So you have decided to start cycling, perhaps you haven’t ridden for a long time. Maybe you have never ridden or maybe you want to try a different type of cycling but aren’t sure where to start or what you might need. Walking into a proper bike shop for the first time can leave some people concerned that the staff might be condescending or look down on them. Don’t worry most bike shop’s will never do this. They will just want to help you find a bike that’s right for you. Here are some beginners cycling tips to help.
There’s a lot of things to consider and its easy to get carried away looking at the latest carbon frame super bikes being reviewed in the magazines or a top of the range electric bike with 170mm of travel.
In reality buying the most high tech and expensive bike probably wont be the answer. We suggest the first thing you do is work out what type of cycling is most going to suit your goals. Are you looking to get out into the countryside and enjoy a steady ride down a cycle path. A ride out into the peak district to tackle some legendary road climbs. A off road route up into the Derbyshire hills with some fast downhill single track. Maybe you just want to commute a few miles to work. Or maybe something for the motor home to get you some freedom when you get to the camp site.
Your flexibility, age and general health and fitness also needs consideration. That pro level race bike with stretched out position and slammed stem might look cool in the shop. But this could easily put you off cycling for life if you haven’t ridden a bike like that before and don’t have enough flexibility to be comfy for a few hours. A bike fit before buying a bike is a great way to make sure you get the right one. This will help make sure the size and bike style is right for you, and also that the position on the bike is correct. This includes seat height, stem height / reach and handle bar width. A good shop will often include this in the price.
Once you have talked this through, your local bike shop staffer will have a good idea of what type of bike is going to suit you and will show you some of the options. There’s a lot of different styles of bikes to choose from. Here’s a few styles:
A general purpose bike that can handle most terrain, but might be unnecessarily heavy and have too high rolling resistance if you mostly ride the road. Examples
A general purpose bike that is at home on roads paths and light trails. Usually lighter than a MTB with a more relaxed upright position, with thinner tyres, still a bit heavy if you are planning mostly road rides. Examples.
Suitable for pure road usage, usually much lighter than a MTB or hybrid bike. You might get away with the occasional cycle tracks if the bike can take a wider more durable tyre. Look at a gravel bike if you want to also ride on tracks regularly. Tyre size is usually from 25-30mm. Common gearing is 52/36T or 50/34T front chain rings. Road bikes have different styles such as endurance bikes. These have a shorter tube, higher front end and more compliance that a traditional road bike. These are more suitable for people looking for a comfy riding position. For something faster and more aggressive a traditional performance bike would be more suitable. Examples.
These can handle roads and light trails as they have more clearance in the frame to take a wider tyre. Tyre size is usually from 30-40mm and will have a slightly knobbly profile than a slick road tyre. They usually have compact gearing i.e 50/34T front chain rings. Examples.
Cyclo Cross Bikes
These are very similar to gravel bikes and often have a very similar frame. They are more biased to light offroad use. So will have a a knobbly XC tyre that can handle muddier or wet ground. They may come with a 50/34T, 48/32T or even a single ring on the front. Most CX racers now use single ring setups. Examples.
Full Suspension MTB’s
Primarily aimed at off road riding. This is whole category in its self which I’m not going to go into detail now. Briefly this can be broken down into these categories.
XC bikes with 100-120mm of suspension travel
Trail bikes with 120-140mm travel.
Enduro bikes, some times called “all mountain” with 140-170mm travel.
Freeride with 170-200mm travel.
Downhill bikes with 200mm plus travel. Here are some Examples.
This then brings us on to electric bikes. Pretty much all the bikes discussed can be purchased with a motor. Electric bikes in the UK’s popularity has increased hugely in recent years as the technology and styling has improved. Electric bikes can open up distances and terrain that the average person might have thought impossible previously or turn a mundane or tough route into something very fun. Whether you are super fit or very unfit an electric bike is great fun and enhances any cycling route. Its not cheating and simply amplifies what you put in. Here’s a link to our ebike guide.
So now you have found a bike that is suitable. If you are tempted to jump straight on and head out into the wilderness, you might want to consider packing a few items before you set off. Safety first, a helmet is essential, it will protect you in crash even if you have read otherwise. I know this first hand, I’ve smashed helmets to bits and walked away with just a loss of pride. Punctures are the most common issue on a bike, so take a spare tube, a puncture repair kit, pump, tyre levers and ideally a multitool. You will also need to hydrate so a bottle and cage is worth adding. Consider lights even in the daytime. Don’t forget some snacks and some cash just incase.
The right clothing can make a huge difference to your enjoyment on the bike. There’s not many circumstances that you wont appreciate a decent set of padded shorts. They prevent chafing and give you extra padding where you need it. A dab of chamois cream wont hurt either. Ditch the cotton t-shirt and get a cycling specific jersey, you don’t want to be carrying your sweat around with you. You dont have to buy lycra, there are other more technical casual options. Base layers are popular all year round for wicking sweat and make a good addition even in very hot weather. Carrying a water proof jacket is also a good idea. The weather can change quickly and your temperature will drop fast if you get wet. This is also useful if you have to stop to fix a puncture or wait for someone.
Cycling can be tough, particular on the hills, if you are starting to feel your age an ebike could be a great way to help ease yourself in and take the sting out of the hills. You still need to pedal but can tailor the power to your fitness.
Whichever type of bike you get, start off steady and don’t try to go to far at first, build up with regular shorter rides and then increase the millage as you start to build fitness.
If you want to get serious, there are lots of websites with more advanced training tips. Get in touch for any help or pop into the shop