A Beginner’s Cycling Guide

Talking about cycling, here’s the Beginner’s Cycling Guide.

The two most important tips

There are many important tips below, but these are the most important:

1. Start slowly. You don’t need to be killed at the very beginning. even if you are already in good shape, cycling uses a different set of muscles and other exercises, and your body takes time to get used to new types of stress. Start riding just for fun. It’s only 2-3 miles in the beginning and no rush!

2. Safety first. More important than any other sport, you need to be safe while cycling. Especially when you are driving on a highway with a lot of crazy drivers. In my area, two cyclists have been hit (one killed) in the last couple of months alone, so take action. Only drive during daylight hours, obey the rules, always keep to the right side of the road, wear brightly colored clothing that should preferably have reflectors, and remember to wear a helmet. Additional safety tips are listed below.

Bicycle

Which bike to choose? Who knows. I’m a beginner too. I think you can start with any old bike you have. No kidding. If you have one lying around in your garage, or you know who you can get it from, just inflate the wheels, make sure there are no holes in the chambers and that’s it. You don’t need to buy something modern and expensive in the beginning.

Of course, real sports bikes are the best option, but they cost less than a dollar (and some are twice as expensive), and are not so necessary in order to learn to ride and enjoy. If you have already climbed on a bike, traveled for a while and are determined to do this, then, of course, you can buy a better bike.

Good road bikes are lightweight, have stiff frames, thin tires (to reduce friction), and a host of features to ride quickly and well. However, I have an old mountain bike, and I do not experience any inconvenience.

The most important thing is that the bike fits you. It should match your height (height from the ground to the pelvis) and should also match the distance from the seat to the handlebars.

Equipment

Cycling is more equipment dependent than any other sport. I’m a minimalist, so I think that you don’t need to immediately install newfangled bells and whistles on your bike. This can be done later.

What is the minimum amount of equipment needed? Here’s my list:

• Helmet. You should never drive without it. This can mean the difference between a simple headache and eating through a straw for you. Make sure the helmet is right for you.

• A bottle of water. Always carry one bottle with you. For your information, usually the bottle is not supplied on the frame with the bike. You can also take it with you in your backpack. If you will be driving less than one hour, then you will not need it, but it is better to have it just in case.

• Pump. It is very important not to forget to take a portable pump with you, in case you have a puncture, or the tire will simply flatten. You don’t want to walk back, do you? Of course, it would be nice to have a compressor at home to simplify inflation, but this is not really necessary.

• Repair kit. A simple toolbox in the glove compartment should include a repair kit, a spare tube, a pair of rim spokes, and a universal wrench.

Later you can purchase:

• Gloves. Actually, I have one pair, and you may even consider them one of the most essential. They cushion the bumps from the handlebars (cycling gloves are always soft), but more importantly, in the event of a fall, your palms will remain intact.

• Bicycle computer. This is a small device that attaches to a bicycle (no, there is no operating system) and tells you how far you have traveled, how fast you were traveling, the number of pedals per minute and other relevant information. A very useful thing, but not so necessary. I don’t have one, but I already planned to buy it.

• Soft gel seat. Novice cyclists find it very uncomfortable to sit on a standard hard seat. A soft seat will relieve you of pain in the ass. Experienced cyclists say that you get used to it over time, and I got used to it, to some extent.

• Points. For some, this is a must. I don’t have them yet, but they protect your eyes from insects and other debris. This is not a problem for me, but I don’t go too fast either!

• Shoes / pedals. The most efficient way to pedal is when you are using a foot mount. To do this, of course, you need pedals with these mounts and appropriate shoes. After a while, I plan to buy such shoes, but have not yet done so.

• Headlights. This is necessary if you are going to drive after it gets dark. I only travel during the day, so I don’t need it.

• Shopping cart. This is important if you are going to transport anything. There are now many different baskets and special bike boxes available. Cool stuff for tourists.

There are many other things for cycling, but beginners don’t need them.

Clothing

I think you’ve all seen the tight and colorful clothes professional cyclists wear. However, beginners don’t need such clothes. For me, for example, simple sports shorts, T-shirts and shoes are enough.

However, if you are seriously into cycling, then it is worth buying the appropriate clothing. Good cycling clothes are very thin, so you won’t be hot, they are very flexible, made of a special material that allows sweat to wither away quickly (it is similar to cotton in its effect on the skin). Since it fits snugly around your body, the wind does not flutter your clothes or make it difficult for you to ride. Bright colors are needed to get noticed on the road by crazy drivers!

