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  • Oct

    Road Cycling for Beginners

    by Jarrod Shoemaker, 2008 Olympic Triathlete

    As we head into the fall season it is a great time to start road cycling! As a sport, cycling has very low impact and very low stress on the body compared to running and the two are comparable aerobically. It can be a great way to get outside and check out the changing leaves.

    Cycling also has a lower heart rate compared to running, so overall it can be easier to be outside for longer.


    First things first, NEVER ride without a helmet. There is NO reason you should be without one. One slip or fall or car you do not see and a helmet WILL save you from head injury.

    Start with a Road Bike

    The first thing to do is to pick out a bike, there are quite a few types of bikes and thousands of styles. If you are new to cycling get a road bike first, even if you plan on doing triathlons. Road bikes are easier to ride and more comfortable than a TT (Time Trial) bike. If you really enjoy triathlon and cycling you can upgrade your bike or buy a new one, but starting out simpler is better!

    Start with Pedal Cages

    If you have watched cycling on TV or in triathlons you will have noticed that the shoes are clipped into the pedals, this allows better transfer of power and a smoother pedal stroke. However, it is much smarter and easier to start with pedal cages. Pedal Cages allow you to use your own shoes and are much easier to get into and out of when you are coming to a stop. Once you feel stable enough on your bike upgrade to clip-in pedals, and when you do this practice clipping in and out in a grassy area before you head out on your first ride.

    Start with a Bike Fit

    The most important thing is not getting injured. Your body should be efficient on the bike and you should not be getting injured. Every athlete whether new to the sport or a top level pro should have a bike fit done once a year. A bike fitter will help you adjust the seat height and fore and aft position of the seat. If your seat is too high or too low you will have knee pain which can really hurt. A bike fitter will also help you get the right reach on the bike and height of the handle bars. Bike Fits do cost money, but they are well worth it to make your cycling experience much more pleasurable.

    The Right Gear

    Yes, cyclists do wear spandex; however, there is a reason for it: tighter fitting bike shorts are more comfortable and help prevent saddle sores. Cycling shorts come in two varieties, bib shorts, which have straps that go up over your shoulders or regular shorts, which are basically just regular shorts that end at your waist. Bibs or regular shorts are not right or wrong, just a preference.

    A nice bike jersey will have pockets in the back to help you carry gear. It also can help you remain visible if you choose bright colors.

    Also if you will be riding under 60 degrees outside a good jacket, knee warmers or arm warmers will make it feel more comfortable.


    Always map out a ride before you go and if possible tell somebody where you are going and when you are coming back. Look for bike friendly roads with shoulders or dedicated bike paths.

    Start out with shorter rides of 30-45 minutes and if you enjoy it work your way up to longer rides. Do not start out with super long rides as your body needs to get used to the mechanics of cycling. When you are first starting make sure to pedal with a higher cadence, it is much easier.

    Other Gear

    There are a few other pieces of bike specific gear to invest in:

    - Portable bike pump that you can carry in your jersey pocket or on bike frame
    - Extra tubes and tools
    - Take a class or watch a video on how to change a tire! Flat tires will happen and at the worst times
    - Cycling gloves – They can make your ride more comfortable
    - Heart Rate Monitor – As you get more comfortable this can help you monitor how your effort is

    Be safe, ride smart and follow the rules of the road!

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