Beginner cyclist tips to get new riders off to the best start

If you’re a new rider yourself, or know someone who is, here’s all the advice we wish we’d received when we first got on the bike

It’s understandable that during the first year of cycling, you may find yourself coming across a number of questions and stumbling blocks. Even those who have been riding ten years will occasionally find themselves stumped.

1-Buy from a local bike shop. Bike shops are allowed to stay open at this time, as they provide a service to those using cycling as exercise, or key workers such as doctors and nurses getting to work. Many will be operating differently – it may not be possible to browse bikes in store, but you can pick up the phone, take advice and still make a purchase.

Your local bike shop will be able to make sure the bike fits you, help you get set up on it, probably offer you a free six-month service, and be there to help you out when you’ve got questions. Expertise and advice now will save you cash in the long run, and right now local bike shops really need your support. 

2-Get comfortable on your bike. Many pro cyclists who have been riding for decades are still tweaking their bike fit – when it comes to performance, for some riders bike fit is a never ending process of adjustment based on individual factors and goals.

However, there are some basic guidelines that can apply to all riders looking to ride in comfort and avoid injury.

Optimum saddle height can be found by placing your heel on the pedal at its furthest away point. Your leg should be straight, so when you clip in, there’s a slight bend. You want a slight bend in your elbows, too – you know the reach is right when the front wheel of the hub disappears from view under the handlebars when you are riding on the tops.

3-Learn how to fix a puncture. There’s no good reason any rider should find themselves stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire and no means to fix it. If you don’t know how to fix a puncture, ask someone at a bike shop, a friend, or the internet, to teach you. Then practice at home until it’s easy.

4-Invest in a few extras. Cycling can, at first, appear to be a rather expensive hobby. And it can become so, but it doesn’t need to be. You don’t need to splash out on a wardrobe that would suit a cast member of the Power Rangers movie to be comfortable. Items we would advise you invest in are:

Padded bike shorts, lights, helmet, bike gloves, bike shoes and clipless pedals.

5-The gears are there to help you. Don’t fight them. Shift into a smaller chainring, and larger rear cassette cog, for easier pedaling on the hills. Use a larger chainring and smaller rear cog to pedal more smoothly and go faster on the flat. Spend some time practicing on a flat road – in time, shifting into the correct gear will feel natural.

You’ll know you’re in the wrong gear if you find you’re spinning the cranks incredibly fast, but barely moving; or grinding your way up a hill and finding the resistance so great you’re pedaling becomes slow.

6-Be confident on the road. Ride about a meter from the edge of the road – this gives you room to move around obstacles (pot holes) and it encourages other road users to give you more room when overtaking.

Obey the traffic code, and follow standard guidelines. Remember that here in New Jersey, cars HAVE to give you three feet upon passing you. You do have rights on the road! Be defensive, smart and safe.

7-Practice some basic technique. You don’t need to go from zero to careering down the side of Alpine mountains at speed. But a few basic skills will help you to feel more confident.

Remember that your front brake is much more effective at stopping you, so get used to feathering it lightly alongside the rear, rather than grabbing a handful of lever.

When cornering, be sure to slow down to an appropriate speed before you hit the bend, this saves you braking on it. Lift up your inside knee and apply weight to the outside to maintain balance.

When approaching a climb, keep pedaling to help carry as much momentum as possible into the ascent and get out of the saddle regularly to stay comfy.