1. Set Your Seat Height Right
Are you experiencing pain in the front of your knee, or do you feel like your pedaling is underpowered? Your seat is probably too low, causing you to under-extend during your pedal stroke.
A common mistake amongst beginners because most people feel more comfortable and confident if their feet can reach the ground.
To fix: Bump up your saddle. At the right seat height, your knee should be slightly bent at the bottom of your pedal stroke, without rocking your pelvis. Measure the distance between the bottom bracket and the top of the seat. This is your seat height.
2. Get a Full Bike Fit
In fact, how your bike fits you is one of the most important aspects of riding. If the fit is painful, you’re not going to spend much time in the saddle, no matter how excited you are to ride that new bike.
To get the right fit, two elements are key: seat height and reach.
The seat height should be high enough to give you a very slight bend in your knee when your foot is at the bottom of the pedal stroke, as mentioned above.
Proper reach means your arms and torso make a 45-degree angle over the bike. Too long, and your back will be sore reaching for the handlebar; too short, and your knees will be too close to your arms.
When you’re shopping for a bike, take it for a test ride to make sure its frame size is right for you. Then, get a full professional bike fit at your local bike shop to dial in the perfect seat height, reach, and more.
3. Don’t Stress About the Gear
You don’t need fancy clothes, clipless cycling shoes (which, despite the name, actually clip into the pedals), or a top-of-the-line bike to become a cyclist. You’ll certainly need a few things to get started (a bike and a helmet, of course), but don’t stress about dumping a bunch of money into a lot of fancy new gear….MAKE SURE YOU TAKE A TYRE GLIDER!
4. Keep Your Bike Maintained
Routine maintenance—like lubing your chain—will not only save you a bundle at the bike shop, but it will also prolong the life of your bike and its components. Keeping the recommended amount of air in your tires (look over your tire to find the psi range) makes your rides a lot easier, too, and prolongs the life of your tires.
Check out these other easy bike repairs and maintenance tasks your bike mechanic wishes you’d do.
5. Avoid Doing Too Much Too Soon
One of the biggest sources of injury comes from trying to take on too much mileage before you’re ready. Build up slowly, ease in, and give your body time to adjust to longer distances.
Warm up during the first third of the ride, then settle into a rhythm for the second, and give it everything you’ve got for the final third.
6. Carry a Spare Tube or Patch Kit
That unmistakable sound of air hissing out of your tires shatters your peaceful reverie, and the party is over. You won’t believe how much more independent you’ll feel with the proper bike tire repair kit on hand—a spare tube, a patch kit, Tire Glider, and a mini-pump—and the know-how to get yourself back on the road in 15 minutes.
7. Use Your Gears
Gears are your best friends on a climb and your greatest source of speed on a long, rolling stretch of road. But it does take a little practice to get the hang of when and how to shift into your most efficient gear. Here’s a basic guide to using all your gears.
8. Learn How to Ride in a Group
If it’s your first time riding with a new group, hang out in the back, observe, and ask for help if you need it. No question is a dumb question when your own safety and the safety of the group is at stake. For more on group-riding rules and technique, check out this article.
9. Remember to Refuel
If you’re only riding for an hour, you should have water but don’t really need to eat on the bike. If you’re planning to ride for two hours or more, bring a snack along and start eating 45 minutes to an hour into your ride.
Continue to eat small amounts every 15 to 20 minutes or so. Forgetting to refuel can put your body into a deficit and cause you to bonk—or go into a hypoglycemic state. Tiredness, irritability, dizziness, nausea, confusion—it’s not a strong way to finish a ride.