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Should I eat before training?
A very common question among cyclists. The answer depends on a few factors:
- what you are planning to do?
- what you want to get out your session? and
- the duration of your training session.
You can apply some very simple rules based on planned intensity and duration of the activity. Even if you are exercising with weight reduction as one of your goals you will find you train better if you have a little fuel on board before an intense training session.
When I first started riding I did ride around on my own a fair bit but over time I found like-minded riding companions who I now consider to be amongst my best friends. I’ve been riding for five years now and over those years I’ve found lots of buddies, both women and men, some of whom have already come and gone in my life.
The first step for me was to find a local group of riders who already met on a formal basis for a weekly ride. For me, this group was called BayBUG which in long form is Canada Bay Bicycle User Group. There are BUGs all over NSW which are formed under the auspices of Bicycle NSW and cater for beginner riders. It was ideal for me, and it gave me an introduction to group riding and plenty of riding buddies.
Over time, as the group got to know each other better we formed some subgroups and started riding on Sunday as well as the regular BayBUG Saturday ride.
It is very rare to find a group of recreational riders who ride at the same pace all the time. They’ll be riders who are having a good day, those who are having a bad day and just those (like me a lot of the time) who are just slower than many of their friends. For me, this is because many of them are men, and in general male riders are stronger than women.
But I don’t let that spoil my enjoyment of riding with friends and my pals are always very kind to me, and wait for me, and encourage me to improve. Likewise, I sometimes ride with others who are slower than me and I’m always kind and patient too.
I found this great article by Sarah Bonner published on the women’s cycling website Women’s Cycling and the editor Laurel-Lea kindly agreed for me to republish it here. Over to Sarah…..
One of the major topics amongst my riding friends in the last few weeks at the post-ride café visit, has been aggressive birds. Spring has definitely sprung in my neighbourhood and birds are out in force defending their young.
Thankfully my bird attacks have been uneventful where I’ve heard a click noise on my helmet and been aware of an anonymous object nearby, but a few of my friends have not been so lucky. One of them had a butcherbird attack him on Saturday morning and draw blood on his cheek. Another was attacked by an aggressive magpie last week while visiting an area where he doesn’t normally ride. Both of them stayed calm and managed to stay upright but many are not so lucky.
These stories have prompted me to do some research and put a list of facts and tips together.
Tina McCarthy is changing women’s lives by getting as many of them riding bikes confidently. She has a Melbourne-based business called Wheel Women and focuses on social and recreational female cyclists. Tina contacted me a while back and we’ve kept in touch. I’m very impressed with her enthusiasm and passion. Women Who Cycle asked her a few questions about her business – Wheel Women.
Q: When and Why did you start cycling?
A: I’ve always cycled, for as long as I can remember. I had 3 older brothers so I didn’t have any choice if I wanted to keep up with them. But as an adult life and career kind of got in the way. When my son was born in 1998 I did start cycling a little bit again when he was in the baby seat, and then on the tag-along. But I found it increasingly difficult – the bigger he got the harder it was. But about 3 years ago, my son who is now a teenager was training for the Great Victorian Bike Ride, and I stupidly thought I could join them on a training ride. I wondered why everyone was passing me and I was left for dead! Short answer is, my husband suggested a new bike instead of my department store special at 22kg! I bought an eBay bike and couldn’t believe the difference – it was AWESOME. I’ve now become a little more serious about my rides and ascribe to the N+1 theory of bike ownership – you can never have too many bikes! Though my husband does like to dispute this!
One of the things I’ve always admired about the United States is the sheer scale of the country. With a population of nearly 14 times that of Australia, at almost 314 million, there is always a group of people (like women cyclists) who have a real voice because there’s so many more of them. I suppose proportionally there no difference to other groups but they seem to get cut-through.
In the US there’s a group called the League of American Bicyclists which has its own Women Bike program and a few weeks ago they released a really interested research report called Women on a Roll.
Women on a Roll is a first-of-its-kind report showcasing a trend seen on streets nationwide (US): Women are changing the face of bicycling, and bicycling is transforming the lives of women.
Obviously the most important thing to get into road cycling is a bike but there’s also a few other items that will enhance the experience for any budding roadie, both women and men.
A road bike
You can spend any where from about $800 to $20,000 on a road bike, even cheaper if you opt for a second hand or low quality one. However, like all manufactured items in our modern world, you do tend to get what you pay for, so stretch your budget just a little and you’ll enjoy the riding experience much more. I suggest you consider spending at least $1,500 (that’s Australian dollars) on your first road bike. For that you’ll get an alloy frame and entry level gearing like Shimano Sora and Tiagra or perhaps a mix of Shimano 105 and other options.
My first bike was a Jamis brand bike and cost me around $1,500. It served me well for about two and a half years before I decided to upgrade to a carbon bike. I’ve still got that bike and occasionally ride it out on the road, or more often on my indoor trainer.
Too often I read about cyclists being killed or injured on our roads and each time I read with great sadness. But recently when I read about a female cyclist being killed on a Sydney road it seemed all too close. It reminded me how vulnerable we all are when we ride on the roads, so I thought it was timely to share a few tips I’ve picked up about riding safely on roads.
Be clear and assertive
Make sure you signal your intentions to other road users by signalling with your arms when you are turning left or right. That doesn’t mean you have to negotiate every corner with your arm stuck out, but when you know there’s a car on your tail or coming towards you, clearly stick out your arm to indicate where you are turning before you reach the corner. If you are riding with other riders make sure you don’t poke their eye out with your overly keen signals!!
Be assertive as a road user. If you hesitate or slow down too much a driver will take that as an invitation to take your right of way. That doesn’t mean you should go charging into roundabouts but if you appear unsure you’ll find yourself being walked all over.
One of the skills it took me quite a long time to master when I started road cycling was following closely behind the wheel in front of me. I was not confident about my own ability and bike skills and so I sat back and watched from afar. It was only with the encouragement of others that I practiced and slowly built my confidence. I think generally men are quicker to master these types of skills, but women have just as much ability once we know how and have the confidence.
Drafting is an important skills that is well worth learning if you want to maximise your enjoyment of riding out on the road. It’s actually quite exhilarating to be whisked along in a group and to feel like you are part of a ‘team’.
I recently came across a new UK website called Total Women’s Cycling which is packed with lots of great articles and reviews about women’s cycling. I asked them if I could re-publish one of their articles by Jo McRae and they agreed that I could re-publish the first few paragraphs and a link to their site. So here it is. Some great tips on how to become a ‘serious cyclist’. Enjoy……..
Lots of us are active and cross-train effectively, putting cycling in the mix with a range of other activities and forms of exercise. If you believe in being healthy and active you may change your exercise routine from one activity to another to keep things interesting or to stay motivated. But if you are new to training specifically for cycling it can be difficult to pick the bones out of the fitness information out there.
So what do you have to do to cross that line and become a ‘cyclist’ rather than a mere fitness enthusiast, and what difference will it really make?
First of all it sounds obvious, but you have to be riding a bike regularly and it needs to be your main form of exercise. Look at the amount of time you have for exercise and other activities in your week and make sure you spend two-thirds to three-quarters of that time riding a bike.