Ride smooth: Biking pointers for a comfortable ride on the mountains and roads around Lake Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Ride smooth: Biking pointers for a comfortable ride on the mountains and roads around Lake Tahoe

A cyclists rolls by Emerald Bay during a ride on the South Shore. Wearing bike shorts is the start to a smooth, comfortable bike ride.
Courtesy Dan Thrift / Tahoe South |

Biking season is in full swing for mountain and road riders alike in the Lake Tahoe region. Here are a few pointers for riding smoothly, safely and more comfortably all season long:

Don’t wear underwear under bike shorts

I’ve had this conversation with several patients and it’s worth mentioning loudly and boldly. Bike shorts are supposed to be worn commando and without undergarments. It decreases chafing from seams and makes the ride more pleasant.

Wear bike shorts

The extra cushion and protection will make the ride better, and a good pair is worth the purchase. Cycling shorts will also decrease hand pressure by limiting weight pushed on the handlebars, and put less weight on your backside.

Inspect your bike seat

Increased hand pressure may also come from the bike seat’s position. If the seat’s nose is tilted up, your arms may automatically push you off the nose and move the weight to your hands. If the seat’s nose is tilted down, you could be sliding down and using your hands to push yourself back up on the seat. Just millimeters can make a difference in seat positioning.

Wear gloves

Cycling gloves offer protection and varying degrees of padding depending upon the type. Some riders like the flexibility and accessibility of fingerless gloves, while others prefer warmth and protection from full-fingered gloves. Either way, gloves decrease pressure in the hands and wrists from sudden unplanned vertical drops onto rocks or pavement.

Bend your elbows

Keep about 10 degrees of flex in the elbows to absorb road shock. Mountain bikers typically flex their elbows, but I see a lot of roadies locking out theirs. A slight flex will decrease the shock absorbed and increase comfort, from your hands to your neck.

Wear bike shoes

Mountain bike and road cycling shoes are built with a firmer sole to increase pedaling efficiency; your tennis or running shoes aren’t optimal for pedaling due to an increased flex. This little variation makes a big difference, especially when climbing uphill.

For those riding platform or clipless pedals, make sure the pedals have the proper grip and that shoes won’t slide off them. Clipless pedals increase efficiency upwards of 30 percent.

Avoid mashing

Pedals should spin smoothly when clipped in. This increases efficiency and avoids mashing, which occurs when a rider uses leg strength in an up-and-down piston motion — like mashing potatoes — on every stroke instead of spinning in a circle-like motion.

Ride on the right side

If a car is coming at you, you’re on the wrong side. California and Nevada bicycle laws state that bikers ride with the flow of car traffic and as close to the right as possible. This is safer for you, other bikers and drivers alike.

Some of this advice is gear-related and will cost money. But it will buy comfort, which will make you happier and more likely to ride a bike, which will save gas money — and cover the cost of new bike shorts. Now go outside and ride!

Chris Kozlowski, PT, conducts professional bike fits at Barton Health Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine in South Lake Tahoe. She is a certified bike fitter and USA Cycling Level III cycling coach — schedule a bike fit with her by calling 530-543-5896.

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