Ballina Bike User Group (BUG)

Cycling in the Ballina region on NSW

Preparing for the ride

With some preparation any person with basic mobility and fitness should be able to ride and enjoy the ride. Cycling is an aerobic activity that uses different muscles to other forms of exercise and movement so they need to be trained to work in specific ranges of activity. Train them and they love it!

Your equipment doesn't need to be high end. Regular everyday bicycles will see you through. The main thing is to make sure your bike is well maintained and adjusted for you body and you can get a good nights sleep. 

Preparing your bike

The three important issues to consider when preparing your bike for a ride are:

  • is the bike in good running order
  • is the bike right for you
  • your cycling skills

Give your bike a health check

Any comfortable bicycle suitable for sealed roads is best. If you have a mountain bike we recommend having "slick" tyres fitted for the ride. If you have a mountain bike and rarely take it off the road then slick tyres are a better solution for your general riding as they have a lower "rolling resistance" - you'll find you can ride in higher gears - try it, you'll like it.

Check your bike and accessories. Have your bike checked mechanically. Make sure your brakes are effective, well adjusted and the pads are not at the end of their life. Make sure that your gear changers are well adjusted and the chain is lubed. Good handlebars, pedals and saddle will make a big difference to your riding comfort and style.

If you do not carry out your own repairs take your bike to a bike shop to get it checked and adjusted. You should also book your bike in at least two to three weeks before any event if major repairs are needed otherwise you may not be able to get major work completed in time.

Accessories that you should have at all times while riding are:

  • tube repair kit including pump, spare tube, patches, 2 x tyre levers (you need to know how to use these).
  • water bottles (two for any ride longer than one hour).
  • gloves (on rides more than 5km) - these allow you to grip the handlebars securely even with sweaty palms.

Riding position set-up

A comfortable and efficient riding position is the key element in the bike-body interaction. It is therefore very important that your bike is properly set-up and adjusted. If your bike is adjusted to suit your particular body size and shape you will then feel more relaxed and will be able to ride longer distances with less effort. Once you have made the adjustments recommended below, ride gently for the next few days to give your body time to adjust to these new settings. To set-up your bike for an optimum riding position you will need a few bike tools and may also need a friend or two to assist you.

The notes below are the most common settings that work. You may find that some of them don't work for you but this is the best place to start and then make custom adjustments after you have ridden for a distance and determined what might need to change.

Foot position

The ball of your foot should be centred over the pedal axle. For small feet and high rpm pedallers place the ball of your foot slightly behind centre. If you have clipless pedals you can make this adjustment by clipping your shoes into the pedal and adjusting the cleat fixing bolts.

Saddle position

First adjust your saddle so that the top surface is parallel with the road surface. Then set the saddle height the following way: With the crank arm perpendicular to the ground sit on the saddle (you'll need a friend to hold the bike for you) and place your heel (shoes on) on the top of the pedal. With the saddle height correctly adjusted your leg should be in the straight "locked" position. Make sure to take account of oversize heels on your shoes if you have extra thick soles.

Saddle front/back adjustment

Sit on your bike in your normal riding position (you'll need a friend to hold the bike for you) with the cranks in the 3 and 9 o'clock position. Your saddle is correctly positioned when your tibial tuberosity (the bump at the top of the shin bone) is 1cm behind the pedal axle. You may need a plumb line and a helper to make this adjustment and you may have to readjust saddle height if you move the saddle significantly.

Stem & handlebars

Correct stem height can be between level with the saddle height or up to 6 cm below. The preferred range is 2.5 to 4.5 cm lower. As a check ensure that your knee just clears your elbow when seated on your bike with the cranks in the 3/9 o'clock position. To ensure good chest expansion and breathing your handlebars should be as wide as your shoulders. On a mountain or hybrid bike some riders may prefer a more upright riding position with a higher stem position. Extra wide flat-type mountain bike handlebars may give more stable control on unsealed roads but you may find them uncomfortable on long rides over sealed roads. Bar extensions and narrower handlebars will give you a greater variety of comfortable hand positions and also place your upper body in a slightly lower position to reduce your overall resistance to the wind.

