TOPS 10 tips for cycling success

Bicycling is a healthy way to experience the outdoors and incorporate physical activity into an individual’s daily life according to TOPS Club, a nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization.

TOPS offers these ideas to stay fit and cycle sensibly:

1. When choosing a bike, make sure the frame is appropriate. To find the right fit, straddle the bike and stand flatfooted. There should be at least one inch of clearance between your groin and the top tube and two inches on a mountain bike.

2. The handlebars and seat should be positioned correctly for a comfortable, optimal ride. The seat should be located high or low enough so each knee is bent only slightly at the bottom of each rotation. Seats are not “one size fits all” and should be appropriate to your build and riding situation.

3. Always wear a helmet when you ride. This simple rule protects you from head trauma and brain injury. The helmet should have a bright, visible color and snug fit that covers as much of your head as possible.

4. Avoid riding your bike at night. Most cycling accidents occur between 6 and 9 p.m. when light levels are low. If you must ride in low-light conditions, wear brightly-colored, reflective gear and install a bright headlight and blinking red taillight for better visibility.

5. Gently and firmly pump brakes at the same time. Don’t squeeze the brakes too hard — and never squeeze the front brake first.

6. Attach a rear-view mirror to your helmet, handlebar, or eyewear. Ride with traffic, obey all traffic rules, and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other vehicles. Observe your surroundings and communicate with drivers, using hand signals and eye contact.

7. If you’re out of shape or unaccustomed to riding, start slowly. Thirty minutes on a flat terrain is a good way to start for the first few weeks. Gradually work up to greater intensity and hillier terrain for better workouts.

8. Cycling should not involve stress or strain. Keep your arms and shoulders relaxed and avoid locking your elbows. Shift your hand and body positions frequently.

9. Riding with another person — or as part of a group — can motivate you to become a better cyclist and make the miles fly by more quickly.

10. Cycling should not be your only workout. It is not a weight-bearing exercise, so be sure to vary your fitness routine with walking, weightlifting, and other activities.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, visit or call 800-932-8677.

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