So, this is it, the Idiot’s Guide to Cycling…..written by an Idiot!!
The day has arrived. Middle age has overtaken you. You need to take someone with you to the toilet to catch your arse when you take your trousers off. You can’t wear a belt and a tie at the same time as you end up looking like sausages. It’s time to get fit.
Most of the above happened to me a couple of years ago. So I was faced with a dilemma. I’m not keen on running – I did loads of that when I played football, (until the age of 48 – hence my knees, hips and ankles are shot!!). I detest the gym, and all it’s “muscle Mary” types. I hate swimming, mostly because I’m better at drowning. Oh and it’s dull. So, I thought to myself, “I’ll get a bike!!” I loved cycling as a kid, rode everywhere. And I quite enjoy it, fresh air, nice scenery, and a relatively low-impact, cheap way to get fitter! Hahahahahahahaha………
Here are the Rules of cycling….
Before cycling, get yourself a bike. A good one.
Some wit once said, “how many bikes should I own?” The answer is N+1, where N is the number you already own. Thereby insinuating that you can never have too many bikes. Now I know cyclists who have only one bike, I know a few who have two, and I know one or two who have four or more!! Bear in mind it is only possible to ride one at a time, unless you are a circus performer. And you may also want to consider how much you want your relationship to continue before cluttering up your garage/loft/shed/dining room with pedal cycles.
When you buy your bike, my advice is to go for the most expensive one you can afford. The cycle2work scheme is excellent if you can latch onto it. No matter how much you love your £200 bone shaker from Argos in the first few weeks, you will quickly be persuaded that some/most/all of it needs to be upgraded. Fellow cyclists will “mmm” and “aaahhh” about your groupset, your wheels, your tyres, etc etc etc.So your smooth-shifting Shimano Sora will be much improved if you get a Tiagra. And then your Tiagra will be improved if you get 105, (if I had a pound for every time I’ve heard an “expert” say, “105 is last year’s Ultegra!!” I’d be moderately wealthy!!) Take this argument and add it to wheels, saddle, bars, stem, seat post, tyres, bar tape and you get the idea!! So spend the money in the first place instead of ‘upgrading’ what you’ve got, and your whole cycling experience will be greatly improved.
Beware secondhand ‘bargains’!!
I bought a secondhand Merida off eBay – £140. Bargain. After three weeks, I’d put a new groupset, chain, saddle, wheels, tyres, handlebars, bar tape & pedals on it!! It was like Trigger’s broom that bloody bike. Total expenditure £450!!!! And to add insult to injury I didn’t like it so I sold it on eBay for……. Yep, you’ve guessed – £140!!!!
Seek advice. And test ride as many bikes as you can.
EVERY cyclist is an expert, and will recommend gear to you. Some people will never stray from Trek or Specialized, some like smaller brands like Orro or De Rosa. These are terrific brands, but every cyclist is unique. So what suits me, may not suit you. The first bike I got on a cycle to work scheme was a Crosstrail, because I thought that’s what I’d be doing. Bit of road cycling, bit of gravel track and maybe some off-road stuff. 98% of what I ended up doing was road – so my bike wasn’t really fit for purpose.
So CAREFULLY consider what you want it for. And maybe get two instead of one that covers all aspects. Also think about what sort of riding you’ll be doing if you plan on being a roadie. Some like time trial bikes for speed, some like endurance bikes for all-day comfort in the saddle. And DON’T get too hung up on the weight of the bike. The cycling equivalent of the car tyre kicker, is the person who picks up a bike and says, “Oooh it’s light isn’t it?” It may be light but by the time you’re on it and ready to ride it won’t be. I promise.
I am lucky enough to own a Carbon bike, (Comfort as I have a fat arse), and it is very light indeed. But by the time my 15 and a bit stones is on board, along with a pump, two water bottles, bottle cages, mudguards, lights, bike computer, saddle bag with various tools and spares inside, it weighs as much as a small family hatchback!! I kid you not, I saw an advert for carbon bottle cages the other day at 50 quid each!!!! EACH!!!! Now they probably weigh about 3 grammes, but once you’ve stuck two 700ml water bottles in them the weight gain is negligible!! My advice is to put one less sip of water in each bottle, that way you’ve saved both the weight and a hundred quid!! You’re welcome.
Mushroom Heads United
Wear a Helmet. Always.
Yes, yes, yes, I know it spoils your ‘do, but it could save your life. If you are concerned at what you look like in a cycle helmet, just have a quick glance around you at other cyclists. They ALL look stupid!!! Nobody looks good with a polystyrene colander on their head. But if you fall off and whack your noggin, you’ll be grateful you endured the ridicule. I did, and I am.
It still baffles me when I turn up to events and see folk riding without a helmet. If it was up to me, I’d make it compulsory. I have witnessed so many horrible accidents that I feel it’s just not worth the risk. There, end of.
Rules, Rules and More Rules!!
Learn the etiquette. Particularly if you’re riding in a group.
There are lots of helpful videos online, at places like GCN or BikeRadar, giving handy tips on how to ride and be considerate to other cyclists and other road users. It’s basic manners to wave, say hello or acknowledge other cyclists. The biking community is generally populated by nice people, but there are exceptions. In my experience, riders who are a part of a big club are often the worst culprits. It’s widely accepted that you point out potholes & drains to fellow cyclists – primarily to avoid an accident. Yet many simply don’t bother, possibly deeming themselves too ‘professional’ to lower themselves to helping oiks like us!
However, if you make the effort to learn the basics you will instantly make yourself more popular in your group. We have a member who merrily yells, “CAR UP!!!!” When there’s a motor vehicle behind us. In my experience this bellowing is infinitely more scary than any car passing by! So, remember, everything in moderation.
Looking’ Good Louis….Feelin’ Good Billy-Ray!!
It’s not just about the bike. Kit is important too.
So. Your shiny new push-iron is sat waiting for you to clamber on and bash out a few miles. But it is vital you have the right gear before you set off.
First stop – clipless pedals. Oddly named, but having shoes with cleats that ‘clip-in’ to the pedals can make a big difference to your cycling experience. Lots of people are petrified they’re going to fall off because they can’t clip-out. Now this is a possibility, but if you practice first, (leaning on a car or wall), then you shouldn’t have too many issues.
Other kit is also crucial to a comfortable riding experience. My ethos is buy quality, buy once. I’ve bought cheap kit, but it either doesn’t last, or it doesn’t do the job properly. There will be plenty of people who will tell you their Aldi Especiali £3 bib shorts are amazing, and that may be true. But there’s a reason they’re 3 quid and Castelli and Rapha kit is 50 times dearer. You don’t have to be snobbish, and you will find stuff you like, that fits and is comfy. Don’t be tempted to get yourself a complete SKY racing set of bibs and jersey and socks. You will quickly attract the moniker ‘Full-kit W*nker’. And it’ll stick. Particularly if you’re 16 stone and more Christopher Biggins than Christopher Froome! And strangely you’re not supposed to wear underwear beneath your cycling kit. (I pity the poor blokes who bought my secondhand shorts last summer!!).
Oh, and one last thing……NO WHITE SHORTS….. EVER!!!!
After all, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Cyclists are a very amiable, helpful bunch. And you’ll be out in the fresh air, taking in some beautiful countryside, AND getting fitter. There’s nothing better than earning your coffee and cake on a Sunday morning, and sharing the experience with friends.
So don’t be nervous, get a bike and join a club and get out cycling. You’ll love it!!!!