I started cycling more seriously a year ago and have since improved a LOT. I’m still a noob in many regards but I have a bunch of advice to share about being a girl who is new to cycling. Most of my improvement can be attributed the helpful advice I received while riding with experienced cyclists. Proper instruction and mental break-throughs are key to advancing in any new sport. Here are some of the tips that helped me become a confident cyclist!
- Buy the highest quality road bike that you can afford. Investing in higher-quality frame material and parts will pay back in safety, comfort, and your long-term enjoyment of the sport. It’s a piece of equipment that you keep for a long time, so purchase one that will get you through your first few years of cycling.
- Entry-level frame with basic steel or aluminum & basic wheels = $500-$700
- Mid-quality (lighter-weight) steel or aluminum frame & lighter wheels = $1,000-$1,500
- Upper-level frame of high-quality aluminum or carbon & lighter wheels = $1,500-$3,000
- Get a professional bike fitting once you have your bike. This will prevent injuries caused by bad form and make your bike as comfy as possible!
Preparation and Safety:
- Pump your tires before every ride. I pump my front tire to 105psi and my back tire to 110psi.
- If you’re questioning your saddle height, lean against a wall and sit on the saddle. Your heel should just slightly graze the pedal at the bottom of the stroke.
- Practice changing a flat tire in the comfort of your garage. And do it a few times! Watch a youtube tutorial if you don’t have someone to teach you.
- Make sure you have everything you need to change a tire in the safety pack beneath your seat.
- Ride several times a week so that your body becomes comfortable on the bike. Parts of you may be sore your first few rides (for me it was my neck) but over time you adjust and become less rigid in your cycling positions.
- Find a cycling buddy! This will motivate you to plan more rides. I suggest cycling with someone who is better than you so that you can follow them and learn. You might also discover more routes this way.
- Know the proper etiquette on the roads and make sure that you give the correct hand signals. Drivers get really confused around cyclists and you need to make everything very clear for them.
Technical Tips for Riding:
- Your cadence should be between 70-90rpm. This seemed ridiculously fast to me (coming off my college cruiser bike) but I realized it saves a lot more energy than pushing hard on a gear that’s too high. I always remind myself to “keep it spinny!”
- Anticipate gear shifting, and start by shifting more than you think necessary. It will make it easier for you! Your shift will be the most smooth when your feet are at 12 o’clock or 6 o’clock in the stroke.
- Don’t wait to conquer hills! Go for it! It makes rides much more fun and you get the exhilarating downhill ride as a reward.
- If you are cycling in a place with no hills, practice intervals on the flats to get faster. Here is one I learned from a friend:
- 2 min hard > 2 min easy > 1 min hard > 1 min easy > 30 sec hard > 30 sec easy > 15 sec sprint > 5 min easy (Repeat 2x)
- Take time to practice grabbing your water bottle while riding. I had a friend that made me do this at least 5 times every ride and after a month I went from feeling like I was going to topple over to having it be 2nd nature.
- Keep your posture while ascending hills. A lot of people make the mistake of hunching over. When someone gave me this tip I started climbing hills much, much faster.
Descending: Learning how to descend on a road bike can be really scary, but it becomes the best part of your ride when you start to feel confident. It translates amazingly well to skiing, and especially skiing a GS course. That mind-set really helped me.
- Get “in the drops” and become comfortable with it. It’s ok to lay on the brakes at first (I certainly did). You will stop braking as much once you know how to make a good, trusty turn.
- Always brake before a turn, but never in the turn.
- Start every turn high. (So that your turns are more like sloping “S”s and not zig-zags).
- While descending in a turn, lean your inside knee out. This helps the bike edge through the turn better.
- Also, while descending in a turn in the drops, distribute your weight on your outside foot and inside hand. I only learned this very recently and it helps tremendously though the turns.
Nutrition: No sport makes me as hungry as cycling. I had also never experienced a “bonk” until I started cycling. I felt like a lifeless ball of misery and it took me half a day to recover. Thinking about your nutrition is an important part of every ride!
- You burn 30-50 grams of carbs per hour of cycling, so you need to plan ahead for a way to consume calories during a long ride.
- For an hour (or less) ride you are fine with 2 bottles of water and a light snack. I usually just eat a banana before the ride.
- Drink water at every chance you get. Every 10-20 minutes is standard.
- Sports drinks and water supplements often hydrate you better than water on a long ride. The sodium and sugar help replenish your system and the drinks help increase your endurance and recovery.
- For a 2 hour ride, I usually bring one normal water bottle and one bottle with a water supplement. If I know it’s a grueling ride I’ll bring a Clif Bar or a Gu packet. If it’s even longer, I’ll probably put a banana in my bib too.
- Post-ride protein mixes help you restore and curb your appetite so that you don’t eat your entire refrigerator.
Most importantly, have fun!!! Comment below if you have more advice or questions on anything I described!