What kind of cyclist are you? Do you love road biking? Mountain biking? Or are you just a casual everyday commuter? Are you competitive? Or do like to go on longer, fun group rides? Are you an explorer and love rides with a destination like a hole-in-the-wall diner in the middle of nowhere? Do love being challenged on hills? I’m sure there is a style of cycling for everyone. What’s yours?
If you aren’t a cyclist, YOU ARE MISSING OUT. I only started taking cycling seriously after I completed the Ride to Conquer Cancer in 2011 and then I was hooked. Fresh air, freedom, speed, distance… cardio, fitness — what more could you ask for?
Here are some tips for cycling newbies:
- Get your bike properly fitted. A 30 second glance by some sales associate followed by an “okay that bike fits you” is NOT a proper bike fitting. A proper one can take well over an hour and even if you have to pay for it, it’s worth it if you want a comfortable, injury free ride AND especially if you paid good money for your bike.
- Invest in good quality riding gear. Padded cycling shorts (your butt will love you for it), riding gloves, helmet, waterproof shell (especially for Raincouverites)…
- Wear a fucking helmet. Sorry for the potty-mouth profanity but one of my biggest pet peeves are cyclists not wearing a helmet when they put themselves in precarious situations like zipping in and out of traffic on a super busy road with no shoulders/bike lanes …during rush hour.
- Train at the gym. I didn’t get on a real bike until a week before the Ride to Conquer Cancer because I didn’t have a bike (I used a borrowed hybrid) and I was at the gym everyday anyway. I did a lot of short (HIIT) bike sessions and a couple longer sessions (30+ miles) so my butt can get use to being in the saddle for so long and that paired with my regular, intense training, more than prepared me for the ride. You can also take spin classes if you are too lazy to come up with your own program.
- Cross-train. Do lower body exercises (squats, lunges, deadlifts. etc) to strengthen your legs which will really help you on climbs! Work on your upper-body and core to hold yourself up during long rides. Run, swim, hike and lift weights for variety.
- Get a cycling buddy — preferably one with a similar fitness level as you. I’m lucky because mine is my boyfriend and a perfect date for us is a 100k ride to go pig out somewhere. That’s what you call true love.
- Go on group rides. Call out your friends, join a cycling club, take cycling clinics. It’s social and you learn more about riding.
- Start slow. Don’t expect to be able to ride 50k+ on your first time out. Build up your distance every week and set small goals along the way.
- Carry essentials with you when riding. Snacks, water bottle, repair kit, spare tubes, ID, cash…
- Fuel properly. Carry gels, bars or snacks on your longer rides and always drink water even when you are not thirsty! I never get thirsty while riding even on super long rides but I’m learning to make myself drink water anyway.
- Get your bike tuned. Do a quick check up before each ride. Get your bike professionally tuned often if you ride a lot or if you feel like something isn’t right. Better safe than sorry!