So You Want To Start Road Riding - Part 1

Whatever your reason for taking up cycling — fitness, charity event, gran fondo, racing — here are a few tips to get you off on the right pedal stroke.

In this first post I'll give you some equipment tips. The next post will cover some riding tips.

  1. Fit the bike properly. When you get a new bike at your local bike shop (LBS), ask them to give you a proper bike fit analysis. They should do this for minimal or no extra charge. Even if you've picked up a used bike from Kijiji, eBay, or Craigslist, it's a good idea to take it to your LBS. It's more than worth the investment of your time and money. I had some aching low-back issues that physio wasn't fixing. So, I paid for my own bike fit and the back issues were solved! The most important point to remember is that the bike should fit the rider, not the other way around. The handlebar stem is one component that's easy to change and can make a huge difference in riding comfort. An LBS should have a good variety of different lengths and rises to try.
  2. Get a seat that's right for you. The seat is the most important contact point on your bike. Don't fool yourself into thinking that a wide cushy model is what you need to start out. It might work for a 5 minute ride, but not a 5 hour ride. If you're beginning with a used bike, its seat probably isn't right for you either. While at the LBS for your fit analysis, ask about their bike seat demo program. Most bike seat companies make a selection of demo seats that you can try for a few days before making your purchase. In the very least, strongly consider a model with a cut-out center, as these help get your weight distributed onto your sit-bones, where it should be. Specialized even makes a neat gel pad measuring device that your LBS might have. You sit on a memory foam/gel pad that leaves an impression of your sit-bones. That impression measures the width between those bones, so you can get the proper saddle width — from any manufacturer, not just Specialized.
  3. Get a helmet. This is another vital piece of equipment that you can pick up at your LBS. 60% of cycling-related deaths are the result of head injuries. It makes no sense to take that risk, when the helmets we have today are so light and well-ventilated, You'll hardly even know you're wearing one. Most places throughout North America now have mandatory helmet laws for children. Regardless of where you live, make sure your children wear helmets, and make sure you do to. Children will copy what they see their parents doing. Helmets are also mandatory for most gran fondos, charity rides, and certainly every organized bike race.
  4. Get a bike computer. You will need a bike computer to help manage your training rides. Look for something that provides at least speed, distance, cadence and elapsed time. Wahoo even makes a brilliant gizmo to plug into your iPhone, turning it into a full-functioned bike computer. The next upgrade to consider is something that gives you Heart Rate, a key metric to start monitoring once you take training more seriously. A Power Meter is the gold standard of riding metrics, and a hefty investment. In a few years you might find yourself considering one of these, as they can really make training scientifically accurate.  
See Part 2 …

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