/ Road Bike Beginner - Help!
Are there any useful beginners tips people can give me? Or is it literally 'just like riding a bike'?!!
Get the setup right but don't make drastic changes, just small changes at a time
If you want to do 30miles+ rides get a hard saddle, they take a while to get used to but won't bruise as much as a soft comfortable feeling saddle
Get some clipless peddles and shoes
Make sure you carry a spare inner tube with tools and know how to change it
Get the bike set up for you. The following are starting points.
Saddle height: pedal at bottom of stroke, i.e they look like arms of a clock at 6oclock and 12oclock. Put your heel on the pedal => your leg should be straight. What this does is allow for a bit of flex in your knee when you put the ball of your foot on the pedal.
Saddle - front to back: Sit on the bike in the position that you'd ride it. The handlebar should hide the hub of the front wheel. With the pedals at 'quarter to three' and your foot on the front pedal the front of your knee should be directly above the axle that the pedal spins on.
If the bike has clipless pedals (the shoes clip in and out like ski bindings) then take time to learn how to get in and out.
Assuming the bike has the modern gear levers that are integrated in to the brakes then start riding with your hands resting on the top of these: 'on the hoods' is the term used. Thumb to one side fingers to the other. If you've only ever ridden a mountain bike before then the tyres look *very* skinny!
Take your time.
You'll find video's on youtube that will show you how to get the saddle into the correct position. As others have said, proper shoes and pedals are as essential as climbing shoes are for rock climbing. Use you gears to maintain a pedalling rate of 90 revelations per minute (or faster, you can check every now and then by counting how many revs you do in 10 seconds ie 15 revs is the target).
Riding with a club/group will fast track your progress in terms of speed and distance you are capable of but may feel like a harsh initiation in the first few weeks.
The lycra makes you look like a complete numpty when you aren't riding a bike, but then so do swimming trunks when you aren't swimming and climbing shoes when you aren't climbing. Cycling clothes are designed for the activity and are well worth getting. A hard saddle + padded shorts is definitely the way forwards.
If the saddle is too low you will get sore knees. When your heel is on the pedal your leg should be straight but your knee should not be locked. Handlebars should be about the same height as the saddle, a bit higher for relaxed riding, a bit lower for racing. If you go for bang-on the same height it is a good compromise, once you get used to the position you won't like changing it! Same goes for saddle to handlebar length. Don't tip the handlebars down as far as they do in the shops, that's for chumps and Triathalosers (:P) only.
Take it easy the first few rides, otherwise you'll get put off. Try to ride on nice days!
A lot of beginner roadies try to cycle in too high a gear all the time. A cycling coach will talk loads about "pedaling circles rather than squares," (It actually makes a bit of sense once you start pedaling circles) and one of the easiest ways to do this is ride at a slightly lower gear. Lower gears also make recovery faster. Stand up as little as possible on hills, try not to jerk your shoulders and neck around too much. A cyclist whose neck and shoulders are moving all over the place either has bad technique or is absolutely knackered.
Remember that road bike brakes aren't as good as mountain bikes! Until you know how the bike handles, brake early and cautiously!
Keep your tyres pumped up to about 10psi below their maximum. Keeping them pumped up reduces chances of punctures. You should need to top them up about once a week. A good floor pump makes this very easy. If your tyres are pumped up and you still get loads of flats it might be time to change the tyres. Learn to fix inner tubes yourself to save LOADs of money. Use plastic rather than metal tyre levers.
Oil your chain once a month in dry and once a week in wet weather. try to get oil only on the chain, no need for gunk buildup on everything else.
For everything you will ever want to know about bikes, http://sheldonbrown.com/
To fix pretty well anything,
You might be able to tell that I'm a bit keen on bikes. You can always drop me an email if these resources don't answer your question. I was a professional mechanic for a few years and have been riding, tinkering with and collecting bikes my whole life.
Riding with a club is very good advice, roadies are notoriously cliquey and arrogant. Normally the club website will have a blurb on its website about how far you should be able to ride at a certain speed etc. Ignore it. Unless they're a racing club, know that you CAN ride the distance of the specific ride you're interested in going on. Take a map of the route or area. Tell the club not to wait for you. Then see if you can keep up. Normally you'll find that after a fast start to maintain appearances (and intimidation factor), most clubs slow down a lot. Be careful to explain that you haven't ridden with a group before, read about cycling in a group and try practicing with a friend. Constant speed and being predictable are VERY important for safety in a group.
I generally think it isn't because...
>roadies are notoriously cliquey and arrogant.
Get some padded shorts. Beyond that just have fun. Start with short rides and gradually get longer.
Haha there was supposed to be a "however" in that sentence somewhere. I used to be a cliquey and arrogant racer. Once you can hold your own with the group I think most of us are fairly nice guys, but cycling in a group always involves intense competition, which is a great training motivation! I also know that in my club we were always very cautious of new people because an accident caused by someone on their first ever group ride ended with our best rider in hospital at the beginning of the racing season. I suspect that is part of many clubs' unwillingness to embrace newcomers. If you are obviously fit and are willing to learn, most club cyclists should warm up to you. (There are of course always a few bad eggs)
Some good points about cycling clubs.
I think it has more to do with wrong club choice though. When I rode with a club in Lancashire they had a reputation of being arrogant show offs - they weren't, they just rode fast because they were all keen racers and on a spring training ride you don't wait for people who get shelled out.
For example my club run yesterday here in France was 19mph with 3 significant cols. A newbie turning up will probably think we are idiots and we certainly don't wait more than 3 or 4 minutes for anyone at the top of a climb. Sounds arrogant but the first proper race is in 2 weeks.
OP - If you're thinking of joining a club do as much research as you can. There's loads of good info on the internet and a good club will have at least two runs at weekend - one fast and one not so fast to break newcomers in gently ;-)
We used to have a Wednesday "Pizza Ride" and the first one back got all they could eat for free. There were no niceties shown. There might have even been a couple of cheeky wee elbows thrown in down-to-the-line sprints! (Not that I would have anything to do with that...) It is important for the new rider to understand what the club's goals are.
Thank you so much for all of this amazing advice! I've set it up as best I can and will be heading out for a test ride tomorrow! The clubs sound a bit scary!! At least until I can hold my own!! :)
Wear a Helmet
I have personal experience of how much grief wearing helmet prevents
-- I practiced riding with one hand before going on major roads so that I could safely perform hand-signals
-- Another thing I did was practice looking behind (while riding) without veering off- another skill I've found to be vital while on the roads. Important for when over-taking parked cars etc...
-- Ensure you have a good seat-post height so that your leg is not too far off being straight on the down peddle.
-- Make sure you're visible enough when riding at dusk, dawn etc...
-- When I first started riding, I kept to quieter roads until I got a good feel for the bike
Our club has a very sociable ladies section -- the Southport Belles. Plenty more clubs have ladies sections - and not all of them are for 'competitive' riders.
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