Cycling Tips For Every Beginner

The lockdown rules of 2020 meant exercise outdoors suddenly became a thing for those who never had the time, nor the desire in the "normal world" of society. So many new hobbies enjoyed by those of all ages, are plain to see with every passing day. It's truly lovely to see.

Entering the world of cycling is so rewarding. There is no greater feeling than whizzing down the road, the wind rushing by you, enjoying nature and getting that major endorphin rush. Cycling is a great activity to help you get in shape, boost your mental health and, since there’s so many group rides, charity races and more in virtually every city, a great opportunity to make friends and bond with other bike enthusiasts. Cycling communities usually have members and rides at every level, from beginner to pro, so even if you’re just starting out, you can find a group to fit into easily, which is a great idea - they’ll show you the ropes! 

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Cycling is very much a “club”, but it’s an easy one to join. Avid cyclists are always thrilled to bring new folks into their ranks. And it’s also a very much learn-as-you-go activity; you’ll pick up all sorts of things as you’re out on a ride. But if you’re wanting to start off on the right foot, we’ve got a few handy tips below on how to get the most out of cycling as a beginner. 

Get the Right Accessories
As we mentioned above, cycling is a bit of a club - some might even call it a religion. Cyclists are very proud of their bikes, their accessories, and their kit. Many prefer to wear branded accessories and kit that correspond with their bike, and others choose these items solely for being lightweight (if you’re a speed junkie). Whatever brands you choose are up to you, but you definitely want to have the proper accessories when you start out. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune, but you do want to buy good quality stuff that’s designed and made by an actual cycling gear company. These items include a Cycling Kit (kit refers to your cycling clothes - chamois, a jersey, and sometimes cycling socks), proper cycling shoes/cleats that clip in to whatever type of pedal you choose, cycling gloves, a properly fitted helmet, sunglasses to protect your eyes from flying debris, and a water bottle. No, a water bottle isn’t technically part of your kit, but you need one - never forget water when you go out cycling! 

You also want to have a small pack big enough to contain a safety kit (materials to change a tire/tubes, your ID, a few dollars for emergencies and mace are always a good idea), as well as having lights both on the front AND back of your bike. You need lights that are bright and have multiple flashing options. Many cyclists also have a Garmin on their bike or a similar app installed on their phone. 

Follow the Rules/Etiquette
Naturally, when going out on the road, you want to follow all local state laws as it pertains to riding your bike. For instance, in the state of Georgia, riders may ride two to a lane, with drivers required to give them at least 3 feet distance when passing. Laws for turning, signalling and so on are very much the same as they would be for a driver. But every state is different and for your own safety and compliance, brush up on these laws before you get on the bike. 

There are also rules of etiquette to follow when riding in large groups or with others. These include the infamous “on your left!” when passing a cyclist (never pass on the right; that’s dangerous), the rules of drafting (everyone takes a turn), and so on. You’ll learn these as you go, too. These aren’t just nitpicky rules; they keep everyone safe and add to the collective “club” or “family” feeling of cycling. 

Start Small, but Practice Makes Perfect
It can be tempting to immediately jump into the big rings and start trying for very long distance rides. Save that 50 mile charity ride or 35 mile solo-cruise for when you’ve got a little experience under your belt. While you may have the stamina for it, it’s best to get used to the bike and have some experience cycling on the road (getting used to cars, learning how to change a flat, and so on) before going out on long distances. This is for your own safety. 

Once you’ve got a few miles under your belt, you’ll be stomping up those hills with ease, and clocking 50 miles every Saturday afternoon. 

Take Care of your Bike
Bike care is a whole college course unto itself. It pays off to actually check out some videos online, or better yet, take an actual class to learn bike maintenance. You’re going to need to learn how to change tires, adjust fittings, replace chains, and more. Better to do it yourself than take the bike to the shop every few days.  If you're a tinkerer at heart, this is right up your street (or cycle lane!)

So, have you taken up cycling? If you have, I hope you continue to enjoy it when the pandemic eases off. Perhaps you'll ditch the car and start commuting on your bike!

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