bikesA bicycle adventure seven months away had a certain allure. The interest factor quadrupled with an itinerary in wine country at harvest.

The plan: sign up, purchase bicycles, bike, and go!

Along the path, the joys and pains of cycling grabbed us by the seat of our pants. Literally. I share, not as an expert, but as a novice IN TRAINING. Friends and bicycle aficionados have provided good counsel.
If you choose to bike, you’ll want to consider:

Bike selection: The right bike for the individual. The choices are mountain bike, road, or hybrid. If your anticipated terrain is in the wilds, on uneven turf, the decision is straightforward. Otherwise, you’ll be making a choice between road or hybrid.
On the more lightweight, narrow-tired, downward-handled road bike, your position is essentially forward and low. This bike is more efficient because of these factors.
The hybrid is a cross between mountain and road bike with somewhat wider tires, upright positioning and handlebars. Your own body type, flexibility and mobility may be better served by one type. Your height and inseam are factored in. You’ll want to ably manage the weight of the bike you’ll be lugging around.
glovesTry them out! Listen to input from the staff.
Cyclers consistently stress the need to find and become friends with your local bike shop for this important selection, in lieu of a sports or warehouse chain.

Equipment: You’ve got to have the right tools.
*A helmet is an absolute essential. Though not always a legal requirement, it protects your cranium. Today’s are lightweight and comfortable, featuring good air flow in an open design.
*A simple water bottle carrier or drink system is necessary to maintain hydration.
*Gloves, with or without full fingers, help protect and aid grip.
*A removable bike pack with spare tire tubes, tube repair kit, lever for tire removal, CO2 inflator may save the day.
* An upgraded saddle may be the difference between agony and ecstasy on the trail. It’s not just about the gel. Design and your own anatomy need to make peace. The split seat design has quite a few happy followers.
saddle*Other options: cycling pedals and cleats, a transport bike rack, or bell/ compass. A handlebar mount for your phone serves a dual purpose: for emergency contact and a way to map your ride, monitor time, distance and calories burned with a GPS  iPhone app such as iMapmyRide+, Cyclemeter GPS, CycleWatch or beachSPLIT Multisport GPS.
*Sunscreen. Wind protection. Hoo Ha Ride Glide skin and chamois cream for women.
*Snacks.
*ID & cash.

Garb: You may have excellent fashion sense, but now your priority is adjustment and comfort.  At the very least, you’ll want to invest in short or long pants with chamois. These may be lined or detachable. If this brings to mind some unpleasantness, choose from a wide variety of tight or loose fitting wear. You’ll be grateful for the benefit. Don’t hesitate to remove the bulky, protective addition when you stop at a café. Should you opt for your everyday clothing while cycling, avoid the hazard of untethered fabric at your ankles which may catch in gears. A visit in person or on-line to REI will orient you to the sport’s streamlined apparel. Opt sartfor a Guinness or other team jersey or stick to your tanks and layer. Consider the clothing’s performance with weather change. Choose comfortable footwear. You may want to try one of the jacket/ vest combos with removable hood or a bib short with cooling fabric and UPF 50+.

Bike paths and other options: Check out your bike shop and internet for a brand new world. County, state and federal agencies have stepped up the development and maintenance of bike trails. Locally, a Class 1 trail is one completely separate from traffic. Simple investigation and conversations with friends will reveal many opportunities for exploration. You’ll find detailed maps, with distances, photos and comments from riders on line. Shops often have detailed guide books or laminated trail maps. Individualize your own jaunts and shake it up. You are likely to encounter new finds in your own hometown on two bikesBoswheels.
Try Class II and III bike lanes and roadways when you are ready.
Choose an alternate route. In Boston, a local bike shop offers urban bike tours. From the Charles River to Fenway Park, our group’s enthusiastic leader injected a hefty dose of politics, history and humor into the 2 ½ hour adventure.

Behavior and Safety: “On your left, on your left, on your f–king left, “ one rider of four shouted out as he sped by. Seriously?
Be aware. Look beyond yourself. Be considerate. Ideally, position yourself on the far right of the path. Some ride in tandem; others in a line, with drafting benefit. Be cautious of the center line on marked trails. “On your left” is the standard, typically courteous notification that other riders are approaching and passing. A well-timed bell may help in different environments, to warn pedestrians, for example, on a busy beach path. Most trails clearly post regulations for right-of-way and speed limits when non-cyclers are present.  Many trails are multipurpose; some are designated bikeways.
Teach your children, whether you’re on foot or two wheels.
Learn the rules where you ride. In many areas, bikers on the road must “behave like vehicles” with regard to obeying signals, signing and position.
sunsetbolsaFriendly hellos on the trail can make your day.

The Ride: “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.” Enjoy yourself. Sense things differently on two wheels. Revel in flora and fauna, sights and smells, being ACTIVE outdoors,  and people of all ages who choose to pedal. Keep a log and track your progress, or not. Keep an eye out for a new path to experience.
Change gears when needed. If that 30+ mile ride you planned is too much with strong headwind, take a short hop and indulge in a picnic in the shade.
Pile on. Complement your beach ride with a stop at Duke’s for Fish Taco Tuesdays, for example, topped off with a glorious sunset.  Or whatever moves you.

Biking’s been huge entertainment these past six months. The herons have grown and Canadian Geese are abundant. The beach crowds have come and gone after Labor Day.  A bit wiser, sorer, challenged, we’re readying for the big trip.

For information about a national network of trails, see: www.railstotrails.org or www.adventurecycling.org/usbrs.  In Boston, check out www.urbanadventours.com.