Bicycle touring is an excellent way to see new places. Riding long-distance is physically demanding, however, and requires gradual condition following a training program such as this:
Modern lightweight, multi-speed bicycles make long distance bicycle riding more appealing than ever, and many people who get into bicycling may dream of taking long weekend rides or even much longer tours through the countryside. The bicycle is a low-cost and unobtrusive means of travel that can get a tourist out there on the level of the people living in the area, especially in quaint, Third World countries where many bicycle tourists go. Because of the technological advances of today?s bicycles, which are indeed far easier to ride than earlier models, many new riders might be tempted to bite off more than they can chew when it comes to long rides.
Bicycle riding is a strenuous activity that requires a conditioning period for full enjoyment, even if you are already an athletic person with a good all around level of physical fitness. Riding a bicycle is an aerobic activity, and you will have to develop the lung capacity to keep from running out of breath on long rides, especially if the ride involves climbing steep hills or mountains. Long-distance riding also requires developing your legs, of course, as they will be under considerable strain to keep the pedals turning. But perhaps the most difficult aspect of riding, especially for new riders, is the pain in the rear end you will experience from sitting on a narrow bicycle seat for long periods of time. This pain can only be overcome by gradually increasing your time in the saddle over a period of weeks or months.
If you?ve never ridden long distance before, don?t make the mistake of hopping on a new touring bicycle and heading out on a 50-mile ride, even if you are athletic enough to make it that far without training. Because of the above-mentioned factors, especially saddle-soreness, it is much better to start out modestly and work your way up to longer rides. Begin with short rides of 15 to 20 minutes in duration and see how you feel after that. After the first week you should be able to ride an hour or so at a time. It?s best to alternate your riding days so your body has time to recover between longer rides. You could ride 15-20 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and ride an hour on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Try riding faster on the days when your rides are short, but take it easy and enjoy the scenery on the longer days. After the first week or two, you can gradually start pushing a little harder and may even be ready to extend the length of your rides.
In moderate terrain, you should be able to average about 15 miles per hour on paved roads, so once you work up to doing three rides a week of at least 20 miles, you won?t have to spend more than about an hour and twenty minutes on the bike on those days.
On the alternate, shorter ride days, try riding 10-12 miles at a much faster pace. This will quickly build up aerobic capacity and increase your overall fitness level. On this schedule, you will be riding close to 100 miles per week. This is still not enough to be prepared for long-distance touring, but you are getting to a good base level of cycling fitness.
Over a period of several weeks, gradually increase your mileage at your own pace, which will vary according to your age and general fitness. You should now try to make one much longer ride one day each week. Now is the time to shoot for that goal of 50 miles, non-stop, or even further. Work your base mileage up until you are riding about 30 miles at a time three days a week and 15-20 on your fast-paced days. At this level, you are now averaging 200 miles per week and should be getting used to the saddle, as well as developing strong legs and lungs.
If the tour you dream of taking on two wheels is going to involve mountainous terrain, you must try to do at least some of your training on hilly roads. It?s very difficult to prepare for climbing on a bicycle if all your riding is done on flat terrain. Likewise, if you plan to carry a lot of luggage on your bicycle in touring panniers, before the trip you need to start riding some with this additional weight to more closely simulate the conditions of your trip.
Bicycle touring is a rewarding way of seeing new places and it has the excellent side benefit of getting you in great shape. You?ll enjoy it more and not get discouraged if you take it easy in the beginning and follow this training plan. Remember, not everyone is the same. Some new riders may reach this level in a few weeks, while others may require 6 months or more. And out on the road on an actual tour, some riders will poke along at the rate of about 30 miles per day, while other will average 100 miles per day or more.
Shoe-Shopping Advice From a Shoe Store Assistant Manager
In a time where large, corporate and discount shoe stores seem to have pushed customer service to the wayside, smaller, independent retailers are thriving with individualized customer attention and highly-trained service personnel. Finding the perfect pair can be daunting nightmare for customers, but with the expertise of a knowledgeable sales associate, one can discover dreamy shoes to melt the heart and soles.