Cold weather: This is very rare in my area, but many people live in areas with a cold climate. In this case, thin cycling clothes will not save you. Wear something underneath, if you get hot, then you can always take it off.

Safety

Always be careful on the road. There is no need to show miracles of heroism, no need to insist on the right side of the road, do not break pedestrian laws (yes, you must abide by them too) and always try to be noticed. If you do not yet know the common causes of accidents with cyclists, I will introduce you to them:

• Open car doors. This is the most common case. Someone opens the door of their car just in your way, and you do not have time to brake. Babakh! A tip for such cases: watch out not only for open doors, but also for those that may open, and do not drive too close to parked cars.

• Hit by a car. If you ride on the very edge of the road, as most cyclists do, you may be hit by your car when trying to overtake. Therefore, it is best to take the central part of the lane, even if it does not seem safe to you, you can always turn around and, if necessary, let the car pass. You have the same right to drive on the right side of the road as a car.

• Crossroads. If you make a left turn at an intersection, be very careful. You may think that you are visible to all motorists, but this is not always the case. Therefore, try to be noticed by all drivers at the intersection. A right turn can also be dangerous if the drivers in this lane did not notice you, or if the driver behind you also decided to turn right and did not notice you, because he was looking to the left at that time.

Gear shift

This may sound simple, but for many novice cyclists it can be confusing and even a little intimidating. With a little practice it will be much easier. Here’s what you need to know:

• Three forward gears. There are usually three forward speeds: high, medium and low. The steering wheel is equipped with a gearshift mechanism (marks 1, 2 and 3). First gear is the easiest for cyclists, you can go fast. Suitable for descents on slopes and plains. Third gear is especially for hills, and you have to pedal a lot more often to cover the same distance as the first two, but at the same time it is much easier to pedal. The second gear is the middle between the two, which is why it is used most often (at least by beginners).

• Seven reverse gears. They also vary from smallest to largest and have a switching mechanism (1-7). I usually pair third forward gear with three large reverse gears (1-3), second forward with three middle rear gears (3-5) and first forward with the smallest reverse gears (5-7).

• Basic combinations. Basically, you will be pedaling using the first forward gear and the smallest reverse gear you can handle while pedaling quickly. That is, if you can pedal quickly at first forward speed, then do so. But if you start to get tired, then switch from the first forward speed to the second (or to the higher reverse, or all together). It takes practice, but it’s not hard. Once you get better at riding, you can pedal faster at the most difficult speed combinations.

Braking

This is obviously a very important part. This is the main skill that will allow you to drive safer. 

A few tips:

• Descending the slopes. It is tempting to ride down without speed limits, but you need to control your speed, so be sure to slow down. Otherwise, if you decide to do it at the end of the descent, you will easily burn the brakes.

• Front brake. Many novice cyclists use both brakes at the same time. However, the more experienced (and I am not yet) use the front brake in most cases. If you practice using it, then the fear of spilling over the steering wheel will disappear.

• Rear brakes. This is the best option in some situations, especially if the road is slippery or your front brakes are out of order.

The hills

For beginners, hills and mountains can be a real challenge. Experienced cyclists do not have such problems, since they know how to change speeds, how to brake, what pace to keep, and most importantly, they already have the corresponding muscles. There are two main options for hill riding that can become dangerous:

• Rises. If you know how to change gears correctly, then it is not as difficult as it seems. It took me a little training. What I like the most is the pre-acceleration before going up and shifting to a higher forward speed. As it gets harder and harder to pedal, I gradually shift into lighter gears until I get to the third forward and largest rear. If you’re lucky, you will have time to climb up earlier. It would be nice to learn how to control your pace, on long climbs you do not need to strain too much at the beginning, otherwise you will not reach the top.

• Slopes. The steep slopes are quite intimidating because of the speed. I recommend slowing down with intermediate braking. If the descent is not very steep, then you can switch to the first forward speed and the lowest reverse.

Punctures

It happens to everyone. Be sure to learn how to glue them, don’t forget the pump and spare chamber. You don’t want to walk home, do you? The renovation is not that difficult.

Exercise

One of my tasks is to train constantly. I have ridden a bike many times, and I will do it all the time. This saves money on gas, doesn’t pollute the environment and keeps you fit.

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