When it comes to trying to get in a bit of extra physical activity, cycling can be a great choice. One of the biggest advantages of cycling as a way to get fit is that it can be done competitively, recreationally, or even practically as a mode of transport. Pretty much all of us could easily find a way to incorporate cycling into our regular routine, so we’re going to look at some of the top tips for beginner cyclists.
If you are just starting out in cycling, then the last thing you want to do is go and buy a nice, new, expensive bike, because there’s a good chance it will end up lying around after just a few weeks. Start off by borrowing one or buying one second-hand, ideally one designed for your intended purpose (mountain, road, or racing).
Once you have a bike, you need to set it up, which means adjusting the saddle, handlebar, and stem so that they suit your size and keep you in a comfortable position when cycling. If you have bought the bike, you probably want to consider investing in a good-quality saddle that suits your needs. As a bonus tip, buy a saddle that is easily detachable and bring it inside when you park, or it will be stolen.
Speed & Endurance
How fast you go and for how long will depend greatly on what your reasons for cycling are. If you are racing competitively, you want endurance, but you need to be able to achieve high speeds as well. If you are just cycling recreationally, you probably care more about endurance, and if you are cycling to work, neither are too important as long as you arrive on time and safely.
Whatever your motivations may be, you should try to get in one long ride (1 hour+) at least once every two weeks. This will greatly improve your endurance and have real benefits for your overall health. In order to gradually improve your speed, you should also try to speckle some ten-minute high intensity speed bursts into as many of your rides as possible.
Arguably one of the most offputting aspects of riding a bike, you will quickly learn the appeal of cycling shorts. Their most obvious advantage is protecting you against chafing, which occurs as a result of the friction from the constant rubbing of your thighs against the saddle, but they have several other advantages as well.
The skin-tight nature of cycling shorts not only gives you a full range of motion, but also promotes blood flow to the legs, meaning it will take longer for them to feel tired, and they will feel more of the benefits of exercise. Additionally, many cycling shorts come with extra padding to distribute your weight more evenly on the saddle, making longer rides a lot more comfortable.
Even though cycling is itself an exercise, repeatedly doing one form of exercise can have complications and unintended consequences, so it is always a good idea to support it with other workouts as well. Making time for muscle-building exercises for the arms & legs will help you increase your levels of endurance and control, making you much less likely to sustain an injury.
Most people know that it is a good idea to stretch before exercise, but it is easy to overlook what body parts you should actually be stretching. When it comes to cycling, most people would naturally assume the legs should be the main focus, but there is a lot more to it than that.
Given the hunched-over posture that most cyclist generally adopt, it is also a advisable that you stretch the muscles around your neck, shoulders, back, and chest. This position, particularly with the added weight of a forward-tilting head, causes the muscles around the shoulders and upper-back to become overstretched, while the chest tightens, all of which can commonly cause pain in cyclists. Stretching before and after a ride, as well as changing positions while riding, can help prevent this problem before it arises.
Overall, cycling is a pretty accessible form of exercise, and one that is relatively easy to incorporate into our daily lives. But a simple mistake or oversight can lead to a negative experience that puts people off for good. Following the tips laid out above can help you avoid many of these rookie errors and encourage you to stick with the bike for as long as possible. If you think cycling is likely to become your new form of exercise, then be sure to check out our blog on the most common cycling injuries, and learn how you can prevent them before they happen.