We all want to get into shape, get our exercise in, but hitting the gym or going for a run just sounds gross to us. Cycling is a great way to enjoy getting some fitness into your routine.
Cycling does not take as much out of you as running does, and you get to be outside unlike visits to the gym. It’s a perfect middle ground, and it can be really fun.
Cycling can also be very social, something you can take up with a friend, or with family members. You can join groups and after some time participate in challenges, races, and events.
So, we are here today to give you some tips to get you started so that you get the most out of your new cycling hobby and so that you do so safely, and with awareness of the rules that surround cycling.
Our tips are aimed at beginners who are just starting out or who are thinking of starting out.
So, are you ready to get started on your riding journey? Get out your checklist and remember, it’s a journey!
20 Essential Beginner Cyclist Tips
Cycling is actually more complex than you might think, runners have it easy. When you are cycling there is so much more that you need to think about.
As a beginner, thinking of everything you need to get, prepare for, and know can seem a little overwhelming, but trust us when we say it is all worth it in the long run… or ride.
There is no right or wrong answer for much that is associated with cycling, but you should always think about the journey, and what you need to do and how to prepare yourself, as well as having your own opinions on many of these things will give you a head start.
Having the knowledge we will provide for you today will give you a jump start on your journey, so, listen closely because we have 20 things that will help you on your way to owning the cycle paths and never wanting to look back.
1. Invest In The Correct Clothing
To begin, you want to make sure that you are wearing the right clothing when you go cycling. Starting off you should be wearing padded cycling shorts. You do not want something that is going to hurt your rear.
If you have padded shorts, you should also not be wearing underwear either. It will not help you to do so. For optimal comfort you want padded shorts and a good saddle.
You also need a helmet. Okay, so you won’t look cool, but wearing one may just save your life. There are plenty that can be stylish, and many that will look cool too. You do not have to buy an expensive one either, pretty much all of them adhere to safety standards these days.
You might want to try out clipless pedals too. These are ideal for road bikes, and you clip into using cleats. They have a learning curve but can be great.
If you are going to start mountain biking you will also want plenty of protection, this means gloves, and knee/elbow pads as a bare minimum. The total apparel you should wear for mountain biking will depend on your riding.
If you are doing downhill trails, or big jumps, you might want armour as well or a back protector.
Cycling sunglasses are also important, especially if you go out when the sun is really bright or when the sun is low. However, they will not only protect your eyes from the sun but also rain, stones, and pesky bugs too!
2. Check Your Tire Pressure
Much like with owning a car, when you own a bike you need to check the tire pressures. You will find the recommended tire pressures on the tire sidewalls. However, the ideal tire pressure for road bikes is subjective to various factors.
The ideal bike pumps will be a good investment for you, they may be a little more costly, but it is worth it as they will not take as much effort to reach the ideal pressure.
They will also come with a useful pressure gauge as well to make your life even easier.
3. Clean Your Bike Regularly
No matter what it is in our lives, we can often forget to keep our items clean, from our bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, to our cars, bikes, and sometimes, if things have been really rough lately, ourselves.
You should be strict with yourself about cleaning your bike and maintaining its cleanliness, and it’s not hard to do, so it should not take long, and you do not need to do it all the time, a clean here and there should be enough.
Use hot soapy water and a sponge to delicately clean most of your bicycle. If there is grime caked all over your bicycle then instead you should try out a cleaning spray. You can also use a specialized degreaser in order to clean the drivetrain.
The drivetrain is the chain, the crank set, the cassette and so on.
Then you can spray your nice and clean bike all over with a special silicone aerosol, although you should be cautious of the braking surfaces with this stuff.
Using a silicone aerosol on your bike will be highly beneficial as it will prevent any mud from sticking to your bike next time you go out for a ride.
4. Use Chain Lube
Anyone who has been out cycling before knows that the chain needs lubricating, much like the wheels of a skateboard, or the mechanisms inside a door. It needs lubrication to work efficiently.
This is especially true if you often find yourself going for rides when the weather could be better. Wet weather can easily make parts of your bike, like the chain, stiff, and collect rust, so you should be lubricating the chain and cleaning your bike to prevent this.
