Riding a bicycle can quickly become very addictive. One bike ride a week turns into two and then three. All of a sudden, you are contemplating buying a new bike and taking this magnificent sport more seriously. As things progress, you’ll find you have more things to figure out.
Whether you are commuting by bicycle nearly every day, signed up for a sportif or charity ride, or you are thinking you’d like to pin on race numbers in the near future, there are certain things you should start thinking about. The learning curve for cycling can feel steep so throughout the process of discovering the intricacies of the sport, it’s no surprise you’ll encounter obstacles and have questions. While cyclists of all levels come across hurdles in their riding, here are some tips that all people new to cycling can benefit from.
1) Purchase comfortable riding clothes
Having dedicated apparel for riding will immediately make time in the saddle more enjoyable. Cycling isn’t supposed to be uncomfortable and it’s not just a matter of getting used to chaffing. Buy padded bike shorts and wear tops that wick moisture. While cycling can get expensive, you can start with the basics and build out your wardrobe over time.
2) Learn to fix a flat
The most common mid-ride mechanical is a flat tire. Always ride with a flat kit which will include a spare tube, tire levers and either a mini-pump or CO2. Having the tools to fix a flat are one thing, knowing how to use them is another. Practice fixing flats until you are comfortable with the process. You don’t want your ride to end in a call to a loved one or a Uber to get a lift home.
3) Join a club or find friends to ride with
While you may start cycling on your own, finding people to ride with will get you motivated and out on your bike more. Find a club that is set up to bring new riders along. Riding with experienced people will help to learn the ride etiquette, skills and knowledge to continue progressing in the sport. If you have a friend who is a more experienced rider than you, suggest going out with them. They can show you the routes and help you
4) Get your bike set up properly
To be comfortable on your bike, you want to make sure it’s well set-up for you. That means the saddle height should feel right, you handlebars should be at a comfortable level and your saddle should be comfortable. Start with your saddle height by extending your leg to the 6 o’clock position. Your knee should still be slightly bent but close to fully extended. Your handlebars should be easily reachable so your arms aren’t overextended but not so close that they feel cramped. Finally, a firm saddle that supports you sit bones will be more comfortable on long rides than one with lots of padding. Each person is different so you may need to make minor adjustments to your bike as you get more accustomed to riding.
5) Upgrade to clipless pedals
Riding dedicated cycling shoes on pedals that hold your feet in place will allow you to deliver more power and give you a stable platform for your riding. Like with the rest of your bike set-up, you’ll want to be ready to change the cleat position to ensure everything is aligning properly. Going clipless, whether with shoes and cleats for road or off-road biking, will take your riding to the next level. Just make sure you practice with them on the grass before heading out on the road. It takes time to adjust to clipping in and out of the cleats.
6) Don’t be shy to ask questions
No one is a cycling expert the moment they start riding. Don’t be afraid to ask other riders if you’re not sure of something. No questions about cycling are silly. The answers you will receive from more experienced riders can help you enjoy your riding more and progress quicker than you would otherwise slowly figuring things out on your own. Considering how many things there are to think about with
8) Fuel your riding
You may have started riding to get fitter and a huge part of that is properly fueling your body. On rides, you should always have water and if you plan to ride for more than an hour, it’s a good idea to have a snack. Soon after riding, make sure to eat something for your body can recover. As you ride more, you’ll probably notice you are building a bigger appetite.
7) Get out and ride
One of the best parts about riding is the liberty it gives you to get outside, and explore the area around where you live and beyond. Take advantage of the freedom the big gives you and make sure to go beyond the familiar roads and trails that you have become used to riding. Discovering new places to ride is a lot of fun and will fuel your motivation to go further. A helpful tool for doing this is Strava’s route builder which has a feature which allows you to see popular roads in your area. The best way to learn and enjoy cycling is getting out and riding your bike more.