Learning how to get into cycling is easier than you may think. Even better, it can be an exhilarating experience and a great workout. If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a road cyclist, now is the best time to make those thoughts a reality. Tony Horton is a big proponent of cycling, but he wants you to be safe, too. Just remember to get your doctor’s approval before you start.
Here are some cycling tips that will help you get started in this incredible sport. You’ll learn what kind of gear you need, how to find the right road bike, safety information, and a lot more.
Introduction To Road Cycling
Road cycling, as the name implies, is riding a bicycle on a paved surface. In general, if you ride on a street or highway to get to work, run some errands, or just to get some great exercise, then you’re participating in road cycling. Some cycling enthusiasts believe being a true road cyclist means riding on streets and/or roads for long distances and doing so for pure enjoyment and physical activity.1
How To Get Started In Road Cycling
Like any form of exercise, it will be important to start gradually when road cycling. You’re not in a time trial for the Tour de France, so take things easy, and get the lay of the land first. If you try to do too much too fast, you could increase your risk of injury.
You might not have ridden a bicycle in a while. If that’s the case, find a park or a road that hardly gets any traffic. Riding in this kind of safe environment should help you build up confidence and endurance. Start with a relatively short route – something that will cover about five miles from start to finish.2
Here are a few other ways to make your introduction to road cycling as fun and safe as possible.
- Ride with friends – While there’s a lot to be said for cycling on your own, it’s also fun to ride with some buddies. If none of your friends like to ride, think about joining a local cycling club.
- Get familiar with your gears – The gears are important. You can work them in ways that can make it harder or easier to operate your bike, giving you more of a workout – or a more leisurely ride – in the process. Lower gears are easier while riding in a high gear will put more strain on your muscles.3Ask someone at your local bike shop to show you how the gears work.
- Stay steady – If you’re cycling for exercise, try and maintain a pedaling speed of between 70-90 revolutions per minute (RPM). Keeping a good rhythm, or cadence, will give you a good workout, but it won’t leave you feeling exhausted.4A rule of thumb when calculating your RPM is to count how many times your right knee comes up in 30 seconds as you pedal. Then all you need to do is double that number and you have your RPM.5>
Other Things To Keep In Mind
Here are a few other things to consider to get the most out of your ride.
- Be ready to feel the effects – It won’t take long until you start seeing the benefits of road cycling. It’s a fantastic way to support your cardiovascular health and tone your leg muscles. You’ll probably start feeling some soreness in your shoulders at first, and your hips and calves may also feel tighter than normal.
- Nutrition will be even more important – Good nutrition is always key to staying healthy. But if you want your rides to be enjoyable, you’ll really need to keep a close eye on what you eat. If you don’t, you might have a hard time getting through even relatively short outings on your bike.
- Know your area – Look for roads that have good-sized bicycle lanes so that you can stay as far away from vehicles as possible. Also, if you plan on riding outside the city limits, try to stick to highways that don’t typically carry a lot of traffic. If they have long stretches of straightaways, that will be even better.6
Another thing you might want to think about is having some music to play. After all, what’s a long bike ride without some great tunes? Here’s a fantastic Spotify playlist that will fit the bill perfectly.
How To Choose The Right Bicycle
Finding a good bike will be important, of course. But how do you go about doing that, especially if you don’t have any recent experience in shopping for bicycles? Here are a few quick tips to help.
The first thing you want to determine is how you’ll use the bike. Will you ultimately want to go on hours-long rides every weekend? Will you be going on shorter, more intense rides to get in a good workout? There are different types of bikes for different types of uses. Talk to an expert at your local bicycle shop before you make any definite decisions.7>
You’ll also want to look at your long-term goals before you buy a bike. You might only be able to go on short rides at first, but you might want to eventually work yourself up toward 50-, 75-, or even 100-mile rides. Get a bicycle that will be durable enough to make through those longer distances.8
Another thing to consider will be the bike’s braking system. Many bicycles now have disc brakes. They provide great stopping power, no matter what type of weather you may encounter. However, you’ll probably have to spend more than $1,000 if you want them.9
The Frame Material Is Also Important
More than likely, you’re going to be really surprised at the variety of road bikes that are available. For example, they come in a lot of different frame materials. Here’s a quick look at three of the most common ones.
