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Beginner Cycling

New to cycling...many questions

posted over 2 years ago | Report

I am just getting started into cycling...mostly mountain biking (a pretty old bike but it still works) but I'll hopefully start doing some triathlons. And since I know absolutely nothing about cycling I thought I'd pick some smart peoples brains. Just wondering what the rules of cycling are...do you ride on sidewalks on the road (which side) are hand signals even used anymore? Since I am a woman do I really need a woman specific bike or can I use a smaller men's bike? (I'm 5'3") Since I am a beginner do I actually need cycling shoes and clip in pedals? As you can tell I know very minimal. Any information you can tell me would be much appreciated. Also is there a pace that I should be able to do? Thank you!

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  • Welcome to cycling! I hope you have as much fun with it as I do.

    -Since you're thinking about cycling for triathlon, I think you might consider connecting with the local tri club if you haven't already. They may have regular training rides that will help you get used to the local and universal norms for training by bike.

    -Ride on the road. Preferably one with a generous shoulder or bike lane and not too much traffic

    -Hand signals don't get much play where I live, other than the 'point where you're going' or universal mono-digit dissatisfaction indicator.

    -You may be fine with a small 'mens' bike, but given your height, yoiu might try some WSD or compact frames. If you end up doing tris, clip on aero bars seem to be the norm, and for those you'll want a shorter top tube (WSD/Compact). Again, finding a good tri club will help you learn what other folks are using- and maybe hook you up with some good deals!

    -Do you 'need' shoes and pedals? No. Will you want them? Hell yes. Better power transfer, healthier for your knees, more ergonomically efficient than shoes and flat pedals. I would get up the learning curve with them as you get back into the sport, rather than waiting. Learn the right way to ride and train.

    Other thoughts:

    -Buy good shorts. It seems like a lot of first-time riders hold off on padded shorts for some reason. Don't suffer.

    -Get a speedometer with a cadence sensor. This (with a HRM) will be your training tool

    -Plan to suffer (at least initially). Riding muscles and running muscles just aren't the same, so don't be disappointed if you feel a little more sore and tired than you would like.

    posted over 2 years ago

  • Emily, when you say 'mountain biking' do you mean riding a mountain bike because that's what you have available, or do you mean mountain biking like riding off-road on trails? My answers are a lot different if your goal is to ride on trails, than if your goal is triathalons. I ride mostly off-road, plus bike commuting and occasional road rides.

    Whichever way, you don't necessarily need a woman's bike - you need the bike that fits you, feels comfortable, and is appropriate to the kind of riding you want to do. At 5'3", I think you'll be more likely to find a good fit among women's bikes but there are probably men's or unisex models that would fit fine as well. I'm 5'4", and both my mountain bike and street bike are unisex models... but I tried out a lot of different brands to find bikes that were a good fit.

    As Ted said, if you don't have a pair of cycling shorts, definitely get them. You will be so much more comfortable when you start increasing distance. I think cycling shoes and pedals can wait awhile, and if you're actually doing mountain biking on trails, they might not be necessary at all.

    Ride on the road, not on sidewalks. Ride on the same side of the road you would if you were driving. A bike should follow the same rules of the road as a car. That said, in my town there are a couple places where I will ride a short distance of sidewalk to avoid a very busy road.

    posted over 2 years ago

  • Please don't forget a helmet, I'm not a safety Nazi, and it is everyone's right to wear or not wear any protective equipment.

    Gloves, padded will make riding more comfortable, but if you come off they will help you keep your skin.

    Learn basic maintenance, you will get flats, and it's nice to be self sufficient.

    posted over 2 years ago

  • in reply to what Heather M. said:Emily, when you say 'mountain biking' do you mean riding a mountain bike because that's what you have available, or do you mean mountain biking like riding off-road on trails? My answers are a lot different if your goal is to ride o... read more

    Right now I "have" a mountain bike and plan on riding on trails with that particular bike...I am going to purchase another "road bike" or hybrid (something of that nature) for different races. My husband and I plan on doing an (adventure race where it is canoeing, 8-10 miles mountain biking, and 3-4 miles trekking/running - so that is my goal for that particular bike). I'm starting to think that I am two different realms and will need two different styles/equipment possibly for both. Thank you so much for the information it is extremely helpful! Yes I am going to be purchasing bike shorts and I already have/wearing a helmet.

    posted over 2 years ago

  • in reply to what Dan M. said:Please don't forget a helmet, I'm not a safety Nazi, and it is everyone's right to wear or not wear any protective equipment. Gloves, padded will make riding more comfortable, but if you come off they will help you keep your ski... read more

    Yes I have a helmet....Giro Indicator I think, but I didn't think about the gloves, I'll keep that in mind. I think I need to take a 1/2 hour of my hubby's time for him to teach me hour to repair tire flats...good thing I am not riding too far from home at this moment.

