Thursday, May 5, 2011

What I learned on the bike

by Meghann on May 5, 2011

Meet Courtney


Courtney is a Central Florida native (holler!) who competes in triathlons while earning her nursing degree at USF. Just this weekend she placed seventh in her age group at St. Anthony’s. Go Courtney!


Courtney has a swimming background, but over the last couple of years of triathlon training, has developed an appreciation for cycling and offered to take me for a ride to help me wrap my head around how to work my own bike this morning.


A little background…

I purchased my bike Blue way back in January of 2009.


I needed a road bike for triathlons, so I bought a bike. That was the easy part.

Since then the extend of my relationship with Blue has been pretty simple. I’ve only ridden Blue on flat, Florida trails during tri season and the longest ride we’ve done was the 26 miler during my Olympic triathlon last summer.


Because I live in Florida (and it’s flat as a pancake) I’ve rarely messed with the gears. I keep it in one setting without a clue in the world if that’s where it should be or not. I’m pushing myself hard to go 16 mph and 13 mph is my comfy, easy pace. Is that good or bad? I had no idea. But, I did know I get passed on the trail. A lot.

Courtney was here to help. Or at least put my mind at ease.


We went for an 18 mile ride and Courtney did a great job of pointing out when I should change gears, what the different gears mean, and so on and so on.

I’m a visual person. I could read up on all this info all day, but without someone in person showing me what they’re talking about, I have no clue! Having Courtney in person helped a lot!

Most of what I learned today is probably really basic, but it helped me. ๐Ÿ™‚ Here’s a simple (no technical terms here!) break down of what I learned.

(Sorry, I have no photos. I should have taken some for better explanation. Major fail. ๐Ÿ™ )

Big Gear, Little Gear

  • The biggest thing I learned today was that on my bike, the left hand controls the ‘big gears’ in the front and the right hand controls the ‘little gears’ in the back. <– Cue how little Meghann knows about her bike.
  • The farther out the chain goes on the ‘little gears’ in the back, the ‘harder’ it will feel on your legs. When you switch the gears and move the chain in, the ‘easier’ it feels.  

Flat Riding

  • On a flat trail you want to keep the chain on the largest gear on the front of the bike.  
  • On a flat trail, it’s best to keep the chain on the ‘little gear’ in the back all the way out.


  • Anticipate a hill, by changing gears before you go up.
  • For small hills you want to go to an ‘easier’ gear going up. This means the ‘little gear’ chain will move in using the right hand.
  • When going down it’s opposite. Move the ‘little gears’ chain back out.
  • For large hills the ‘big gear’ in the front needs to come down, then switch the ‘little gears’ in the back. You don’t want to have the ‘little gears’ chain move all the way over while keeping the ‘big gears’ chain on the larger one. This will cause ‘cross chaining’ and the chain to fall off.


  • Don’t point your toes while pedaling <– bad habit of mine
  • You don’t want to feel uncomfortable on the bike. If you’re uncomfortable, you’re doing something wrong.

Final Notes:

  • There are a million theories out there on how to cycle, find what’s comfortable for you and stick with it.
  • I need to invest in clip-in shoes and better bike shorts. Now.
  • All of a sudden 56 miles doesn’t sound scary.
  • Courtney is a swimmer, so she relates a lot of work outs to swimming. I’m a runner so I translate things in my head into running terms. Find what works best for you! ๐Ÿ™‚

I told you it was basic, but it’s what I needed to hear. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Thanks Courtney!

I came home from the ride today and had a mini Peppermint Stick Luna Bar.


Lunch was late (lots of work to catch up on!)


Leftover reheated Kale with carrot, cheese, hummus, and a corn muffin.


Random, but oddly delicious. I have a lot of meals where I just throw into a bowl what ever looks good at the moment. Those meals are usually my favorite. ๐Ÿ™‚


If you have any further cycling advice, please share it in the comments! I’m such a newbie here! I still have lots to learn.

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