In recent years, cycling has become one of the most popular sports for people over 40’s. There are many reasons people get involved in cycling, such as health reasons, networking, being influenced by friends, or simply because of mid-life crisis.
The Economist wrote that cycling is the new golf for younger executives. That was back in 2013, and cycling’s popularity has grown leaps and bounds, especially since COVID-19 hit.
Like starting a new hobby, it can be overwhelming in the beginning. It’s not as simple as simply buying a bike, and off you go. There’s much more to that.
This article will cover the basics to help you get into cycling.
Get to know your local bike shops
Visit as many local bike shops as possible. Have a chat with the owner and staff and get to know them. By the end of the process, you’ll probably have a shortlist of a handful of shops that you feel comfortable dealing with.
Bike shops don’t just sell bikes. They provide a physical presence where you can hang out, interact for advice, consultation, and bike service. Some shops have a large presence in the local cycling community, where they organize group rides that you can join.
More reading : Should You Buy Your Bike Online or Locally?
Choose the right type of bike
Today, road bikes come in many different forms. Each one has slightly different characteristics and is suited to a particular type of terrain and riding style.
- All-rounder bikes excel in hilly and rolling terrains and are preferred by most cyclists.
- Aero bikes focus on speed with their aerodynamic design and are suited for flat terrains.
- Endurance bikes are for long-distance riding, more comfortable with their upright geometry.
Depending on your budget, new or used road bikes can cost anywhere from $500 to $15,000. The factors that determine the price range include frame materials (carbon vs. aluminum vs steel), groupsets (mechanical vs. electronic shifting), components’ quality, and the brand.
More reading : The Leading Road Bike Brands to Consider
Choose the right bike size
Generally, road bike sizes are for cyclists between 5’1” (155cm) to 6’7” (200cm). Depending on the brand, the sizing can range from XXS to XXL or 44 to 62.
One of the biggest mistakes beginner cyclists makes is purchasing the wrong bike size. While it’s still rideable in most cases, this will significantly affect your comfort and hamper your bike handling.
Get advice from your local bike shops on your ideal size. An experienced bike salesperson can often tell you your size based on your height or inseam. Alternatively, you can consult a professional bike fitter before purchasing.
More reading : How to Determine Your Ideal Bike Size
Wear proper clothing
Once you have your bike sorted out, it’s time to look into proper cycling clothing. You can get away with your regular sports clothing, but having cycling-specific clothing will make the ride much more comfortable and enjoyable.
Here are some of the cycling clothing to consider :
- Helmet doesn’t need much explanation. It’s for safety reasons, and in many countries, it’s a law that you must wear a helmet while riding. Make sure you get the right helmet that suits you.
- Cycling jerseys are usually close-fitting and made from technical fabrics that wick sweat effectively from your body. They have three rear pockets for you to store items such as your phone, keys, and food.
- Bib shorts have pads (chamois) that provide additional comfort and support for your sit bones while you’re on the saddle. They’re next to the skin to help wick sweat and prevent chafing, especially on longer rides. Never wear your undies under the bib shorts.
- Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays, road debris, and insects.
- Gloves protect your palms during a fall and for you to wipe the sweat off your face.
The above will get you started. After that, you can consider cycling-specific shoes which will lock your feet onto the pedals for smoother and more efficient pedaling.
Have the basic accessories
Besides the bike, you’ll need some basic accessories to go with it.
You’ll need at least one, preferably two water bottles and two bottle cages, a hand pump, tire levers, spare inner tubes, and a multi-tool with front and rear lights.
If budget allows, you can consider getting a basic bike computer to display your riding speed, distance, and time. Advanced models ($100 to $400) can record your ride, provide navigation and have color and touch screen functionalities.
More reading : How to Use Strava for Cycling
Find a riding group
Cycling is much more enjoyable in a group. Riding in a group saves you plenty of energy, and allows you to go further and faster.
Many beginner cyclists usually start with their local bike shops which will gradually ease them into group riding. If you have cyclist friends or colleagues, ask whether you can join their rides. Make sure to find out the distance, route, and pace before committing.
You don’t want to be left out alone in the middle of nowhere!
More reading : Bunch Riding Etiquettes
Create a riding schedule
Once you get going and start to ride more, you’ll need to start thinking about a regular riding schedule so that riding doesn’t interfere with other aspects of your daily life. Most cyclists have to balance work, family, riding, and recovery time.
Most weekday group rides are early in the morning between 530 to 730am, and evening rides between 630 to 830pm. Weekend rides can last up to 1pm or even into the early evenings.
If you’re commuting to work by bicycle, then your daily rides are sorted out.
Learn basic bike maintenance
There’s a saying; take care of your equipment, and it will take care of you. The same applies to your bike.
As your skill set grows, you can perform intermediate to advanced maintenance tasks such as fine-tuning the gears, bleeding the hydraulic disc brakes, or building up the bike yourself.
More reading : What Affects Tire Wear?
Learn how to use the right gears
There are a lot of gears on road bikes today, depending on the model. Low to mid-tiered models are usually 10 or 11-speed, and mid to top-tiered models are either 11 or 12-speed. Combine this with the two front chainrings, and you’ll have access to up to 24 gears.
Most cyclists pedal between 80 to 90rpm. The key is finding the right gear for your cadence to fall within this range, regardless of the terrain.
You’ll know you’re in the wrong gear if you’re spinning like a hamster but barely moving or mashing the pedals that it felt like weight training in the gym.
More reading : Compact vs Standard Crankset - Which One to Use?
Increase the miles gradually
From my own experience, I know it’s tempting to ride far and/or hard after you’ve bought your first bike. Some even tried to do a century ride on their maiden ride, but that’s usually not a good idea.
Hold off that temptation.
Instead, gradually increase the distance weekly, let your body cope (and recover) from the increase in fatigue. Consider starting with flat routes to build endurance and fitness before tackling the hills.
As your fitness improves, so does the enjoyment on the bike. Pushing yourself too hard, too soon, will lead to unnecessary injury and fatigue.
Safety first, always
As road cyclists, we share the road with other users. Make sure you can see and be seen.
Always use front and rear lights regardless of the time, follow road traffic rules, stop at red lights, and don’t ride on sidewalks are some of the standard safety precautions to keep in mind. Learn how to use hand signals whether you’re riding alone or in a group, and don’t use headphones.
Be careful when riding next to parked cars to avoid being doored.
Get a bike fit
Speaking from experience, getting a bike fit is something to think about further down the road. It’s not at the top of your to-do list for now.
Most bike shops will provide you with a free, basic bike fitting when you buy a bike from them. They’ll help you to set up your saddle height, saddle fore-aft, swapping to the correct stem length, and set up the cleats if you’re using clipless pedals.
A bike fit will tell you more about yourself, such as any discrepancies in your leg length, pedaling patterns, and more. The fitter will then use this information to fine-tune your position on the bike to improve comfort, reduce hand numbness, and ease lower back pain.
Bike fits can cost anywhere from $200 to $400 and last up to 4 hours.
More reading : What Affects Saddle Height?
Practice and practice
Knowing how to ride and ride a bike well is entirely different. It’s a whole other world riding by yourself on quiet roads compared to riding with traffic or in a group of cyclists at 25mph.
Get comfortable riding very close to others (less than an arm’s length).
Practice your bike handling and descending skills. Go slow on descends until you’re comfortable with how the bike handles. Get to know how much power the brakes have; the front brake has much more bite, feather the brakes rather than grabbing the levers to avoid locking up the wheels and skidding.