Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Hello Wheels! Success Strategies for Pedaling into another Bike Season

The snow is melting and we've put our skis away for another season. In their place, the bikes have come out and we're transitioning to spending our days on wheels.

Success Strategies for Pedaling into another Bike Season

Snow's gone, bikes are out! 
I'll add a disclaimer up front that this story is not really targeted at those of you who enjoy year-round biking. We don't live in a warm climate, and we spend our winter months on skis. We don't have fat bikes for riding on snow, and I'm the only member of my family with any real interest in cold-weather biking.

Year-round bike commuters may also wonder why I've referred to a biking "season" but honestly, we live far out in the suburbs, and my son has a 2 minute walk to school. Biking to work/school just isn't possible for my husband, or necessary for my son. We use bikes purely for recreation in this family, and they have a season. (A season that is just beginning and that will end once snow falls next November.)

For those of you who also embrace a biking "season" please read on, and I hope you'll benefit from some of the strategies my family is using as we pedal into spring.

This kid is very happy to be back at the skateparks with his bike

Success Strategies for Pedaling into another Bike Season

1. Start Close to Home 

Start with short rides close to home before you pack the bikes up for a big road trip. This way you can make necessary tune-ups that you may not have realized were an issue before getting out on the trails. You can take bikes into a local repair shop for any adjustments needed, and you can get replacement parts if something isn't working well.

Our first ride of the season was a short loop around a local park

2. Make First Rides FUN 

Now is not the time to hit the trails for a marathon 4-hour ride. Get out for short introductory rides, cycle to a neighborhood playground, visit an ice-cream store, or spend some time at your local skate or bike park.

The key is to remind the kids how much fun biking is after months spent playing in the snow, skiing, and sliding instead of riding.

Bike parks are a fun way to get back in the saddle

3. Go Over ALL the Safety Rules Again 

You know the fear that kids will forget everything over the 2-month summer break from school? Well, imagine a 5-month break and I'm sure there are a few things you'll need to re-introduce for the fresh new season - such as a good solid reminder to ride on the right side of the path!!

They do remember that you ride on the right side of the pathway, right?? Especially on a steep hill!

Basic rules you'll want to go over on your first rides:

  • Riding on the right side of the pathway or road

  • Passing on the left (while leaving plenty of space to avoid colisions)

  • Using your bell when passing or approaching people from behind

  • Getting off to the side of the pathway when taking breaks!! (I fear my son will never master this one.)

  • Leaving enough space between yourself and other riders in your group (lest somebody brake suddenly.)

And those are just a few suggestions to get you started. You'll have other rules  to go over if you ride on actual roads as well.

We all need a reminder in not blocking the entire pathway while riding

4. Focus on Endurance, Strength, and Muscle Training 

We love mountain biking on single track trails, but first bike rides are less about "excitement" and more about conditioning.
Pavement is easiest for training rides

When you get started for the season, you just need to ride and log some serious miles so that your butt gets used to sitting on a bike seat again (I'm still sore after my last ride 3 days ago.)

Hill training is also very important early in the season, and it's much easier to do this on pavement than it is on a dirt or gravel mountain bike trail.

Kids will need to practice using their gears again, will need to work on stamina and endurance, and will need to get those legs back in shape.

One of my biggest suggestions here is to choose rolling trails so that you'll get to practice a variety of terrain from climbing to descending hills. Whatever you do, don't choose a trail that requires relentless climbing for long periods of time. That will do nothing to remind the kids that biking is fun.

Hill training is an important part of early season rides

5. Transition to Dirt and Mountain Biking 

Once the kids are comfortable on their bikes again, are using their gears and brakes with confidence, and are successfully climbing a few good hills, it's time to get out on the mountain bike trails again.

We had to drive 3 hours to find dry mountain bike trails last weekend but we wanted to warm up on familiar trails we enjoyed last summer.

Back on the trails again 

A few tips for transitioning to mountain biking:

  • Visit a local bike park. The kids will learn many of the skills they need for the trails  by first mastering a pump track or series of dirt jumps. (And if you're in Calgary, I hear that the Canmore Bike Park is dry and ready to go for the season.)

  • Start with last year's favourite trails. It helps to start on trails you are already familiar with as you start riding after a big break. For us, this meant visiting the Columbia Valley for a weekend of riding (where the trails are dry and in excellent shape!) - Read more about biking in the Columbia Valley here.

  • Invest in lessons. I've registered my son in mountain bike lessons at our local ski hill for the last two years in spring. And as a bonus, the summer chairlift isn't running yet to access the downhill trails, so the kids have to bike UP the hill before they can ride down (hill training victory) - and the teacher gets to listen to the whining instead of you, the parent! 

Starting off on easy familiar trails 

And, the big question: What are we riding this season?

Noah and I both have new bikes this season. I finally upgraded to a full suspension bike (A Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt) and Noah is riding a Zulu Four from Prevelo Bikes.

You can read all about the Zulu Four here

Our new Zulu Four from Prevelo Bikes 

As of the moment, the Zulu Four is sold out on the Prevelo website but there will be new stock arriving shortly with FREE shipping to Canada if you order off the website.

Success and confidence on the Zulu Four 
In the meantime you can check out the full collection of Prevelo Bikes from run bikes to pedal bikes (14 inch up to 24 inch.)

Prevelo manufactures two lines of bikes (the Alpha series and the Zulu series.)  The Alpha series does not have disc brakes and is a more affordable (but still high quality) bike for the recreational rider who isn't planning on doing a lot of aggressive mountain biking.

First Thoughts on our new Zulu Four: I am not a technical person when it comes to bikes, so I look at performance when I'm evaluating a bike and how well it works. From what I can see so far, Noah is confident on his new bike, is shifting well between gears, is climbing steep hills with success in his lowest gear, and is able to do small jumps at the skate and bike parks we've visited. He is showing no fear in his riding, and has transitioned seamlessly to the new bike.

We're also loving how light the bike is, weighing in at a very light 25.7 lbs. This is definitely contributing to Noah's success with climbing hills this season.

I will continue to provide performance reviews of the Zulu Four over the season as an Ambassador for Prevelo Bikes.

Having fun with our new Prevelo Bike 

Recommended Spring Reading

The Best Family Bike Trails in the Columbia Valley, BC

Kids on Wheels - Pump Tracks and Bike Parks

The Best Spring Bike Rides in Kananaskis 

Spring is here and the bikes are out! 

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