Proper hydration is paramount in staying strong and healthy during long bicycle rides. It seems almost all experienced rides have an opinion on this subject. If you’ve been riding for several years and in multiple weather conditions, you probable have a good idea of how your body works and what methods work best for you to stay properly hydrated. However, it’s always good to learn more.
The article linked below addresses this important issue. I think you will find it an interesting read.
Drink up! BUT NOT LIKE THE PIC : )
Pedals are a very individual decision not unlike choosing a saddle. If your bike came with pedals, chances are they were the flat pedals. These are fine for leisurely rides around the block, but toe clips and the so called clipless pedals give you a significant mechanical advantage. This is achieved by keeping your foot in constant contact with the pedal. That means you can use your legs to pull up on the pedals as well as push down. Because pulling up uses different muscles it increases the amount of power you can transfer to the crank.
The clipless pedals all require special shoes on which to attach cleats. The cleats snap into the pedals to hold your shoe/foot in firm contact with the pedal. A quick lateral move with your heel detaches the cleat from pedal. In my opinion, the most versatile of the clipless variety are the SPD pedals. They are most commonly used for mountain bikes, but can be used on any bike. I use them on my road bikes for 2 reasons: 1) the SPD pedals typically allow cleat access from either side, no fighting to get the pedal situated to get the cleat attached. 2) the SPD shoes have recessed cleats which allows you to detach your cleats and walk somewhat normally without damaging the cleats. The reason number 1) is important is if you ride in traffic, having to start from stop signs/ stop lights. The more quickly you can attach the cleats the better and I would also argue safer. Number 2) is more about convenience on group rides where you are dismounting the bike to walk around and then again mounting the bike.
The one advantage regular road pedals have over SPD’s is they have a larger platform under the shoe. On long rides, especially hilly rides, spreading the contact over a wider area can eliminate or delay the onset of ‘hot foot’. This is a condition where the nerves in the ball of the foot become agitated and there is a sensation of heat and tenderness. Usually stopping for a few minutes allows the condition to subside and you can quickly resume normal riding. To learn more about this condition – Google – hot foot cycling.
Easily the most common response I continue to get from people after telling them I rode across the continent on a bicycle is – What?!?! Why?!?! It’s definitely not an undertaking for the faint hearted, but neither should it paralyze you with fear. The thing you have the most control over is your training. Physical conditioning is important especially from the standpoint of how you feel a week into the ride. The better you train, the better you will feel throughout the ride. There are several well organized week long rides that are excellent (RAGBRAI, Ride the Rockies, SAGBRAW) for giving you a good idea of what to expect for long days in the saddle and if your physical conditioning is sufficient for long tours.
The logistics for a long distance ride like this can be overwhelming. That’s where a tour like Trans-America Cycling comes to your rescue. You are given recommendations for what is essential to pack. We give you a suggested route that has been fully vetted by our staff. We handle moving your gear from overnight town to overnight town. We are also there as a safety net to rescue you in case of catastrophic mechanical issues or you reach your physical limits before the overnight town. Our job is to 100% support you the rider and give you the best experience possible.
The biggest lesson we’ve learned from riding multi-week rides is the importance of a warm shower and cool bed every night. Camping is not terrible, but significantly compromises your body’s recuperative abilities. A supported tour like those provided by Trans-America Cycling lets you concentrate solely on enjoying the ride.
Some folks wonder about bicycle saddles and which ones are the most comfortable. Finding a single saddle that’s a good fit for every rider would be impossible, however, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on a saddle for touring. First and foremost, for any bicycle saddle to be comfortable there is a break-in period and keep in mind that the break-in refers to you and your body, not just your saddle. If you have been off your bicycle for a period longer than two weeks, it’s almost a certainty that if you jump on your bike for a full day of riding, by the end of it, your bum will be, at the very least, tender. Your saddle might be to blame but most likely your bottom had not been conditioned for such a long ride. Especially when riding a new saddle, start off with a series of short rides of no more than 20-25 minutes and then slowly add more time. After a few weeks your bottom should be able to handle rides of several hours.
Now, let’s talk about saddles. Should you use a padded gel saddle, go for the firm variety or maybe one that’s between those two? If you elect for a very soft saddle with thick padding, you will lose power in each pedal stroke and it may create a bouncing sensation while riding and that’s why I would suggest that you avoid this type of saddle. That leaves the slightly padded and the very firm saddles to consider. Both of these work well and the power transfer is good for either. Most folks, like me, require some cushioning between their saddle and themselves. I ride on a Brooks leather saddle which is quite firm, but I use gel padding in my riding shorts and sometimes for very long rides I might wear a padded liner in addition to my cycling shorts. Leather Brooks saddles are world renowned for being comfortable touring saddles, but that is only after they have been completely broken-in by a rider. They conform to each riders specific anatomy, but this takes a lot of time. Some riders report that their saddles were not comfortable until they logged in 1,000 miles or more during the process.
Good luck on finding the right saddle for you! Take a hard look at all of the choices. It’s one of the most important pieces of equipment you will buy and it plays an extremely important role in successful touring.
Final thought – Don’t forget to use chamois lotion in you biking shorts. For any ride over 30 miles, it’s a must have and it helps prevent chaffing.
Once you start telling your friends and family that you’re thinking about taking a bicycle trip across the United states, the reactions will vary, from “That sounds awesome” to “Are you crazy!!!” There’s nothing wrong with either response. I say, to each his own. For most of the folks that do this, I would venture to say, before they actually make the decision to embark on a cross-country adventure, they have thought long and hard about how and why to do it. After only a little research you will discover that people of all shapes, ages and sizes have completed this journey. Knowing this helps make the adventure less daunting; however, it’s not an easy thing to do. It takes some training and most importantly, it takes a determined spirit to see the journey through to its amazing end.
Whether it’s something you put on your “bucket list” or not, it’s a pretty safe bet that once you get the idea of this adventure in your mind, the only thing that will scratch that itch is to actually do it.
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For all those that ever dreamed of taking off on a cross-country bicycle tour, Trans-America Cycling is here to help you turn that dream into a reality. Check us out at http://www.transamericacycling.com
Check back often for touring tips, suggestions and updates about tours. Please share your thoughts and suggestions for improvements. We welcome all input.
By the way, it’s not always going to be serious! We believe biking is as much about fun as anything else. For example: