So you want to be a cyclist? It’s pretty easy! It goes kinda like this:
Get a bike.
Seriously, it is that easy, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just get on your bike and ride it. There are all kinds of cyclists out there: roadies, mountain bikers, gravel riders, commuters, kids, recreational riders, fitness riders, and whatever else you want to call it. Whatever it is that motivates you to get on a bike, own it! Grab your bike and go for a ride until you feel the sun on your back, the wind in your face, and that feeling of freedom and excitement that gets you moving.
Diehard cyclists will loudly proclaim that you must follow the rules. If you like rule-following, and I do, then you’ll want to check out the Keepers of the Cog here. Some of these rules make sense; some are fun, some are funny, and some are shocking! If following the rules is your jam, then do it with gusto! You’ll be awesome, and I applaud you!
But I also think rules were kinda meant to be broken, so don’t let the ‘rules’ ever stop you from riding your bike. To be quite frank, cycling only has to be as complicated and as expensive as you want it to be. That being said, there are a few things that will help you to get started. I was so lucky to have someone special help me with all these things when I started cycling. But if you don’t know a seasoned cyclist, then here are a few common-sense tips to get you pedaling faster.
Get a bike that actually fits you.
If you are just going to ride a mile or two, or circle the block with your little kids, then just about any reasonable bike will do. But if you want to ride more than a couple of miles, at some point, you will want to invest in a bike that fits you well. Otherwise, you’ll probably feel uncomfortable, and you may even discover some surprising aches and pains. Over time, if your bike doesn’t fit right, you might feel like bike riding just isn’t for you, or it just isn’t fun. Too many people give up too soon because they just don’t have the right size bike. The right bike for your body will make everything so much better! But for women, and especially for petite women, this can be a challenge.
I went to several bike shops when I first started looking for a bike. And while they were kind and friendly and helpful, they just wanted to sell me the smallest bike they had on hand (which was still way too big for my petite stature). I carefully took my measurements and ordered a bike online according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. After riding the bike for a while, I discovered this bike was still too big. It may take some research and a few visits to bike shops to find just the right frame for you. (We’ll discuss this more in a future post.)
Get a good helmet.
Accidents can happen, so make sure you have a good helmet to protect your noggin. You need it! A good helmet with new technology (check out MIPS) is a worthwhile investment. So if your budget is small, this is a good place to invest more of your dollars than less.
Get some bike clothes.
No, you don’t have to wear Lycra if you don’t want to! Ideally, you want to be comfortable on the bike. If that means blue jeans to you, then, by all means, wear your blue jeans. This is your ride, and you should ride however you like! But there are definite advantages to investing in even one cycling kit.
Bike shorts with a chamois (FYI, chamois rhymes with whammy) will help keep your derriere more comfy and your girly parts more protected. Bonus! Just like a good pair of Spanx, you’ll find they smooth out those lumps and bumps, too. You can get them as shorts, capris, or full-length tights if you prefer. You can also get them with shoulder straps (which makes them bibs).
A jersey is also a nice option. These can be slim fitting or ultra-tight, whichever you prefer. They have pockets on the backside to store snacks. Who doesn’t love clothes that are meant to hold snacks??? A jersey will help wick away the sweat and make your look super cool, too. I got my first kit from amazon for about $20.00, so you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to get one.
You might want a few accessories, such as a pair of bike gloves and some kind of eye protection because getting a bug in your eye while going 20mph is not my idea of a good time. Feel free to spend $200 on a pair of cycling glasses or just rock a cheap pair of safety goggles from the hardware store.
If you’re going to go further than just around the block, you’ll want to consider a saddle bag with a few tools. A saddlebag is just a tiny bag that fits up under your bike seat. They can be as cheap or as expensive as you want. A spare tube, a small tire pump, and a multi-tool are great things to carry with you. Don’t fret if you don’t know how to use them! Most cyclists that I’ve met are friendly folk who will gladly stop and help you if you’re stranded. You can stick your cell phone and some extra snacks in there, too. Don’t forget the snacks!
Most bikes come with a spot for you to attach a bottle cage where you can stash a sports bottle with water. If you are going any distance on your bike, you want to bring along some water.
If you’re just getting started, don’t worry too much about the right shoes. Your bike likely came with a simple pair of flat pedals, and you can wear any decent pair of sneakers. Just be careful to keep the laces tucked safely away from the bike’s moving parts. Eventually, you may want to consider a pair of clipless pedals and cleats, and there are plenty of options.
In my personal opinion, the two most important things to get you started are a quality helmet and a bike that makes you feel comfortable. So tighten that strap, get on your bike, and call yourself a cyclist if you want. Just get out there and ride.