Riding the Right Way:A-Z on a Weekend Biking Getaway
- Prabal Man Dhaubhadel
Being able to guide your way from point A to point B on your non-motorized two-wheeler isn’t all that is there to cycling, especially when your tracks comprise of potholes, cuts, and bumps around some serious corners.
If the idea of spending a weekend exploring the outskirts of the valley, going out to a popular nearby checkpoint on a breezy bicycle ride with friends and family revolves around your mind, then you are in luck. You have stumbled on the right page of the right magazine. As cycling grows more as a hobby rather than a competitive sport, more and more cycling enthusiasts spring into action traveling across open roads and taking on some serious dirt around the city. In this edition of healthylife, we provide you a boot camp for planning a cycling adventure of your own. From owning a cycle to maintaining it, all the do and don’ts, and some additional basic exercises, we shall explore all aspects of adventure cycling for beginner riders opting to pedal up the hills.
Cycling is a pretty basic skill that most of you might have learned when you were about the age of four or so. If you can’t balance a cycle, I am sorry to offend you but you are a rare breed; quite the endangered type. However, being able to guide your way from point A to point B on your non-motorized two-wheeler isn’t all that is there to cycling, especially when your tracks comprise of potholes, cuts, and bumps around some serious corners. A little more challenge and a few more miles away, all you are left with is a couple feet of width and only your set of wheels. As a cycling buff myself (more on the recreation end rather than a commuter), I can assure you that the sub-urban trails around the valley offer the exhilaration of varying pitches and the equally rough turf, while mesmerizing panorama surround you wherever you are. Discussing no more, let’s get straight to planning your upcoming adventure starting with the what, where, and how’s.
What to ride: To pick up your ride for either purchase or hire, there are a few pointers that you would like to keep in mind. As your bike is your most important asset on the road ahead, be sure to pick the right one. Ideally, if you are planning a rough ride, mountain bikes equipped with thicker tires are more suitable to enhance both balance and traction. For bumpy rides, bikes with adjustable forks (front suspension) will ease things up a little bit. Similar story with rear shocks but since only expensive all-mountain category bikes tend to have proper shocks, this feature is rather secondary. Proper brakes are a must because it saves lives! In order to stay comfortable throughout the ride, pick a frame size that you are most comfortable with while riding standing up and while making climbs or taking on descents.
How to ride: The ‘how to ride’ bit might be vast but a few basic tips go like this: Ride in pairs or small packs so that someone’s got your back in worse case scenarios. Try not to drain yourself early on during the trip by speeding up unnecessarily. (If there’s a dog chasing you, that’s a necessity). Maintain a uniform pace throughout the ride as endurance can be a pivotal factor especially for inexperienced riders. Learn to use your gears to optimize energy use. First learn to use them! Shift gears well before you need to. Very often, riders waste most of their energy riding on a much lower gear or have difficulty powering to a higher gear. On longer journeys avoid using very low gears. Try to use the slow muscles which last longer rather than the fast sprint muscles which might be easy on the shorter run but will reduce endurance. Numerically, pedal in between 100-140 times per minute. While making climbs, ask a strong guy (both physically and mentally) to face the ascent and the remaining back to simply follow the rear tire in front of you, always maintaining a constant gap at a consistent pace. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated at all times. Riding for hours in the scorching sun might bring out the worst in you, so try to avoid it with regular intake of water, and even glucose. Be sure to keep yourself happy. Those who seldom participate in physical activities might feel hopeless after an hour or so into the journey. It might be strenuous on the body but counterbalance the negatives with a positive outlook. A bar of chocolate should give you enough sugar to overcome your stress.
What to carry: Basic instincts and a rule of thumb suggests: “pack light.” Most cyclists would agree to sticking with a bottle of water and only having your phone and wallet, something you might want to entertain, but on giving it a second thought, it has its own disadvantages. In terms of gear, while dedicated cycling gear is best recommended, not everyone has a cycling suit. Those for whom cycling is a once-in-a-blue moon encounter, shorts and tees or jerseys are most appropriate. Running shoes are the easiest among common footwear, but more specifically, something with a smaller surface area would help to concentrate your pressure on the pedals. As a part of your gear, a helmet and gloves will make things easy, and just to protect your skin, regular coating of high SPF sunscreen is advised.
Carry a bag. Add in a few essentials such as a first aid kit, light snacks, bananas (to prevent cramps), energy bars, a portable tool kit, an air pump, and a spare tube. Sometimes, even money can’t buy food when you first have a shop to find. Depending on weather conditions and time of day, raincoats, shades, or headlights could be potential accessories.
Before you set out on an actual trip, there are few pre-ride checks that we want you to learn and perform each time prior to heading out. You might have gathered everything together but the most important of them is the bike itself.
Seat: First up, make sure the seat is adjusted firmly to a comfortable height. Too low, and you’ll find yourself with a troubled hamstring too soon, too high, and the ankles stretch out to reach the lowest pedal point.
Brakes: We stress repeatedly on the absolute importance of brakes as sharp descents are inevitable while riding in hilly terrain like ours. Adjust your brake pressure to fit your riding style. Aggressive riders should use stiffer brakes. Also make sure that in normal position (while the brakes are not in use), the wheels rotate freely around the hub.
Tires: Check the tire pressure before you leave. As your journey progresses, keep track of your tire pressure if you fail to receive the right kind of response from the bike. Under-filled tires will dampen your pace but give you an edge in braking, while over-filled tubes tend to maximize efficiency with the risk of reduced braking response and tire failure. Make sure the outer tire has enough grip and is not worn out completely.
Derailleurs/gears: As the importance of riding in the right gear has already been discussed, being able to easily shift up and down is what you are looking for. Small screws calibrate the derailleur tension for both front and rear gears. Adjusting them should help in effortless switching.
For a pre-ride check, if you are unable to adjust stuff or make sure everything is in place, be sure to visit a mechanic who should look it up and adjust everything within minutes. In context, maintenance of your bike is another essential dimension to explore. While bicycles do not require a lot of overhauling, damaged parts should be fixed (in most cases) or replaced to prevent accidents or malfunctions.
Besides cleaning up your bike (which becomes necessarily on a regular basis if you ride off road), oiling the chain and pedal cranks, and replacing brake pads and fluids (for hydraulic brakes only) should be taken care of on a timely basis.
As we conclude your guide to riding a bicycle for an evening getaway, we shortlist a few nearby destinations that you could consider traveling to with your loved ones or hang out with your friends. We hope you make it to all of the listed trails in due course of time and come back with memorable stories to tell. Bon voyage!
Taudaha, Godavari, Bhaktapur, Khokana, Budhanilkantha
Dakshinkali, Dhulikhel, Nagarkot, Panauti, Changunarayan, Shivapuri, Lakhurey
Long distance/higher difficulty:
Kulekhani, Kakani, Namo Buddha (trail dependent), Trishuli