Most sales clerks are trained, either through extensive and cheesy 80s videos or through quality experiences, to ask 'probing questions' in order to best serve the customer's needs. But what if the customer stumbles upon a trainee or otherwise inexperienced associate, and still wants the most bang for the proverbial buck during the shoe-finding experience? From start to finish, a few tips that will keep a shoe quest from becoming a shoe epic journey:
Give the clerk a heads up. Many shoe-hunting customers answer the existential "Is there something I could help you find?" with the witty response, "Shoes!" To be sure, in a shoe store, the customer is not making an unreasonable demand here. However humorous the response may seem at first, it indicates to an associate that the customer is not ready for assistance. If a customer believes s/he may eventually need help, it's best to give an idea of the ultimate shoe in mind to the salesperson so that s/he can be thinking it over. Chances are, when the customer and clerk reunite after the customer's browsing, the clerk will be much better prepared to suggest valuable recommendations and ideas.
Be specific, but relevant. It's tempting to describe a shoe by the activity one will engage in while wearing it, and for the most part, such a description can be immensely helpful. A "wedding shoe" and a "basketball shoe" can clearly be vastly different pairs. Yet, a "work shoe" can mean anything between a "wedding shoe" and a "basketball shoe," all depending on the customer's place of employment. When a customer is, indeed, looking for a "work shoe," or any other types of shoes, it can be helpful to describe the conditions the shoe must meet. Is there a dress code to adhere to? Will one be standing on a concrete floor all day? Does the customer have inserts or orthodics to add to the shoe? Sometimes a catch-all label, like "work shoes," doesn't really catch all.
Let's get the facts up front. If one has a hard-to-find size, require a special width or wear orthodics (custom-made inserts for your shoes, made by podiatrists), it will be helpful to tell the sales clerk immediately. That way, the associate can rule out specific brands and styles of shoes based on his/her knowledge of how each fits and direct the customer to more appropriate shoes.
Honestly! I hate it! If a customer dislikes a shoe for any reason, it's best to just say so. There's no sense in wasting time trying on a shoe that reminds the customer of her grandmother or prancing around in hot, red pumps if she finds them ludicrous. Honesty is truly the best policy and can save the customer time if s/he is willing to tell the salesperson what is really on her mind.
If the shoe fits... There's a country song with a chorus line that lilts "Men don't change and shoes don't stretch." If a shoe is too tight or too loose, alert the associate so that s/he can bring you a proper-fitting pair. Feel free to ask the salesperson if the brand runs big or small, wide or narrow; if the salesperson is experienced enough, s/he will know. Also, trust the clerk's intuition with the brand. Clerks know shoe-tricks; for instance, s/he might suggest a half-size up one width in from what is normal, or half-size down and one width out. In the end, such suggestions might make the difference between the perfect pair and the almost-perfect pair.
If the size is a trouble spot, be honest about the issue or ask to be measured. If one is unsure, honesty can save a lot of time and hassle in the long run. There's nothing worse than hauling out an armload of shoe boxes in several different sizes only to hear the customer cry, "I thought I'd be a 9!" Shoe salespeople should all be trained on the Brannock device, and can quickly and easily give the customer a point of reference for sizing.
Ask questions. The sales associate knows more than s/he probably ever cared to on the topic of shoes, feet, and the like. Fell in love with some shoes but they pester a bunion? Ask the clerk about a spot stretch. Not sure the shoes are perfect? Ask about the return policy! An experience salesperson will give the information up front, but customers should never be afraid to get the real scoop on things. And speaking of experience, the long-time salesperson is likely to have earned the ability to give a discretionary discount. The better the rapport between customer and clerk, the more likely the customer is to receive a little bonus, whether it's a percentage off or some extra shoe polish. Don't be afraid to ask about incentives for multiple purchases or upcoming sales; one might be surprised to learn that the payoff is immediate!
Be polite. Not only can a customer score serious discounts and cool freebies, but also a potential long-standing relationship. Wouldn't it be nice to receive such treatment every time one shops?
Remember, sales associates are not in charge of policies, prices, or company problems. The salespeople will do their best to help a customer, but as with everything, some things are just not under a clerk's control. Many sales associates are willing to go out of their way, even calling other retailers or special ordering from catalogs, in order to get the customer the perfect shoe. Everyone knows one catches more bees with honey than with vinegar!
Armed with these handy hints, any customer should be able to find dream shoes without a nightmare shopping experience.
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