Reach

If the handlebars are too far away you will be very uncomfortable. Sit on your bike in your normal riding position (you'll need a friend to hold the bike for you) and your arms should be at 90degrees to your torso (you may need another friend to check this for you or have a large mirror handy).

Round and round in circles

As you adjust each of the above the other adjustments may be effected. Once you have adjusted everything for the first time go through them all again and check that they are all still correct.

Adjusting to your new position

It takes time to settle in to the new position and you may still have to do some fine tuning. Overall you should feel much better when you ride and less strained when you arrive back home.

None of this works

If you can't get comfortable after making these adjustments and riding for a while then it is possible that your bike is not the right size for you, unfortunately a common problem. Considering changing bikes would be a good option for your long term cycling benefit.

Improving your cycling skills

There are simple things you can do to improve your cycling skills. The most obvious one is simply spending time cycling and if you this with others then you discuss your cycling and learn from them.

Key things to pay attention to:

  • Starting and stopping
  • Gear changing, when and why?
  • Braking
  • Consistent line and predictable behaviour
  • Riding in a group

Riding in a group deserves extra attention here because there are lots of other cyclists (surprise!). Keep in mind these important points:

  • Keep your distance. Don't ride so close to the rider in front that you can't see ahead of them. If they try to avoid an obstruction and you are not aware of their movements you may hit it or run into them as they take evasive action. And/or you may hit the obstruction e.g. a nasty pothole or debris.
  • Ride predictably. Make it easier for those behind you by riding a straight line at all times. Avoid swerving movements and when you do pull out to pass or turn call out "PASSING" to signal your intentions. The same goes for braking and when you do stop move well off the road to allow others a place to ride. It's always good to call out "STOPPING" to let those behind you that you are slowing to stop. This lets them prepare for your actions.
  • Look ahead and around you. Be aware of the riders around you and the road conditions ahead. This reduces the chance that you'll be surprised by anything and subsequently be prepared for anything that may happen or better still simply avoid anything nasty happening at all.
  • Practice group riding techniques. If you are new to riding in large groups you should try to ride at least some of your training runs with groups of six or more riders in a tight bunch. Riding in a group is very demanding and you need to be constantly aware of the movements of riders in front, to the side and behind you. The benefit is that the physical effort is much less because you can draft behind others.

Preparing your mind and body

The important issues to consider when preparing for a ride adventure are your basic fitness and your cycling specific fitness.

You may think you are very fit if you walk or run often, but when you ride for longer distances you may soon find, by increasing soreness, that you really do have other muscles you didn't realise you had before.

The training program outlined below is a simple way to tune your body for multiple days in the saddle. As you prepare for the Ride please make sure you also maintain your general fitness and lead an active lifestyle. Regular stretching is also very useful for developing muscle flexibility. You don't have to go overboard. Just do what you can to find time to do but make sure that when you start you keep up a regular schedule.

The most essential aim of any training program is to set your goals and targets and to try consistently to achieve them. To train for longer rides you will need to build up your general level of cycling fitness. To do this we recommend a series of training rides of varying distances building up to 100km. This program assumes that you are starting from zero. If you already cycle regularly then simply start at the point you are comfortable with and begin to stretch yourself.

Warm up before you start. Don't rush into strenuous riding on a cold body. Always stretch before exercising. Take it easy starting out on each ride as this gives your body a chance to settle into a comfortable rhythm and where possible save your maximum exertion for the hills. It's the mark of an inexperienced rider to ride too hard at the start and expend the energy needed at the end of the ride.

