• Cycling For Beginners - 10 Must-Know Tips For Starting Out

    Cycling For Beginners - 10 Must-Know Tips For Starting Out

Some people say that cycling is a 4-year apprenticeship. Over this time you condition your body, pick up skills, and learn some hard truths. Let’s explore some areas that help accelerate that apprenticeship and make you into a full-fledged cyclist.

Getting these 10 tips dialed will help you avoid some common mistakes and keep you safe. So let’s get into it!

1. Choosing the right bike for adults

Let’s assume that you know what kind of bike you want to purchase; whether it’s a road bike, gravel bike, or mountain bike…

You need to make sure the bike size is right for your body. Having a bike too small or too big causes biomechanical issues in your body. Lower back, knee, and neck pain can all be symptoms of a wrong sized bike and an incorrect bike setup.  How the bike handles also relates to how you are positioned on the bike. If a bike is too small, its handling will be twitchy and unbalanced. You might feel that the front wheel wants to ‘trip you up’.

The good news is that pretty much all bike brands now have dialed-in sizing tools and charts to help you navigate sizing. One site that is especially good at getting your sizing estimated is Specialized. Check out this link. 

2. Protect your head with a helmet

Concussions are no joke. There is a very high chance that you will hit your head at some stage during your cycling adventures. Whether it’s from losing a front wheel on a wet road - such as this video or having an over-the-bars yard sale - like this video.

You would have noticed that helmets are now being optioned with added safety technology such as MIPS or WaveCel. These pieces of tech allow some movement of your head within the helmet shell. This is meant to help reduce your brain from rattling when impact occurs. If technology is your jam then check out this deep dive into MIPS. 

The other factor to consider when selecting a helmet is heat. Will the helmet allow your head to keep cool during the hotter months? Consider the inverse for winter. If your climate swings hard in either direction throughout the year, you might be better off purchasing two different helmets.

3. Invest in essential maintenance gear

Maintenance gear includes what you have in your bike room/garage and also what you carry during rides.

Here is a list of gear you should have in your garage:

  • Track pump or compressor.
  • Bike work stand.
  • Allen Key set.
  • Torx Tool in sizes T-10 & T-25.
  • Tyre levers.
  • Chain breaker.
  • Puncher repair kit (good for also fixing tyres with small cuts).
  • Degreaser.
  • Tooth brush.
  • Water bottle (good for putting a dirty chain into with some degreaser).
  • Grease.
  • Chain lube.
  • Bike wash.
  • Bucket.
  • Cloths/rags.

The above list will help you do basic maintenance and clean your bike. Here is some inspiration for the ultimate set up. 

Here is a list of gear you should carry with you while riding:

  • Spare tube.
  • Tyre levers.
  • Small multi tool (nice to have a chain breaker in the tool features).
  • Small pump or gas canister with head.

These four items would be a minimum for shorter rides and can be carried in your jersey pockets or saddle bag. On longer rides further from home you might want to consider a Quicklink to repair a broken chain, electrolyte tablets, small tube of chain lube and multiple tubes or a puncher repair kit.

4. Wear the right cycling apparel

Cycling apparel is designed to protect you from nature’s elements, reduce injuries, and to make contact points on the bike feel more comfortable.

Cycling bib shorts

Bib shorts offer your bum extra comfort when sitting on the saddle. This is all thanks to the special chamois sewn into the shorts. Chamois helps to reduce the pressure on your sit bones. Bib shorts come with braces that help keep the garment in place and reduce tightness around the tummy, whereas non-braced shorts have an elastic band.

Cycling jerseys

If you are loading up your jersey pockets with spares, food, and a phone, you will need to make sure the jersey fits you well. A loose jersey will not keep all those goodies in place on your lower back as you move your body. This can be distracting and dangerous.

Riding in harsh weather, like Australian summer days or European winters, it’s important to choose the correct jersey and layers. Everyone is affected by heat and cold differently. Experiment with different layering strategies that suit you, the weather, and the type of riding you are doing. 

Cycling accessories

Gloves, socks, arm warmers, sun sleeves, neck tubes, neck warmers, and caps are all great accessories to consider. With the exception of the gloves and socks, the other items are easily taken off and stored in your jersey if changes in weather occur.

Gloves protect you in three different ways. Firstly, they offer great protection if you happen to jam your hands into the ground. Secondly, they protect your fingers and knuckles from the weather allowing you to still control your brakes and gear changes. Finally, they can reduce pressure on the ulnar nerve. Look for gloves that have slightly padded areas.

Cycling Jackets and winter gear

Cycling jackets and winter gear are essential for riding during the colder months. As an added bonus they offer you better protection if you do have a spill. Look for garments that have windshield or windstopper fabrics with a mixture of brushed fleece linings. 

5. Understand and use your gears

Gears are your friends. You should have a gear for every occasion. Gears for super techy uphill climbs, gears for the flat, and gears for the long downhill descents. Ideally, you want to hold a cadence between 80 to 100 rpm, and with a fist full of gears you should be able to achieve this.

