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Ten Basic Bike Tips for a Satisfying Ride

rosey on ojai bike path
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SoCal Wanderer's premiere episode "Anacapa to Ojai” follows host Rosey Alvero as she visits the Ventura Harbor before riding her bike into Ojai for dinner. Watch it online.

Whether you're a beginner or jumping back into the saddle after a long break, it's always good to brush up on the basics of bicycling. Consider these tips below to ensure a safe, comfortable and fun ride no matter where you go!

1. Wear a Helmet

While compulsory helmet laws vary from state to state for riders under a certain age, it is always a good idea to wear a helmet. A major 2016 study that drew from data from more than 40 separate studies found that "helmet use was associated with dramatically reduced odds of head injuries," reducing the risk by nearly 70%. Don't chance it — a properly fitted helmet is the single most effective way to protect your head during a crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

​2. Check Your Tire Pressure

Just like your automobile, your bike's performance owes much to proper tire pressure. Avoid pesky flats and a sluggish ride by making sure your tire is inflated to recommended levels, which are often printed on the side of the tire. Borrow a floor pump, or even find one at a public bike station, to inflate to proper levels. You'll experience a smoother ride almost immediately!

3. Keep the Chain Oiled

What transfers power from your pedaling into propulsion? That would be your bike chain, and the better it remains clean and well-oiled, the more effective (and quiet) your ride will be. Techniques vary, but make sure you have a bottle of chain lubricant and a clean, dry rag to begin a basic lubrication. Turn the bike upside down or put it on a repair stand, lubricate the links in the chain, and then wipe off any excess lubricant. Visit here for more information on a thorough cleaning.

Members of Black Women Bike DC, a newly formed group. Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Members of Black Women Bike DC, a newly formed group. | Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post via Getty Images

4. Have a Repair Kit

You may think only long-distance riders in remote areas would need to carry repair kits, but even a flat tire just a few miles outside of your home may require immediate attention. Best to carry a repair kit, which includes a hand-pump, tire levers, spare tube and patch kit. Visit here for more information on the essentials. 

5. Keep Hydrated!

Biking is exercising, and you're going to get thirsty, no matter what the weather is outside. Bring a water bottle or hydration bag in a backpack to maintain hydration so your muscles and brain perform well — not to mention staying comfortable.

6. Tell Someone Where You Are Going

Especially for longer bike rides, let someone know where you're going. You don't want to encounter a mechanical failure or emergency and have your whereabouts unknown to those close to you. And yes, even if you ride with a cell phone, plan ahead!

7. Know Traffic Riding Skills

Obey traffic signs. Pay attention to cars on the road. Use hand signals to indicate if you'll be making a turn. Follow some basic rules to stay safe.

Biking at Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area
Biking at Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area | Daniel Medina

8. Have a Good Riding Position

Comfort is key to having a great bike ride. This can be partly accomplished by checking that your saddle (bike seat) is at the proper height. Visit here for more information on proper positioning, or visit a local bike shop for assistance. 

9. Know Gear Basics

Gears don't have to be complicated — in fact, once you get the hang of it, they'll make your rides even more enjoyable! Learn the basics of gear shifting, and you'll be more confident in tackling that hill or hitting a long stretch of flat road.

10. Wear Padded Shorts

They might look silly to some, but padded cycling shorts do wonders for bicycling comfort and performance. They aid in everything from movement to skin protection to muscle compression.

Now get out there and get cruising!

Top Image: Rosey Alvero on the Ojai Bike Path, from "SoCal Wanderer" | Courtesy of KCET

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