DRINK, DRINK, DRINK! The moisture you sweat out on the road has to be replaced so you must drink lots of water as you ride. Always carry at least two large water bottles and make sure these are refilled during your ride well before you run out. Food is also important. For longer rides take some high energy snack food with you to eat along the way.

Week

Number of days
on which you ride

Consecutive days
when you ride

Longest
distance

Other
distances

Difficulty and notes

1

3

2

20km

10 to 15km

Start easy with flat terrain and get your bike and body fully adjusted to each other.

2

4

2

30km

15 to 20km

Start to introduce some hills.

3

4

3

40km

15 to 20km

Try for 2 of the rides to be hilly.

4

5

3

50km

15 to 20km

Make one of the shorter rides a big hill - say a 1km climb without a break.

5

4

3

60km

30 to 40km

Keep the hills included in all your rides except one easy recovery ride. Try doing a decent hill twice early in a longer ride.

6

3

2

70km

30 to 50km

Include a 1km climb in your long ride.

7

3

3

60km

40 to 50km

Include a 1km climb twice in your long ride.

8

3

2

80km

40 to 50km

Bring it on!

Of course you should start as soon as you can but this 8 week program should get you ready for anything rides will throw at you.

Where and when to ride

Why not join a cycling group? There are plenty of them about, everything from casual groups who do regular rides to associations who focus on touring and longer distances. Contact your local bike shop for advice on your local groups, talk to other cyclists, phone Bicycle NSW - just ride!

Or organise riding companions. It's easier to train with friends so ask around at work or school and among your friends and see if someone else can join you on regular rides. It's hard to miss a session if you know that the other person or group will be there at the meeting point and will be disappointed if you do not turn up.

One of the best ways of fitting more kilometres into a crowded life is to combine training with your ride to work or school. Riding to work or school can be a great way of starting the working day and provided that you can find a reasonably stress free route you will feel much better for it at work and at the end of the day. If your usual trip is too short to help your fitness then simply add some extra distance, there's sure to be an enjoyable option somewhere.

Alternatively, think laterally and ride to your weekend visits or activities and then catch a lift home with friends, family or on the train (or vice versa of course).

On a week day especially if you start early you can easily knock off 30 to 40kms before 8am and still have time for a quick bite and a shower before the day starts in earnest.

Preparing your gear

The clothing you wear is important. Cycling shorts are very comfortable and move with your skin without chafing and rubbing. The absence of seams in the wrong places is a big bonus so not wearing underwear under your cycling shorts is normal and smart. Shirts that are lightweight and breathable are best. Cycling jerseys are best but if they are out of your price range then something that doesn't stay wet with sweat is what you should use. Long sleeves to protect against the sun is a smart move. Your helmet should fit snugly on your head. With the straps secured you should not be able to move the helmet forward below your forehead or backwards beyond your forehead.

Rewards of Bicycle NSW Membership 

Australian Cyclist magazine

Bursting with great cycling touring stories, maintenance and technical advice, and articles to help hone your riding skills and enjoyment, Australian Cyclist is Australia's leading cycling magazine. As a Member (or one copy per Household Membership) you receive this national cycling magazine delivered directly to your door, so you don't have to buy it at the newsagent.

Public Liability

Most cyclists don't consider insurance until it's too late, but if you are involved in an accident you may have to pay for any damages or injuries you cause. As a member of Bicycle NSW you ride with the reassurance of $20 million Public Liability Insurance

Personal Accident Insurance

Comprehensive cover for you in the event that you are injured in a cycling accident. Includes loss of income cover if you are unable to work, and provides for contribution towards non Medicare medical expenses.

Regular Rides

Are you looking for new places to ride or new people to ride with? Every month members receive an up-to-date Rides Calendar containing over 50 rides each month, ranging from casual coffee shop cruises to fast fitness rides. 

Bicycle Theft Insurance  

Protect your bike against theft, loss and damage. Bicycle NSW members have access at special rates to home content insurance that includes bicycle theft insurance. For full details visit Cyclecover