Essential Tips for Beginner Cyclists
It’s been so much fun to see so many new cyclists out on the road this past year! As someone who is relatively new to the sport, I remember the all too-many mistakes I had to learn the hard way - a blog like this would definitely have come in handy. For those of you who have just started riding or picking it up after an extended break following
childhood, welcome! For those of you who are thinking of starting but think it all feels a bit overwhelming, hopefully the below demystifies the process for you.
Very easy to think about putting on the warmest jacket you have and setting off. A simple rule that has worked for me almost every time is: You should always leave the house wishing you had an extra layer on. That way once you get warm, you’re not overheating. By putting light layers on also means that you can easily add and subtract depending on the way the weather shapes up. My favourites to carry are a snood and a merino headband to keep my ears warm at café stops.
Learn how to change a flat
A super boring piece of housekeeping. This is essential! It takes some practice, and a fair amount of error (or it did on my end). Ask a more knowledgeable friend and practice together. OR pulling YouTube up on the side of the road as a handy guide works a charm too. An unwritten rule is to always carry what you need to change a flat. Although most cyclists will be friendly enough to stop and give you a hand if truly in a jam, you shouldn’t rely on the goodwill of a passer-by to stop and give you an inner tube. The essentials: 1-2 spare inner tubes (depending on the distance), tyre levers and a hand pump. Make sure you bring punctured tubes home so you can repair them and recycle.
If you’re dusting off the bike after having had it in the shed for a few years, visit your local bike shop (if you don’t have the know-how yourself) to get it checked over to make sure it’s road worthy. It might be in need of new break pads or a chain and will prevent you needing to walk home 15 miles if you have a serious mechanical issue.
Go easy on the distance - pace yourself!
Because cycling is a relatively low intensity sport (depending on how many hills you’ve thrown in), it’s easy to overdo it. Doing too much before you’re conditioned to do so puts you at risk of over use injuries. Gradually build the time and distance and make sure you’re doing plenty of strength training to support your cycling.
The most padded seat is most often not the most comfortable one out there! This may take some trial and error to find the right one for you. As a starting point, I would recommend not going for the ones that resemble a pillow. Hear me out.. A very soft, gel-like saddle can increase the pressure on the soft tissues around the sit bones. One of the aims of a saddle (bike seat) is to support you and help evenly distribute the weight on the pressure points where you make contact with your bike.
A little discomfort after your first few rides may be normal as you get used to the seat however pain beyond that may mean your saddle nor your bike fit are right for you and may require some adjustment.
Learn the rules of the road + cycle safety
It might seem as easy as jumping on your bike and using the road freely however there are some key rules that need to be known and shouldn’t be neglected. If you’ve not had to learn the rules of the road before, it might be a good idea to do a cycle safety course (apparently some London boroughs are offering these for free!).
- No ‘overtaking’ other road users on the left hand side. Known as undertaking, this is dangerous as both drivers and cyclists have a rule for this. Always pass on the right hand side.
- It is a legal requirement to have front and rear lights on in the evenings/dark mornings. Not only so that other road users can see you but can also be helpful to light the road in front.
- WEAR A HELMET
- You are considered a road user so you need to follow traffic lights and signage as such.
Say whaaaat? Although not an essential piece of kit, if you want to start venturing beyond roads you already know or veer off doing your regular commute, a bike computer is a game changer. Like having a tiny map mounted onto the front of your bike except it tells you where to turn. Then you can start stealing some routes and venture further out of the confines of the city. If you’re not ready to fork out that kind of money (fair), think about getting one second hand or a simple phone mount will probably also go a long way.
You have every right to be on the road - ride with confidence!
Hopefully you’ve found the answer to one or a few questions you may have had in there. There is an endless amount to cover however think that these are a good place to start. If you have more questions or there are things you’d want to see covered in a part 2 - send me an email! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org Happy riding!
Emilie is an Osteopath and Sports Massage therapist at Balanced Osteopathy. She is our resident expert on cycling injuries and available for appointments on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.