12 top tips for improving your ride enjoyment
1: Find the best cycle cafes
About a decade ago a trend began where bike shops would become cafes and social hubs. This spawned a wide network of cycle cafes, which can be excellent places to meet like-minded people with whom to share rides, local knowledge and a slice of cake. It also makes good sense to get to know the owners as they’ll very often be able to advise you on the best products to buy, fix your ride and, if required, top up your battery if you ask nicely (and have your charge cable).
2: Download some apps, get discovering
This one is a cheap and easy way to enhance your ride experience, enable you to discover new routes, meet local riders like you and even benchmark yourself against the local whippets (albeit with the assistance of a motor). Apps such as Strava or Komoot are excellent for ride navigation and tracking your ride metrics. Premium subscriptions will unlock new levels of detail in the mapping and ride data recording, but the free versions are nonetheless fun to use to diarise your rides.
3: Clean your bike regularly
Dirt, grit and grime can lead to a deterioration of component parts and in particular things like road salts or sea air can lead to faster corrosion. So, if it’s been particularly moody outside them make sure you at least give your bike a freshwater wash down, ideally also using some kind of bike cleaner. It’s best not to use a pressure washer on bikes, however, as when set to high pressures these can force water into places where it is not ideal to have water. Electric bikes are waterproof, but it’s best not to test the theory, plus you can wash away vital greases in bearings, which will up the level of wear and tear.
4: Max out your bike’s range
Nowadays many electric bikes have the luxury of adding a range extender or an extra battery and while that’s very welcome if you enjoy spending the day riding only in ‘turbo’ mode, it is extra weight to carry.
Better than immediately going to the expense of buying an extra cell is optimising the usage of the one your bike already has. There are several ways to achieve this, including:
- Make sure you are not carrying any unnecessary weight beyond what’s required for your trip. More weight can equate to less range.
- Store your bike somewhere reasonably warm, if possible. The cold can take a fraction of the battery’s charge before you even get started. If the temperature reaches freezing battery life can reduce by nearly half.
- Try not to run your battery completely flat as over time this can degrade the battery. The battery management system within will tend to do its best to protect the battery, also preventing overcharging.
- Ride the flats on eco mode and save your turbo for the hills. Riding constantly on the turbo will drain the battery exponentially faster than sensible management throughout the ride. Think of it just like your gearing, change the settings as you would change gears when approaching a hill.
- As we mention later in this article, pump up your tyres to the right PSI. Flat tyres will be harder to propel forwards and thus drain the battery faster.
5: Don’t be a home mechanic!
There’s no shame in wheeling your bike into a bike shop for servicing. In the same way you wouldn’t fix your own plumbing without the right qualifications just to save a little cash it’s best not to try to fix your own bike if you are not well versed in product standards, compatibility, thread counts and especially not if you don’t have quite the right tool to hand, but something you think might work. It’s a sure-fire way to increase your mechanic’s bill if you have tried to undo a bolt with a set of old pliers.
Some absolute do nots include lubricating your disc rotors because they have a squeak, putting your forks on backwards and, we cannot stress this final one enough, do not tamper with your electrics, especially battery components. Though you may have heard of the practice of making electric bikes go faster there are numerous reasons why this is ill-advised. These range very real fire risks, insurance and warranty invalidations, legal liabilities surrounding type approval and much more.
6: Sit comfortably with the right saddle for your sit bones
Finding the right saddle for you is not always an exact science, but thanks to the tireless work of manufacturers and bike fitters there are now a plethora of ways to calculate which stock on the shelves could immediately up your comfort. As pressure mapping applies to fitting you to the right shoes, it can too apply to your posterior, so ask your local bike shop if they have any methods to pair you and your sit bones to the right saddle. And don’t be too swayed by the idea of a gel saddle cover as an easy fix. It may add some comfort, but very often you will tend to find they slide around, creating a loose layer between you and your bike and that is not ideal for staying in control and comfortable for the duration of a long ride.
7: Don’t waste energy and battery with flat tyres
Pump up your tyres! On the sidewall of each tyre will be a recommended PSI range and these are rubber stamped there for a reason; optimal tyre pressures mean a combination of things, from the correct amount of traction on the road or trail, right through to free speed. A tyre that is too soft will feel sluggish and you will drain both your own body battery and your electric bike’s battery faster too.
