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51 Beginner Cycling Tips From Experienced Cyclists

Ben Reeve | 2 years ago

“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Sam Levenson

Cycling is a complex sport. I used to be a runner and that was simple. Shoes, clothes, watch, go. With cycling there are infinitely more variables.

As a beginner this can feel intimidating. Making the right decisions early on can save you time, money and embarrassing ground time. There is no right or wrong answer to a lot of the questions you have, but taking in information quickly and forming your own opinions will put you ahead of the pack.

The best way to pick up knowledge quickly is to ride with others. Whilst some of what you hear is built on deeply rooted ‘traditions’ such as The Rules, these guys have earned their stripes out on the road, so by asking the right questions you will unearth those amazing tips that will help you through your first few years. My aim here is to save you some of that time.

Reaching out to experienced cyclists from across the web including I have put together the best beginner cycling tips from experienced cyclists.

Neil Morrison – Blogger at Grit.cx

51 Beginner Cycling Tips - Neil Morrison

1. “Never take what one bike shop says as your size as gospel for all bike brands. I spend half my life trying to explain to people that a 48cm in Cannondale is like a 51cm in Cervelo”

2. “If you are new to road biking consider an adventure/gravel bike. Slightly slower but way more comfy thanks to the tyres (not the frame as many manufacturers will tell you)”

3. “Cadence is really important. Set an alarm on your computer for when cadence drops below 80rpm, meaning it’s time to drop a gear. Eventually it becomes second nature.”

Bryan Hutton – Cyclocross King & Blogger at TwoWheelArmy.com 

51 Beginner Cycling Tips - Bryan Hutton

4. “Buy a cheap Garmin. I still have a 200 that is great. Even a good cateye one. For me seeing my speed increase on rides and seeing my average speed increase on my training route was and still is a huge boost. Then on the other hand see how things like the headwinds can effect your ride so don’t get too disheartened if you are having a slow ride. You can also get more advanced with sprint training once you have the hang of the bike”

Bryan Donnelly

51 Beginner Tips for Cyclists

5. “Good cycling clothing is the best investment you can make. Don’t waste money on an expensive fancy helmet as they all meet the same safety standard. Spend your money on decent bib shorts as they make all the difference”

6. “Don’t be afraid of traffic but sit away from parked cars, at least an open door’s width. Claim your place on the road, be confident and look at drivers at junctions – they will feel your burning gaze!”

Cliff Brown

7. “Start slowly, don’t aim to go too far or fast too soon. Build it up steadily over time and as you feel more confident and comfortable push your limits. Oh, and the most important tip of all…..  Just enjoy yourself!”

Matt @mattmbr – Cycling Photos at #3Counties

RXeo01bN_400x400

8. “Buy the best bike you can afford, buy the best shorts you can afford”

9. “Always use lights”

Brad Collard – Passionate Cyclist and Blogger at VeloBlogUK

10. “Always check the weather forecast. In England you can get deceivingly blue skies, it looks like it may be warm so you go a layer less only for it to actually be really really cold. I can live with my core being cold but my hands? Definitely not. Descending quickly with numb hands is not cool, you can’t feel yourself squeezing the brakes!

Also, check it for rain. Going out without a rain cape stuffed in your jersey pocket only for there to be downpour is disheartening to say the least.”

Robbie Ferri – Adventure Cyclist and Blogger at Living The Dream

11. “Get out of your comfort zone. The rides where you bite off more than you can chew always turn out to be the best. Probably the worst thing you can do is not challenge yourself, go further, go faster and don’t look back. Stay motivated, have goals and a plan to achieve them. Before you know it you will be doing things you never believed you would ever do.”

12. “Look after your bike well. Your trusty steed will take you thousands of miles, so respect it. Clean it every week, fresh degrease and grease. Bikes shouldn’t squeak or make funny noises. Make adjustments and learn to fix it yourself. Always spend the last mile of your ride listening to your bike, so when you get home it can be cleaned and fixed.”

