A Beginner's Guide to Road Cycling: The Perfect Spring Activity
27th February 2017.When was the last time you went bike riding? For many, the answer probably lies some time in the distant past. Even if you have a bike out in the garage, it might not see much use at all. Why not, though? Cycling can be a very fun and rewarding fitness activity for individuals of all ages. With the chilly days of winter fading away and the warmth of spring breaking out, there's no better time to saddle up and go cycling. If you've never thought about taking road cycling seriously, though, taking those first steps can seem daunting and difficult. It doesn't have to be that way, though. Despite the different handlebars, riding a road bike should feel comfortable and familiar to almost anyone. With the right preparations, a thoughtful approach, and a can-do attitude for having fun, you can come to love cycling in the spring. It may even be something you choose to stick with through the remainder of the year. Where should you start, though? Let's take a quick look at how you can prepare, what you should know, and how you can begin to transform this basic activity into part of an active lifestyle focused on fitness.
Gather up all the types of equipment you'll need
You can't go road cycling without the right tools and it takes more than just a bicycle, too. However, that's where we should begin. Road cycles are slightly different than touring cycles, the types of bike one uses to ride around the neighbourhood casually. They often have a different style of handlebar, and they more frequently come equipped with multi-gear derailleur systems. Don't worry ? riding it is just like any other bike. You'll simply have more control over your pedalling cadence and effort levels. After picking out a bike that you feel comfortable riding, it's time to grab some other essential gear. The helmet is a must, of course. Follow the standard guidelines for choosing a helmet, but consider picking one with an aerodynamic profile. Visit your local athletics store and ask about clothing appropriate for cycling. In most conditions, you want something light, breathable, and very visible to motorists. While you're there, grab a pair of sunglasses as well. Finally, there are some smaller items: a safe and reusable water bottle for hydration "on the go," perhaps some tools for roadside bike repairs, and even energy gels or snacks for fuelling your body. Once you have your kit ready, you can start riding ? but you'll need to go a little farther than just within your own neighbourhood.
Start slow and work up to a higher level of activity
As you begin, try to aim for about four rides a week. This will allow you to spend enough time on the bike to become familiar with it while also bringing your physical fitness level up to speed. Practice the riding positions with your road cycle's handlebars, including the neutral position. Become familiar with using the drops while descending hills or trying to gain speed. While at first it can feel awkward, with some practice drop handlebars will feel natural. Make one of your rides just a long, regular intensity trip. Try to stay out for at least an hour before returning home. As you gain more experience, increase the length of this ride. Another of your weekly rides should be more intense. If there are hills in your area, try riding up and down them. Finally, you can use your other two rides for the week to spend less time out at a normal pace. This gives you the best blend of a fitness workout and enjoying the opportunities provided by spring weather. This is also the time when you should nail down your hydration needs. Coming back from a ride dehydrated is no good; you should be drinking regular amounts of water throughout the day. Combine that with a balanced diet and you may even start to see some weight loss occur.
Try setting a schedule to stay on track during spring
Spring can be a busy time for many of us, and as a beginner, it can seem difficult to set aside enough hours for riding so often during the week. Why not try putting together a schedule? Examine when you'd be most likely to have free time: in the mornings, the evenings, or for an hour or two in the afternoon? You can always fit in shorter rides on weekdays when your schedule is full. Try setting up your longer rides for the weekend, when you may have more room in your planner. The key, regardless of when you choose to go riding, is to remain consistent in your efforts. That's how you'll become better at road cycling! If you're struggling to adapt to the different cadences required in road cycling, you might even want to schedule specific practice days. Set one day as a day to go riding hills, for example. Switch through the gears until you find the one that lets you head uphill with just the right amount of effort. On other days, you may wish to practice another technique. If you are setting goals and working to achieve them, you can stay on track.
Involve friends in your efforts or join a cycling group
One other excellent aspect of road cycling is its social aspect. Riding a bike doesn't have to be a solitary activity. In fact, spring is the perfect time to start cycling with friends. Does anyone in your social circle ride road bikes, or would they take an interest in joining you on your journeys? Ask around and find out ? riding in a group is not only safer, it's much more fun. If you can't find a companion easily, though, don't worry. See if there is a local cycling club in your area. Ask if they are friendly to beginners (many are) and consider becoming a member. There are multiple benefits to riding in a group as a beginner. First, it keeps you on your bike more often. Second, you can gain valuable experience and tap into the knowledge of those around you. Are you struggling with a particular gear, or don't know how to handle the bike in certain situations? Just ask a veteran club member. You'll find they often have more advice on the subject than you'd expect. Not only will you be able to take advantage of these benefits in the spring, but it could help you stick with it all year, too.
Improve your cycling with exercise off your bike, too
With all this cycling, it's not surprising if you feel exhausted at the end of each week. Does it feel like your body just can't keep up with the demands of road cycling? Don't give up just yet. Take this as a chance to improve your overall physical fitness even more. Your local gym can help you improve your body to better tackle this hobby. Practice finding your cadence with spin machines, or do strength training focusing on your legs. Over the course of the spring, you can create some real gains that translate well into cycling.
Be aware of your surroundings
Finally, a word about safety. Remember that you are sharing the roadway with vehicles who may not always give you a wide berth. Try to plan your routes around areas friendlier to bicyclists. The less traffic on your route, the better. Refer to your local cycling club for information about safe routes if you're having trouble. While on the road, remember to use proper hand signals whenever changing direction, and always checking your blind spots. Road cycling can be heaps of fun, but you should always strive to stay safe, too.
Don't let the beautiful spring weather go to waste
All in all, this should cover all the basics you need to know to get out there and start enjoying road cycling. Forget the stuffy indoors; bust out of your winter shell and enjoy the fresh breeze on your face as you pedal down the road. From finding the right equipment to hashing out your schedule, there are plenty of steps to take. Where will you set your sights, and towards what goals will you work hard? Don't forget to reach out to friends and find out if they want to tag along with you, too. Now, grab your helmet and saddle up for a ride! Follow @SportNessUK