"Cycling Your Way to Fathers Day"Honor Dad this Father’s Day, June 15, by hopping on the fun road to fitness – together. Bicycling is a pleasant and healthy way to experience the great outdoors while adding physical activity to your day – and flexible enough not to be limited to certain ages or activity tolerances, according to TOPS Club, Inc.® (Take Off Pounds Sensibly®), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization. Many communities are “bike friendly,” with car-free bicycle lanes, bicycle paths in parks, and other such amenities. Consider the following recommendations to start your cycling off right.

Choose a bike. The bike that has been in the garage since you were ten probably won’t fit your needs now. Visit a reputable bike shop close to your home to use as a resource. There are many types of bikes on the market, including hybrid bikes, cruisers, mountain bikes, and road bikes.

Good fit makes you fit. After deciding what style of bike best serves your needs, make sure the frame is appropriate. To find the right fit, straddle the bike and stand flatfooted: on a typical road bike, there should be at least one inch of clearance between your groin and the top tube; there should be at least two inches on a standard mountain bike. Having a bike that fits you well is important – not only for comfort, but also to help prevent injuries.

Location, location, location. The handlebars and seat, or saddle, should be positioned correctly for an optimal ride. The seat should be comfortable, located high or low enough so each knee is bent only slightly at the bottom position of each rotation (at an angle of 25 to 30 degrees), and level or with the nose end just slightly higher. Seats are not “one size fits all” and should be appropriate to your build and riding situation.

You’re not as hardheaded as you think. Always wear a helmet when you ride. This simple rule protects you from head trauma and prevents brain injury. With helmets, cost does not always imply level of quality. If your helmet no longer fits correctly or becomes damaged, replace it.

Take a moment to check your helmet’s fit in the mirror and make a few adjustments for proper safety protection.

• The front is almost touching your eyebrows.
• The helmet is level across the top of your head.
• The side buckles are just below your ear lobes.
• The side straps straddle your ears.
• The chin strap is fastened tightly enough to allow only one of your fingers to squeeze between it and your skin.

Be kind to your body. Cycling should not involve stress and strain. A comfortable reach allows you to maneuver the bike easily without shifting your center of gravity too far forward. Keep your arms and shoulders relaxed and avoid locking your elbows. You should not feel cramped, and your elbows should not interfere with knee motions. Shift your hand and body positions frequently.

Know the rules of the road. Attach a rear view mirror to your helmet, handlebar, or sunglasses. Ride with traffic, obey all traffic rules, and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other vehicles. Communicate with drivers by using correct hand signals, making eye contact when possible, and avoiding cars’ blind spots. Be vigilant in observing your surroundings – this will help you avoid potholes, opening car doors, and other potential hazards.

Nighttime is not the right time. Avoid riding your bike at night. Most cycling accidents occur between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. when light levels are low. If you must ride in low light conditions, wear brightly colored, reflective gear (a good tip even in daylight), and install a bright headlight and strobe-type red tailight for better visibility.

Give your brakes a break. Gently and firmly pump both brakes at the same time. Do not squeeze the brakes too hard – and never squeeze the front brake first.

Share the ride. Cycling should be a pleasure. Riding with Dad, the whole family, or friends can motivate you to become a better cyclist and make the miles fly by more quickly. Just make sure that the group allows you to ride at your own pace. Additionally, riding with others can inspire you when you’d rather not put forth the effort.

What’s your hurry? If you’re out of shape or unaccustomed to riding, start slowly. Like other forms of exercise, cycling requires building up tolerance. Thirty minutes or so on flat terrain is a good way to start for the first few weeks. If you find that you are breathing too hard to carry on a conversation, back off a little, take a deep breath, and enjoy the scenery. Increase your riding time by approximately 10 percent each week. Gradually work up to longer rides at faster speeds on hillier terrain for better workouts.

Hydrate. A water bottle and “cage” is a must for any ride longer than 30 minutes. The cage holds the bottle and attaches to the bike frame so you can drink on the go.  For rides longer than two hours, consider a low-calorie sports drink that will help replace fluids and electrolytes lost by sweating.

Variety is the spice of life. Cycling is not a weight-bearing exercise, so be sure to vary your fitness routine to include walking, weight lifting, or other bone-strengthening activities that a multitude of ages can enjoy.

TOPS Club Inc.® (Take Off Pounds Sensibly®) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization. Founded more than 66 years ago, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind. TOPS promotes successful weight management with a “Real People. Real Weight Loss.®” philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise and wellness information. TOPS has about 150,000 members – male and female, age seven and older – in thousands of chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. Membership is affordable at just $28 per year in the U.S. and $32 per year in Canada, plus nominal chapter fees. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.