The cycling world can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you're just starting out. There are hundreds and thousands of blogs and videos that claim to give you the best advice for starting out on a bicycle. A lot of them offer really great information, but it is difficult to wade through the mountains of content and find practical tips that will help you enjoy your cycling experience and get the most out of your bike. So here are my best cycling tips: the top 6 things I've learned so far.
1. Do NOT set your bike up like a racing bike.
I know how tempting it can be to slam your stem all the way down to the headset, set your saddle crazy high and go super-tuck your way down your local hilly course in an attempt to set a new land speed record. We all see the way that professionals' bikes look, and it's awesome. The razor-sharp aerodynamic machines rocketing through the air like a knife. It's a sight to see. The problem with riding like a pro is that, let's face it, you are not a pro.
The pros have armies of trainers and coaches to help them maintain a level of fitness required to ride racy bikes. You will end up enjoying your bike less if it doesn't fit you properly, or worse you might end up with an injury that could have been prevented.
Do yourself a favor and do some research to get your bike set up in a way that actually fits you and is comfortable. Or better yet, go have a professional bike fit done that will keep you happy and healthy.
2. Stretch, do yoga, and strengthen your core.
That leads nicely into my second tip. One huge advantage that professional cyclists have is access to trainers. And one of the most important things that a professional trainer will work on is stretching, yoga, and core-strength workouts. The reason that pro riders are able to maintain those extremely aerodynamic riding positions and still put out power is that they do tons and tons of stretching and core strength workouts.
Even for us mere mortals, though, dedicating some time during the week to stretch or do yoga can have immense benefits both off and on the bike. Yoga and stretching have been shown to improve mobility obviously, but also increase your circulation, help your posture, help with chronic pain, improve your mood, improve your sleep, and the list goes on and on. When coupled with a core strength workout routine, it can be a game changer on the bike.
Adding these two simple things to your routine will help you avoid injury, pedal more efficiently, and experience less soreness after your rides.
3. Learn basic bike maintenance.
Local bike shops are great. I love my local bike shop. I love the community it brings and the opportunity to mingle with and meet other cyclists. Whenever I have a major repair or upgrade for my bike, I take it to a shop.
However, learning some basic bike maintenance is something that has greatly enhanced my overall cycling experience. There are certain things that you really should know in case you get stuck way out in the middle of nowhere and need to make a repair. Knowing more about my bikes has also given me a greater sense of pride when I'm able to do routine maintenance and small repairs on my own.
I would suggest being proficient at changing a flat tire, airing your tires up, lubing your drivetrain components, thoroughly cleaning your bike, checking and aligning your brakes, fixing a dropped or broken chain, and checking to ensure that all of the bolts and fasteners around the bike are properly tightened.
These sound simple enough, and they really are, but they can be crucial in a pinch and even save you some money.
4. Flat tire tips.
Speaking of flat tires, here are a couple of great tips that I have picked up along the way that have helped me out. Maybe you are lucky enough to live near pristinely paved tarmac, but I live and ride near roads that are particularly bad on tires. I've gotten more flat tires than I care to remember, and some of them have been pretty painful.
Always ride with a spare inner tube and a way to inflate it. Never never NEVER ride without a way to change a flat. I've done it and you probably have too, but being 40 miles away from home and calling a friend or spouse to come pick you up is a terrible phone conversation to have. Make sure that you have the tools to keep yourself safe. A tube and pump are cheap and light investments that pay huge dividends.
If you don't have a spare tube, or you puncture your spare tube (been there), a great tip is to tie a knot in your inner tube. You'll have to tie the knot in a position to cut off the puncture from the rest of the tube. It can be a little bit tricky to re-fit the tube into your wheel, and it can be a bumpy ride, but it will get you home safely.
Use inner tube sealant. If you've ventured into the world of tubeless tires (and I highly recommend that you do. It all but eliminated flat tires for me) you know about tire sealant. Not a lot of people seem to know that you can put sealant into an inner tube as well though. Some companies even make inner tube-specific sealant. It is a great cost-effective way to prevent punctures.
Go tubeless. Just do it. It can be expensive to get tubeless-capable wheels and tires, and it is a HUGE pain to set them up, but it is so worth it.
5. Try new things.
Getting away from practical bike tips for a second. Try something new. If you are a road rider, go ride some gravel. If you have kids, get a tow-behind trailer and turn cycling into a family affair. If you normally ride early in the mornings, go for a night ride (get some good lights and be safe.) If you ride late, get up early and ride while the sun is rising (one of my all time favorite things to do.)
Try some interval workouts. Try to do a longer ride than you ever have. Try a group ride. Make a stop for coffee. Just get out there and do something that you never have before.
I personally am bad about getting stuck in a routine and I end up riding the same routes at the same time. It's a recipe for getting burned out. Mix things up and remember that riding bikes is above all supposed to be fun.
6. Anywhere is home. Just ride bikes.
If you have read any of my other posts, follow us on social media, or looked at our website, you've seen this before: Anywhere is home. Just ride bikes. This is really just my way of saying that if you are on a bike, you're doing something right. You don't have to have the latest and greatest $15,000 super bike or the fanciest shoes or anything at all to enjoy yourself on a bike.
Get out there and go for a ride. Never forget that cycling is cool and it's supposed to be fun and add value to your life. I've fallen victim to the comparison game many times. I will compare myself to other cyclists who are faster or have "better" bikes or are stronger climbers or blah blah blah. That is a terrible headspace to be in, trust me.
Cycling changed my life. It helped me lose weight and get healthy. It gave me an activity to do with my wife and kids. And it gave me the opportunity to create a company around something that I'm passionate about. Don't worry about other people, and don't let anyone bring you down.
These are only a few of the tips that have helped me navigate the world of cycling and come to a place where I genuinely love riding my bike. If you have any tips or tricks, send me a message or drop them in the comments. Now go ride your bikes.