Although we might be considered somewhat experienced in the art of bike riding now, when we were new to cycling, we made all the same mistakes as every cycling beginner. Biking should be simple, right? You just pump up your tires, throw your leg over the bike and start pedaling. In theory, yes. But there is so much more to it than that if you’re not riding for utility. We’ve put together a list of the mistakes we made so you don’t have to if you’re just beginning your biking journey.
When you are a cycling beginner and first start out the last thing you think about is whether or not you need to go commando in your new ‘baboon butt’ shorts! Take it from us, it's so much more comfortable (and hygienic) to remove your underwear when you wear padded cycling shorts. The main cause of downstairs issues is friction between your skin and your shorts, so by reducing the middle man (your underwear) you're much less likely to have any problems and be able to ride pain and chafe-free. If you're riding commando and still experiencing issues, then it could be time to introduce chamois cream. This cream reduces friction and can provide antibacterial protection against the germs that grow in your shorts. We stock a selection of chamois cream in our store.
One of the most important things you need to get right as a cycling beginner is your bike. If you're planning on spending much time on it, you need to make sure it fits and it's suitable for the type of riding you plan on doing. It doesn't matter how much it's on sale, it doesn't matter if it's Adam De Vos's national championships-winning bike – if it's the wrong size, you'll only be wasting your money. A new bike these days can be considered an investment piece, so taking a little extra time and figuring out what bike will fit you best will pay dividends when you finally get hold of it. Cycling is supposed to be fun, and if you're only riding your bike out of obligation because you spent your money on it, you’ll soon lose sight of why you started riding in the first place.
It's also important to get a bike that fits to minimize injuries. This goes for the way you sit on the bike too – just because the pros slam their stems and ride bikes three sizes too small doesn't mean you should. Every body is different, so focus on yourself, not others.
Having mechanical issues is just an unfortunate inevitability of cycling. There will be a time when you get a puncture or your chain slips off so it's important you learn how to cope with these minor mechanical issues yourself, otherwise, it could become costly. We're not suggesting you go out and buy a whole tool chest, but making sure you carry a few essentials on your rides such as inner tubes, a pump, and hex keys will mean you can carry on your ride after a little bit of on-the-fly adjustment, rather than having to stop to go to the bike shop. And most of all, don’t worry about not knowing how to fix something on your bike – it takes time to learn these skills and good bike shops will be only too happy to help.
If you’re a bit stuck about what to put in your pockets and seatpack, take a look at our maintenance section to get a better idea.
If you’re a cycling beginner, you might just be going out on your bike and riding for as far as you feel before coming home, and not worrying about eating on the bike. That’s all well and good until you start riding over a certain time or certain effort level.
Your body has enough carbohydrate stores to last you through roughly 90 minutes of intense exercise. If you deplete these stores, you’ll end up doing what cyclists dread the most – bonking. This feeling of complete exhaustion, where your legs suddenly feel like lead weights are holding them down as you pedal through mud, and you suddenly want to cry because you have gone the wrong way – that’s what happens when you deplete your energy reserves. Avoid this by fuelling yourself properly on the bike. Although everybody is different and we could write a whole article about this, as a rule of thumb, once you start riding over an hour and a half, you should take on some carbohydrates. Whether that be a banana every hour or a carbohydrate drink, make sure you keep on top of your fuel levels or you’ll find your limit quite quickly.
The bonk can still catch out the most experienced cyclists, however, it’s just something you have to keep an eye on!
Of course, Greg LeMond does have a bit more expertise than us, but after years of biking, we can hand on heart say that it's definitely easier now than it was when we first started. If you ride the same loop in a few months compared to when you first started, we're sure you'll be feeling more confident on the climbs, and be able to ride faster with much less effort than when you first started. Of course, if you race, or train hard with intervals, it isn't going to get much easier. But cruising around and riding for the fun of it will get a lot easier (and enjoyable) when your initial fitness levels perk up.
There are many physical benefits to cycling, but one thing that it’s not exactly great for is making you look good in a swimsuit. What we’re saying is it’s time you get comfortable with some very weird tanlines, because a year or two on the bike will really mess up your ‘all-over bronzed god or goddess’ look! You might try and fight it by flipping your jersey sleeves or rolling up your short cuffs, but in the end, the tanline comes for us all…
We hope you learn from our cycling beginner mistakes and become proficient bikers a lot quicker than we did. Armed with the right equipment and knowledge, the joy of biking knows no bounds.
If you’re interested in taking your riding to the next level, follow us here at Nomad Frontiers as we have some offers coming soon that will be fun and good (or bad?...) for your tanlines.