When it comes to taking up a new hobby, cycling is an excellent way to move your body and spend more time outdoors. The great thing about taking up cycling is that there is a huge community that you will be joining.
Being able to bounce ideas and compare certain routes together is a huge advantage of cycling. Whether you want to push yourself and improve your athletic form, or if you are looking for a way to spend more time outdoors, cycling can be an excellent hobby.
Because cycling is a sport that requires balance, stamina, and knowledge of your own abilities, it is easy to push yourself a little too hard at the start. Make sure you ease yourself into cycling in order to build up the necessary muscles. Here are some tips to help you get started.
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Firstly, your body needs to be fueled correctly. This means having reliable access to water on your bicycle. You could find a small water bottle cage to attach to your bike frame, or invest in a hydration pack. Mixing your water with electrolyte packs can also help you stay hydrated on your rides.
When you are planning longer routes, it is essential that you bring plenty of water or plan to refill your water bottles wherever possible. Make sure you find a coffee shop or bar that will be open when you plan to head out. Another option is to stop at parks to use drinking fountains along the way.
Most places will happily refill your water bottle for free. This will save you from having to bring a spare bottle of water which can add weight to your bike. In turn, this can make it slightly harder to balance on your bike for long periods of time.
Consider the type of bottle cage that is best for your brand and type of bike before purchasing. Typically as long as your frame has the mounting screws in the middle, it will hold a water bottle cage.
Many aero track bikes don’t have this feature, but most road bikes do. In order to best prepare for hotter weather, you’ll want to plan your refills appropriately.
It is more likely that you will get through your water faster when the temperature is higher. Because of this, you may need to plan more regular stops. Make sure you are keeping yourself safe and as hydrated as possible when cycling. Getting dehydrated on a bike ride can be disastrous and dangerous.
Avoid Doing Too Much Too Soon
As we’ve mentioned previously, it can be tempting to push yourself hard from the very start. However, it’s essential to allow your body to build up the necessary stamina for longer bike rides.
Taking on routes that are too long or strenuous too soon can lead to injury if you are unable to support your muscles and body through this. Try to gradually work your way towards more challenging terrains. This allows you to avoid burnout, and fatigue that can happen in certain muscles after starting too fast.
Likewise, you should always aim to warm up during the first third of your ride. Settle into a natural pace that feels right for you, before a big push during the final third if you have the energy stores.
In addition to keeping yourself hydrated, you will need to consider how you are going to keep your body fueled correctly. This is necessary on any route that requires cycling for two or more hours.
Make sure you bring snacks to keep your muscles working and your energy levels up. Planning ahead is critical when it comes to replenishing energy and making sure you can get yourself back to where you started, if you began cycling from your home.
It is recommended that you aim to eat small amounts every 15-20 minutes to avoid a hypoglycemic state. This can lead to accidents on the road or in the wilderness, and it makes you far more likely to become injured or fall off your bike.
Failure to refuel your body can result in excessive tiredness, nausea, dizziness, and irritability. Focus on snacks like cereal, fruits, and nutritious sandwiches, and aim to have a small meal before heading out on your chosen route.
There are also snacks made exclusively for cyclists and athletes that you could consider. These snacks include energy gels, energy chews, Clif bars, Energy Waffles, and more.
One of the biggest risks that cyclists face on roads is large vehicles. Take a minute to research the basic traffic-riding skills for your city. This can allow you to feel more confident and follow the rules with ease.
Remember that you have just as many rights as the cars do, and confidence can be a huge advantage on the road as a cyclist. Consider the specific rules and recommendations to see how to behave in more built-up areas as well as on open spaces.
If you are planning to ride your bike through busier areas consistently, then it could be worth installing reflective panels onto the front and back of your bicycle. This allows you to be visible to larger vehicles, and prevents your bike from being accidentally driven into on the road.
Similarly, small LED lights can provide additional protection for any type of bike that is being ridden on the road. These maximize your chances of standing out, and can show cars and trucks coming around corners at high speeds that you are there.
