Nine Beginner’s Tips

1. When wearing chamois, go commando!I truly believe that one of the most unasked questions in cycling is “do I wear underwear with chamois?” The answer is an emphatic NO. Chamois is designed to be up against the skin. Its purpose is to help eliminate areas of friction and irritation in the crotch area. If you wear underwear you can cause an area of friction, which can be painful and lead to saddle sores. Chamois is very individual, so you may have to try a few to find the one that’s shaped right for you. Also consider chamois butter, particularly for long rides. For me Assos chamois creme has made all the difference in the world (though the menthol in it is still quite shocking at times). It virtually eliminates friction. There are other brands that other people like, so it is important to find the one that is most comfortable for you.

2. If you have clipless pedals, practice clipping in and out.Practice each foot separately, (clip in right, clip out right. Repeat for five minutes. Switch to left for five minutes). Just like anything else in sports, your body needs time to adjust to muscle memory, in this case of clipping in (i.e., your body instead of your mind remembers where the cleat is located in relationship to the ball of your foot), or clipping out (i.e., instinctively knowing the angle where your “clip mechanism” disengages). At first you’ll have to think about what you’re doing, but after a while, it will become second nature to you.

3. Right is Rear brake, and Rear derailleur. Remember “double R”, Right is Rear (unless you’re British).In braking, a good habit to get into, is to squeeze the (right) rear brake first, then simultaneously, gently squeeze the front brake (left). Also, learn how to “feather” your brakes. 70% of your braking power is in your Front brake, so please use it wisely.

4. If you fall, don’t stick out your hand; instead, learn how to tuck and roll.People just instinctively do this, particularly on slow speed falls, and it’s how people break their wrists. The very best thing that you can do is hold onto the bike, take the impact with your side, and roll with it.

5. I can’t emphasize enough how important these three elements are:

1. A properly fitted bike.
2. The right clothes, gloves, shoes, and helmet.
3. The right saddle.
If you have all of this dialed, then your body becomes completely carefree and pain-free. All you’re left with is pure enjoyment on the bike. But I’ve talked with far too many people who’ve had unnecessary friction burns from ill-fitting clothing, or had pain in their contact points (hands, feet and crotch) from the wrong shoes, gloves or saddle (and boy, I’ve had my share of blunders, too).If your bike fits you properly, there should be no pain in the body; not in the neck, shoulders, back, or knees, nor in any joint. Pain in any of these places indicates that something about the position of your bike needs adjustment.

6. Know how to fix a flat. And be fully prepared at all times.That means carrying extra tubes, patches, tire levers, and pump (or CO2 cartridges), and knowing how to use them. You WILL need them someday.

7. Check your bike and your gear (your stuff) each time you go out, without exception.Know how to check these things on your bike- tires, quick release skewers, brakes, headset, and drivetrain. Check you gear – make sure you have your helmut, gloves, water, food, your flat kit (see #6), and a multi-tool, if you know how to use one.If the list is too long to remember, type one up and print it out. Look at the list each time you’re about to go out. After a while this will become second nature as well, and will only take a few minutes. You risk having an accident, and that accident having disastrous results, by not doing these simple checks. Please, please do them.

8. Know how to shift gears, if you have them.At this point, many manufacturers have different subtleties of how they shift. Learn about yours, and how to shift smoothly with them. This will make things more comfortable for you as a rider, and will make the drivetrain last longer.

9. Your bike is your friend, your baby. Love it, take care of it, and you can have many blissful years together. 🙂

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2 Responses to “Nine Beginner’s Tips”

  1. vicp Says:

    Warning!!!
    Clipless pedals are very dangerous.
    I’ve been riding bicycles continuously since I was 5. Have even commuted to work year-round in suburb north of NYC, Had been using Shimno clipless pedals for about 10 years and had several occasions when I couldn’t release from the pedal and dumped over. The last time, at age 58, caused my right hip to fracture. I needed 2 surgeries and 6 months of rehab. After the accident I found out about two other cyclists who suffered hip fractures because they couldn’t release from their pedals.
    Needless to say I took them off my Trek and will never use them again.
    The Pain was not worth the gain.

    • girl meets bike Says:

      I’ve thought a lot about this;
      1- You are absolutely right that clipless pedals are not for everyone, and thank you for pointing out that suburban/urban areas can be downright dangerous for some types of clipless. For the record: I personally HATE Shimano clipless pedals. Yes, I know that this is anecdotal, but I’ve seen more people get stuck in Shimano’s than anything else. I believe, that it is because the spring in the mechanism is too loose, at the “loose” levels. I’ve experienced it myself (the hard way). Although I LOVE Shimano grupo’s, I wish they’d just give up on pedal systems. (I love Crank Brothers clipless pedals, but that’s just me). That said:
      2- There are several systems that are more appropriate for you and your circumstance (meaning, the sum of ALL of your ride conditions). For example, if I were in Northern NYC, I’d probably ride MKS mini toe clips with no straps. I also just found these: mini toe clips on Amazon for $3.25 . I’d probably match that with MKS Gr-9 pedals, but only if I could get the surface of the pedal less smooth.
      3- The point is, ride the pedals that feel most comfortable for you, under your current circumstances. If a system works for you, don’t fix it; but if you find several close calls, then, YES, fix it, and don’t wait because, take it from me this (especially goes out to younger riders, teens-mid 20s), accidents don’t un-happen. Once you fall, you cannot un-fall. And the consequences that you suffer will always be there in some way. Always.
      4 – It’s a horrible feeling when you get badly injured due to equipment failure, so try your very best to protect yourself by recognizing failure signs. One of the worst things that we can do to ourselves is second guess a signal: “… had several occasions when I couldn’t release from the pedal and dumped over…” should have been a sign that the pedal was wrong for you. So if anyone else recognizes themselves here, please re-evaluate your pedal system, and consider switching.

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