12 Tips for new cyclists

1. Buying a new bike

Essentially there are 3 types of cycles :

Road bikes

When thinking about the type of bike riding you’re most likely to do, if you’re going to be riding exclusively on pavement and want to go pretty fast and/or ride long distances, a road bike is probably what you want. Road bikes typically have a lightweight frame which is designed to allow the upright rider to maintain the most aerodynamic position possible. Road bike handlebars go out straight from the stem and then curl under, allowing riders who want to go really fast to hunch over when riding at that point, in order to reduce wind resistance.

Mountain Bikes

If you plan to ride “off road” a lot, like using your bike to traverse the woods or zip through the desert on sandy or rocky trails, a mountain bike is probably what you want. Mountain bikes are designed for riding under more rugged conditions, and typically have a stouter, more upright frame. can take a lot of stress and abuse and still allow the rider to comfortably negotiate rugged terrain.

Hybrid Bikes

A hybrid bike is one that blends the best characteristics of both road and mountain bikes into a bike that is sturdy, comfortable and fast, and ideal for riding on streets and bike paths.

Buying the right size:

Take the advice of experienced cyclists or your dealer to help buy the right size bike. A wrong size can cause severe pain in the knee, neck, back & generally cause a lot of discomfort to the rider. Professional bike fit services are available to help you fit the bike to your needs. If you aim to ride long hours then a cycling jersey and padded shorts are highly recommended. These are generally available in dry-fit material and keep you very comfortable on the saddle.

2. Dressed to ride

With the bike, You should definitely buy the accessories below :

  • Water bottle holders & bottles
  • Helmet – Correctly fitted to you.
  • Tail lights (red)
  • Front lights (white)
  • Cycling Gloves
  • Air pump
  • Mini tool kit
  • Lubricant

3. Be Seen

Cyclists, This is the most important part of road safety for you. While riding in the day, night or early mornings, you have to make sure that other drivers see you.

  • Buy a good pair of tail light and headlight.
  • Wear a reflective vest. Cycling clothes with reflective strips also available.
  • Learn to use hand signals to indicate stopping, turning etc.
  • Follow traffic rules.

Start riding with your local area groups or friends. There is always safety in numbers.

MCE has always advocated safe riding. We support the campaign “Share The Road” which urges car owners and cyclists to be conscious of the safety of all road users.

4. Maintaining your bike

A clean, well lubricated bike performs better. Period.
So it’s important to do it regularly though, to keep it in good working order, make components last longer and save you money.

  1. Keep the drivetrain clean and lubricated, you save loads of money.
  2. Keep your tires inflated!
  3. Keep the nuts and bolts tight, but don’t overtighten them.
  4. Make sure your brakes are adjusted correctly, check and change brake pads if necessary.
  5. Learn how to fix a flat tube.
  6. Get your bike serviced by a professional after 5-7000 kms of riding.

5. Hydration and Nutrition

Hydration and Nutrition are the cornerstone of being a good cyclist. Eating well, Eating the right food gives your body the fuel to power your rides. Failure to drink sufficient water or eat well may result in “bonking”, cramps or other challenges.

My Tips for new cyclists
  • Remember to always go on a ride with 1-2 water bottles.
  • A energy drink/salt tablets recommended for 2+ hour rides – specially in our climate.
  • Eat a nutritious breakfast before a long ride. E.g. oats, banana. During ride, try eating energy bars, almonds, dates, walnuts etc
  • Remember that experienced long distance riders may need expert advice on the right fuelling tips, customised for their training regime.

6. Cadence, Heart rate training, strava & more.

  • As you progress in your journey as a cyclist, look at following training programs or tips to improve your riding efficiency, speed and stamina.
  • In cycling, cadence refers to the speed you turn your pedals. A good bench mark for an endurance cyclist is 95 rpm. Follow expert cyclists on advice to improve your cadence or follow training programs specially designed to help you do this.
  • Similarly Heart rate training allows you to scientifically train your body to perform better.
  • use cycling apps like Strava to join the millions of cyclists riding worldwide.

7. Ride checks

  • Check tyre pressure. Fill to correct pressure as recommended by your tyre manufacturer.
  • Brakes. Check the wear on your brake blocks or pads and ensure you have enough left to be safe in any weather conditions. Many blocks and pads will have wear indicators to let you know when they need changing.
  • Spin the wheel. It should spin freely without wobbling and there should be no contact between with the brake pads.
  • Clean and lubricate the chain if needed.
  • Adjust chain tension until snug
  • Check the angle of the saddle and height of saddle and secure
  • Pack extra tools for the road: a spare tube, a pump, a tire lever and a mini tool kit.

