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Bicycling Tips and Adjustment Techniques
How to get a well adjusted bike.

Riding bike is a great way to get some exercise and save money. To get the most out of every ride, you need to make sure the bike's properly adjusted for you and that you know a few rules of the road.

Start by sizing your bike. Straddle the bike you want to use, standing with your feet flat on the ground. There should be 1 or 2 inches between you and the crossbar. If it's a mountain bike, 3 inches is ideal. Less space and the bike is too big for you, more space and the bike is too small.

Then adjust the seat (also called a saddle). Raise it so that when your foot is on the pedal, at the bottom of the stroke, your knee is at a very slight bend. When you're standing, you should be able to sit on the seat with the balls of both feet on the ground. If you have to lean over to one side, it's too high.

How you adjust your handlebars is a personal preference. The general consensus is put handlebars higher for comfort and lower for performance. Since there are no standards, try the options and go with whatever feels the best to you.

IMPORTANT: Pay attention to the way you grip your handlebars. Your wrists should never be bent backwards, or you risk getting a condition known as cyclist's palsy. University of Colorado researchers say it's a nerve condition that affects as many as 10 percent of all riders.

The toe clips, straps or cages found on some bikes are designed to help give you more power. They recruit more muscles into working by changing the "push" only action of your legs into a "push then pull" motion. If you have these, make sure you know how to get your feet out if you fall.

What to Wear

The distance you have to cover and the weather you're riding in will determine what to wear. Dressing in layers is good in any environment because you can add to or subtract from those layers as the temperature changes. Cycling jackets can be folded up and fit into a small pouch or pocket and protect you from wind chill or light rain. Remember to tie down pant legs or skirts to stop them from getting tangled up in the bicycle chain.

Keep the outermost layer of clothing bright. Reflective patches can help. You always want traffic to be able to spot you.

Rules of the Road

Signal your intentions when other traffic is around. If you're turning left, hold your left arm straight out. Turning right you can either use your left arm turned up or your right arm held straight out. When you need to let people behind you know you're stopping, hold your left arm out and bent downward.

When you're riding, stay on the same side of the road as motor vehicle traffic, unless there's a designated bike path. Keep as far to the side as you can while avoiding road debris and potholes. Follow the same rules as cars. That includes obeying stop signs and all traffic signals.

Cycling in the rain creates a couple special challenges. You don't really have to worry about hydroplaning because bike tires are so narrow. However, patches of oil on the road mixed with water can be as slick as ice. If it's been raining heavy, avoid potholes (you don't know how deep they might be) and sewer drains (any rushing water can hide grates that tires may get stuck in.)

Watch out for parked cars. You don't want to be too close in case a door suddenly opens. A good rule of thumb is keep three feet between you and the door of a parked car. Bikes can be hard to see, so be aware of cars pulling out of parking spaces or backing out of driveways.

Riding in a group makes you easier to spot, but you should be riding single file. Two or more abreast and it's much harder for traffic to get by.

Finally, don't ride drunk. It may not seem like a big deal, but if you get pulled over, police will treat it the same as a car and can ticket you for driving under the influence.

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8/10/2008