Alex Palmer – Member Of Team WR CC

13. “My biggest tip would be to ‘Just ride’. Get out, short rides, long rides, lone rides or group rides. They all count and you’ll always feel better for it! Just enjoy it!”

Donna Navarro – World Famous Women’s Cycling Blogger at Ordinary Cycling Girl

14. “Make the switch to clip-in pedals. It might seem daunting at first but you won’t regret it. You’ll be surprised at the improvement you will see in your ability to cycle more efficiently and to get up those hills. My top tip is definitely to anticipate having to unclip and to do it early! And always unclip with the same foot first so that it becomes habit.”

Wes Hellyar –  South African Racing Cyclist @WesHellyar

15. “While climbing, don’t go too hard too early on and ensure you continue to pedal over the top of the climb. Often cyclists stop pedalling at what they perceive to be the top only to lose momentum when they are several feet from the plateau.”

16. “On the nutritional side, generally stick to water for rides under an hour. Carbs on rides of 1-3 hours and a mixture of carbs and protein for rides longer than 3 hours. It’s worth noting however that these are only guidelines, as nutrition is often a matter of ‘what works for you’.”

17. “In wet weather, keep your bike as upright as possible in corners and break earlier than usual. Also watch out for slippery oil/diesel patches which are particularly bad during the first rains of the season as well as at intersections.”

18. “Make use of your gears (and wear out your shifters) by changing frequently to avoid ‘grinding the pedals’ on both flats and climbs. Cadence is also a personal preference, but I’d generally say 90-110rpm on flats/descents and around 70-90rpm on climbs.”

Tim Hoyle –  Just ‘Another Cyclist’ and Blogger at Another Cyclist

19. “If you’re new to cycling enjoy it! Don’t get bogged down in Strava, average speeds and sharing your rides on social media that’s just details. The bigger picture is one of adventure and exploration. Buy a map, print one off the internet, join a club, or if you have the cash get a Garmin (other navigation devices available). Explore your local area or nearest national park; the views, hills and exploration will inspire you more than just pushing hard all the time. Getting faster will happen naturally the more you ride.”

20. “Don’t avoid the hills, they get easier the more you do, you can’t avoid them forever so you may as well get better at them. Good technique works on small hills, strength and fitness is more important on long slogs like the Alps.”

Mark Cockshoot (via E-mail)

21. “Contact points are crucial:

a) Between you and the bike – Hands, feet and bottom – get these right! Good short, gloves and shoes. Try out saddles, bar tape, pedals – make sure they are comfortable. Get your bike to fit correctly (either use an online guide or pay for a fitting). Chamois cream on long rides makes a huge difference.

b) Between the bike and the road – buy the best tyres you can afford – they are the only thing that sticks you to the road!

c) Between chain and gears – clean and oil. Buy a chain cleaner and degreasing fluid – it will save you a lot of money replacing chain, chainrings and cassette and you will enjoy your rides more because shifting is smoother and quieter.”

Chris Kent – @MrDigitalJedi

22. “If you’re planning for wet weather riding invest in a decent pair of overshoes first. If you don’t enjoy riding in the wet an expensive pair of winter shoes will end up in not being used so a waste of money”

23. “Use Youtube videos to learn about bike maintenance. Cheaper than a course, and loads of information available.”

Shane – @Taffy_von_Trips

24. “Always carry enough cash to get you home in case you have a major mechanical problem”

25. “Make sure you know how to remove your wheels and fix a puncture , and carry the tools to do it. Carrying a spare innertube and some self adhesive patches will save time on the road. Pop the new tube in and fix the punctured one when you get home; the stickies are in case you are really unlucky.”

Daniel Dunn – London based South African cyclist blogging at OnYourBike London

26. “Buy the right bicycle. A mountain bike may feel like a sensible choice, but as you get fitter and more confident its going to start to hold you back.”

