By Gillian Slade on August 8, 2017.
There are health and physical benefits to cycling; not to mention it being a mode of transport with fringe benefits.
It can feel like “freedom,” says Darla Sawatzky, a local resident who enjoys long distance cycling.
“It’s that feeling you had as child when you finally got a bike and could get around on your own.”
There is a wider range of bikes than ever before. Before you go shopping, narrow it down to the type of cycling you want to do.
Sawatzky looks at her bike as a means of physical exercise. She bought a road bike in 2011 and has not regretted her choice. The all carbon frame is light and tough. The longest trip she has been on was 165 km in a day. While still enjoying long trips on the road Sawatzky has just bought a mountain bike as well so she can enjoy the trail system.
Ask yourself where you plan to ride and how often, said Ben Roscoe, owner, Gravity Sports on South Railway Street.
“There is a style of bike for whatever you need,” said Dan Haughian sales manager Cyclepath, 2010 Strachan Road S.E.
You can even get folding bikes that you could take in a boat, small aircraft, or vehicle and enjoy riding at a different location. There are tandem bikes too.
This is a “budding” cycling community that has really grown in the last five years, said Roscoe. Cyclists from other parts of the province are amazed at our cycling infrastructure.
Electric bikes allow people to ride further. For anyone with physical limitations, an electric bike allows you to still enjoy cycling, said Roscoe.
“You can take different routes because you have electric support when needed,” said Haughian using hills as an example.
You set the level of assistance you want. The battery can be recharged with a connection to any wall outlet. The middle price range would be $3,500 to $5,000, said Haughian. There are some in the $800 range but it’s impossible to get support and spare parts for them.
Mountain Bikes are the most popular being extremely versatile, performing well on trails and in town, said Roscoe.
A Process 153 mountain bike is stronger, lighter and more durable, said Cole Watson general manager Cyclepath. They are ideal for the trails we have here. Prices range from about $500 up to thousands.
Cruisers are comfort, pleasure bikes for leisure rides.
Hybrids are a cross between a commuting and mountain bike.
BMX bikes most likely seen at the skate park.
Road cycling bikes are ideal for cycling on asphalt, being light weight and fast, said Haughian.
Adult tricycles provide additional balance and stability.
How you plan to use your bike affects your choice of seat and even handlebars. Casual riding in town may mean sitting in an almost upright position with a larger seat, said Roscoe.
Choosing a seat: The distance between your “sit bones”, those protruding bones in you bum, help to determine what is right for you.
At Cyclepath you can return a seat up to two weeks after purchase and exchange it until you find the right one for you.
Haughian says the gel-seat covers that wrap around the seat are not recommended as they can cause lower back pain.
You are looking at anything from $500 and up, said Roscoe.
Both Gravity Sports and Cyclepath take trade-ins so there are used bikes as well, which can reduce costs.
Children and cycling
Strider bikes for children have no pedals and no training wheels. Kids put their feet down when required and push to propel themselves. They learn to attain balance on their own.
We are talking five inch tires that provide really good traction, said Roscoe.
“You can get studded tires you put on for winter,” said Haughian. “The grip is substantial.”
Even if you are a little nervous about cycling in winter there are some years with no snow of the ground for weeks. Some years Sawatzky has been able to cycle from March to November.
Cyclepath and Gravity Sports suggest an annual service/tune-up.
Chain lubrication once every month or two is a good idea, said Haughian. Lubricant should be Teflon based rather than an oily substance that attracts dust.
You don’t need special clothing made of Lycra in dashing colours but there are benefits. If you plan to do 100 km trips the Lycra will be more comfortable.
“You need good padded shorts”, said Sawatzky.
Haughian says “chamois shorts” are padded in the seat area and make for “incredible comfort” with less fatigue on the body.
Highly visible clothing is important for visibility, said Sawatzky.
Courtesy, sharing the road with traffic and pedestrians
“Traffic can be a bit unnerving but most drivers are great,” said Sawatzky. “Cyclists have a right to be on our highways and streets.”
Sawatzky would like to see a campaign blitz to educate drivers.
There needs to be mutual respect, said Roscoe.
On a narrow bridge it would be courteous of the cyclist to dismount, said Haughian.
At a crosswalk for pedestrians cyclists have to dismount and push their bike to be considered a pedestrian.
Breaking the law is one way to irritate motorists.
“…ignoring stop signs, cycling against the traffic and kids not wearing helmets,” said Rose and Peter Witts.
Cyclists must signal when passing and pass on the left, said Scott Richter superintendent of parks operations. Control speed and be alert when coming around corners or down hills. Cyclists may use sidewalks if accompanying young children.
Drivers approaching cyclists should treat them as they would any slower moving vehicle, waiting until it is safe to pass them by pulling out away from the rider, said Joanne Sickle. Many drivers try to squeeze by cyclists, making it very unsafe for both the rider and the driver.
Accessories and Safety
Anything that draws attention to your presence on the road is good including a safety vest, said Roscoe.
Strobe lights attract attention. If you’re riding early mornings and evenings a light front and rear is recommended, said Haughian.
A bell is very important to attract attention.
Good bikes come with good handlebar grips. The best distribute weight in the palm to avoid parts of your hands becoming numb.
Buy from someone who knows how to fit them properly, said Sawatzky.
If you buy a used helmet you have no idea of its history, said Roscoe. They start around $60 and go up. The more expensive ones are lighter in weight and are designed to allow more air flow.
There are a range of trail maps available online from the City to explore the over 115 km of trails in the city.
Several trail maps are available at Cyclepath and Gravity Sports.
670 Collective Mountain Bike Club: http://www.670collective.ca/
Medicine Hat cycling Club: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday morning group: Ride times and locations depend on weather and availability of riders. Rides are 40 to 60 km, touring style. Riders must wear approved helmet, know rules of the road, and carry equipment to change a flat tire. Email:email@example.com
The News requested an interview with Canadian Tire. There was no response.
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