Issues occur when you have the wrong gearing for the terrain you are riding in. For example, you sign up for a Gran Fondo that has some long climbs. These climbs are bigger and steeper than what you are used to. The smart bet would be to increase the tooth count of your rear cassette or to decrease the tooth count of your front chain ring.

Remember that when riding, only change gears when the chain is not under load. This means that if you are needing to change to an easier gear while climbing, back your pressure off the pedals as you select the gear. Once you hear and feel the chain is fully bedded onto the selected cog, increase your pressure on the pedals again. What can happen if you shift under load? Well, this can happen or this can happen.

6. Avoid saddle soreness

Saddle soreness can happen due to a number of reasons. Poor fitting bib shorts, bad saddle, poor hygiene, and/or lack of conditioning.

If you suffer from saddle soreness it might take you some time to figure out what’s going on. By process of elimination you should get to the bottom of the issue ☺

Make sure your bib shorts are a snug fit and that your chamois is held in place. A chamois that moves creates issues down below. Chamois cream can also help to reduce chafing and sooth problem areas. A good cream is Ozone Elite.

There are many different types of saddles. Your perfect saddle is out there, you just need to find it ☺ Bontrager have an interesting take on how to find the perfect saddle.

Keep your bib shorts clean! Hygiene is super important, so make sure to wash your cycling kit in anti-bacterial laundry powder. Here’s our blog on how to care for your cycling garments.

Just like a Japanese swordsmith forging the steel to make a Katana, it will take you time to harden up the skin below your sit bones. This spot where the saddle and body weight meet needs time and patience to become conditioned. 

7. Learn cycling safety and riding etiquette

The best place to learn about cycling safety and riding etiquette is out with an experienced rider. Actively seek out a veteran rider who will take the time to ride with you and pass down wisdom. Treat it like on the job training. These veteran riders will share local insights as to where it’s safest to ride, things to look out for in your local areas, and what the expectations are of bigger riding groups once you are ready to ride with more people. 

There is an old Russian way of training strength on the bike. It’s to ride on dead flat roads in your big ring at the front and little ring at the rear at a cadence below 60 rpm. This is all done at heart rates below 70% of your maximum heart rate, or 70% of your perceived maximum effort. This type of strength training is done as an interval with a light load on your legs. What you need to stay away from is trying to ride in high gears at high heart rates. This would occur when you are either over exerting on a hill or into a head wind. Having a low cadence at close to maximum effort will spell disaster for your lower back, hips, and knees. 

8. Don't pedal in high gears for extended periods of time

There is an old Russian way of training strength on the bike. It’s to ride on dead flat roads in your big ring at the front and little ring at the rear at a cadence below 60 rpm. This is all done at heart rates below 70% of your maximum heart rate, or 70% of your perceived maximum effort. This type of strength training is done as an interval with a light load on your legs. What you need to stay away from is trying to ride in high gears at high heart rates. This would occur when you are either over exerting on a hill or into a head wind. Having a low cadence at close to maximum effort will spell disaster for your lower back, hips, and knees. 

9. How to approach hills 

Hills are opportunities to learn something new about yourself. They will test you and try to break you. It’s best to be prepared before tackling big hills. What you have read so far in this article will help you conquer hills. Do you have the correct bike to ride in hills? Do you have the appropriate gearing to allow you to settle into a nice rhythm climbing the slopes? Do you have the appropriate clothing to keep your body temperature at optimal levels?

Practice getting out of the saddle while pedaling up hills. This standing position is powerful and gives your main leg muscles a slight rest. Try doing intervals where you stand for a few pedals strokes then sit for a few. Check this cool video out.

The more hills you ride the stronger and more strategic you will become. Knowing your body and how hard you can push is a constant dance.

10. Join a local cycling group!

Joining a local cycling group will improve your cycling once you are comfortable on the bike and have spent some time with veteran riders.

Once in the road riding group, try to hang at the back and learn what’s going on. You will find that different road riding groups have different ways of communicating. Traditional road groups will keep you at the rear to suss you out before letting you swap turns in their train. Learn their hand signals and don’t do anything erratic.

Mountain biking groups are a different story. There will normally be a pecking order of who goes first into different trails depending on skill level.

Either way, riding with other people will lift your game. They will channel you, push you, and encourage you. Keep your ears and eyes open, and enjoy the ride.



Leave a comment


Also in Our Blog

Bike Commuting To Work - Top Beginner Tips For Cycling To Work
Bike Commuting To Work - Top Beginner Tips For Cycling To Work

Commuting by bike to work is a great way to stay fit, avoid traffic and save money on public transport or driving costs. We have compiled some top tips for beginners for riding to work. Enjoy!

Read More

Australian Museum of MTB
Australian Museum of MTB

Read More

Cultivating Resiliency Through Riding
Cultivating Resiliency Through Riding

Riding offers you many extraordinary opportunities to grow, both as an individual and in your relationships.

Read More

Size Guide

Size Chart

One Size Fits Most