Cycling (Biking or Bicycling)

  • Author:
    Richard Weil, MEd, CDE

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What do I wear to ride a bicycle?

Walk into any bike shop and chances are they'll have bike apparel. Just about anything comfortable will do if you're just out for a Sunday ride, but if you're working out on your bike, then I recommend wicking materials like polypropylene to keep you dry and comfortable. You can buy polypropylene at any outdoor retailer. The tight-fitting jerseys that you see on bike racers help keep them aerodynamic and dry (they wick moisture), but they are more than most people need unless you are training or racing.

For pants, I recommend bike shorts if you're training or you're spending a lot of time on the saddle. Bike pants are made of synthetic fabrics that wick, they have chamois padding in the seat for comfort, and elastic in the hem to stop them from riding up. If you have a big old cruiser bike with a large, padded, suspension seat and seat post, then you won't need bike pants. But if you're uncomfortable in the saddle and looking for a little more comfort, then bike pants may be the way to go.

One quick tip about new bikes and saddle soreness: Give your new bike a week or two to get used to. Your sit bones may be sore after a few rides, but that tends to go away after a couple of weeks. There's no need to rush out and buy gel covers or a bigger or softer seat. In fact, sometimes a seat can be too soft, and after riding for an hour or so, it may be uncomfortable. Again, give yourself some time to get used to your bike.

What about bike safety?

Here are some tips for riding in traffic:

  1. Observe traffic lights and stop signs. Many cities require bikers to follow the same rules of the road as motorized vehicles.
  2. Ride in the direction of traffic.
  3. Watch for doors of parked cars opening unexpectedly.
  4. Watch for pedestrians at crossings and jaywalkers stepping out from behind a parked car or truck. Pedestrians crossing streets are looking for big objects like cars and trucks, not bikers.
  5. Imagine that no one can see you (most of the time they can't) and ride defensively. If you're in an uncertain situation, use your judgment and slow down if necessary. Remember, you can't compete with cars, and running into a pedestrian is no joy either. Usually, both the pedestrian and cyclist get hurt.
  6. Helmets. Helmet use and helmet laws are controversial. For instance, some research shows that wearing helmets may encourage cyclists to take more risks or motorists to take less care when they encounter cyclists. In a careful analysis of a large amount of data concerning helmets, it was concluded that the cost of helmets exceeds any estimated savings in health-care costs. Of course, if you have an accident and a helmet does help you, then the cost is well worth it. Helmets cost less than $50, and despite the controversial evidence, I always wear one. As the old adage goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

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