Forget about an early spring, we're experiencing an early summer!
Seventy-degree Saturdays in mid-March are about as rare as declining gas prices in an election year. Some years we wait well into June for the perfect temperature to hang out in our t-shirts and shorts.
While this stroke of lucky weather has taken us all by surprise, it's time to quit pinching ourselves and start preparing for a spring and summer of outdoor activities. No more sitting inside in darkness, trying to keep warm. No more guilt about those extra pounds that started piling on since Thanksgiving. Now is the time to get outside and do something healthy!
If you rode your bike at all last summer, you're probably good to go with a simple ABC Quick Check. A is for air. Pump those tires to the air pressure printed on the tire's sidewall. B is for brakes. Check to make sure they stop the wheel from spinning and aren't rubbing against the wheel before you go flying down the driveway. C is for chainline (crank, chain, cassette). Make sure your chain is properly lubricated and your bike pedals smoothly through all the gears.
Quick is for quick release - the lever that holds your wheel on. Make sure that the release lever on each wheel is properly tightened and closed before you head out on a ride. Check is for check it all over. You can get a good feel for the overall condition and safety of your bike by taking it for a slow spin up and down the block. You'll know if anything is loose or rubbing, making noise or slowing you down.
If you can't figure out and fix a problem yourself, it's best to take the bike into a local shop and wait until you can ride it safely. With the onset of great weather, bike shops are pretty busy so you'll likely have to wait for a week (or more) for your bike to be ready for pickup. Check with the shop to see if they offer any rentals in the meantime.
If you didn't ride last summer, haven't ridden for awhile, or don't even have a reliable bike, it might be a good idea to rent a bike for a few hours and ease back into it. Check with local shops for the availability of rental bikes or look up bike rental on smartpages.com.
Mid-March is an interesting time of year to return to the bike trails. The grass is still brown. There are no leaves on the trees, let alone any buds sprouting. If the wind isn't blowing (too hard), it's very tranquil and serene. Visibility is excellent. Sit up in the saddle and take in the scenery.
There are also some hazards to make note of. Warm weather brings everyone outside. Ride defensively and watch for dog walkers, stroller pushers, roller bladers, pathletes, and oblivious wanderers.
Winter has also left its share of debris along the sides of local roads, so use caution to avoid it. Nothing ruins a ride faster than a flat tire. Some of the trails may have natural debris like fallen limbs, piles of wet leaves, and small streams or pools of water. Again, look ahead and be prepared to maneuver around obstacles, slow down, or stop. Make sure you let other riders know of your intentions when you do encounter these obstructions.
My best advice is to ease back into it. It takes a little time for your butt to get used to sitting on the saddle for longer periods of time. Your enthusiasm might carry you farther than your legs, so don't over-commit on distance. To avoid disappointment - and a long walk back - consider riding neighborhood bike paths or doing a loop or two around your local forest preserve trail.
If you're not quite ready to throw a leg over a bike this weekend, try to head outside for a walk around the neighborhood. Make a plan to visit your local bike shop during the next week when the shop is less busy and able to devote more time to answering your questions.
Keep following this blog as I reveal more tips to help you Rediscover Bicycling in 2012.
Here are some great links to get you started this weekend:
If you have any questions about rediscovering bicycling, leave it in the comments section below and I'll answer it as quickly as I can.
Keep riding and be safe!
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