So you decided to take up cycling. now its time to figure how to start. We cover the 10 top tips to successfully start cycling.
If you've been thinking about cycling awhile but don’t know where to start, you're not alone. Thousands of Australians have taken up cycling in the last few years. Many riders start cycling because friends convinced them. Others feel the weight of bad habits and lifestyle choices, deciding that prioritising work over health is no longer an option. Other new riders want to take up two wheels because they notice how happy cyclists look when they’re on the bike or amongst their friends at the cafe. Whatever reason, it's good to remember you're not the only adult to wonder how to best approach your cycling future.
The best news is there's plenty of support, and Im about to share how you can build a network to help you confidently and competently ride a bike.
Here are 10 to-do tips to get you settled into a group and pick up great habits.
1 Find your suitable bike shop
Bike shops are like any industry, they have their niche. If you’re looking for a smart well fit business suit which would you choose? Would you shop at Kmart, online with Assos, step into Myers, or visit a tailor? Likelihood is you’d seek the expert opinion of a tailor and be guided by their product range and services.
Bikeshops specialise in particular bikes, and if you’re looking to ride on the road then its best to invest time with a store with passion and deep knowledge for that style of riding. Their mechanics and staff will be fit for advice, they’ll likely have specific brands and products including bikefitting, and shop rides will be part of the benefits offered. Shop rides should be held in high esteem as this is one of the quickest ways to meet other riders, learn important tips and build skills on the road.
2. Invest in a decent bike!
You’ll be travelling further than you think is possible and amongst riders who own bikes suitable for professional cyclists at the Tour de France. Owning your best bike is not about bragging rights, it's about making sure you invest in equipment you feel proud to ride. Your best bike is also one that takes you through years of successful riding, and remains dependable as you’re descending 80km an hour!
Buy a frame that works for your size and flexibility, as well as your riding goals. An excellent bike shop will be able to assess you, offer a bikefit, and recognise which bike is perfectly matched. If you aren't familiar with technology, or don't yet have a favoured local bike shop in Australia, we can help. Just fill the survey and you'll receive information on what can be tailored to you and your cycling needs.
3. Pre-bike fit.
Its unconventional, but the best advice before investing in a new bike is to be wise and book a bike fit through a professional. A professional may be a physio or a bike shop but make sure they're familiar with biomechanics alongside various different bikes and components. A fantastic bike fitter has a holistic approach and will know the options and technologies to ensure you're getting the most from your performance. They'll also par you with equipment to have you as comfortable in the saddle as possible.
Having solid advice that translates your ideal ride position into the ideal bike is not to be underestimated. Even better if they can recommend the appropriate sizes of the components, the best model saddle for you, and the ideal shape of bar. You’ll be starting off on the right foot, reducing risk of discomfort from a badly chosen frame. Our research shows that 50% of riders looking for a new bike suffer notable pain while riding.
Just part of the data provided by IdMatch - a program to assist finding your best bike
Bike fitting is an art. So don't be convinced your bikefit data was adequately measured if you got it from staff at a supermarket style bike shop. They likely entered your height and inner seam into a computer and haven't taken into account your flexibility or dynamic position when on the bike.
Find more about booking a bikefit here.
4. Appropriate kit
The right kit will eliminate excuses when it comes to meeting the bunch early in the morning. Making sure you have all the essential in your toolkit, as well as the appropriate kit for the season and time of day, will ensure you’re not only motivated to get out the front door but that you’re comfortable and perform at your best throughout the entire ride. Summer requires different needs from fabrics and equipment than winter.
As for helmets, find one that feels good for your shaped head. And look for features such as weight, airflow, adjustable brackets and replaceable inner padding. Shoes will need to be fit correctly, and we have some shoe fit recommendation for those ready to invest in a good pair of shoes designed to last. The tips in our article "Correct shoe size: Bike fitting and avoiding common foot pain" will ensure you maximise power and efficiency to reduce fatigue and foot pain.
While we are at it, don’t forget nutrition - especially if you’re just starting out. The first 30km will be harder if it's been awhile since you’ve done anything endurance based. Over the months you’ll find these rides wont require any nutrition, but when you’re starting out make sure you pack an energy bar or better yet pop some tailwind into your water bottle to tied you over.
