Essential Guide to Cycling

MapMyRun
by MapMyRun
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Essential Guide to Cycling

Cycling can be an intimidating sport for beginners, but it also can be one of the most rewarding. Yes, you may have to deal with traffic and the potential of a mishap. But cycling is a great way to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to more scenic avenues while you improve your fitness — and it appeals to all ages.

You’ll want to invest in the right saddle and good bike shorts. You’ll also want to ditch the underwear with your chamois and might consider chamois butter. It goes without saying to always, always wear a helmet.

This guide focuses on the two main areas of cycling: road and mountain, but cyclocross and gravel are up-and-coming ways of riding to consider, too.

ROAD CYCLING

In this, the most popular form of cycling, you’ll cover the most distance. You also will be subject to the same laws on the road as other vehicles. This bucket includes everything from commuters and recreational cyclists to those interested in long-distance sportive events such as century rides and Gran Fondos.

5 TIPS FOR ROAD CYCLISTS

1. GET A BIKE FIT

Given the more aggressive, aero position on a road bike, it can feel awkward at first. You’ll be lower and farther forward than most other bikes, and that can strain your back and neck.

To avoid injury and improve your overall comfort in the saddle, get a bike fit at your local bike shop. Most shops offer this service, and costs can vary depending on what is included in the fit. At a minimum, saddle height, saddle fore/aft position, handlebar reach and cleat adjustment should be included. Expect to spend between $150–$350 for a professional bike fit and for the appointment to last 2–3 hours.

2. BE PREPARED FOR FLAT TIRES

Skinny tires and sharp objects on the road result in a flat tire sooner or later. To avoid being unprepared, make sure you carry the right equipment, and learn how to change a flat before you ride. This not only ensures you’re never stranded, but it also gives you confidence to explore on your own without having to rely on your riding partners.

Here’s what you should always have when you head out for a ride:

  • A new tube
  • Two tire levers
  • A hand pump or CO2 cartridges
  • A patch kit (helpful if you have a second flat)

3. OBEY TRAFFIC RULES

Road cyclists are expected to follow the same traffic rules as any other vehicle. This means stopping at stop signs and red lights and using hand signals when you need to turn. Even when it seems like you’re the only one on the road, it’s better to be defensive at all times to avoid an accident.

4. TRY CLIPLESS PEDALS

While they might be intimidating, clipless pedals are more efficient and help you ride longer distances much more easily. Flat pedals, or those with straps only, allow you to push down on the pedals, which uses the quadriceps muscles. With clipless pedals, you’ll be able to pedal in smooth circles and recruit more of your major muscles — such as the core, hamstrings and gluteal muscles — to generate power. Before you head out for a ride using clipless pedals, practice clipping in and out in an empty parking lot or grassy field. After a few tries, you’ll realize it isn’t as scary as it looks.

5. FUEL CORRECTLY

On the bike, food equals fuel. Without it, you won’t have the energy you need to repair and recharge your muscles. For beginners, bring one energy bar or gel, and plan to drink at least one bottle of fluid per hour of cycling for any rides longer than two hours.

MOUNTAIN BIKING

Mountain biking is the trail running equivalent to road running, or the hiking equivalent to walking. It’s done off-road, so expect gorgeous, woodsy and dirt trails. Also expect some more drastic elevation changes. Some of the different types of mountain biking include cross-country, trail, enduro and downhill.

4 TIPS FOR MOUNTAIN BIKERS

1. BUY THE RIGHT BIKE

Not any old bike will do if you plan to hit the trails. Mountain bikes have more durable components, lower gearing and bigger tires to help you tackle obstacles. Wider handlebars help you steer and control your bike more easily.

Tip: While you might be able to hold off buying trail-specific helmets and clothing, a pair of full-fingered gloves and a hydration pack are items every mountain biker should own.

2. WORK UP TO TECHNICAL TRAILS

Obstacles are OK — heck, that’s part of the fun of riding on a trail. But supertechnical trails are usually best left to intermediate and experienced mountain bikers. While you’re getting more comfortable with controlling your bike, shifting and riding up steep pitches, stick to trails that aren’t littered with big boulder-sized rocks. This helps you gain confidence without having to worry about crashing. It’ll also help you figure out your limitations so you can practice the skills in which you are deficient.

3. MAINTAINING MOMENTUM IS KEY

Beginners normally err on the side of caution, which usually means reducing speed. But in mountain biking, momentum is everything. It’ll make tackling climbs easier and navigating obstacles less challenging. If you see a challenging section or a steep hill ahead, increase your speed instead of slowing down. It might seem scary at first, but maintaining your momentum makes almost anything on the trail easier to deal with.

4. AVOID UNNECESSARY RISKS

If you come across a section of trail you aren’t comfortable riding through, don’t be afraid to get off your bike and walk it. Taking on tough obstacles too cautiously or timidly usually results in a spill. It’s best to save those sections for when you’ve gained confidence and are comfortable with what you can and can’t do on the trail.


READ MORE ESSENTIAL GUIDES:

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About the Author

MapMyRun
MapMyRun

MapMyRun provides users with the ability to map, record and share their exercise routes and workouts with each other. Make every run count and join Under Armour Connected Fitness™, the world’s largest digital fitness community: Visit the MapMyRun blog and download UA Record, MapMyRun, MyFitnessPal and Endomondo.

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