Before you head out on your solo bike adventure, make sure you’re ready to go by checking off the following tasks:
Give your bike the once over
Lightly run your hands over your tires while visually examining them. I say lightly, because if there’s something sticking out of your tire it’s likely sharp, and you don’t want to cut yourself. Tires look good? How about the brakes? Check both your front and back brake pads to be sure nothing is stuck to the pads and interfering with the mechanics. Give each brake lever a squeeze and watch the brake mechanism to be sure it’s functioning properly. Finally, check your seat and handlebars. Does anything need to be tightened?
Check your tire pressure
You should always check your tire pressure pre-ride. Always always always. Fluctuations in the temperature and other variables causes the pressure in your tires to change. Riding on full tires is going to be much easier that riding on flabby tires, though having your tires overfull can create handling issues. Exact tire pressure is a personal preference, but to start, you can find the manufacturer’s recommended pressure on the side of your tire. Use a floor pump and make sure you’re at least above the minimum recommended PSI.
Lube your bike chain
Making sure your chain is lubed up helps keep your bike components in great shape. You’ll want to work over a floor you don’t care about (it’s going to get dirty). Putting your bike on top of newspapers makes for easy clean up. First, flip your bike over. Use an old brush (a toothbrush works well) to brush off any dirt and debris you might see around the cogs and derailer (that hangy thing that moves the chain onto the different cogs when you shift gears). Next, dampen an old rag you don’t care about getting greasy. Hold the rag around the chain, gripping tightly, and spin your pedals to run the chain and thus wipe off remaining debris and grease. Next, apply one drop of bicycle chain lube to each link, aiming for where two links overlap. Work your way all the way around the chain (you may want to mark your first link with a little piece of tape). Spin the pedals again for 30 seconds or so, allowing the lube to settle in, and then use your rag to wipe off any excess. Voila! You’re done!
Pack to Be Prepared
Be sure to take water and a snack with you. If you’ll be out there for more than 45 minutes, you need to be sure to eat something on your ride to keep your energy stores up. I love Honey Stinger energy chews (http://www.honeystinger.com/) for their delicious taste, natural ingredients and hit of easily digestible energy, but you can also take along a granola bar, piece of fruit, or other gel. Make sure it’s something you’re used to eating that your body can easily digest.
You’ll also want to take a spare tube, tire levers, and a CO2 cartridge with inflator or mini hand pump in case you get a flat. I pack everything into my under the seat saddle bag.
You’re wearing your helmet, right? Yes, you are.
Carry Your In Case of Emergency
Riding on the road is dangerous, and if you happen to have an accident and can’t call for assistance, it’s important that first responders and good samaritans are able to tell who you are and who they need to call. I love my Road ID (roadid.com) for that reason. If you don’t have a Road ID, be sure to pack your license and write the following information on a card:
- Date of birth
- Medication allergies
- Pertinent medical condition(s)
- Two points of emergency contact
Keep this card and your license on your body, not in your bike’s saddle bag, in case you should become separated from your bike in an accident.
Finally, make sure your cell is fully charged in case you should need to call for assistance, pull up a map, or google “I have a flat tire what do I do?…”. I have a cool little mount for my cellphone on the body of my bike, which makes it handy to view as I use MapMyRun to track my speed and distance. One safety point here: Be sure that you’re not live-broadcasting your ride on MapMyRun, Strava, or another app. Thieves are watching these apps to see when you’re not home, so don’t make yourself a target!