In turn, when it is slightly darker or the weather is less clear, a light allows drivers plenty of time to drive around you and leave enough space for you to feel safe on the road.
If you are unsure about how to act on a particular street or stretch of road while cycling, then it could be worth researching the recommendations for your area.
Similarly, you should check when it is acceptable or even expected to dismount from your bike and push it while walking. In some states, this is okay in standstill traffic. However, it can be a strict no-go in others, so it is essential that you are looking this up if you are unsure.
Set Your Seat Height Correctly
It is also crucial that you are getting the right bicycle frame for your height, and that you know how to adjust the seat height correctly. During both push and pull stages of pedaling, you should be able to place your feet flat on the pedals.
When you ride, your knees should also be in line with the pedals. If you find that they stick out to the sides, then it is worth raising your seat or getting a larger bike frame.
Since it can be difficult to get the perfect bike height and fit, if you ride regularly, it is highly recommended that you get a professional bike fit.
Someone with more experience can give you suggestions based on your leg length, posture, and intended use for the bike.
You should also be able to comfortably extend your arms to the handles of a bicycle with around 45 degrees angle. If you cannot comfortably achieve this, then you should consider a bike with slightly different dimensions.
Check Your Posture
While it may not seem like the most important thing to focus on, your posture while cycling can protect you from certain injuries. Using correct posture can prevent too much strain being placed on specific muscles.
It can therefore impact the overall quality of your cycling experience. Make sure your shoulders and spine are relaxed to allow easy movement of the head at all times. This prevents pains from occurring and stops excessive pressure from building up in your shoulders, crotch area, and hands.
If you are unsure, it could be worth speaking with a bicycle retailer or more experienced cyclist for their advice on your form.
Follow The Traffic
Make sure you are moving with the flow of traffic on busy streets. Cycling against the traffic is incredibly dangerous, and it is illegal in many states. Make sure you are treating the road like a car when you are cycling in order to remain as safe as possible.
The key is to be predictable in busy areas where there is plenty of traffic to be aware of. Try to use the designated cycle lanes if possible. Some beginner cyclists plan routes that do not pass through busy intersections or streets.
This can allow them to slowly build up the confidence that is needed to navigate traffic in busier areas. Make sure you are taking a closer look at the local road laws and traffic policies for cyclists in your area. This ensures you are keeping yourself safe and sticking to the rules.
Use Your Gears
When you are cycling on rough terrain, it is important to use your gears. This makes it much easier to climb hills, navigate difficult terrain, and maximize the performance of your bike.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with gear changes when you are cycling through a quiet area. This can show you how each gear feels and the type of conditions they are the most appropriate for.
Most beginner-friendly mountain bikes and road bikes offer a range of gears which are relatively easy to master. However, it is important to practice gear changes when you have the chance.
Doing this before heading out on your first trip can help you feel much more confident in changing gears consistently when it is needed. Similarly, you can feel more confident on the road. This is because you are more likely to feel as if you have control over your bike and your actions as a result.
Each bike has a slightly different method of transitioning between gears. Because of this, it is highly recommended that you take the time to research different recommendations. You should also practice the different gear changes and seeing how easy or challenging it is to pedal in certain gears.
Communicate Your Route With Your Loved Ones
Staying safe on the road is essential, and it is important to share your route with loved ones so that they know where to find you if needed. Similarly, it is recommended that you have an emergency contact.
Make sure you share details about your route including the specific day that you plan to go. Longer routes are easy to lose track of time, so you should protect yourself and share as much information as possible for the intended day with loved ones.
Details about planned stops such as particular coffee shops or restaurants can also be given, in case a loved one needs to reach you in an emergency. You could also use a burner phone, or keep your regular phone safely tucked away in your backpack with emergency contacts on them.
Some cycling tracking apps that people use such as Wahoo and Strava allow you to share your live ride with a loved one to keep you as safe as possible.