- Carbon fiber – This type of bike is light and durable. It is also highly resistant to corrosion. Carbon fiber bikes are also good shock absorbers – and that can really come in handy for bumpy roads, or if you encounter an unexpected pothole. The downside is that they can be pretty expensive.
- Titanium – Titanium bikes are a little on the pricey side as well, but they’re also great at absorbing shocks.
- Steel – Steel makes for a very durable bike frame and is pretty simple to repair. A higher-quality steel bike can resist corrosion if you wash it regularly. They tend to be less expensive than other bikes, but they can also be heavy.
- Aluminum – Aluminum frames are lighter than steel but they’re also durable – and they don’t corrode. They’re a little heavier than carbon fiber and titanium.10
In addition to the frame, there will be other considerations when buying the best road bike for you. For example, there are different styles. Flat bars, for example, or bikes with a flat handlebar, are a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike.11
If you have an existing bike, don’t assume you’ll need to buy a new one. Talk to a bike expert about your goals, and see if the model you already have might help you reach them.
How To Shift Gears On A Road Bike
Knowing how to shift gears on your bicycle is a fundamental cycling skill that can help make your rides more challenging and enjoyable. Lower gears are good for climbing, while higher gears make it easier for you to go downhill. The shifters you use to change gears are on a cable. When you want to shift, you simply move the lever to the side until you hear a clicking sound. If you have a road bike with flat handlebars, you use your thumb to move paddles in order to shift.12
The gear shifters near your left hand control the front gears. The shifters near your right hand control the rear gears. You’ll typically see a big lever and a small lever on each side. The big lever on the right will make it easier to pedal. The big one on the left will increase resistance. The small lever on the right side, on the other hand, will make pedaling harder. The small one on the left will make it easier.13
If you’re new to shifting, don’t be afraid to experiment as you get acclimated. You won’t hurt the bike, even if you’re not able to shift smoothly. Remember that you have to pedal the bike in order to be able to shift gears.14
Recommended Cycling Gear And Apparel
Your first priority will be making sure you have the right bike, but then you’ll need to get the other gear necessary for a comfortable ride.
You not only need a sturdy bicycle helmet, but also bike shoes that will keep your feet in the pedals. Road shoes are specifically made for cycling on paved surfaces. Getting a good pair of cycling shorts will be important as well. Make sure they’re lightweight but durable and comfortable enough for those long rides you might be planning. Cycling gloves will also come in handy to help you avoid blisters.
Is Road Cycling Safe?
If you take the right precautions, the answer is a resounding, “Yes.” Be aware of your surroundings at all times, and always make sure your bike is in good working shape before starting a ride. For example, make sure the brake levers, each shift lever, and other parts are working correctly.
Have A Blast, And Be Careful
Just remember to take it slow and steady to start, and always be mindful of your safety. A few tips to keep in mind:
- Maintain plenty of space between yourself and traffic.
- Stay away from curbs whenever possible so you have room to maneuver when you need to.
- Stay out of right turn lanes if you plan to keep moving in a forward motion or turning left.
- Try to anticipate what others on the road will do.15
There’s a common misconception that bicyclists have to get as close to the right side of the road as possible. There are actually times where you’ll have to be farther left. One example is if you’re passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction. Moving a little farther left can oftentimes make it easier for motorists to see you.16
If you have any questions regarding bicycle safety, check your state’s transportation department website.
As you learned earlier, road cycling can be an incredible experience. Even if you don’t know your right pedal from your left pedal starting out, you will quickly learn how exhilarating this sport can be.