A lot of people have been asking me how to get into cycling so I decided to write a an entry instead of replying to everyone individually. I’m not going to go into too much detail but I will post links and feel free to request more information!
Cycling is truly an amazing sport.
I’m sure a lot of my friends are sick of me talking about cycling and not being around because I’m riding my bike somewhere but cycling changed my life and so many people are missing out! There are just so many benefits and I wish everyone I knew got into it. Fortunately for me, people all around me are starting to get into cycling so I foresee new riding buddies for me in the future.
The advantages? Exercise, no parking problems, gas prices, it’s fun. An automobile is expensive. You have to find a place to park and it’s not fun. So why not ride a bicycle? I recommend it. ~ Stephen G. Breyer
First, ask yourself these questions:
- Why do I want to get into cycling?
- What kind of cycling do I want to do? (commuting, leisure, fitness, competitive, road, mountain…)
- Where will I be riding?
Second, you need gear.
- A bike. Your answers to the question above will determine what kind of bike you need. If you just want to commute or do some leisurely riding, a hybrid bike may do. If fitness or competitive cycling is for you, look into getting a road or mountain specific bike. If you are serious, buy the best bike you can afford because a bike frame will last for a very long time and also remember to test ride different bikes before committing.
- The Basics. Helmet (don’t be a vain asshole with no disregard for your own life), repair kit, waterbottle & cage, a bike pump with pressure gauge, lights if you are planning on riding in unfavorable conditions, a saddle bag and bike shorts (trust me and do not cheap out on this— your butt will thank you later).
- The Other stuff. These aren’t necessities but will improve your cycling experience if you know you are committed (since some of these can be quite costly): gloves, bike shoes and clipless pedals, a better saddle, racks (for commuting), bike computer or heart-rate monitor for training, etc.
Third, you need to understand bicycle safety and etiquette:
- Always use hand and voice signals.
- Use common sense and know how to cycle safely in traffic.
- Read up on cycling cycling etiquette and rules.
- Drivers, pedestrians and even cyclists already hate cyclists. Don’t be one of those asshole cyclists that makes the rest look bad by running red lights, holding up traffic on a busy road, weaving in and out of traffic during rush hour when there is a dedicated bike lane one block over… basically don’t do stupid shit on the road and act like you own it.
- Always be alert, be predictable, make eye contact with drivers and plan for the worse case scenario. There is no room for error while riding with traffic… but it’s not as scary as it sounds! You just need common sense (but if you don’t have any, my best piece of advice for you is to not get into cycling!).
Forth, you need to get out and ride!
- Start slow. Cycling may not be easy especially if you are out of shape or haven’t been on a bike in a long time. False flats, hills and wind can tire you out really fast but do not get discouraged!
- Build up the mileage and your fitness. Don’t expect to able to go on a 50k ride right when you start. Start with short trips, bike to work, take as many breaks as you need, try to ride as much as you can on as many different terrains as you can. The fitter you get, the more enjoyable and addicting cycling will become. And if you stick with it, you WILL get fitter.
- Train on hills. Don’t be afraid of them… embrace and love them! They are there to challenge you and make you better. If the hill coming up looks too steep, tell yourself you can do it and just do it. It will be painful but you aren’t the only one suffering because everyone who cycles up that hill is hurting too. The pros may make it look easy because they are going up so fast— but because they are going up so fast and pushing hard, they are silently suffering as well. It never gets easier for even the strongest riders— they just get faster!
- Find a riding buddy or join cycling clubs at your local bike shops or places like MEC. Cyclists are a tight-knit community and everyone is always willing to help out a newbie. Plus going on group rides with people oozing with passion in cycling will get you even more into it!
- Sign up for a charity ride or race. That’s how it got started for me and I’ve been hooked ever since.
- Track your progress or compare your results with other cyclists on Strava. Personally, I don’t obsess over stats (only the pretty maps Strava produces after your ride) but if you are competitive, trying to place high on the leaderboards is great motivation for you to be a better rider.
- DON’T GIVE UP! A lot of people want to do things but don’t succeed because they don’t have the right mindset. One thing I despise the most are people who complain or worse, quit! Stop being a loser because people who don’t believe in themselves are setting themselves up for failure.
- REI’s extensive guide on getting into cycling.
- Secrets to Cycling Faster Up Hills
- “The Rules” — just for fun!