So, you want to start cycling? Here are a few tips I learned 22 years ago when I was starting out. Who am I to talk? Well, I have been racing on road and off since getting my first road bike. I average between 10,000-13,000 miles per year and made my way up to a category 2 road racer (cat 1 is the highest before you go pro). I was lucky to win 2 New York State road race titles, 2 King of the Mountain (KOM) titles at bigger stage races, as well as numerous podiums. I live in the north east so deal with all sorts of weather and less than ideal road conditions when out training.
- 1. Go to a real bike shop: Don’t buy your first bike at a department store or online. Your local bike shop is a wealth of knowledge. They will make sure you’re getting the bike that matches your goals, riding conditions and experience. They can advise you on equipment like helmets, lights and clothing.
- 2. Get the Right Size: This is where a bike shop comes in handy, again. They will make sure (usually) that you’re on the right size. So many beginners I see are on the incorrect sized bike. No amount of bike fitting will correct a bike that is too small or too large for you and this will really impact your comfort and speed.
- 3. Get a professional bike fit: I resisted this one for a few years when I first started training seriously. I regret it. It’s one of the first cycling tips I give. Get a real bike fit! But I thought to myself when I started out, “I’m not a pro or a Cat 1, why would I need a pro bike fit?” I know spending $200-$400 on a pro bike fit seems excessive especially when you’re not putting in huge miles or racing but it is one of the best places to spend your money, trust me. Getting into the best position based on multiple factors will help prevent injury, make you way more comfortable, faster and more powerful on the bike. I finally got a pro bike fit when I started to experience knee pain. I’ve had roughly 15 bike fits over my career and I swear by them. That said, there are a lot of bad bike fitters out there so do your research for good ones in your area. Now, I’m not talking about the rough 10 min fit most bike shops do. They’re just getting you into a safe position, not the optimal position. To give you an idea, almost every one of my bike fits took 2-4 hours.
- 4. Don’t Go Cheap on Shorts: I learned the hard way to spend top dollar for cycling bib shorts. We don’t wear regular spandex shorts but ones with shoulder straps, called bib shorts. They keep the chamois in the correct position, won’t give you “plumbers crack” an hour into your ride and they don’t have a tight band going around your abdomen which is very uncomfortable. I always get the top bib short in any company’s line paying special attention to the chamois insert. The chamois will be your contact point with your saddle so having a good one is worth every penny and help keep any cyclist comfortable on the bike. Nothing will ruin a ride like a painful butt. One last thing, never, ever wear underwear under your bib shorts (Yes, I did that). It defeats the purpose of this chaff-reducing garment to add fabric and elastic to various areas to cause friction. Plus those panty lines LOL!
- 5. Find the saddle that fits you not the one that looks best: Finding the right saddle is tough. It is unlikely that the one that comes with your bike will fit you. Ignore weight or how sexy it looks. Comfort is the only thing to concern yourself with (and soft cushy padding doesn’t always equal comfort). No one can really advise you on saddles, either. Measuring sit bones, flexibility and riding position can help (see bike fitter) but you often just have to test them out and see what works. In 22 years, I still haven’t found that “saddle soulmate” so I deal with some sort of pain regardless. I’ve been through roughly 50 saddles and still searching. I have very narrow sit bones so most saddles are just too wide.
I hope these tips can help someone new to the sport or thinking about starting to ride for exercise or commuting. Thank you for reading. Check out this post about the warning signs of heat stress.