Newbie Bikers


A reader of mine recently posted on her own blog about her struggle with cycling. It sounds like she is new to biking and I commented with some tips. That inspired me to write my own post about biking.

I sometimes assume my readers know everything that I know. I’m finding that knowing how to ride a bike isn’t just a given. I’ve met several people lately that have told me they never learned! Same with swimming!

I learned how to ride a bike as a little kid and sort of always did it. I had a mountain bike though, and this year was the first time I’ve ever been on a road bike.

First, the big difference between a mountain bike and a road bike are the tires. Mountain Bikes have thick tires, road bikes have skinny tires.

The next difference is the handlebars. Mountain bikes usually have flat handlebars. Road bikes have drop bars like this:

That means instead of sitting upright on the bike, you are hunched over. This can cause a lot of back pain for new riders–I know I suffered from this. The tip to overcome it? Keep practicing and STRETCH A LOT! Stand up on the bike every few miles to stretch out; get off the bike and stretch. After practicing for awhile, you’ll get used to it.

Here is a picture of time trial handlebars. I’ve yet to try these:

2010 was a huge Cycling Learning Curve for me. I learned how to change a tire, I learned how to ride better and smarter, and it all helped me complete Reach the Beach (55 mile bike ride). It was a fun experience I want to do again!

If you are new to cycling for fitness or competition, here are some recommendations I have:

  1. Get Fitted: It makes all the difference in the world to get properly fitted for a bike.
  2. Padded Shorts: I cannot stress this enough. Padded Shorts are awesome for a reason. They are worth the money spent too. Don’t wear underwear under the shorts either because the shorts are made to wick moisture from the body. I got my shorts at an outlet store for less money.
  3. Chafing Cream: Chamois Butter, Lanacane…whatever brand you use, it can help a lot with discomfort.
  4. Be Safe: wear a helmet. Cycling glasses that wrap around the face are good and keep wind and dirt from irritating your eyes. Wear a RoadID. Tell people where you are riding. Have lights on your bike. Wear reflective clothes, stickers, etc.
  5. Gloves: Padded gloves can range from $10-100. They are worth it for the safety issue (road rash prevention) and also the padding for long rides is nice.
  6. Work up to Mileage: No one can bike 100 miles their first day. Start with 10. Then next time, bike 20 miles and so on.
  7. Work up to Hills: Nothing says you have to try to tackle insane hills right away. Learn how to use your gears, practice, and slowly attempt hills.
  8. GUs: I highly recommend GUs for energy on long rides. They really do help prevent blood sugar and energy crashes.
  9. Learn how to change a tire.

When Michael and I were training for Reach the Beach, we practiced riding for about two months before the Big Day. Every weekend we built up our mileage. The first weekend we did about 25 miles. The next weekend was about 30 miles, the following was 40 or so, and finally we made it to 52 miles. We took a bike maintenance class, Michael commuted to work whenever he could to add mileage. I practiced on the Bike Trainer in the living room whenever I could. It was all about prepping our bodies for the big day. And it worked!

  • Reach the Beach was a success.
  • We both recovered FAST! There was no crippling the next day.
  • My running speed increased a great deal from all the bike training!

QUESTION: Do you have any other tips I forgot to add?

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6 responses to “Newbie Bikers

  1. Sunglasses! I still sometimes forget them and regret it every time!

  2. What if you are afraid to ride a bike? I’m scared of getting hit by a car or falling off or crashing into something? You seem so confident when you ride- any tips for getting over it?

    • It takes practice. If you can ride on trails that don’t have cars, that’s a good place to start. Portland has a 40 mile loop for bikes. We practiced there a lot in the beginning. I’m still nervous about going fast down hills–I hate it. Especially with traffic around me…

    • Kat, go with a friend the first bunch of times. If you need to, drive out to some old country roads where traffic isn’t so bad. Get a good helmet and a bright colored shirt and you’ll be fine.

      Also, go out in your car and scout out some routes. Knowing your bike routes will bring a little comfort as well.

  3. Very cool post. I’ll be linking to it shorty from my blog as this is really good info for new bikers.

    Something else to add and confirm… GET BIKE SHORTS! They really do work! Also, a bike shirt makes the difference too. I was wearing compression shirts but was getting really constricted and hot and the bike shirts with front zipper are ALL win!

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