This is the first in a series of posts from Tracey Petervary aimed at women cyclists looking to become more knowledgeable and confident as riders. But understand that there is plenty of good information here for men too! -Kid
Hey Ladies! How great would it feel to go for a solo or long ride with out having to rely on anyone to repair your bike should something happen?
Being a woman myself, this was an issue for me at one time. I was nervous about going for a long, or solo, ride with the fear I might not be able to fix a flat tire or broken chain, and get stuck somewhere. With practice and experience I have overcome this, and you can too! I've compiled some tips which will help you gain confidence about riding whereever you want to, whenever you want to!
In 2012, I did the Tour Divide Race self-supported. I had to be confident in myself, my bike, and my abilities. If I could do it, you can do it too...
You definitely want to be comfortable on your bike. A properly fit bike will help you to be confident while riding. I would recommend getting a bike fit, no matter what type of bike you are riding. Many shops offer this service. Ask for help with bike shoes, riding gloves, helmet selection and fitting. Invest in a nice, comfortable pair of bike shorts. There are several different brands and styles to choose from. Just because a certain brand or style works for your friend, doesn't mean it will necessarily work for you. Try things on, even if you have to come back a couple times to do so.
Your bike should be in good working order before the riding season starts. Take it to the bike shop have them look it over and discuss what needs to be done to get it into proper working order. Learn the basic mechanics of your bike. Ask a shop employee to go over your bike with you to point out and name the parts. Learn the terminology so you know what the drivetrain, chainrings, derailleurs, shifters, cassette, skewers, etc are. Some bike shops offer a group basic mechanics class for a small fee.
There a few maintenance things that you can do on your own which will help build confidence when riding alone or in a group. You may not always be in cell phone range, so on your rides you should carry a spare tube, tire levers, hand pump, chain quick-link and multi tool. As important as it is to carry them, it is even more important to know how to use them.
Start with preventative maintenance and get to know your bike.
After every few rides:
-Wipe off and lube your chain
-Check your tire pressure
-Check that your chainrings and other bolts are tight
-Clean your bike
-Look over your bike for wear and tear, frayed or loose cables
There are a few things you may encounter on a ride that are easy to practice in the comfort of your own home:
-Flip your bike over and take both your front and rear wheels off. Then put them back on, just like you would have to do on the roadside or trail.
-Remove a tire and take out the tube. Then put it back in and re-inflate it. You've just fixed a pretend flat
-Seperate your chain using the chain breaker on your multi-tool. Then use a quick link to reattach the separated links.
Consider attending a camp or clinic to help you improve your skills. Join a local bike team or attend a group ride to learn the techniques and etiquette of riding with others. Ride with people who are more experienced, watch and learn from them, and ask questions. Many shops offer different level rides and some, like the shop I ride for, even offer women-only rides which alleviates pressure we may feel while riding with men.
Ladies-only ride out of Fitzgerald's Bicycles in Victor, Idaho. There is a ride like this near you most likely. Inquire with your local shops...
Practice your skills. Imagine yourself riding fluently, while you're on and off the bike. Practice shifting while climbing, cornering, and braking. Go to a certain obstacle and ride it over and over until it becomes smooth. Pick a specific downhill section and ride different lines to figure out which line is the best one. Shift your weight forward while climbing and back as you are descending to experience the feeling. Relax your grip on the handlebars, relax your body and mind, and just be in the moment. Be one with your bike. It is an extension of you, and you are in control. Trust your machine as it is meant to be ridden. It 'wants' to be ridden.
Next time we'll discuss some ways to challenge ourselves to further improve our confidence. Happy riding!
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Endurance cyclist Tracey Petervary is a New Jersey native residing in Victor, Idaho. She started adventure racing 18 years ago, enjoying multi-day, multi-sport team events traveling to places such as Fiji, New Zealand and across the United States. Her stable includes several bikes (MTB, road, cyclocross, commuter, fat, tandem), which allow her to ride every day of the year in any condition.