27. “Use mudguards. It will keep you, your bike and the cyclist behind you clean.”

28. “Do not be tempted by cheap cycling gear on Amazon. As soon as it gets wet and cold you will spend a lot more money in an attempt to weather proof yourself.”

29. “Be aware of the vehicles around you. When taking the inside lane, watch for indicators.”

30. “Wear an additional light on your helmet. When behind a car your lights are obscured from cars joining from side roads. At least they will see the light on top of your head.”

31. “Drink enough liquid throughout the day even in the cold months. You lose a lot of moisture wearing winter kit, so stay hydrated.

Stuart Barrington – Ironman and blogger at Quadrathon

32. “Saddles… Don’t be deceived into thinking that one that looks like a armchair is comfortable; it may not be and the one that looks like a razor blade isn’t, it could be! Try lots of different types to determine what is good for you, ask for recommendations from others, use demo programs from your LBS or online. Try them on short rides, long rides, climbing, flats and on your trainer! Don’t worry about looks worry about fit!”

Clint Renee – Pro cycling blogger at PedalMash

33. “Get Strava. It’s the best thing I ever did. When I started I didn’t have any cyclist friends so I had nobody to compete with but myself. As soon as I got Strava and could see who was doing what around me, that motivated me to ride more and enjoy the added element of competition.”

Beth Manning – Massage Therapist and founder of Cycling Hacks

34. “Get a professional bike fit when you buy your bike and revisit your fit every season. As a bodyworker, I see a lot of problems that are only exacerbated by an ill-fitting bicycle.”

 

Nick Boyle – Rider for Chelmer CC and host of @UKCycleChat

35. “My beginner cycling tips would be, don’t be afraid to step up a level or distance. If you are used to riding 30 miles at 15mph average, go out with others on a 40 mile at 16-17 average. You will surprise yourself!”

36. “Don’t be afraid to wear Lycra. It’s odd at first but, trust me, it’s the most comfortable way to ride.”

37. “Always smile, nod or say hello to passing cyclists.”

38. “If you have no friends that cycle, join a local club. You will soon make friends, enjoy the group riding and soon improve performance levels.”

Keith Russell – One Pro Cycling superfan

 

39. “Get to know your best Local Bike Shop. Seek out a bike shop you can absolutely trust to do what is right for you and not just their takings, they do exist. I made a lot of purchasing errors in my first few years and ended up riding the wrong sized bike for 9 years at the advice of a LBS. Ask on social media for recommendations, cyclists will be quick to praise a good shop and equally quick to let you know the poor ones.”

Jay Morris – Ex downhill mountain biker turned road rider @nukeproofjay

40. “Always layer up correctly, never pad up from the inside, a good base layer under a jersey is fine and then a coat on top. It’s always easier to remove layers from the outside in as you get warmer on rides. The same with your feet, one pair of socks followed by overshoes or toe protectors on the outside.”

Jeff Luckett – Charity Fundraiser for MS @Jeff_Luckett

 

41. “My biggest beginner cycling tips would be don’t focus on speed, focus on cadence and effort. Your speed on the bike is the last thing you can actually control. The conditions (pitch, headwind, pavement quality, etc…) will dictate how fast you can go. What you can control is how fast and hard you pedal. Try to keep your cadence between 80-100 rpm and in a gear where you’re not “grunting” to turn the pedals. Many light efforts (spinning fast, not pushing hard) allow you to put the watts down for a much longer time as it’s then more of an aerobic activity. Focus on having a smooth pedal stroke rather than having a big push from the 2-6 o’clock, think about spreading that effort between 12 and about 7 or 8 o’clock. Engage the quads as well the hammies and glutes.”

42. “Focus on time not distance (or if distance, forget time). Either plan a ride for an hour (for example) and do that, don’t worry about how far you get. Or, if you want to do a distance, don’t focus on the time, but pay attention to your body. In the end, it’s about keeping yourself in that area of output that you can do for a long period of time. It should be challenging not exhausting.”

