RIDE RIGHT Safety Tip #1: The RIGHT Stuff
By Mark Wyatt, Iowa Bicycle Coalition
Wow, it has been cold this year! It has been really hard to get any decent training miles in. But, the big ride is about two months away. It is time to start making plans to ride RAGBRAI.
If you have committed to riding RAGBRAI this year, it all starts with Tip #1, the RIGHT stuff. And when I say stuff, I mean bicycle. Every RAGBRAI veteran knows having a smooth running, well-serviced bicycle can mean the difference between an enjoyable or not very enjoyable RAGBRAI.
Over the past 40 years of RAGBRAI, every type of bicycle imaginable has crossed the state. The most famous bicycle might be Clarence Pickard’s ladies Schwinn. Pickard’s bike must have weighed 50 pounds, but it carried him from river to river.
A klunker or bargain basement special might be just fine for getting around town, but if you are going to ride across Iowa, you might need a better bike. Investing in a road bike (that fits) can make riding the 60 to 90 miles per day on RAGBRAI much easier and more comfortable.
On of my friends told me, “I know you said a road bike would make a difference in my ride. I just didn’t believe you until I test rode one and you were right. It made riding effortless and fun.”
Road bikes are usually the double diamond frame bicycles with dropped handlebars that give you multiple positions to rest your hands. They have skinny tires that have less drag friction on the road. There are many variations and brands of road bicycles. You need to pick a bike that suits you.
Start with a budget in mind. Decide how much you can afford to spend on your new bike. But remember, you will likely keep this bike for more than a decade – longer than your cell phone or laptop. Purchase as much of a bicycle as you can afford.
If you need a new bicycle, the first place to start is your local bicycle retail store. Many people are going to the local bicycle stores right now to shop for that new bike that will take them from Council Bluffs to Fort Madison. Your local bicycle store will have knowledge and experience to find the bicycle that fits your needs. You can find a list of all Iowa bicycle stores at http://iowabicyclecoalition.org/bikeshop
So maybe a new bicycle isn’t in your budget. Many people purchase used bicycles or borrow one from a friend. If you are going that route, be sure the bicycle is in good working order and has serviceable parts. Take it to a local bicycle retailer for a tune-up.
Also, be sure your used or borrowed bicycle actually fits you. Bicycles come in different sizes. A tall person needs a larger bicycle and a short person needs a smaller bicycle. They are not generally interchangeable. One of the simple ways to measure is stand-over height. Stand astride your bike with your feet planted firmly on the ground. You could be able to lift your bike 1-2 inches off the ground. Watch this Expert Village Video on standover height at http://youtu.be/bCcmLhsMIsI
For a more exact fit, visit your local bicycle retailer and schedule a fitting session. It could cost a little bit or they may include it with a purchase. A good fitting bike will make you more comfortable on the long rides.
A little planning for the RIGHT Stuff now, can equal more riding this summer. If you need to invest in a new bicycle for RAGBRAI, make sure it is smooth running and efficient. If you are going with a used bicycle, be sure it fits.
If you are going to ride RAGBRAI safely, you are going to keep in mind the following safety tips:
1. The RIGHT stuff.
2. The RIGHT gear.
3. The RIGHT communications.
4. The RIGHT riding.
5. The legal RIGHT.
6. The RIGHT frame of mind.
7. The RIGHT abilities
8. The RIGHT attitude
9. The RIGHT attention.
10. The RIGHT condition
Mark Wyatt is the executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a statewide advocacy organization for bicycling. Mark is also a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), board member for the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking. More information about the Iowa Bicycle Coalition can be found at www.iowabicyclecoalition.org.