If you are looking to get into cycling, there are plenty of things that you need to learn. Even though you won’t be able to take it all in at once, there are some basics that you need to know before jumping on your bicycle and hitting the road. The following are eight essential tips for beginner cyclists.
1. Be Safe
Before you start focusing on how to get faster, you need first to understand how to stay safe when riding on the road. Regardless of your cycling ability, it is crucial to always adhere to the following essential safety tips:
– Always wear a helmet, even when on slow or short rides
– Make use of hand signals to notify other road users of your intended actions
– Adhere to the exact traffic laws as motor vehicles
– Learn the necessary roadside repairs, for example, changing a flat tire
2. Draft as close as you find appropriate
By riding in the draft of others, you will be able to conserve more energy and ride for longer distances than you would on your own. You can conserve nearly 40% of your energy when you ride behind other cyclists as compared to when riding at the same speed when your body is exposed to the wind.
Even though riding in close proximity to other cyclists can get scary, you will still gain some of the benefits of drafting if you stay within 2-3 feet. You can begin by keeping this distance and slowly move in closer to the back wheel ahead of you as you become better at cycling. If you know a more experienced cyclist, then you can ask them to teach you basic drafting principles until you become more comfortable riding in a group.
3. Take Rest Days
One of the most common mistakes committed by beginners is trying to do too much at once. This often leads to injury. The general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t increase your weekly mileage target by more than 10% each week.
It is also important to note that any high-intensity or long rides should always be accompanied by one or two days of rest or easy cycling. This helps your body to properly recover and avoid the occurrence of common overuse injuries. If you want to learn more about taking care of yourself when cycling, then you can read more here.
4. Go Easy on Descents
The better you get at handling your bike, the less frightening fast descents will become. However, until you are more comfortable on your bike, you should maintain a safe speed.
Keep in mind the fact that the front brake offers more braking power than the back brakes. To slow down properly when riding downhill, you should lightly apply equal pressure to both brake levers. This way, you will be able to maintain better control of your bike. Applying too much pressure at once can make you swerve or result in your rear wheel fishtailing and causing an accident.
5. Get a Professional Bike Fit
When it comes to cycling, there can be a lot of gear you might need to buy as a beginner. Even though having the proper shoes and shorts will significantly influence your comfort and performance, you should consider investing in a bike fit. When you dial in your position, you will be able to increase your speed, ride for longer, and more safely.
A lot of bike shops provide this service. However, the costs tend to vary based on what is included in the fit. At the very least, saddle fore/aft position, saddle height, and cleat and handle-bar reach adjustment should be included. A professional bike fit can cost from $150-$350, and the appointment can last between two to three hours.
6. Invest in the right Saddle
When it comes to saddle comfort, it’s never a one-size-fits-all affair. What another person finds comfortable might not necessarily appeal to you. Find a bike shop that offers a demo saddle program. This way, you will be able to try out various options to find the one that is most comfortable for your particular anatomy before investing your hard-earned cash.
7. Go for Clipless Pedals
In case you are getting into cycling for fitness purposes, then clipless pedals are crucial. You will be able to pedal with more efficiency and target more muscle groups by fixing your foot to the pedal using a specialized shoe and cleat. When on high-intensity or long-distance rides, this will significantly influence your comfort and performance on the bike.
Check out this beginner’s guide to using clipless pedals to learn a few tips on setup and technique before heading out for your first ride.
8. Fine Tune your shifting
Once you learn how to shift at the right time, you will be able to maintain your momentum and improve your average speed. The following are some essential shifting tips:
- Always shift before the terrain changes.
- When riding uphill, you should ease up on the pedals when shifting, as this helps to avoid making your chain fall off.
- Avoid cross-chaining – riding with the large ring up front and the biggest cog on the back or the tiny ring in the front and the smallest cog on the back.