We’re SO SO excited to have my super cool brother, Jonathan, guest posting this week! We’re still trying to convince him to do a triathlon, but I’d like to think that I was the one who inspired him to get into cycling since he rode my old bike for a few years. Now if I could just get him to swim…
Jonny just bought a
beautiful handsome new road bike and after making a some very common beginner mistakes, getting a few flat tires, asking lots of questions and riding and hundreds of miles, he has 20 AWESOME (and funny) cycling tips that will help get you started off of the right foot as you train for your first triathlon.
I was pushing as hard as I could go, but I was completely spent. Calves crying, stomach aching, head pounding, wind hurricaning around me (at least that’s what it felt like in the moment).
Push, push, push, yet the 80 year old man on his bike that he bought 60 years ago was passing me. His bike creaked more than the floorboards of your house at midnight when you are carefully trying not to wake anybody up.
Finally I made it back to my apartment, got off my bike, and nearly fell over. The only reason why I did not was because of the wall right next to me that braced itself for me.
What I am describing to you is the first time I did a 50 mile ride without bringing any food, only bringing one water bottle, and going out on one of the windiest days that I have ever experienced in my life. I learned more about biking that day than I have perhaps in the entire time I had ridden before and I hope to share some first hand and first year biking tips that I wish I would’ve known beforehand.
1. It is not cool to ride without a helmet.
You may think that most bikers that are your age are riding without a helmet because only 10 year olds need helmets. I remember I went biking with a friend, who was newer to biking than I was, and he said that not many bikers wear helmets. Boy was he wrong! Once we got onto the bike trail and started riding, we were actually getting dirty looks from other bikers that were passing us. First of all, it’s not safe and second, it’s not a great example for kids. Sacrifice “looking cool” before your own head and safety. Plus, you’ll be disqualified if you do a triathlon and forget to put your helmet on.
2. Do not stress about buying all the newest and best gear.
For your first triathlon, any bike will do. (For more tips on how to choose a bike for your first triathlon, click here.) For the first summer I rode on Jess’s old bike she bought at Wal-Mart for $120 bucks. It was perfectly sufficient for me at that time especially since I didn’t know what it was like to ride a nice bike. For your first triathlon, or when you start getting into cycling, don’t worry about buying an aerodynamic helmet or clipless pedals along with a $2000 dollar bike. Not only is that crazy expensive, but unless you’re 110% positive that you’re going to love cycling and doing triathlons, the basic gear is just as awesome.
3. Progress your equipment as you progress your skills.
As I got better at cycling I got a new bike. As I got better on that bike I got clipless pedals and shoes. As I got better with the clipless pedals I got shorts (Which I would actually recommend as a must buy for a completely new biker and especially for the men – I think we all know why). If you fear wearing spandex shorts because tough guys don’t wear tight pants, try mountain biking shorts. These are what I wear and they’re great because you still get the tight padded shorts, but they have a loose normal shorts on top so that you don’t have to feel uncomfortable walking around in spandex alone.
4. Find other people to ride with.
This was a challenge for me because I did not have many friends that were into cycling. The only cycling friend I had was a leisure biker who would max at out 10 mph. So I would typically ride around on biking paths till I found a group and I would tag along with them for some rides. I felt weird, but they didn’t seem to mind it. Perhaps this is a big biking “no no” but I found it fun and it pushed me harder.
5. Signal for things coming up on the road for those cycling behind you.
This is a particular pet peeve of mine because I used to ride behind one of my friends and he never warned me of upcoming potholes or other obstacles in the road. There I was riding behind him, and all of a sudden he would swerve out of the way and I would get the full force of an angry pothole. I would get so mad sometimes. (Side note: Jess here… Jonny and I are totally related because this drives me crazy too.)
On the other hand, one day I tagged along with a pretty good group of 4 guys. They signaled for everything and it was the best bike ride of my life. They would yell out to let every one else know the things that were coming up ahead and they would also yell out when they were grabbing a drink. Now maybe this is not what professional cyclists do but for beginners and intermediate it is a must!
6. Don’t be too ambitious.
Riding with no hands, zig zagging between traffic, riding 25 miles on your first day or doing wheelies over curbs are all things that are a little too ambitious for a beginner. For now start slow and stay safe. If you start out going too far too fast, you will learn the hard way and you can really hurt yourself. Leave the tricks for someone like this:
7. Fuel up.
For long rides, bring a snack or an energy bar or something to keep your energy up. You see professionals do this all the time. It is very difficult to do a long ride if you have nothing to keep you going. And always make sure you have enough water! We all know Jess and Davey love Huma Gel and Clif Shot Bloks, but my favorite snack is a Power Bar or fruit bar because they fit well in my saddle bag and are tasty.
8. Cycle, don’t mash.
What I mean by this is not to put your bike in the highest gear and simply just push hard for a few pedal strokes and then take a break. Ideally you want to keep your cadence (which is how fast your pedals are moving in one rotation per minute) at about 90. Maintain this and it will teach you how to change gears much more efficiently and much better than if you push hard for a few second then take a break and keep this up. For more pedaling with more power, click here.
9. A cycling computer is really fun.
I didn’t ride with a cycling computer for my first few months simply because I didn’t have one and didn’t want to buy one, but now that I have one it is a lot of fun to be able to record my miles per hour and see what my cadence is and see what kind of time I am making. It forces you to push a bit harder in my opinion.
11. A good pair of sunglasses really makes a difference.
I say this a bit presumptuously because I still ride without sunglasses but I know I need a pair. I have had to deal with far too much dirt and bugs getting into my eyes. I even had a beetle fly into my eye and it was so bad I had to get off my bike and try to rub out the pain for the next 10 minutes. The bikers that passed me all thought I was crying and asked if I was okay. That’s embarrassment that I would’ve been safe from if I had a pair of glasses.
Check back on Wednesday for 10 more awesome cycling tips and until then, make sure you wear you helmet and watch out for those beetles!
What did you learn when you first started cycling?