4 Expert Cycling Tips for a Safe, Smooth Ride

From paved paths to gravel grinds, cycling is surging in central Arkansas. And it’s no wonder. Hopping on your bike is not only fun, but riding also offers ample physical and mental health benefits, such as improved cardiovascular function, greater mobility and lower stress levels.

Cycling becomes even more enjoyable when you can pedal for a purpose, like with CARTI’s Tour de Rock. For 21 years, the cancer care provider has offered riders of all ages and abilities a chance to wind and weave through central Arkansas on 25-, 50-, 62- and 100-mile pancake-flat routes to support its Patient Assistance Program.

But you can’t just click in on race day and expect to be ready to go. Whether gearing up for a competitive event or planning a summer of leisurely weekends on the trails, cycling experts agree that proper preparation is a must.

To help get you ready to roll, Joshua Gordon, avid cyclist and Tour de Rock committee member, shares his four go-to tips for a safe, smooth ride:

1. Train smartly. The key to riding faster and further is understanding when enough is enough. It’s okay to take a day off or to skip a scheduled group ride and do your own thing. Remember, your longest training ride should only be 80% of your final distance. If you can comfortably complete this twice, the race-day excitement and endorphins will bring you over the finish line.

2. Prep your gear. Before clicking in for a longer ride, wipe down your bike and check for any potential issues, including tires. Clean and lube your chain to ride more efficiently and avoid those dreaded black marks on your calves. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses and other protective clothing, such as arm coolers. Consider washing the likely sweat-soaked helmet, gloves, and shoes from your training sessions or spritzing them with rubbing alcohol.

3. Fuel your body. Plan what you will eat and drink in the days leading up to and during your ride. Contrary to popular opinion, carb loading isn’t beneficial. Instead, stick to your regular meals and snacks. Good sleep is one of the most crucial ingredients to a successful ride. Get enough rest the week before the ride — not just the night before — to ensure you have adequate energy.

4. Pace yourself. That shotgun start at the beginning of a race makes your adrenaline spike and can tempt you to push too hard. Don’t be afraid to take a break in the shade to grab a drink or snack. Fortunately, Tour de Rock has plenty of built-in rest stops. If out on the open road or your own, bring a credit card or a few dollars for stop-ins at convenience stores.

With proper preparation and planning, Gordon says cyclists should be ready to click in and pedal toward their goals. For those looking for a longer, more laid-back ride, consider an event like Tour de Rock and help support cancer patients in Arkansas.

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