As a cyclist, there’s a lot to know. On my last group ride, I asked a few of our newest group members about which questions they wished they had answers to before they hit the road.
Q: I always have a hard time clipping into my pedals, what should I do?
A: When getting into clipless pedals, momentum is your friend. If you’re going too slow and are worried about clipping your foot into your pedal while you balance, you’ll get yourself into trouble.
To make it easier to get back into your pedals, only unclip one foot and shift to a gear that will allow you to push off from a dead stop. Rotate the foot that’s still clipped into the 10 o’clock position of the pedal stroke. When the light turns green, push off and try to get a little speed first. If you can do that in one push of the pedal stroke, great. If not, try to get the pedals around one more time before trying to get your foot into the pedal. The extra speed will make balancing easier and give you a few extra seconds to get your foot clipped in.
Q: Is there a way to prevent saddle sores?
A: Friction against the bike seat can cause saddle sores, particularly on long rides when sweating is also an issue. While some saddle sores can’t be prevented due to super long rides etc, if saddle sores are a reoccurring problem, there are a few things you can do.
Try a few different saddles to make sure you get the right fit. Look for one that’s the right width for your sit bones and provides the right amount of cushion for your style of riding. If you’re a woman using a standard road saddle, switching to a women’s specific saddle could do the trick.
Purchasing a quality pair of bib shorts that stay in place and using chamois cream to reduce the amount of friction could also help to prevent saddle sores from occurring. This saddle cream from Assos is one of my favorites. Also make sure you don’t stay in your dirty cycling shorts after your ride for any extended period of time, when bacteria can be an issue.
Q: Should my cadence be the same on the flats as it is when I climb?
A: The right cadence can be different from person to person. With that said, most cyclists will want to keep their cadence above 90 revolutions per minute (rpm) to avoid putting too much stress on the patella tendon.
On climbs, it’s common for most cyclists to use a lower cadence. However, this may be due to the lack of easier gears to shift to. If you are already using your easiest gear (small chain ring in the front, largest cog on the rear cassette) and can only maintain a pedal cadence of 60 rpm or so, you may want to consider switching to compact chainrings (50×34) and a rear cassette with more variation — including cogs with 28-teeth or more. This will give you easier gear ratios and allow you to maintain a cadence on climbs that’s closer to what you’d use on the flats.
Q: When should I shift gears?
A: Knowing when to shift gears can be tricky for beginners and can take awhile to learn how to do it right. If you ride with more experienced cyclists, pay attention to when they shift and mimic their actions. If they shift up to an easier gear, you should do the same.
When you’re riding solo, using a cadence sensor can help you to determine when you need to shift. Most cyclist’s optimum cadence range falls between 90–110 rpms. Once you figure out what your normal cadence is (let’s say it’s 95), when your cadence drops below or above this number, a small shift may be required in order to adjust to the change in terrain or wind conditions.
Here is some other basic information you should keep in mind when it comes to shifting:
- You upshift to make your gear ratio harder, which means you’ll move the chain to a smaller cog on the rear cassette to increase your speed.
- You downshift to make pedaling easier, which is done by moving the chain to a larger cog on your rear cassette.
- Shift from your large and small front chain rings when there is a significant change in terrain, such as when going up or down a hill.
- Anticipate your shifts as much as possible and try to switch to the gear you’ll need before you actually need it. This will help keep you from throwing your chain off the front chainrings.