5. Join invitation rides
When you start the shop rides, a friendly bunch will have communication platforms amongst themselves. Be sure to ask if anyone uses WhatsApp, strava clubs, messenger or other apps to keep in communication. Be sure to join if you’re invited even if you feel intimidated. Share your hesitation if you’re nervous. We all started somewhere and we understand what you’re feeling. If the riders chime in to say you should come along, do! Even if you're last up the hills, an invite means the bunch are prepared to stay with you and show you the ropes. Get out there!
6. Practice clipping in properly
When you start out many riders anticipate falling when they start using cleats and clipless pedals. Follow tips regarding how to use cleats and you’ll be confident after an hour of practice. Remember to clip…. And then brake! Its amazing how many people forget to clip out. Only clip from one side. Don’t create a bad habit by looking down - you’ll ride into the guy in front of you and not know whats going on with traffic. Move to a harder gear if you’re having trouble engaging. Don’t stop pedalling - if you have riders behind you they wont be impressed while you’re stopping and starting. You run the risk that a rider will hit you’re back wheel if you’re unpredictable and stop moving. Practice!
7. Plan Events
Look at a charity or social ride to join in a few months and let your bunch know. Better yet, ask if they know of one you should join. One thing we learn is that riders are always happy to share their experience and advice. A good goal down the track will keep you accountable and form great training habits. You’ll also have the opportunity to test your limits, which means you know how to challenge yourself and what your break point is.
8. Bike check before and after each ride
If you're just starting out then it's likely you haven’t changed a tube, and the thought of not knowing what to do in front of the bunch is intimidating. Now tro add to the confusion there are tubeless tyres. Yep, we’ve all faced the challenges that learning to ride throws at us! Unless you work in a bike shop the best way to learn is to practice. That means having a spare hour to deflate your tyre, remove the wheel, take out the tube and do it all again in reverse! If you have tubeless you want to watch some youtube videos to get the hang of adding sealant and air. But, if you’re not skilled up on your first few rides don’t let that stop you riding. There are ways to best prevent a flat.
Firstly, make sure to check your tyre tread and pressure before every ride. you’ll find if you ride with tubes you’ll want to pump air into those tyres every week or so. Secondly, have everything you need to change a tube - even if someone else does it for you at least make sure you have all you need (cannister, co2 inflator, tube, levers). If you suffer from a puncture the worst case is that you need to call a taxi, or a friend. It happens more than you think.
After your ride wipe the bike down. Check the grease on your chain, pulleys and cluster. If you see the drivetrain (cluster, chain, chainrings) is caked in road grot then set aside time to clean it and re lube. Better yet, book a clean with your bike shop. They'll manage to get in all the difficult spaces you can't.
If you've noticed changes in how your bike rides, like gears not responding as quickly, not being able to shift a gear or brakes that are spongy, contact your bike shop and book a service. Clubs are very particular about riders maintaining their equipment because if you have an accident due to a mechanical it will likely impact on others. So always make sure your bike is looked after and any attached tools or bottles are secured.
9. Start small but don’t stay small
If you’ve been planning to use a park to learn the ropes of riding your new bike, make sure you give yourself a date to exit the park. A month or two is probably enough for most riders to establish their basic skillset and confidence. If you still haven’t found a great bike shop to take you riding, look up local communities on Facebook. There is always someone wanting to show other riders the ropes. Even better, contact a local riding club.
You can look up local clubs and do some research on their priorities to see who is best suited to you. If you want to race, train or join social weekend getaways, you’ll find good information by asking a club.
Get insurance for you and your property. This is really important whether you’re riding on the road, on trails, racing, social riding, cycling solo or in a bunch with others. Insurance is very important if you have an accident, not only for your health care but for those you ride with.
When it comes to property insurance, some House and Contents insurers will ionclude your apparel, such as helmet, shoes and kit. So read the fineprint or call to check with your existing insurer.
Two types of insurance are important for cyclists - your property insurance that covers bike theft or accident (provided by insurers like Bikesure), and comprehensive riding insurance which can cover Public liability and personal accident claims (check with insurers such as Bicycle Network or Auscycling).
Most clubs and even shop rides will require you prove you're correctly insured, so think ahead and be prepared.