you feel thirsty. Sip water throughout the ride; this is where a hydration pack makes things easier – these are rucksacks with a built-in water bottle and drinking tube,  allowing you to sip while you ride – especially good if you have your energy drink added to your water. I tend not to use these except for very long rides – for me, a kilo or two of water is a lot of additional weight on my back (I prefer the weight on the bike frame in a bottle),  but it’s the best way to keep drinking while on the move. Again,  it’s a personal choice and you should always try things for yourself. Your local bike shop can show you some excellent options.

 

I hope this gives you a good idea of what to try.

 

Got a favourite we haven’t mentioned? We’d love to hear from you…

Quick tip #2

Wrap duct tape around the body of your bicycle pump and you always have a ready supply to repair torn pockets/clothing, frayed cables, or anything else that breaks or comes loose on a ride. It will even temporarily repair slashed/split tyres and fix a puncture if you keep the pressure low.

Duct tape wrapped around the handle of a pump

 

Got a tip you want to share? Let us know from our CONTACT page.

Quick tip #1 Quick tip #3

Quick tip #1

Wrap your mobile phone in cling-film or pop it in sealable plastic bag to keep it dry on longer rides. Smartphones are still usable with both these methods.

Got a tip you want to share? Let us know from our CONTACT page.

Quick tip #2 Quick tip #3