It is worth checking your tyres regularly too. Very often small fragments of thorn or metals can embed in tyres and sometimes these will cause slow air leaks that may not be noticeable until it becomes inconvenient. Tubeless tyres filled with sealant will tend to self-seal these kinds of punctures if you carefully extract the offending item.
8: Get fitted to the right size frame for maximum comfort
Getting yourself fitted to the right size frame can be one of the most critical factors in ride enjoyment and if this is poorly matched it can also be the fastest way to ensure you have no appetite to ride. With that in mind there are varying degrees of bike fitting, which in simple terms is cycling’s equivalent of a gait analysis.
Many people will be surprised to learn that a mis-matched posture in the saddle can cause joint problems and discomfort even if only cycling a short distance. Therefore if you intend to ride often it is crucial that you have your local bike shop measure you up to make sure you ride away on the right sized equipment.
Bike fitting can go into great detail and the science behind it is so sound that the professionals and even some enthusiasts will have frames custom made to their dimensions to ensure optimal performance and comfort in the saddle. While that may sound like overkill, a professional bike fit can be the single greatest investment you make in your cycling experience.
9: Tune yourself up outside of riding
Alongside your riding exercise, it can be useful to undertake some form of strength training as well as improving your flexibility through activities like yoga. If riding for the purpose of a dose of adrenaline, then all of these things can make you a better rider if applied consistently.
10: Learn about performance fabrics and cycle clothing
Something that can make an incredibly profound difference to your ride enjoyment is knowing what clothing to wear and when. There are of course a baffling plethora of options available, from windbreakers and bibshorts, right through to merino wool socks and rainjackets.
What we will recommend as a starting point is the aforementioned merino material that, while expensive, is considered by many something of a holy grail of materials. It will keep you warm when its cool and cool when it’s warm. It wicks sweat away from the skin, which is crucial to staying warm and its anti-microbial meaning that it will not smell as much as many other fabrics.
Raincoats are a misunderstood item at times. They should be worn only when its actually raining, otherwise you may tend to find what is waterproof on the outside, also is on the inside. This means that if you sweat, this has nowhere to go down to lack of breathability, which can make you colder.
Ideally, on a cool but dry day you should seek out fabrics that will keep you dry from the inside as a result of good breathability. From here, if you need to layer for warmth, you can do so, but try not to overdo it.
From a comfort perspective, shorts with a chamois pad may be advisable if you intend to be in the saddle for long periods and with the same in mind don’t be shy about trying chamois creams as these can alleviate soreness and keep you ready to roll again the next day.
Finally, you cannot beat a good pair of socks and gloves. Again, try to find something moisture wicking as cold feet and hands can be one of the fastest ways to kill off a ride.
There exists an incredible catalogue of experience changing products on the market that you may not have known to have existed. For example, did you know that you can buy wing mirrors that plug into the ends of your bars? Here are some of our favourite accessory upgrades:
- A saddle with a handle on the underside, for example Selle Royal’s ON is badged as an e-bike specific saddle, even featuring a raised rear to catch you as the motor’s torque hits.
- Ergonomic grips can be incredibly comfort enhancing and fatigue reducing. Some have palm support extending off the grip, which can help you maintain a better posture and grip over the course of a ride.
- A wearable lock. It is generally a bit of a pain lugging around a heavy bicycle lock, but some brands now produce security products designed to be worn as belts, or clipped to bags. Shop around until you find something that is always convenient to carry as you don’t want to forget to lock up your expensive electric bike.
12: Pack the essentials, just incase
This final tip is more of a way not to ruin your day, rather than a quick and easy tip to brighten your day. If your ride is headed away from civilisation, it’s best to make sure you are carrying a handful of things that will get you out of trouble, if for example you were to wreck a critical component or have an unfortunate crash. Items that you may strongly wish to consider packing include, but are not limited to:
- Water – more than you think you need and ideally some hydration tabs to go with that water, replenishing any lost electrolytes. Nobody thinks clearly dehydrated and in the wilderness clean and plentiful water is your absolute priority.
- A spare inner tube, even if you run a tubeless tyre. You never know what’s lurking on the trail that could ruin a ride. A slashed tyre is the end of the ride if you are running tubeless, but you may just get home by carrying an emergency inner tube. You will need to complement the tub carriage with something to inflate it with, so take a mini pump with you too. In the very worst-case scenario riders have been known to improvise a makeshift tyre filler from grasses, among other things, but you don’t want to end up in that situation.
- Other basics worth having on you include a chain tool and a multitool. It’s surprising how many situations these two items will get you out of if you are a regular rider.