Starting out in cycling?
Easy tips and tricks to help you get started into cycling
Are you starting to get into cycling? You have a bunch of friends who have asked you to join them on a cycling ride and don’t know what to expect, let alone where to start? Then read on my friend!
I too began cycling not long ago, it’s quite an experience, which I’m still deciding on whether I like or not. I do wish, if someone had told me all the tips and tricks without finding out by trial and error, I would have saved a lot of time and money (and maybe a few injuries). To be honest, there are so many aspects to think about when beginning to cycle, that I’ve only listed my top tips. Unlike running, cycling is not as simple as getting on the bike and off you go. There is safety, equipment, and in many countries the cycling laws to consider.
If you are a beginner wanting to get started with cycling, then please read on.
1. Be comfortable with riding
First up, it makes sense that you need to be comfortable with simply riding. If not, then borrow someones bike and practice riding – I’m sure you know someone who is willing to lend you their old bike. There is no point in dreaming of riding to and from work, or losing weight from cycling when you aren’t comfortable with the basics of riding a bicycle.
Make sure you can turn, you know how to start and stop without falling off. Be comfortable with riding up and down hills, and even standing up on the pedals to gain that extra power when riding up hills.
Don’t be embarrassed with learning the ropes of cycling. Although it may come naturally to many, there are also a lot of people who do not know how to ride. So be proud that you are trying!
2. Don’t buy a brand new bike
Once you have mastered riding a bike, don’t go out and buy a brand new bike straight away. I guarantee you, that 9 out of 10 people will be wasting their money by doing this.
There are many reasons, so I will only list a few:
Commitment is questionable – I firmly believe many new to cycling will either love it or hate it. And for this to know, it takes time. To fully appreciate cycling, you need to be accustomed to all the aspects, not just riding in itself, but there is also the social aspect. I personally love the occasional ride, but at times riding with a group that doesn’t have that social cohesion that I’m looking for is a little off putting. And then it turns me off riding. Also, I really hate changing tyres. Hole punctures are the bane of my cycling experience, but you know what, some people love the aspect of bicycle maintenance. Each person is different.
Buying a second hand bicycle is cheaper – by far the better option to start out with. There are many buy and sell websites for second hand goods in every country. Look through them and scour the internet for second hand bikes. Go for the relatively cheap option, so that you don’t spend too much. You can always sell it later to either upgrade or to let go of cycling.
Borrow a bicycle – The best option is to borrow a bike. You get to become accustomed with sizing, fitting, the cost of maintaining a bike, and you get to see after a while, if you would really enjoy cycling.
3. Start on Easy Rides
When I got into cycling, I went straight into road bikes with a large group. It was exhilarating and challenging. I was previously a runner before taking up cycling, and I thought my cardio will be able to pull me through my first few long rides over hilly terrain.
This was a mistake! I bonked out and collapsed exhausted after my first ride. It was ridiculous, and couldn’t quite understand why I was so bad at riding.
I soon realised, that riding like running requires training. But even more so. When taking up running, if you are out of shape, you can slow down and churn your legs to go up and down hills. With riding, it is a whole new ball game. If you don’t have the leg power, you simply won’t get up the hill. You can’t slow down the pace, otherwise you would fall off the bike. And you need to apply constant power on the lowest gear to get up a hill.
Using consistent power through your legs will cause cramping if you haven’t trained. And no matter how bananas you eat, or magnesium tablets you swallow, you will still cramp.
The worst is when I cramped on both legs on a very challenging ride. I was cycling on a road bike with friends, I had just came back from overseas and was jet lagged, and of course I was out of shape. A recipe for disaster. Towards the end of the long ride, I cramped in both legs! It was embarrassing! My friends had to steer me to the side of the road. Then try to extract me from the bike with my shoes still clipped on to the pedals. This was impossible. So they let me fall to the side on the grass, and then slid me side wards off the bike. It was one of the most painful experiences that I have ever had.
So, case in point, do not go on the challenging rides immediately, start easy, and train on a few hills each day.
4. Ride in a group or with friends
When I was introduced to road cycling, I was fortunate to be part of a group. The group was a little hard core, and I wished they didn’t throw me in the deep end, but without their support, I wouldn’t be enjoying road cycling.
Start with riding in a cycling group. Through a cycling group you will be able to ask questions, ride with safety, learning new tips and tricks, and if anything goes wrong (which I guarantee there will), such as puncture, accident, bike mechanical issue, your group will be there to help you.
If you don’t intend to ride with a group, make sure you tell someone where you are riding to, and bring your phone. (And make sure it is charged).
If you do ride alone, make sure you tell someone!
5. The Bike Fits
This is particularly important for the long rides. The road bike, mountain bike, electric bike, whatever it is, must fit. Doesn’t have to be perfect (there is hardly ever a perfect fit), but enough so that it is comfortable.
When I refer to long rides, I define it as time on the bike. The more time on an ill fitting bike, the most painful it will become. The pain will show in the shoulders, neck or in the back.
If the road bicycle is too big, you will feel it in the neck and shoulders. You will be stretched too far forward and when you pedal you may feel as if your thighs are hitting your chest.
If a road bicycle is too small, you will fee compressed and crouched.
It is lesser noticed with mountain bikes and perhaps electric bikes, but the importance is still needed for the long rides. Short rides are ok, as the position is bearable, but for long rides it can lead to a lot of pain.
6. Cycling Rules
There are different laws in each country, each state, province and locality. Make sure you are familiar with the legality of riding on the road, on a foot path, and in parks or nature reserves.
Riding a bicycle is a lot of fun, but be sure that you ride legally. In many developed countries riding with a helmet on is mandatory, and if you don’t have one on when riding, you may be fined.
In addition, there are riding rules in some bicycle groups. Rules such as calling out, signally, and no drop rules (don’t leave you behind). Make sure you understand the signals, and the jargon. Signaling rules on a road bike in a group is extremely important for safety reasons.
I commend you for looking into bicycle riding in 2020! I hope these tips and tricks will help you get started to something that you will hopefully enjoy and continue to do.
If you are money conscious, don’t buy a brand new bicycle. In fact, even the season cyclist normally scours the internet for second hand deals, unless there is a great new road bike sale. Be attuned to how comfortable you are with riding a bike, and above all be safe and ride within the rules of where you live.