(Notes To My Newly Cycling Self)
“If you could go back and give your own self some advice when you started cycling what would it be?”
Buy Bib Shorts!
I know they don’t make a lot of sense when you start out. You’ve just got your head around the unflattering combination of Lycra and padding then someone suggests you wear what looks like the lovechild of gym wear and Lederhosen.
Get over yourself! I know everyone who’s new to the sport wants to be some kind of trailblazer but there’s a reason most people wear bib shorts. No more arse crack smiling at the guys behind, no more hitching up your shorts at every opportunity. To my newly cycling self, my first gift is the gift of bib shorts. Don’t waste your money on shorts that you’re going to wear twice and leave in the cupboard, buy bib and never look back!
Cycling Jerseys are for Cycling
Of course you can survive in just a normal T-shirt. I did my first big rides in a running top. But then I found the wonders of cycling jerseys. Three pockets at the back, making everything you need easy to reach. No more grappling around in a saddle bag when you pull over. A longer back which grips so your top doesn’t try and undress you every time you reach for the bars. Sleeves which hold on to your arms giving you that sharp tan line every cyclist yearns for.
To my newly cycling self, my second gift is the gift of cycling jerseys. Stop being so cheap, spend £30 on a jersey. Nothing else quite does the job.
Clipless Pedals Aren’t Scary
Sure you’re going to forget about them and fall off. It happens to everyone. Fact. So what are you waiting for? If you know it’s going to happen, you may as well just get it out of the way.
Clipless pedals are brilliant. You feel connected to the bike, put so much more power through the pedals and can make big improvements to your technique with your feet locked in place.
If you can ride a bike, you can ride clipless and my opinion is it’s the only way. To my newly cycling self, my third gift is the gift of clipless pedals. Stop being a wimp and get on with it!
The Bonk Is Real
You can ride longer and longer. One week 20 miles seems like nothing. Next week you’re riding 40 without a second thought. Then it gets you.
I remember the first time I bonked. My aim was to complete 100km. I knew I could do it, I had the fitness. However my nutritional strategy was rather lacking. I seem to recall stopping at a shop about halfway round and eating a chocolate bar. Three hours in I ran out of everything. I could barely ride five miles without pulling over. I limped home at about the slowest speed I could manage whilst remaining vertical and then promptly ate the entire contents of the fridge. Never again.
To my newly cycling self, my fourth gift is the gift of nutrition! Eat, you fool, or the bonk will get you!
Think Before Buying
So you’re going to invest in a bike. Great. Have you thought about what kind of cycling you want to do? Nah!
I went out and bought a heavy hybrid from Halfords. I’ve just checked my Strava and after 3 years I’ve done 213km on that bike. 100km of those were on one charity ride. Needless to say putting a bit of thought into the type of riding you’re likely to do before buying will save you money in the long run (thank you Cannondale CAAD8 and the 10,000km we have shared together!)
To my newly cycling self, my fifth gift is the give of a beautiful bicycle. Do yourself a favour and buy one you’re actually going to use!
Look ‘Ma, No Eyes!
We can all ride no handed. Pah, that’s easy. You should try no eyed! I’ve never worn glasses, for anything. Could never even find a pair of sun glasses to fit. That was until I smashed into a low flying bug at 30km/h. As I retrieved myself and my bike from a nettle/bramble mattress I decided glasses may be a good idea after all.
To my newly cycling self, one final gift. Cover your eyes before you kill yourself!