During a meeting at our home office last week, someone asked this question:
“What is the single most important thing you would tell someone who is new to cycling?”
That’s a big question, but one that got everyone talking. Almost everyone reflected on their past experiences, or things they wish they’d known or that someone told them when they were first starting out. Some were super race-specific, or equipment-specific, but there were plenty that offered up some generally good advice.
Here were some of our favorites:
1. Don’t Worry About It
Enjoy riding for the simple sake of riding. Having a bike and helmet is enough. Any bike and any bike helmet will do to start. If you feel like you want to wear lycra clothing, go for it. If you don’t, then don’t. If you don’t feel comfortable riding on streets, then stick to bike paths. Don’t worry if you feel slower or out of shape. Everyone has to start somewhere, and any ride you do is a positive step in the right direction. Stick with it and fitness and skill will come with time. Until then, just ride and enjoy it.
2. Get The Right Bike For You
And the right bike might not be the most high tech, or the newest, or the most expensive. Be honest about how you’ll be riding, your skill level, and what you feel comfortable on. The right bike is the one that makes you excited to ride, fits you and feels comfortable when you’re on it. It should be appropriate for the distance, speed, and terrain you’ll be riding it on.
3. Get A Fit
There is definitely an argument for this being Number 1. No matter what kind of bike you have, it’s worth it to get even a basic fitting done by one of our Spin Doctors. Proper fit starts with the right bike size—so it’s vital you find the right one. But once that is done, the bike needs to be fitted to your body with the right saddle height, distance from the saddle to the handlebars, and foot position. This is the best way to ensure you start cycling right without some common problems that can discourage beginning riders.
4. You Might Need A Different Saddle
One of the most common complaints from new riders (and even some more experienced ones) is that their saddle isn’t comfortable. But you don’t have to suffer through it. Everyone is different, and the saddle that came with your bike just might not be right for you. Numbness, chaffing, and pain aren’t things you have to accept. Finding the right saddle for you can be a tricky business that can require trial and error.
Take advantage of our No Questions Asked return policy, and try out a few saddles until you find the right one.
5. Don’t Be Afraid Of Your Bike
A lot of beginning riders look at their new bike with its myriad bolts, cables, levers, and derailleurs and think they wouldn’t begin to know how to fix it. Even a flat tire can seem intimidating. The reality is, though, that bikes are really simple machines and most fixes take less than 20 minutes. There are very few things you can do that are unrepairable (within reason: read and respect the recommended max torque on bolts, especially with carbon fiber). So even if you have no idea what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to watch a How To video on our Learning Center and tinker with your bike.
Start with something small, like lubing your own chain or learning to fix a flat. Then maybe learn how to adjust your rear derailleur or install your own pedals. Don’t feel like you have to rush it and learn everything at once—just learn how to fix problems as they arise.
And if you start on something and begin to feel hopelessly lost, it’s perfectly fine to take it in to one of our Spin Doctors to have them take a look. You can also attend one of our Free Spin Doctor clinics at your local Performance Bicycle store. We love to share our repair and maintenance knowledge with everyone. Click here for the schedule.
6. Do Your Own Thing
Our last piece of advice is to go at your own pace. If someone is saying you HAVE to try clipless pedals, but you don’t feel ready, then don’t. If someone tells you you need a new carbon bike, but you like the one you have, then that’s ok too. If someone tells you your helmet mirror is dorky but it makes you feel safer, then keep wearing it. Conversely, if a rider is giving you guff because you want a new carbon bike simply because you fell in love at first sight, tell them that it’s nobody’s business but yours.
Ultimately, cycling is all about YOU. For all of us, it’s a chance to disconnect and unwind from the regular world of our jobs, mortgages, family, and all the associated stress. Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks—you can make cycling whatever you want it to be. Do that, and it’ll never let you down.