If you’re embarking on your cycling journey, these beginner’s cycling tips are here to make your ride more enjoyable. Consider BikeRadar your trusty riding companion, dedicated to helping you make the most of your biking experience.
In this guide, we’ll cover essential aspects like gear, attire, nutrition, technique, and the common challenges that come with taking up cycling. But don’t forget, the most crucial part of cycling is the sheer enjoyment it brings.
Best Cycling Clothing for Beginners
Let’s start with what to wear. The world of cycling apparel offers a vast array of choices, with various colours and fabrics, ranging from budget-friendly to extravagantly expensive. Let’s figure out what suits you best.
- Padded Cycling Shorts: Cycling shorts with padding can help alleviate discomfort during long rides. A key point to remember: don’t wear underwear beneath padded shorts. Extra padding won’t provide relief on extended rides. Instead, focus on finding the right saddle, adjusting your saddle height, and getting accustomed to it.
- Cycling Helmet: While the debate about helmet legislation continues, investing in a comfortable, lightweight, and affordable cycling helmet is wise. You need not purchase the most expensive model; they all adhere to safety standards.
- Consider Clipless Pedals: Choosing between flat or clipless pedals can be tricky. Clipless pedals, which attach to cleats on your cycling shoes, are favoured by many experienced cyclists due to their efficiency. They may seem intimidating at first, but with practice, you’ll adapt quickly and notice a significant improvement in pedalling efficiency.
- Mountain Biking Protection: If you’re into mountain biking, especially when you’re starting out or learning new skills, investing in a good pair of gloves and knee pads is wise. Depending on your riding’s technicality, consider additional protection like elbow pads and back protectors for jumps and downhill trails.
- Cycling Sunglasses: A pair of quality cycling sunglasses doesn’t need to break the bank or make you look unusual. They serve the essential purpose of protecting your eyes from bugs, stones, sun, and rain. Look for versions with interchangeable lenses for various weather conditions.
Bike Maintenance Made Easy
Now that you’re comfortably dressed, let’s talk about keeping your bike in top shape. You don’t need a full arsenal of tools for this, but having a nearby bike shop for advice is handy.
- Use Chain Lube: Regularly clean and lubricate your bike chain, especially after riding in adverse weather conditions. Proper maintenance eliminates the dreaded chain creak and extends the life of critical components like chainrings.
- Check Tire Pressure: Tire manufacturers provide recommended pressures on the sidewall, but ideal road bike tire pressure depends on several factors. Invest in a quality bike pump with a pressure gauge for easy maintenance.
- Fit Mudguards/Fenders: Installing mudguards or fenders is crucial for preparing your road bike for wet conditions. They not only keep you cleaner but also protect your bike. While some argue they disrupt a road bike’s sleek lines, they’re invaluable in winter’s mucky conditions.
- Keep Your Bike Clean: Regular bike cleaning doesn’t have to be a complex task. A simple sponge, hot soapy water, and a bit of elbow grease work wonders. For stubborn grime, specialized cleaning sprays are available. Use a degreaser for the drivetrain and finish with a silicone aerosol to prevent mud buildup.
- Master Puncture Repair: Learn how to repair a puncture and always carry a repair kit, including tire levers, patches or a spare inner tube, and a pump. When you’re far from home and hear that hissing sound, knowing how to fix it yourself is invaluable.
What to Eat and Drink When Cycling
Now, let’s talk about your energy source. You don’t have to spend a fortune on specialized sports nutrition; a look in your kitchen cabinets might suffice.
- Stay Hydrated: Whether you prefer a water bottle or a hydration pack, always carry fluids on your rides. Reliable bottle cages make carrying water convenient. You can often find refill spots along your route, and many cafes are willing to provide free refills.
- Stay Fueled: Prevent bonking on a ride by ensuring your body has enough fuel. Consume 100 to 250 calories every 30 minutes, depending on your effort level. This can include energy gels, cereal bars, or fruits. A homemade energy bar can save you money and cater to your taste and nutritional needs.
- Use Electrolytes: Cramping is a common issue during challenging rides. To replace lost electrolytes through sweating, consider consuming sports drinks or making your own by mixing fruit juice, water, sugar, and a pinch of salt. While the cause of cramps isn’t fully understood, this approach can help.
- Refuel: After a demanding ride, focus on carbohydrates and protein for recovery. Aim for a post-ride meal rich in both. When pressed for time, a smoothie with a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio is an excellent choice. There are pre-mixed recovery drinks available, or you can make your own.
- Give It the Beans: Embrace the tradition of the mid-ride coffee stop. Caffeine has been proven to enhance endurance, making coffee and cycling a potent combination. It’s not just about performance; it’s a delightful part of the cycling experience.
Cycling Safety for New Cyclists
Safety is paramount. With the right mix of confidence and caution, both city streets and rural roads are yours to explore. Gain experience to read situations effectively.
- Communicate: Before setting out on a long solo ride, inform someone of your route and expected return time. Utilize bike computers and cycling apps like Strava to share your location with loved ones via tracking links or apps like WhatsApp.
- Get Street-Wise: Learn essential traffic-riding skills for urban cycling. Be assertive, stay out of the gutter, and remember your right to share the road. Familiarize yourself with ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ positions in traffic, and use them appropriately.
- Don’t Jam the Brakes: Your front brake is more effective than the rear for stopping. Aim for a 60/40 or 70/30 power distribution between front and rear brakes. However, be cautious not to lock up your wheels, especially with modern, powerful brakes.
- Master Turning Technique: When cornering, position your outside pedal at the lowest point to maximize grip, especially in wet conditions. This technique reduces the risk of sliding out.
- Better Together: Riding in a group offers social and training advantages. Cyclists in a group are more efficient by taking turns at the front. To ride safely in close proximity, avoid sudden movements, unexpected braking, and ‘half-wheeling’ (riding slightly ahead of the person next to you). Learn and use hand signals to communicate obstacles to riders behind you, and expect the same courtesy.
Lastly, let’s delve into the cycling technique. While there’s ongoing debate on the ‘right’ technique for various forms of riding, certain principles remain constant:
- Sit Comfortably: Achieve the perfect road bike position and ensure your bike saddle is at the correct height. This enhances comfort, power, and overall riding enjoyment. A professional bike fit, available at reputable bike shops, is recommended for cyclists of all levels.
- No Chain Strain: Avoid ‘cross chaining’ gears, which places excessive stress on the chain and drivetrain. Familiarize yourself with proper gear usage to maintain efficiency and prolong your bike’s lifespan.
- Spin: Maintain a high and consistent cycling cadence, ideally around 70 to 90 pedal revolutions per minute. Shifting to a lower gear before encountering steep hills helps you maintain a smooth cadence and power output.
- Team Up: Riding with companions can be motivating and enjoyable. Encourage friends to join you or introduce them to buying used bikes to kickstart their cycling journey. Cycling is about fun and camaraderie, so don’t fret too much about having the ‘perfect’ gear or bike. The best bike is the one that brings you joy.
In conclusion, cycling offers an exciting adventure filled with opportunities for growth and enjoyment. Embrace these tips, and remember that the key to a fulfilling cycling experience is the simple joy of riding your bike.