Bicycling for Beginners: How to Get Started

Bicycling for Beginners How to Get Started

Riding a bike is great fun and exercise. Learn more about how to get started cycling with the right clothing and gear.

The wind in your hair. The sun on your back. Remember the joys of bicycling when you were a kid?

Cycling is still fun! It’s also great exercise and puts less strain on your joints than running. Whether you want to get fit or just get around, it’s easy to get started.

Before you hit the pedals, check with your doctor before you start or increase your activity level.

Got a bike?

Before your first ride, take your bike to the shop for a tune-up. You may need new tires, brakes, a chain or other parts. Ask if your bike is the right fit. A proper fit can mean the difference between a painful ride and a joyful one.

Need a bike?

Visit your local bike shop and ask what size bike fits you best. The shop can help you choose a bike that fits your needs. Mountain and hybrid bikes offer wider tires and more comfort. Road bikes are more aerodynamic and good for longer distances. Some manufacturers make bike frames specifically to fit women.

The League of American Cyclists offer some tips for bicycling beginners:

Clothing

  • Shorts: Padded cycling shorts will make your ride more comfortable and help prevent chafing.
  • Jersey: Bike jerseys are made of fabrics that help wick sweat away from your skin. They also often have pockets to hold things such as ID, a cell phone and a tire patch kit.
  • Gloves: Padded, fingerless gloves help protect your hands and keep them from going numb.
  • Helmet: Don’t ever get on a bike without one. Make sure it’s the right size and that it’s adjusted properly.
  • Sunglasses: Wear glasses to protect your eyes from debris, wind and sun.
  • Shoes: Cycling shoes and toe clips or clipless pedals will help you pedal more efficiently. Ask the bike shop to show you what’s available. Before your first ride with them, practice getting in and out of the toe clips or clipless pedals. Try this on a soft, grassy spot in a park, not on the road.
  • Cold weather clothing: Tights and arm warmers will help you keep muscles warm. A lightweight vest, wind jacket and full-fingered gloves also are good to have if you want to ride in cold weather.

Equipment

  • Gearing: Learn how to shift your bike properly. Try to “spin” in lower gears that are easier to pedal. Pushing hard in a high gear will strain your knees. When going uphill, shift to an easier gear before you’re on the hill and it gets hard to pedal.
  • Tires: Make sure you know how to change a tire before you head out. Carry a patch kit, tire pump and extra tube in case you get a flat. Ask the bike shop to show you how to fix a flat, or take a bike maintenance course. Keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure.
  • Lights: If you’ll be out after dark, make sure you have a light on the front and a reflector or blinking light on the back.
  • Bike seat: Make sure your saddle is adjusted correctly. A seat that is too high or low will put stress on your knees. Make sure the seat isn’t too far forward or back too far. The bike shop can show you where it should be.
  • Water: Your bike should have water bottle cages attached to the frame. Make sure to drink enough fluids while you ride. Keep a snack with you in case you run out of energy.

On the road

  • Always ride with, not against, traffic. Watch out for loose gravel and glass on the road.
  • Use designated bike routes that have less traffic, or stick to bike paths.
  • Obey traffic laws. In many states, if you’re on the road and on wheels, you’re considered traffic.
  • Wear bright, reflective clothing.
  • Use hand signals when you turn.
  • Always wear a helmet. Helmets reduce the risk for head injuries by 69 percent to 85 percent.
  • Ride with a friend. Check the bike shop for beginner cycling clubs or classes.
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