43. “The two pieces of equipment that will help you most if you’re serious about getting started in training are a cycle computer with a cadence sensor and a heart rate monitor. You can skip the HRM if you’re fairly in tune with judging your own effort level, but it can be a huge help. Watt meters are nice, but cost as much as a decent bike. You can go a long way training without one. If you get really serious a watt meter is what it takes to become super competitive, but most riders don’t need that piece of equipment (unless you are a numbers junky and have disposable income). In the end, speed will come and your averages will creep up. If you repeat the same rides frequently, you’ll see your times improve over weeks and months. It’ll actually be pretty quick at first. In the same spirit of Greg LeMond’s quote, “It never gets easier, you just get faster.”

Eric Schlange – Blogger at ZwiftBlog.com

Eric Schlange

44. “If poor local weather, injuries or other factors cause you to miss out on riding, get set up with Zwift. This ‘game’ takes indoor training to an entirely new level with group rides, racing, structured workouts that ensure you’re never bored on the trainer again.”

Michelle Brideau – Fundraising long distance cyclist and Vlogger

Michelle Brideau

45. “You’ll likely have to change the saddle your bike came with. You shouldn’t be thinking about your saddle when you ride, if it’s uncomfortable it’s time to change it.”

46. “Listen to all the advice and then do what makes you happy! :)”

London Cyclist – The king of Cycling Blogs: tips, reviews, news and more!

The London Cyclist

 

47. “Take a cycle training course. Regardless of how long you have been riding a bike, everyone can learn something from a cycle training course. There are lots of options out there and depending on where you live they might be free! A training course can be particularly useful if you are just embarking on cycle commuting in a busy city. It will help with your traffic awareness and road positioning, both things that go a long way to keeping you safe. It will also give you a lot more confidence to know that you are doing the right thing and can handle most situations you will encounter.”

48. “Get some puncture proof tyres. There is nothing worse than getting a flat tyre on the way to or from work (well, there may be, but at the time it will be tough to think of anything). Puncture proof tyres come in all shapes and treads, so you don’t have to compromise your rolling resistance or comfort. They really are vital for city riding.”
49. “Invest in a good lock. Many cycling industry people will suggest that you spend around 10% of the value of your bike on your lock. This may be a good guide line, but in general you should spend as much as you can on one, regardless of financial bike value, as its value to you as your mode of transport is much higher. Look for a lock with a gold standard Sold Secure rating to be sure of its strength, and consider the locking situations you may be in – small D or U locks are easier to carry but limit what you can lock your bike too. Chains are heavier but more flexible so you can lock around different things.”
50. “Get locking bolts. I have locking skewers on my wheels which mean that I can just carry one lock to attach my bike to a solid object. On very nice bikes, the components themselves can be worth enough money to be targets, so it is worth thinking about locking up as much as possible. If you buy them all in a kit, they usually all use the same key which makes life easier!”

51. “Get the CleanSpace app. This app shows you real time pollution levels for the streets around you. On some days this is truly terrifying. It is a great tool for route planning as you can find the roads that will take you where you are going without filling your lungs with too much gunk. I started using it a few weeks ago, and if nothing else, my commutes sure smell a lot nicer now!”

Thank you to the amazing people and groups below for inputting their ‘Beginner Cycling Tips’ to this article:

New to cycling? I have a number of other articles on the site which you may find useful after you have had a read through the tips below…

-> Buying a Bike: The Essential Beginner’s Guide
-> 18 Essential Bike Tools For The Beginner Mechanic
-> Beginner’s Guide To Cycling Gear

Ben Reeve

| 2 years ago

About this author:
Ben Reeve is the founder of Cycling Tips HQ, a site with simple tips to help you learn more about the incredible pastime of cycling. In 2017 Ben stepped down from running his cycling tips site and transferred the content over to the YJ Cycle Hub. Ben now runs leadingonyourfeet, a company working in leadership in retail.
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