Staging Your Personal Tour de France
You may feel like the most inactive person in the world, but it is possible to achieve your own Tour de France victory.
Getting Into Biking Shape
To make her cross-country expedition, Madison used biking maps
laid out by the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA). The group offers a network
of relatively safe bike routes (mainly secondary highways and back roads)
through a big chunk of North America. It also provides handy information for
traveling bikers, such as location of campgrounds, bike shops, water holes, and
general weather alerts.
The ACA's mission is to inspire people of all ages to travel by
bike for fun, fitness, and self-discovery. They sponsor 7- to 93-day tours
around the U.S. They also offer tour classes, and, at the very least, give
interested bikers some tips on how to prepare for a trek.
The organization is only one of a number of cycling clubs
around the country. Various groups are geared toward different levels of
riders. The League of American Bicyclists posts a list of groups around the
A lot of bike groups give information on how to make the most
of the sport. Here are a few tips and cautions to get started:
Tailor your effort accordingly. If you want to bike for
fitness or weight loss, remember that results depend upon the length and
intensity of the ride, your fitness level, or the grade of the climb. The
fitter you are, the faster the pace you need to go, the longer you need to
ride, or the steeper the terrain you need to tread to get a workout, compared
with a nonfit individual.
Stay at the right level. For a cardiovascular workout
during cycling, adhere to the talk test, says Bryant. You should be able to
speak but not be chatty. If you're too out of breath to have a basic
conversation, you are overdoing it.
Have the right equipment. Use a bicycle that has at
least 10 speeds so that you can adapt to any change in grade, says Bryant. He
also says a helmet is crucial for safety. Other accessories that could make
riding more comfortable include padded shorts, biking gloves, and toe
Adjust your seat. The right-sized bike can make a
difference. "The bike's seat height should be high enough so that the leg
on the down stroke is not quite completely extended," says Bryant, who
notes that a saddle that's too high makes it difficult to deliver enough
muscular power. A seat that's too low makes pedaling uncomfortable, especially
for the knees and quads. Also, make sure you are not constricting any blood
vessels in the genital area. If something hurts or is numb, chances are your
saddle needs to be adjusted to make biking more pleasant for you.
Follow traffic laws. "A bike is considered a
vehicle, according to the laws in all 50 states," says McCormick. "If
you want to be safe, you need to act as though you are driving a vehicle."
This means following traffic signs and lights and using hand signals for a
Go for the total-body workout. Supplement biking with
resistance training twice a week, suggests Bryant. Working out the lower
extremities will help you gain strength for cycling, and strengthening your
upper extremities is important for total fitness.
Biking is, indeed, a sport that can be taken up by people of
all ages and levels, even for the inactive and not so young. For these people,
Bryant has the following advice: "Try to focus on enjoying the scenery, and
going at a comfortable pace. Look at it as a positive time to be moving. After
developing some consistency with that, then start thinking about challenging