This way they can check in and make sure you’re still riding along your planned route and if you’ve been stopped for too long they can check on you to make sure nothing is wrong.
Just like you would need to whilst driving a car or larger vehicle on the road, you will need to be fully alert at all times while cycling. This allows you to adapt to changes fast when necessary and protect yourself from injury on the road.
Avoid playing music through headphones or out loud, as it can limit how alert you are on the road.
Not playing music can be a difficult one for many people to follow. Many people like to listen to music when they’re cycling. When riding on a bike path, it’s not as bad to have music on, but on the street, I’d highly recommend at least turning your music down, so you can hear your surroundings better.
You should also be ready to use hand signals when necessary, to alert other drivers of your intentions in plenty of time for them to allow space for you to do so.
Not only does this involve protecting yourself on the road, but you are making sure each driver is leaving enough room and time for you to move safely through stretches of road.
Similarly, you should stay alert of varying weather conditions on longer routes. You may not want to ride during rainfall, mist, or wind. Because of this, it is important to have a backup plan if you find yourself stuck and unable to get home.
This could include printing out details on public transport routes, information on a friend or family member who lives in the area that you can visit, or an emergency phone number. Whatever your approach is, make sure you are staying alert to changing conditions while you are cycling.
Keep Your Bicycle Maintained
Regular maintenance and care is key to making your bicycle last a long time. Whether you want to ask your local bike retailer about the right chain lubricant, or how you can carry out basic repairs.
Taking a closer look at your bike frequently can significantly extend its lifetime, and allow you to continue getting a smooth ride.
Make sure you are looking into the recommended amount of air for your particular tires, too. Carrying out regular checks and maintenance in this way can also help save you money at the bike shop.
This is because you won’t have to pay someone to do routine maintenance and repairs when you are capable of doing them yourself.
Likewise, you should get familiar with these processes so that you know how to get your bike ready for a longer trip. Understanding the basic maintenance needed allows you to carry out repairs wherever you are.
You don’t want to be 30 miles into the middle of no where and have something break on your bike that you have no clue how to fix.
Know The Terminology
Another essential thing to be aware of is the terminology that is frequently used by cyclists and enthusiasts. There are regular words and phrases that have slightly different meanings when it comes to cycling, and learning them before setting off allows you to be fully prepared.
For example, a common name for cycling shorts that have suspenders is “bibs”. When a cyclist gets dehydrated or hasn’t been fueling their body correctly, it can lead to a burn-out state known as “bonk”.
This is usually used to signal when they need immediate replenishment to avoid fatigue and severe muscle cramps.
Other terms which are important to know include “drops”. These are the curved sections of a road bike’s handlebars. However, “drop” can also mean to be left behind by a group that you were riding with.
A “clincher” is a standard road bike, and a “cassette” is the selection of gear cogs found at the rear wheel on a bike. There’s a lot more to learn but these are a couple terms to get you started.
Always Check Your Tire Pressure
In addition to this, you will need to keep a close eye on your tire pressure before and after each trip. Being able to change the inner tube when needed is an essential part of preparing for a long route. Any small rock, piece of litter, or pothole can damage your tire or inner tube on the road.
Because of this, you will need to ensure that you can easily repair small punctures, use a mini pump, and change the tube. Even small temporary changes can allow you to get back on the road safely.
Consider how knowledgeable you are about changing bicycle tires, and make sure you are researching tips for your type of bike in particular.
Protect yourself and the overall state of your bike by thoroughly checking the tire pressure and refilling with air if needed beforehand. It could be worth investing in a high quality tire pump in order to maintain the recommended tire pressure for your bike.
As a general rule, there should not be a great deal of give on your tires when you pinch them on either side. If there is, then you should inflate them until they feel firm to touch.
Because this can happen at any place on your cycling route, you should try to find a reliable, high quality pump for your tires. This should be packed into your backpack for longer trips in order to cover all possible bases on any route.
