Sometimes in life, we just unexpectedly run into situations that put things on hold. Whether that is having to take time off work because of illness/ injury or being stuck indoors because of the latest pandemic, we all find ourselves not being able to jump on the saddle as much as we’d like to.
Luckily, pushing those pedals is almost hardwired into our minds once we’ve learned how to ride properly. It becomes a case of finding the right time, the right motivation and the right mindset to start cycling again.
Unfortunately, as easy as it seems to jump back on the saddle, there are a ton of factors that you need to work on before it’s ‘go-time’.
We’ve created a 7-day criteria for you to follow that allows you to transition from sitting on the couch to racking up the cycle-miles.
Let’s jump into getting you back on the saddle after a long break.
Day 1 – Mentally preparing.
As with anything, planning starts with the mind. It is an important cognitive skill that allows you to mentally anticipate ways to execute tasks. Preparing yourself mentally lets you decide the following points to pull together our effective plan.
Thinking of your routine will help put everything in motion. What do you wear on a ride? Do you have a particular water bottle? What route are you taking? These questions need to be answered before you jump back in the deep end.
Day 2 – Set a date on the calendar.
As they say: Fail to plan, plan to fail.
We’re creatures of habit. We’re too quick to put things off when it comes down to starting, especially when you’re used to not excising. If you’ve been on isolation because of coronavirus, then it becomes pretty easy to slip back into the realms of procrastination.
The decision to start cycling comes down to how much we value completing that task in the moment. I don’t know about you, but with the new release of Disney +, it’s far too easy for me to binge-watch Marvel films back to back than jumping on my road bike.
Now grab that marker pen, head over to the calendar and circle a day at least 3 days from now. This is when you’re going to take the steps to jump back on your bike for a ride. And yes… you’re sticking to the date.
Day 3 – Get your cycle wear ready.
Shorts? Check. Helmet? Check. Shoes? Check.
Depending on how long it’s been, you may find that getting your gear back together for the big reunion is a daunting task. Set aside a whole day to layout everything you need. Make sure any clothes are washed and set to go. Here is a quick checklist for everything you need on a bike ride:
• Padded shorts or tights
• Cycling gloves
• Jersey or top
• Under seat bag
• Bike lock
• Energy Bar
• Watch or GPS
• First aid kit
• Cell phone
Keep this all aside to make for easy access when you arrive at ride day.
Day 4 – Prep your bike.
Remember, your bike has been sitting for a while and it’s crucial to ensure everything is functioning properly to prevent damage to your bike or yourself. Depending on how long it’s been, your bike may need some maintenance to get it back in working order. Regardless of the time, it’s best to give it a quick service. Start by giving the bike a clean to remove any residue. This can then iron out any faults you find as you’re washing the components down. Move onto checking the wheels and tires to ensure everything is in order.
It’s worth paying particular attention to the brake pads. If there is any decontamination the best way to fix this is by simply replacing them. There are a ton of fixes online that suggest burning the contaminates off can be a good idea, but damaging the pads can cause safety issues when riding. Don’t be a Dangerous Dan and ensure you find the best brake pads for your road bike before you even think about stepping foot outside with your bike.
Finally, lube up the drive chain and clean off any excess dirt and you’ve carried out the basic service required to get your bike back in the road. Remember to be mindful of overspray making its way onto the rims and brake pads as this can create stopping problems when you first start off on your bike.
Day 5 – Take it slow and take out your bike.
Today we ride. Now, it may be an urge to cycle your favorite route but, let’s face it, you may not be as in shape as you were before being a regular cyclist. Muscles will fade away with a lack of exercise and riding your bike is no different. When muscles haven’t been used for an intense workout they will fatigue faster and there is nothing worse than being 20 kilometers from home with a calf that keeps cramping.
It’s imperative to work up towards the distances you were traveling before. A short ride will get you back in the rhythm and will be the first step to getting back to your old ways.
Not only does the distance help build your muscle memory back to where it once was, but there’s a load of elements you will need to sharpen up on. By incorporating a short ride into the process of getting back on the saddle it allows you to familiarize yourself with the dangers of the road. Cyclists are at a higher risk than any other vehicle on the road due to the vulnerabilities when being on a bike. This means that we need to keep our wits about us at all times.
Our awareness can slip when we’ve taken time off, which is a crucial factor to consider. It can take a split second of losing concentration to cause an accident so, allowing ourselves to build a level of concentration over extended periods can take a while to build back.
Exhaustion is when accidents can happen, so gradually increasing your cycling time should be the aim of the game when getting back on the road.
Day 6 – Treat yourself to something new.
Well, you’ve made it. The first step of getting back on your bike has been completed and now, it’s time to reward yourself. You want to keep the motivation up and I’m sure I don’t need to mention it twice, but as a pat on the back from yourself, it’s worth committing to those cycling shoes or helmet you’ve wanted for quite some time. Buying something keeps you in the swing of going out on a ride. This brilliant post on Buffer says “It’s been thought before that novelty was a reward in itself, but, like dopamine, it seems to be more related to motivation”.
So, even if you haven’t got something you need right now, checking out the latest cycling gear might be a good idea to help you decide on what to buy.
Day 7 – Join a group ride.
Getting the motivation to go out on your own make take some time, but cycling with a group is one of the top ways to put everything back into practice. Groups allow you to work together to get a pace that feels right
Cycling amongst other riders can keep your focus and allow you to increase your game by pushing yourself to keep with others. The best part, should the worse happen, you’re in good hands and not left on your own.
Riding with others can teach you a thing or two. Whether it’s learning how to corner or keeping your pace inline with the others, group riding is a must when it comes down to learning the ropes again.
From here on out, you have enough to keep the momentum going. The basis of getting back outside is focused around the planning and hopefully, this can get you back into the mindset of bringing back your inner cyclist.
To summarise, getting back on the road takes time to get back up to the standard you were at. As a precaution, you will need to ease yourself back. This can prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and a lack of awareness and planning in your first ride.
About the Author
Alex is a cycle expert at Pedallers and focuses on reviewing road bike accessories and general cycling. She searches for the most up to date products that matches the needs of cyclists across the world. Whether it’s recent news or the best bike set-ups, Alex is a trusted source for anything around cycling.