Cycle Your Way To Sanity

It finally feels like Spring, the weather is beautiful, the days are sunny and breezy, and the flowers are in bloom. Getting outside is the perfect way to stave off the insanity that comes with being cooped up in your house for too long. Some people have taken to walking or jogging, but many are turning to their bikes. Getting outside and riding your bike isn’t only healthy for your body but also your mind. Did you know biking is not only a low impact workout, but also uses all of your major muscle groups, working your whole body without any additional exercise equipment.

Mickey Cassu, an Indoor Cycling Instructor at the Berkeley heights YMCA and successful Triathlete is here to help you get started on your own biking journey. Whether you are a pro or a beginner interested in buying your first bike, Mickey has biking tips for you.




1. Buy Local:

Did you know that bike shops are allowed to stay open at this time? Not only do Bike Shops provide a service to those looking to buy a bike for exercise, but they also provide a social isolated mode of transportation for key workers such as nurses and doctors. You may not be able to browse bikes in person, but if you give your local store a call, they will be more than happy to offer you advice and guidance.

By purchasing a bike from your local bike shop, they will be able to make sure your new bike fits you. They will get you set up for the first time, helping with handlebar and seat adjustments. Many even offer a free six-month service, but at the very least you know they will be there to answer all of your questions. Expertise and advice now will save you money in the long run, and right now local stores could really use the support.


2. Get Comfortable on your bike:

Many pro cyclists who have been riding for decades are still tweaking their bike fit, so don’t be afraid to move things around and find what works for you. For some riders, when it comes to performance, bike fit is a never ending process of adjustment based on individual factors and goals.

However, there are some basic guidelines that can apply to all riders looking to ride in comfort and avoid injury. Optimum saddle height can be found by placing your heel on the pedal at its furthest away point. Your leg should be straight, so when you clip in, there’s a slight bend. You want a slight bend in your elbows, too – you know the reach is right when the front wheel of the hub disappears from view under the handlebars when you are riding on the tops.

3. Learn how to fix a Punctured Wheel

There’s no good reason any rider should find themselves stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire and no means to fix it. If you don’t know how to fix a puncture, ask someone at a bike shop, a friend, or the internet, to teach you. Then practice at home until it’s easy. Now you can set off any bike trip with the confidence and the assurance that you can fix your bike wheel if it does get punctured.

Web resources:
Video on how to fix a punctured wheel

Instructable on how to fix a punctured wheel 


4. Invest in a few Extras: 

Cycling can, at first, appear to be a rather expensive hobby, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead of buying every possible biking accessory, including a new flashy wardrobe, so buy just a few extras to make your life easier, more comfortable and safer.

Recommended accessories:
Padded bike shorts, lights, helmet, bike gloves, bike shoes and clipless pedals.


5. Let the gears help you:

Don’t be afraid to switch your gears when riding your bike. Bike gears are there to help you pedal easily and constructively on various terrains and inclines. On your bike you will have two sets of gears, your front gear or your “Chainring” and your rear gears or “Cassette Cogs.” Most front gear sets have 2 or 3 chainrings, the smaller the chainring the easier it is to pedal. The gears on the rear wheel are called cogs and most bikes have between 8 and 11 in a cassette. The larger the cog the easier it is to pedal but the slower you will go. Now that we know a little about the two gear shifts on your bike, you can use them to make biking up a hill or on flat ground as smooth as possible. For example, when biking up a hill you will want to shift your front gear into a smaller chainring and your rear gears into a larger cog, but when pedaling on flat ground you would want to do the opposite and use a larger chainring and a smaller cog.

This may seem confusing now but the best way to understand how to use your gears correctly is by hopping on your bike and testing out the gears on a flat road until they feel natural. You will know you are in the wrong gear if you find yourself pedaling really fast but going nowhere or working your way up a hill and finding the resistance so great that your pedaling becomes incrementally slow.


6. Be confident on the road:

When you ride your bike on the street it is important to take responsibility for yourself but it is important to also be aware of those who may be driving, walking or driving on the same street. Ride about a meter from the edge of the road – this gives you room to move around obstacles (pot holes) and it encourages other road users to give you more room when overtaking you.

Obey the traffic code, and follow standard guidelines. Remember that here in New Jersey, cars HAVE to give you three feet upon passing you. You do have rights on the road! Be defensive, smart and safe. By being a confident Cyclist, one who is aware of their surroundings and who understands their rights as a Cyclist, you will set yourself up for success.


7. Practice some basic techniques

You don’t need to go from zero to careering down the side of Alpine mountains at a high speed, but by taking the time to learn a few basic skills you will be a more confident, safe and skilled Cyclist. The first basic skill you should know is that your front brake (the gear with 2-3 levels) is more effective at stopping you than the rear brake. However, the best way to handle stopping your bike without pitching over the front handlebars is to use your front brake while also feathering your rear brake. In order to come to a stop quickly many recommend squeezing the front brake three times as hard as the rear brake.
When approaching a corner, be sure to slow down to an appropriate speed before you hit the bend, this saves you braking on it. Lift up your inside knee and apply weight to the outside to maintain balance.
However, when approaching a hill from the bottom, as you prepare for the climb you will want to keep pedaling so you can carry as much momentum as possible into the ascent. Don’t forget to get out of your saddle regularly to stay comfortable.

Now you are all set to grab your helmet, hop on your bike and pedal your way to your next adventure. If biking isn’t your thing but you would still like to find creative ways to be fit while at home be sure to check out our Virtual Resources at where we have a variety of workouts, wellness tips and activities for all ages!

About the Summit Area YMCA
The Summit Area YMCA is one of the area’s leading 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. Founded in 1886, the Summit Area YMCA has a history steeped in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, income and background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Each year, we serve more than 10,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the communities of Berkeley Heights, Gillette, Millburn, New Providence, Short Hills, Springfield, Stirling and Summit. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those with demonstrated need.