Lubricating the chain on your bike will prevent you from getting that god awful creaking noise that many cyclists experience and loathe. Doing so will prevent some of the more expensive parts of your bike such as the chain rings from wearing out quickly and will keep them alive and in good condition for much longer.
5. Stay Hydrated
In the busy day and age where coffee is our lifeblood and other drinks are often forgotten, we have to remember to stay hydrated. Sometimes we feel like cycling is so fun it isn’t exercise, however, it is.
Any form of exercise will make you work up a sweat, and even if you do not sweat much, your body will still use up water faster.
No matter how you do it, if you pack a water bottle, or a hydration pack, it does not matter, you need to ensure that you stay hydrated while you are out on the roads or tracks on your bicycle.
Bottle cages are a useful and practical way to carry water around on your bicycle, and you can usually always find somewhere to refill if you need to. A majority of coffee shops and bars will happily grant you a bit of water to keep you going for free.
Staying hydrated is extremely important when you are cycling, dehydration can make you tired and weak and will make you lose concentration.
6. Stay Fuelled
You should always keep yourself fuelled. This may have confused you at first glance because… bicycles don’t need fuel right? Well, no, they don’t, you are the fuel, your energy is the fuel.
If you are not carrying enough calories to burn, and enough energy to use up you will end up grinding to a halt, and you may end up stuck somewhere scavenging for a bite to get you back home.
We can carry a good 90 minutes worth of glycogen for high energy efforts before your bodies need to replenish our fuels, or our bodies will switch to burn the fat in our bodies.
Now, this might sound great if you are aiming to lose some weight, however, the downside is that as you burn fat you do not produce energy of the same level of intensity.
Cycling will burn around 100 to 150 calories with every half an hour of cycling, a banana can do the trick if you need it to.
However, one of the best things to do is to simply make your own energy bars because you can save cash this way, and you can make them how you like them and with the nutrition you need, if you are not a good baker though, there are plenty of options out there.
7. Always Pack Puncture Repair
If you go online you will see endless tutorials on how to fix a puncture in a car tire, or how to best use puncture repair kits for your tires. We don’t often think about bicycles needing this but actually, they do.
It is totally possible that while you’re enjoying a ride, your tire could get punctured, and suddenly you’re dealing with a flat tire.
You should verse yourself well on how to best fix a puncture and always carry around a repair kit just in case.
If you are a few miles away from home and suddenly realize you have a puncture, you will be glad you packed it. It might feel clunky, but it is worth it when the time comes.
8. Communicate With Other Cyclists
It might sound silly, and for introverted cyclists, a bit intimidating, but if you are on the road it is best to ride in a group and knowing how to ride in a group will open up a whole new world of training and social opportunities for you.
A group of riders will be more efficient and by communicating properly, you can each take turns at the front, although this does require riding quite close to each other, which to do so, will require clear communication.
Keep your head in the game and stay level-headed, not making any sudden movements, or unexpectedly breaking, and when you ride two-abreast, avoid riding ahead of the person next to you, even slightly.
You should also learn the cycling hand signals as well, not just for cars on the road who may need to overtake, but also to warn those behind you in your group of any obstacles or hazards that are approaching that they might not notice until it is too late.
Hand signals are a great form of communication on the road, and so it is wise to learn what they mean.
9. Let Your Family And Friends Know Your Route
Safety is important on the road and on tracks too, no matter which you do, if you are a road cyclist, or a mountain biker, you should always think ahead about safety. One of the ways to do this is to inform your loved ones of your plans.
If you intend on going out for a long ride, especially if you are going alone, always let someone know where you are going and when you expect that you will be back from your journey.
You can get bike computers or cycling apps that will also allow you to send your loved ones a tracking link, so they know where you are. However, you could also simply share your location on WhatsApp as well.
This is not to allow them to follow you about, but in the case that you have an accident while out cycling, it ensures that your family can help you if something happens.
10. Fit Mudguards For Wet Weather
When we do exercise, we do not only have our workouts in the summer when the weather is nice. Cycling is not a summer hobby, it’s an all year exercise, and if you are going to commit to it, you will want assistance for when the weather gets a bit cold, rainy, icy, and gross.
