In the last year cycling has seen tremendous growth. More and more people are getting out and exploring on two wheels. It’s incredibly exciting. It can also be intimidating. As a beginner there are so many questions. Including the question, who should I ask these questions to?
Whenever you start a new sport, there is always a learning curve. Every sport has its own idiosyncrasies. My goal is to help streamline some of these learning processes and to help answer your questions, whether or not you know that you have them. Here are my top 10 Tips for Beginner Cyclists.
1. Find Reliable Equipment
Cycling is an equipment heavy sport. It’s probably the biggest barrier to entry. When you decide you want to start cycling and you head online or into a bike shop to pick out your bike and other equipment pieces, it can be incredibly over-whelming. Even when you decide on your budget there will still be a million questions to answer. Do you want the lightest and fastest equipment in your budget range? Do you want to put most of your budget into one or two pieces of equipment and skimp on the rest?
My biggest suggestion when it comes to equipment for a new rider is to find equipment that is reliable. You don’t need the lightest and the fastest. You want something that is going to work and is reliable. As a new cyclist you don’t want to be stopped on the side of the road with issues and you don’t want to go to the bike shop every week to have your equipment serviced. Invest in shifting that is smooth and consistent and will not need constant maintenance. Purchase a chain ring and cassette combination that meets the terrain you most frequently ride. If you often find yourself in the hardest gear or the easiest gear, you may want to invest in more gears. It will make your riding experience way better, I promise.
2. It Shouldn’t Be Uncomfortable
This is such a common misnomer. People always assume that it’s supposed to uncomfortable and that everyone is in pain. I’m here to tell you, we are not and you don’t have to be either. If you find yourself in pain, that is what you should be focused on fixing. Here are some common adjustments to help common ailments that new cyclists deal with.
- Saddle sores/crotch irritation
- Invest in new bike shorts with a quality chamois
- Invest in a new saddle
- Back Pain/Knee Pain
- Try adjusting the position of your seat/seat height
- Try getting a bike fit
- Get a new helmet. Not all helmets are created equal
- Numb feet or hands
- Loosen your shoes
- Purchase Gloves
- Loosen your grip/stop curling your toes
- Bike fit
3. Food is Fuel
Fuel your ride. Many people begin riding bikes for exercise, to become heathier, or maybe even to lose weight. For that reason, people think it can be counter intuitive to eat while riding or to eat before you ride, but it’s essential. If you are hungry during your ride or lacking the calories and carbohydrates you need to fuel your ride then not only will you enjoy your workouts less, but you may actually be selling yourself short. If you fuel your rides you may be able to work harder during your workouts and burn more calories in turn. You will likely feel stronger as well!
4. Plan Your Route
Going out to ride your bike can be intimidating. Where should you ride? Start by asking friends that you know who ride bikes, talk to your local bike shop, and check out heat maps on Strava. If you are riding on trails then check out the App TrailForks. If a lot of cyclists are riding on one particular road or route there is probably a reason why. Look for roads with bike lanes, wide shoulders, and slow speed limits for cars.
Once you know where to ride, plan your route for the day. If you have a full plan of where you want to go and how far you want to ride then you are more likely to finish it. If you don’t have a plan, then you may feel inclined to quit when it begins to feel hard.
5. Start Small and Be Consistent
When you make the plan for your route, start small and aim for consistency. You should only increase your time duration or distance by 10% per week. Any more and you risk injury. Don’t do massive rides that require days of recovery afterwards. Instead, try to ride a few times a week. That consistency will pay off in the long run. In the same way, don’t try a route that is way over your head. Start with flatter routes or less technical trails so that you finish the ride feeling strong and like you could do more rather than exhausted and walking.
6. Learn the Basic Mechanics
Learn how your bike works. Start with the small, critical elements. Take a class at a bike shop or learn from a friend. Learn how to adjust your shifting and how to change a flat. This will make you a safer rider because you’ll be able to fix any problem that may arise while you are out on the road or trails. If you are a good technician, then you can even learn a lot of skills on YouTube. On this same note, make sure that you are always riding with an extra tube, CO2 or mini pump, tire levers, and a multi-tool.
7. Wash Your Bike
You should wash your bike. Use water, a sponge for the frame, and a brush for the cassette and drive-train. You can buy bike specific cleaning solutions or just use dish soap. Make sure you rinse the bike thoroughly and dry it after. Keep the bike out of the elements like snow and rain. This will make your bike last longer and make it perform better.
8. Try Some Intervals
Once you start feeling good in your normal rides and want a little bit more of a challenge, try some intervals. Start by just going a little bit harder for a few minutes at a time and learn how to increase and decrease the intensity. Try completing your intervals on hills or flats. Don’t be afraid to repeat a section. For example, if you try to do 3 x 3 minutes hard. You can repeat the same segment all 3 times so that you can stay on a safe road and good terrain.
9. Find a Community
Cycling is a wonderful community and you can be a part of it! Visit your local bike shop and ask what types of beginner group rides are available. Find local clubs through your local bike shop or online. Take a skills clinic. You’ll make good friends, learn, and have people to ride with.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
Just go for it. Ride within your limits, but don’t be fearful of making a mistake. Everyone does. When you first clip in, you will probably tip over. If you are a mountain biker, at some point, you will crash. You might bite off more than you can chew. You might have to walk a hill. You might use a piece of equipment incorrectly or even break something. It’s ok! We’ve all been there. Don’t let mistakes hold you back. Have an open mind and be open to instruction and improvement. You’ll learn quickly and soon you’ll be showing someone else the ropes.