The weather is great. Swimsuit season is coming. And May is Bike Month. What more incentive do you need to get your bike out of the garage, or invest in a new one, and start riding for fun and fitness? Judd Van Sickle — a specialist in cycling biomechanics with the UC Davis Health Sports Medicine Program, former competitive cyclist and head coach of the UC Davis Cycling Team — offers guidance for getting the most out of your time in the bike saddle.
Why is cycling healthy?
Van Sickle: Cycling is an efficient form of physical activity because it is low impact and a great cardiovascular exercise. Cycling also offers a nice change of pace to exercising indoors. It’s an environmentally friendly way to travel, so you can do errands and exercise at the same time.
How do I select the right bike?
Van Sickle: There is a bike for every riding surface and every rider’s goal, so do some planning before heading to the bike shop. A road bike is best for pavement or bike trails. For off-road riding, select a mountain bike. For shorter, recreational rides, get a fitness or hybrid bike. There are even specialty bikes for those who mostly ride on gravel or are training for a triathlon. A quality bike shop can help with your selection.
The UC Davis Sports Medicine Program provides evaluations to make sure your bicycle fits you properly, which can make big differences in comfort and safety. Each session includes a detailed physical exam of the bike in relation to the rider’s unique abilities, limits and goals, along with onsite adjustments. Visit our website for more information, including how to make an appointment.
How much do bikes cost?
Van Sickle: You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but there are minimum thresholds to avoid disappointment later. Expect to pay about $800 for a road or mountain bike and about $400 for a fitness or hybrid bike. You can purchase a used bike for less, just be sure to have a bike shop check and tune it for you.
Besides the right bike, what other equipment is important?
Van Sickle: A helmet is essential and should be worn at all times while cycling. A good pair of bike shorts with chamois padding and well-fitting cycling shoes can greatly increase your comfort and enjoyment.
What should I do before taking that first ride?
Van Sickle: Making sure your bike fits you well, especially in terms of seat and handlebar adjustment, is critical to safety and avoiding injury. Also be sure to review and follow rules of the road at all times. It makes things safer for everyone when we are all predictable. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and California Department of Motor Vehicles offer excellent guidance.
Does cycling cause injuries?
Van Sickle: Cycling for general fitness isn’t a high-injury activity. Some riders complain of knee, back or hand discomfort, but this is almost always due to a poorly fitting bike. We recommend making sure you are comfortably set up on your bike and starting off slowly, gradually increasing the length and intensity of your bike rides. As with any new activity, consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
How do I get started?
I encourage everyone interested in cycling to try it. Bike lanes and trails throughout the Sacramento region offer plenty of options. The UC Davis Sports Medicine Program can help if you have questions about equipment, safety or health.