8. Learn to shift gears correctly.

Learn how to use your bike gears, and you’ll be rewarded with a smooth, fast, and fun ride. These top tips will get you up to speed in no time.

Right = Rear, Left = Front Most

Bikes will have two sets of gear cogs. The front set, known as the chainrings, will give you big changes in gear. The front derailleur that shifts the chain between these chainrings is controlled by the left gear lever (or shifter).

The rear cogs (or sprockets) together form the cassette, and the derailleur that shifts the chain up and down these is controlled by the right shifter.

Don’t cross the chain!

It’s really tempting to stay on one chainring, and just shift the gears at the back. This pulls the chain between them at an angle, which can cause it to stretch and deform.

Anticipate the hill

When you are approaching a hill, get ready to start shifting down the gears as soon as the hill starts. That way, you won’t be caught in too hard a gear halfway up, unable to pedal, which means you might have to get off and walk.

Left = big changes, Right = fine tuning

If you’ve got a hill coming up, it’s quicker to shift down using the left shifter, which will shift the front gears, rather than the right which controls the rear gears.

This will take you to an easier gear, and then you can fine tune using the rear gears.

9. Get better at climbing hills

Like it or not, Climbs are a integral part of every cyclist’s rides. So work on being a better climber and learn to love the grind.

  • Prepare yourself mentally. Pace. Don’t Race.
  • Keep a steady cadence
  • Start the hill climb staying seated on the saddle
  • As you move up the hill, crouch down. …
  • Toward the top of the hill, stand up from the seat (saddle).
  • Learn how to shift gear going uphill. …
  • Keep practicing. Incorporate Climbs in ot your riding routine.
  • Try using low gear with a steep hill.

10. Keeping your chain clean

  • When your bike chain gets excessively dirty and grimy, it’s probably time to clean your chain.
  • Take off the rear wheel and install a chain keeper in its place. This will allow more thorough cassette cleaning, while also limiting how much degreaser gets into your hub bearings and on braking surfaces.
  • Use a brush and degreaser to remove the gunk from the chainrings and derailleur pulley wheels.
  • Brush degreaser onto the chain, backpedaling the chain through the brush at various angles.
  • Brush degreaser onto the cassette sprockets; a larger brush will speed up the process.
  • Rinse off the cassette, chain, chainrings, and derailleur pulleys with a low-pressure stream of water. Avoid squirting water directly into any bearings.
  • Dry everything with a clean rag, and then set the bike aside to air dry further. Alternatively, use compressed air to speed up the process.
  • Remove chain keeper, reinstall rear wheel, and apply your lube of choice.
  • Chain cleaning brushes or accessories are available at most bike shops.

11. Lose weight through cycling

If you’re looking to lose weight, cycling is a great way to start. While riding a bike regularly helps, what you eat matters, too. Below are some tips to help you lose weight and keep it off.

Look at riding 10+ hours per week as riding a bike burns about 500 calories per hour.

Boost Carbs, Trim Fat

Your problem may not be how much you eat but the nutritional balance among carbohydrates, fats, and protein. For high-level endurance performance, aim for 60 to 70 percent carbohydrate with less than 30 percent fat. You can also try substituting fat-free yogurt for sour cream and fruit for sweets.

Keep Your Upper Body Fit

Because cycling is primarily a leg sport, riders can lose muscle volume in their upper body. This is important because if you lose muscle, you don’t burn as many calories. The solution? Year-round resistance training. As little as 20 minutes twice a week will help increase your upper-body muscle mass.

Recharge Properly

After a ride, you need to refuel with plenty of carbohydrates. Don’t think that you’ll lose weight faster if you don’t eat. Infact you’ll just get weak and not feel well.

Fill Up on Water

To ride enough in summer heat to lose weight, you must stay hydrated. Be sure that you start summertime rides with at least two full bottles and consume them ofcourse.

Eat in Moderation

While it’s important to eat your vegetables, everything is fine in moderation. If you have a sweet tooth, eat small portion of dessert once in a while. Because if you always deprive yourself, you might binge.

12. Bike touring

  • Explore the many wonders of bike touring
  • Invest in a sturdy touring bike – with provision to mount pannier racks.
  • Start with smaller 3-4 day cycling tours – ideally with a support vehicle and group of riders.
  • Pack essentials like bike spares, medicines, toolkit, warm clothes etc – as needed for the place, weather you are riding in.
  • Learn to enjoy your saddle time on a tour.
  • Enjoy the local flavours. Explore the places you visit.
  • Learn to Cut the Cord.

I would love to hear feedback at chetan@thebikelife.in