So, this is why you should fit your cycle with some mudguards, doing so is an important part of how you should winterize your bike.
Everything and everyone will thank you for doing so. Your back will definitely be most grateful, and your washing machine will too. People riding or driving behind you will also be appreciative of your mudguards too.
You might hear the rumor that having mudguards will ruin the clean lines on a posh and expensive road bike, however, when you are in the middle of winter and it’s gross outside, is that really your first concern?
11. Practice Your Turning Technique
When cycling there are many things you will want to practice. In some ways practicing to be road ready on a bicycle is a lot like practicing to be road ready in a car, you need to learn maneuvers, practice them, and get them nailed before you feel happy and confident going out on the roads.
This is just as important for mountain biking as road biking though, as you learn it is ideal to learn some cycling maneuvers in a safe space until you feel confident.
One of these maneuvers is how you turn, or ‘cornering’. When you are doing, so you need to make sure that your outside pedal is at the lowest possible position, with plenty of pressure being placed upon it.
Doing this will give you a greater amount of grip, especially if you are riding in wet conditions, as it makes it less likely for you to slide out.
If you do not know which is the inside and outside pedal, note that the outside pedal is the one facing the sidewalk, and the inside pedal faces the inside of the road.
12. Keep Your Tires Pumped
In many ways cycling is a lot like driving and a bike is like a car. This is especially true when you are considering the wheels. Remember earlier we said that you need to be thinking about carrying a puncture kit around with you just in case?
Well, one way to avoid punctures is to simply keep your tires pumped up. Having fully pumped tires will make punctures less likely to occur. This does not mean you should over inflate them though, so do be aware that this will not do any good.
However, keeping your tired fully pumped up will make the whole job of cycling easier on you, and you will not have to overexert yourself when you go for a simple ride.
It will also enhance grip and make the whole experience more enjoyable and pleasurable for you. So make sure that your tires are properly pumped up.
13. Start Slowly And Build Your Speed Overtime
As you learn to ride, do not be in a hurry to be out on the roads with all the experienced cyclers, or to be zipping up mountains on your new mountain bike. Take it easy, and take it slowly, build up over time.
This does not just refer to speed either but how much time you spend on the bike. As a total beginner you should be focused on easing yourself into it. Some people might like jumping into the deep end straight away, but typically doing so will do you no good.
Your first two weeks of cycling should be about getting used to it, understanding your bike, and keeping the sessions short by sweet. Maybe do a 10-minute ride each day and 20 minute rides on weekends.
After that bump up your times by 10 minutes, and then cut down on how many days you are riding for but increase the amount of time you do ride for. Continue to do this into your 6th, 7th, and 8th weeks since you started until you do 60 minute weekend rides.
Soon you will be happy and comfortable on the roads and tracks in no time, but slow and steady wins the race remember!
14. Always Check The Weather Forecast Beforehand
Just like any outdoor activity you want to keep one eye on the weather forecast before you go out for a ride. Sometimes a bit of light rain is tolerable, but heavy downpours and icy conditions are not recommended.
Strong winds are also a no-go, if a car might struggle in high winds, you and your bike have no chance. Know when you will be okay to go for a bike ride, and when you should leave it for the day.
Sure, we can often feel guilty of not going on a ride when it is part of an exercise regime, or part of our training, but if it is icy, too windy, or too wet, you risk injuring yourself, and that will be more damaging to you than missing a day out on your bike.
15. Use Electrolytes
Staying hydrated doesn’t mean that you need to aggressively chug down water constantly. Instead of just taking huge bottles of water on your cycling route and ending up needing to stop at every restroom you pass, you can use something else instead.
You may or may not have heard of how wonderful electrolytes are and how they can hydrate you even faster!
When you are doing any sort of exercise, it is common to find yourself cramping up, especially if you are not used to the exercise or the intensity level of the exercise you are doing.
The best thing you can do for yourself in this situation is to use electrolytes to ensure you replace all the nutrients and minerals in your body that you lose when you sweat. You can get specially formulated sports drinks for this.
However, you can also get electrolyte supplements that you can put in your water that help you hydrate better, or you could even get a little creative and make your own.