For road bikes, the best on the go bike pumps are CO2 canisters. Since road bike tires are pumped up to very high psi, it is hard to get a tire properly pumped with a hand pump.
These canisters are compressed with high pressure CO2 to pump up your tires fast to high psi. However, these pumps won’t last for days. They are an emergency fix.
Within 24 hours of using a CO2 canister your tire will be back to flat. So, you should only use these when you are out so that you can make it home. Side note: if you do use a CO2 canister you need to wrap the canister in a cloth or something before using because when using it the canister will get very cold.
Keeping yourself safe is all about protecting yourself from larger vehicles on busier roads. However, winding roads with less traffic are also important to stay alert on. This is because many drivers tend to reach high speeds on these types of roads when they think that no one else is around.
Brushing up on your knowledge of bike signals allows you to keep everybody else on the road aware of your next moves. It can also show other people that you are fully aware of your surroundings at all times.
Consider learning signals for turning, slowing down, or pulling over. While most of these arm signals are universal, it could also be worth looking into the different signs that are used in your particular state by cyclists.
Some use slightly different arm signals on the road, however the general signals tend to be preferred by many drivers as well as cyclists.
Use Chain Lube
Another crucial tip that can protect your bike and make pedaling much smoother on a regular basis is chain lube. This is critical for smooth gear changes, and protecting the chain rings from damage.
Over time, using the chains can lead to a creaking sound and an overall decreased quality of riding. Chain lube prevents this from happening, and reduces the chances of your chain coming off which is common among beginner cyclists.
However, it is also important to practice correct gear changes in order to reduce any damage that can be caused to your bike’s chains. Chain lube and correct gear changes together are likely to contribute to a smooth riding experience consistently.
Learn How To Handle Your Bike
It is also recommended that you allow around two weeks to get to know your bike. This allows you to figure out the best way of sitting, how to position the saddle based on your posture and preferences, and more.
Consider the type of terrain your bike has been made for, and make sure you stick to this as much as possible. This is because the tire thickness, seat height, length of handlebars, and the overall weight of the bike frame will vary depending on its intended use.
A road bike is made with very different features in mind than a mountain bike.
Make sure you spend the time learning how to properly handle your bike and carry out routine repairs when necessary. You can slowly build up the distance traveled, starting with a 10-minute ride and increasing to 5-miles at the end of the two-week period.
However, you can easily adjust these distances to suit your level of fitness.
Getting used to your bike is an essential part of cycling. This can allow you to feel comfortable on longer routes and be more resilient when you are traveling over tough terrain or steeper hills.
Because of this, building up the necessary muscles allows you to support your posture in the correct way. This means that you will be able to keep your balance at all times, even during tough winds.
Plan Your Route In Advance
As well as sharing your route with loved ones before heading out, you will need to take the time to carefully plan it in advance. Make sure you are thinking about the recommended distance that you can realistically handle.
You should also plan your route so that you have a chosen path back to your starting point. This could involve driving somewhere that you can begin your route, or starting from your home and circling back once you are finished.
The logistics in general should be considered carefully during the planning process of your trip. Remember that there are different terrains that are ideal for specific bikes. This means that you should consider steep hills and flat sections in your route.
Likewise, you should avoid planning to cycle for longer distances than you are comfortable with. This is so that you can get back safely at all times. You can plan your route using cycling apps, such as Strava, which are available online, or on traditional maps of the area.
There are also plenty of different online pages that can provide useful suggestions and reviews for cycling in your local area. Consider the different apps for your neighborhood to see where you can start planning your first five-mile routes.
Carry A Spare Tube Or Patch Kit
Because of how easy it is to damage your tires on any terrain, you will need to carry a spare tube or patch kit on longer routes. This is so that you are protected from minor damages. It can also allow you to keep going on your intended route rather than needing to turn back or phone someone for help.
Consider packing a spare tube or patch kit when you are planning to cycle over loose gravel, uneven ground, or any surface where you are unsure of the type of surface. This allows you to carry out necessary repairs from anywhere that you may need it.
However, even on a perfectly paved bike path, you can run over a thorn or broken glass, so you should always be prepared.
Cycling with a damaged tire or tube can lead to additional damage which is far more difficult to fix. Because of this, you should ensure that you can correct any issues with your tires without internet access or phone signal.
If you are less confident repairing a bike tire after several attempts, then you could always print out some brief directions to keep with the repair kit. This can provide useful guidance and allow you to feel more confident on long routes.
Those who are more familiar with repairing damaged tires and replacing tubes are also more likely to become familiar with other cyclists. This is because you can help those who need it on the road, and show others how they can fix their tires when they become damaged.
This may not be the case everywhere but from my experience cyclists stick together. Whenever I’m pulled over on the bike path or road looking at or checking my bike, every cyclist that passes checks to see if I’m okay or if I need help.
I’ve even had a cyclists change give me a tube when I forgot to pack a new one after a previous tire change.
Gradually Increase Your Intensity Over Time
At around the third week of cycling, you can start to increase the distance of your routes. This means adding a mile to your route for the first week, and planning to head on two to three trips during this time.
This approach allows you to build up the necessary muscles to support your body and the pedaling motion. In turn, this can increase your stamina in a healthy way over time. Your endurance can also be expected to increase over time in this way.
As long as you push yourself to travel over different surfaces, inclines, and terrains, then any beginner should be able to easily complete a ten-mile cycle route after about a month and a half.
Make sure you are pushing yourself to gradually increase the intensity of your cycling over time in order to grow the necessary muscles to support your body during cycling.
You should use the same approach as those towards working out when it comes to cycling. This is because it should be seen as a new athletic skill that can be improved over time.
Learn How To Ride In A Group
Meeting like-minded people who enjoy cycling can be an excellent way to create lasting friendships, and to encourage you to spend more time cycling. However, it can be slightly more challenging when it comes to cycling as a group.
This is because it is easy to take up larger amounts of space, that it can actually become an obstacle for car and truck drivers. As a result, there is a slightly different code of etiquette which groups of cyclists are required to follow on the road.
Make sure you are being as predictable as possible at all times. Those that have slightly less experience should stick to the back of the group, while more experienced cyclists tend to stick to the front or edges.
Most larger groups use hand signals to let cars around know what you’re doing but also to let the other cyclists know what’s happening.
There’s the basic hand signs you’d think of such as turning and stopping, but there are many others such as pointing to things such as big cracks or debris on the road. Also, letting the person behind know they need to move over.
When riding in line or in a group, it’s hard to see around the people in front of you. This makes it very important that you use hand signs to alert the other cyclists of what’s to come.
You should also aim to ask as many questions as possible beforehand. This allows you to feel as prepared as possible ahead of time, and to maintain a confident stance surrounding cycling in a group.
The cycling communities around the world are immense. Because of this, there is a high chance that you will be able to find a local club that can motivate you and encourage you to keep pushing yourself if that is something you are interested in.
When it comes to cycling for beginners, there are a range of potential issues and risks to be aware of.
These include preparing yourself with the relevant road safety knowledge, taking precautions with reflective material and lights, and working with the flow of traffic. Make sure you are staying alert at all times in order to avoid a road accident or collision.
Once the necessary safety measures have been taken, you can enjoy the freedom that cycling provides. This includes spending time outdoors with like-minded individuals.
Consider the different approaches to cycling, and how you can integrate it into your lifestyle. This includes getting used to your bike on shorter routes, using chain lube, understanding the importance of tire pressure, and sharing your planned route with loved ones.
Make sure you plan ahead and take necessary precautions like adding a water bottle to your backpack or attaching it to your bike frame. You should also pack plenty of snacks in order to keep your muscles fueled over time, and prevent the likelihood of intense fatigue.