Tips for Cycling Newbies
Every cyclist was at once a beginner.
Chances are, they all made similar mistakes.
If you’re new to cycling, then you can learn from the mistakes of the rookie cyclists that came before you.
Here, at Cycling Off-Grid, are three beginner cycling mistakes that you may want to avoid.
1. Lack of Preparedness
We get it. You’ve got your first bike, and you’re ready to hit the trails. You rush out the door, race through the woods, and then hear the unforgettable hissing noise of air leaving your tires. You should always expect the worst on your rides and be prepared for exactly that. A punctured tire can happen the very first time you ride your bike.
You don’t want to be that cyclist that has to call their friends for a ride every time they get a flat tire. Instead, you need to be prepared with tire levers, a mini-pump, and a spare inner tube. Learning how to change a flat on a bike is relatively simple. And once you’ve figured it out for yourself, you’ll have earned an extra measure of freedom.
Carrying these tools around as you rid may not be the most convenient thing in the world, but it’s certainly better than being stuck on a trail with a flat tire. It means you’ll be able to get back on that bike and make your way home the same way you left. No need to phone a friend.
Keep in mind that preparedness isn’t just about having the right tools. It’s also about knowing how to use them. Luckily, you can find instructional videos online for just about anything these days. Or you could visit a local bike shop if you’d prefer to learn in person. While you’re at it, you should learn how to adjust your handlebars and saddle height as well.
Too far, too high, and too fast are three mistakes that every cycling rookie is bound to make. The first refers to the length of their rides. This is particularly common with cyclists who were previously skilled at another sport or who consider themselves very physically fit. They jump on their bike and try to churn out the big miles on day one. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most common injury sources among cyclists.
Even if you have experience with another sport, it doesn’t mean you’re ready for the heavy mileage. The peddling muscles need to develop, and the body needs to acclimate to the unique strains of cycling. Pushing too far when you are new will result in fatigue and burnout very early on. And pushing beyond that point can result in serious injury. Instead, start slowly and build up greater distances over time.
Too high refers to their eagerness to attack hills. This often happens when a rookie cyclist is on a great ride and is feeling extremely confident. They see a big hill and decide to tackle it with all that they have. Even if more experienced cycling friends have slowed down noticeably. After making it partially up the slope, they realise it’s longer and steeper than they expected. Meanwhile, their slow-moving cycling friends are moving past them.
Making it up hills requires strategic pacing. Rookie cyclists should consider tackling hills in a very low gear. Only after comfortably climbing hills at this gear should they consider raising it to the next level. And pay attention to the more experienced cyclists in the area. If they are slowing down for the hill, then maybe you should too.
Now that you’ve made it over the top of the hill it’s smooth sailing from there, right? Not quite. Too fast refers to that same confidence but applied to go downhill. A rookie cyclist can easily push too hard down a hill or pick a wrong line. Fast descents and tight corners are a recipe for danger. Just as with climbing a hill, the secret to descending is proper pacing.
3. Not Dressing Properly
Your clothes can be considered some of your most important gear. Of course, you don’t necessarily need to dress like an Olympic cyclist to begin riding your bike. You should still consider upgrading to actual biking attire in time. The most important thing to remember is that some clothes just aren’t meant for riding a bike.
First, you need to consider the climate where you will be riding. This includes checking the forecast for later in the day as well. Don’t make the mistake of jumping on your bike while the sun is out and assuming you’ll come home with a dark tan. Meanwhile, grey clouds are just around the corner and ready to rain on your parade. At the very least, you should be prepared with a light jacket that can protect you from unexpected weather.
As for clothes that don’t belong on a bike, jeans should be at the top of that list. Their material and their seams are going to make long rides very miserable. And certain fabrics like cotton will get very heavy if rain does come.
Sooner or later you should invest in a pair of decent cycling shorts. Don’t make the mistake of wearing underwear with those shorts. It’s a common mistake made by rookie cyclists. After all, wearing underwear with shorts seems natural. Cycling shorts, however, are designed to move with the body while peddling. Underwear gets in the way of that motion and bunches up, which will most likely lead to chafing.
You’ll need to be brave and go commando if you want to wear cycling shorts. It’s a bold step for some, but it makes a huge difference, and you’ll be glad that you did.
These three mistakes have been made by nearly every rookie cyclists to get on a bike. The reality is that mistakes happen even with experienced cyclists. You may still overestimate your ability to climb a hill or forget your patch kit at home even after cycling for years. But being aware of common mistakes and making an effort to avoid them will at least reduce how often they happen.
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