If you find yourself cramping up during long rides, this could be just the ticket for you.
16. Always Use Lights
No matter where you are cycling to and from, when things start to get a little dark out you should always be using light. Oh, and the same goes for bad weather too.
In bad weather, when cars are using lights, you should be as well. So, if you step out of your house to go for a nice afternoon bike ride, and you notice all the cars outside have their lights on, you should have lights on too.
You should have a white front light and a red, flashing rear light on your cycle. You can also get yourself a headlamp, or helmet lamp that will give you more light to see and will help you gain the attention of drivers on the road, so they know you are there.
You should also have reflectors on your bike, especially on the rear or front, most will come with this anyway, but you can add more.
You should also have reflectors and tape that reflects light on the moving parts of your bike to make you even more obvious, and do not forget, wear a high visibility reflective vest, or at least some form of clothing that will reflect light as well.
17. Use Your Gears Effectively
When we think of cycling we do not often think of gears, but we should. You should always shift your gears at the right time, shifting at the right moment will make your life easier overall.
You never want to be pedaling in a high gear when you are going up a hill, it is the equivalent of trying to go up a steep hill in fifth gear in a manual car, the car would struggle and so will you on your bike.
You would be exhausted, so switch to a lower gear so you do not need to push the pedals hard. This also means that you will enjoy going downhill in a higher gear as you work up more speed.
Use your gears wisely when you are cycling, it will make it more fun and much easier on you.
18. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Once you start to get out on your bike a bit more and start enjoying your routes and finding things a bit easier, switch it up. Try new things, a new route, do scary things.
A big part of growing in life and in sports in general, is trying new and scary things, no one ever became amazing by simply staying in their comfort zone forever. So, if you find yourself getting too comfortable, switch things up.
Even if it is trying a new route, or joining a cycling group or cycling event, try something new. After some time of road cycling you might want to try out mountain biking or vice versa. Do not be afraid to switch it up.
Even early on when you are practicing, it is important to get out of your comfort zone. Consider when we teach a kid to ride a bike, their comfort zone stands with the stabilizers, take them off, and it’s going beyond that.
So, take off your mental stabilizers and head out into the world.
19. Try Different Routes
Much like our comfort zone, it is easy to simply stick with what is familiar to you. We might constantly stick with one route because it is easier in our minds. However, being easy and familiar does not help us to grow as cyclists.
Instead of doing the same route every time you go out for a ride, try to switch things up a little, try different routes.
Perhaps if you go cycling twice a week, have one route which is a bit more challenging than the other. Maybe one route could be challenging, and you do this during the week, and then on the weekend you have an easier route.
Never just stick to one route, even though on a day-to-day basis the area may have differences, you will not be giving yourself variety, and eventually you will stagnate, or even get bored, and that is not what cycling is about.
20. Do Not Jam The Breaks
Every now and then you may need to brake a bit hard, perhaps someone unexpectedly walked out in front of you, perhaps there is a surprise turning, or drop, who knows, it happens, but remember that your bicycle’s brakes are not like your car’s brakes.
On your bicycle the front brake will be more powerful than your rear brake when it comes to stopping.
You will want to try and get a power distribution of around 60/40 or even 70/30 between your front and rear brakes for a good stop.
However, you need to be cautious that you do not accidentally lock up. While modern bicycles are fitted with powerful braking systems, you don’t want to end up going face first over the handlebars of your bicycle because your brakes are just too hardcore.
So, remember to exercise caution when it comes to braking. Perhaps even get some practice in, in a safe, secure area.
Cycling is actually easier that we make it sound really, but there is a lot to it in some ways. You want to make sure that you are looking after yourself and your bicycle when you are riding.
Do not forget that if you are riding on roads you need to be aware of the road laws for cyclists and make sure that you are not causing any grief, especially when cycling in groups.
Take care of your bicycle, and it will take care of you, just remember to give yourself enough energy and to stay hydrated through water consumption and electrolytes.
There is plenty to think about here, and we hope that we have given you everything you need to get started. It is worth making yourself a checklist to make sure you tick every box (or at least half) of the ones mentioned here, so you can have the best experience of cycling.
Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic