Sara Robin cycling column: some tips for easy cycling

Q: I find riding my bike very strenuous. What can I do? I would like to ride more, but the effort puts me off.

A: First check your wheels if your bike is going to be heavy duty, starting with the tires. Make sure the tires are well inflated and not too soft. With soft tires you have a much greater resistance when pedaling. Keeping your tires properly inflated will make cycling more efficient and prevent cracks on the side of the tires. It is worth buying a decent pump or even a floor pump. If there are several bicycles in a household, a floor pump can be a good investment. When we opened York Cycleworks in 1980 we didn’t have a floor pump and acquiring one was a revelation. However, we got carried away and inflated some tires so much that they exploded! Check the recommended pressure on the side of the tire and check the pressure if you have a pressure gauge on your pump. If you ride a lot or want to go on longer bike rides and have heavy, wide knobby tires on a mountain bike, it may be worth switching to lighter, narrower tires.

York Press: The right tires can make cycling easierThe right tires can make cycling easier

Then spin the wheels and make sure they are not rubbing against the brakes, fenders or frame. This can sometimes be easily fixed by straightening a bent fender, or may require a trip to a bike shop. If the wheels don’t rub anywhere, but don’t spin easily, there may be a problem with the bearings in the center of the wheel and probably needs to be repaired by a bike shop. Next, look at your drivetrain, which is everything that moves your chain. A chain that is dry and rusty or very worn and old makes cycling difficult and some of your energy will not go into turning your wheels. Also, make sure you can shift gears easily. Cycling UK, formerly CTC or Cyclist’s Touring Club, has some basic bike maintenance guides which are free to download and you may find useful

Finally, check that your saddle is the correct height. Your leg should be straight and your heel on the pedal when your pedal is at its lowest point. A saddle that is too low means that you cannot use the full power of your legs, and a saddle that is too high means that cycling becomes uncomfortable.

If you’ve checked everything and cycling is still hard work, your next step should be to go to a bike shop to test ride a lighter bike or dial down the gearing.

Happy cycling!

About Sara

Sara has been cycling in York and beyond since 1980. She first started cycling in Australia and worked as a mechanic in two bike shops in Sydney. When she moved to York, Sara was a founding member of York Cycleworks, which started as a workers’ co-operative in 1980, and worked there in many capacities until 2002. She rides one of her bikes most days and would like to encourage more people to use a bike for transportation, shopping, commuting and leisure.

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