Cycling as a sport and as a regular way of getting to and from places has been steadily gaining popularity over the last couple of years. And this comes as no surprise. It is a great low-impact exercise, it can shave a lot of time off the commute (not to mention save a lot of money on parking fees), and can help improve one’s overall physical health and mental well-being.
Beginners could, in theory, pick up a good bicycle and additional gear at reasonable prices and just go. But before they hit the road, responsible cyclists should brush up on some essentials like traffic rules and bicycle maintenance, as well as some basic knowledge of proper saddle height and posture.
To keep you safe out there and help you maximize your time on the bicycle, here are ten simple cycling tips for beginners.
Tip 1: Wear a Helmet
This is one of those really “no duh” things that get overlooked a lot, but failing to get yourself a good cycling helmet to protect your head could end in serious injuries or even death. Scary fact: 60 percent of all cycling deaths in the United States are caused by head injuries. So get a helmet. And while you’re at it, invest in other safety gear as well, like gloves, kneecaps, and reflectors or lights, especially if you plan to cycle at night. Safety first.
Tip 2: Know Traffic Rules
If you know traffic rules of your city and have taken the time to brush up on traffic-riding skills, you’re riding with confidence and making things safer for everyone else. Trust us, you don’t want to be the jerk zipping willy-nilly through traffic without any regard for anyone else. That doesn’t just make you look bad—it ruins things for other cyclists too. Be responsible!
Tip 3: Don’t Bike with Headphones In
Some people really just ride better with music on, but be wary of headphones and earbuds. They can block out a lot of really important sounds and can distract you from the road. If you have to listen to music, try using small clip-on stereos or Bluetooth speakers, which are all pretty easy to find in bike shops or the internet.
Tip 4: Stay Alert
Keep your head up far enough that you can see any obstacles along the way. This is important for any terrain, whether you’re biking on a dirt trail or in the city. Storm drains are bad news for skinny road-bike tires if you’re biking in the city, and there’s no end to weird bumps and sudden dips on trail rides. Keep those eyes peeled!
Tip 5: Pay Attention to Position
By this we mean get a bike that fits you and get into the proper biking position—one that’s comfortable for you and improves your overall performance. Make sure your saddle’s at the right height, is the right design for you, and has correct padding. Also, get handlebars at the right height. Your derriere and your back will thank you for it. Cyclists can get professionally fitted bikes at any decent bike shop, so never ever hesitate to ask shop guys for help. That’s what they’re there for!
Tip 5: Learn Basic Bike Maintenance
Here’s an important cycling tip for beginners and long-time cyclists alike: take care of your bike and your bike will take care of you. Learn how to check the tire pressure, to clean and oil the chain, and to fix a puncture. Long-distance cyclists should carry a repair kit with them, because there’s nothing worse than being miles away from home without any way to fix a punctured tire.
Tip 6: Don’t Do Too Much Too Soon
The temptation to go whole hog on your first few bike rides is all too strong. There’s nothing like being on a bike—the freedom of it, the wind in your hair! But there is such a thing as too much, too soon, and you risk long-term injuries if you push yourself beyond your limit. There are a number of cycling guides on the internet that help plot out cycling schedules depending on what works for you, without overexerting yourself.
Tip 6: Track Your Progress
How do you know you’re getting better at something? By tracking your progress. Track your mileage and number of hours per week. Measure your power output with a power meter. They help you measure the intensity of your sessions, how much you’re working, your heart rate, and your exertion, and it can even help you calculate just how many calories you’re burning per hour. (FYI: If you burn 200 watts, you’re burning about 700 calories per hour, depending on your weight and other variables. That’s two and a half cheeseburgers!)
Tip 7: Join a Cycling Club
It’s always a good idea to hang out with people who can motivate you and fill in the gaps in your knowledge. Joining a cycling club means you get to be around people you can learn from, and you get to meet a whole bunch of people who share the same interests as you. So don’t be shy!
Sometimes it feels like you’ve got a lot to get your head around when it comes to cycling, but don’t let that intimidate you. Once you get around to it, it’ll be easier for you.