    posted over 2 years ago

  • in reply to what Ted K. said:Welcome to cycling! I hope you have as much fun with it as I do. -Since you're thinking about cycling for triathlon, I think you might consider connecting with the local tri club if you haven't already. They may have regular training r... read more

    Thank you so much for your reply! Extremely helpful. I did find some tri clubs but they all seem to be associated with colleges or for kids. The one I did find is about 40 minutes away and I don't think that is doable....I think I will try to connect with some people in town to see if we can't just get a group of people together and do informal rides. Yes I am buying shorts...and probably a more comfortable seat. :) For the speedometer is there a certain brand that I should look for or stay away from....does it tell me my speed and miles? I already noticed a different in muscles from my ride a few hours ago....but I'm excited for a new adventure in addition to my running! Once again thank you so much!

    posted over 2 years ago

  • in reply to what Emily P. said:Right now I "have" a mountain bike and plan on riding on trails with that particular bike...I am going to purchase another "road bike" or hybrid (something of that nature) for different races. My husband and I plan on doing an... read more

    Oh, that adventure race sounds really fun! I'd love to do something like that.

    posted over 2 years ago

  • Hi Emily,

    You got a lot of good advice here. Go over to your Local Bike Shop (LBS) (or several of them) and see what rides they offer. Many of them have evening and weekend rides of different skill levels. Several social rides are nice too as they let you get familiar with riding on the streets with worrying about speed, speed, speed.

    posted over 2 years ago

  • I'd like to second what everyone else said, and add a brief thought on bike fit.

    My Mom is also 5'3", but WSD bikes generally don't work as well for her because she has short legs and a long torso (a build more typical of males). I, on the other hand, am a guy, but I have long legs (for my height, anyway!) and a short torso, so sometimes WSD bikes fit me better than the "mens'" versions. Top-tube length is one of the few bike fit measurements you can't really fudge (you can add a longer stem if it's too short, or a shorter stem if it's too long, but that will only net +-1 cm at most in most cases), whereas you can swap too-narrow bars for wider ones, compensate for a slightly-undersized frame by raising your seatpost, and so forth.

    Any bike shop worth its salt will be able to help you find a really comfortable fit, though.

    And though it's already been said, clip-in pedals and shoes are worth the investment. You can even get pedals that will let you ride with bike shoes and cleats or with plain street shoes -- I have these on my fiance's bike, since he still rides in sneakers.

    As for hand signals, they're worth using even if nobody else does. I used to use the textbook-standard right turn signal (start with the left arm extended straight, then bend it up) until I realized most drivers under the age of, say, 80 or so have no idea what it means. Now I just stick out the arm on whichever side I'm turning towards and bounce my hand a couple of times (because the KY driver's statute requires some kind of 'repetitive movement' or something like that). It seems to get the job done.

    The adventure race sounds awesome! Good luck!

    posted over 2 years ago

  • I'm glad you asked this as I've been thinking about getting into biking as well. I have/had many of the same questions that you asked! Good luck and keep us posted!

    posted over 2 years ago

  • in reply to what Jenn said:I'm glad you asked this as I've been thinking about getting into biking as well. I have/had many of the same questions that you asked! Good luck and keep us posted!

    Jenn,

    Same here, let us know what bike you got as well.

    posted over 2 years ago

  • Emily, you've picked a great network to get really good advice and support from! Everyone has given you great suggestions. I definitely agree that gloves are awesome, if nothing else for protection when you fall. If you plan on doing Mountain biking on trails with trees and such, you might want full fingered gloves to protect your hands better if you ride through any low hanging branches or limbs/shrubs that might hang out into the trail. As far as hand signals go, everyone around here strongly encourages the use of hand signals, especially when riding around traffic or in a group. But, remember if you ride with others, you need to be responsible for your own safety. Don't rely on others for things like when an intersection is clear of cars. Good luck and again, welcome!

    posted about 2 years ago

  • Follow your state motor vehicle laws you can get the same tickets as a motorist. Where a helmet. I always ride with traffic run/walk against. I use hand signals.

    AS for shoes and clipless pedals will make the biggest difference beginner or veteran.

    Good luck and have fun.

    posted about 2 years ago

  • in reply to what George R. said:Emily, you've picked a great network to get really good advice and support from! Everyone has given you great suggestions. I definitely agree that gloves are awesome, if nothing else for protection when you fall. If you plan on doing Mount... read more

    Thanks! We will be mountain biking on trails: mostly at state parks. I am really looking forward to it!

    posted about 2 years ago

  • - Ride your bike on the road! The law in most places is cars must give you three feet of space when passing.

    - Hand signals are very useful. The easiest way is to simply point to what direction you are turning.

    - If you want to get into cycling/triathlons, I would recommend a woman's bike that fits you. Go to your local bike shop and get fitted up!

    - Clipless pedals are extremely helpful. They help with cadence, power, and make you look more official! ;) Start on the grass and keep practicing -- it will become natural in no time.

    Good luck, and don't give up! It will be very difficult in the beginning but so worth it in the end.

    posted about 2 years ago

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