10 Cycling Tips for New Riders

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cycling on beach

Cycling carries benefits for everyone, whether the rider is sedentary or athletic, old or young, and it's a great way to experience the great outdoors. When done with vigor, it gives the circulatory system and heart quite a workout, with a potential calorie burn of over 500 calories per hour. With new bicycle types available, riding is easier and there are options for everyone. Below are ten Cycling Tips to improve performance, comfort, and safety during cycling.

Don't Forget the Helmet

certified bike helmet -blue-yellow

Thousands of cyclists seek emergency treatment for accidental head injuries each year in the US, and head trauma causes approximately 75% of all fatalities among cyclists. When used correctly, a bike helmet is up to 90% effective in the prevention of brain injuries. Cyclists should choose helmets that meet or exceed the standards set forth by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission; alternatively, a rider can look for a sticker from ASTM or the Snell Memorial Foundation. Choose a snug-fitting helmet in a bright, easy-to-see color for safety and roadside visibility.

Choose a Bike That Fits the Rider's Frame

Carbon fiber bike frame

If the rider is new to cycling, they should be sure to find a bike that fits their frame. Start by straddling the bike and standing flat-footed. On road bikes, there should be at least two inches between the rider's groin and the bike's top tube. On mountain bikes, the clearance should be two inches or more. Handlebars should be set one inch lower than the top of the seat. New riders should buy bikes from reputable local dealers to find the right type and Bike fit.  The best solution is to get your bike fitted professionally and all the adjustments set up in  measured environment.

Choose a Comfortable Seat

wide bike seat for comfortable riding

The narrow, hard seats on many racing bicycles can be very uncomfortable for female riders, who typically have widely spaced bones in the posterior area. Anatomically-designed seats are wider and have more cushioning at the rear, and they are simple to install. Gel or sheepskin pads can ease friction and pressure. Position the bike seat so the rider's knees are slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal's rotation, and adjust accordingly. Finally, make sure the seat is level or that the nose is angled slightly upward. In the long run, you may prefer something harder (as I do), but to begin with, be gentle on your posterior!

Start Slowly

Enjoy a slow slow start

For out-of-shape riders, it is best to begin slowly. Ride for a half-hour per day on flat land for the first month, and gradually increase intensity by riding harder or choosing rougher terrain. Riding with a group can make tough miles go by faster, and it can encourage cyclists to improve their skills.

Wear Comfortable Clothing

If a rider is out often, they should consider wearing sport-specific clothing. Cycling shorts have less fabric to bunch up or wrinkle, which can decrease the risk of irritated skin. If the bike has clipless pedals, the rider should wear special shoes with attached cleats. These may be difficult to become accustomed to, but once that happens, the rider can pedal harder and more efficiently. I personally stay away from cleats, but most riders I know swear by them!

Ride Sensibly

cyclists-ride safely

Although cycling is a safe sport, riders should still exercise caution on the road. Always ride with the flow of traffic, yield to pedestrians and cars, use the proper hand signals and obey road signs. Riders should communicate properly with drivers; this means signaling when turning, staying out of vehicles' blind spots and make eye contact when turning or pulling into intersections.

You can get an  excellent guide ​for cyclists from the League of American Bicyclists (we are not affiliated so we don't make any money out of that recommendation!)

Brake Properly

bicycle brakes

To exert the proper amount of pressure on the brakes, apply the hands to the ends of the brake levers. For sudden stops, the rider should press the brakes firmly and slide their rear end toward the back of the seat. Don't squeeze the brakes too hard and don't rely solely on the front brake. Rather, apply firm pressure to both brakes at the same time.

Stay in Gear

Riders should not pedal in a high gear for a long time because it can raise the amount of pressure on the knees. Shift to a lower gear and higher RPM to get more of a workout with less stress on the knee joints. The optimal cadence for cyclists is 60-80 RPM, though racers pedal faster at 80-100 RPM.

Give the Muscles Some Help

After an uphill trek on a bicycle, don't stop pedaling and coast downhill. During the climb, lactic acid can build up in the muscles and contribute to soreness. By pedalling constantly during downhill runs, much of the lactic acid is removed.

Switch Positions Frequently

cycling position is very important

Riders should change their riding position frequently to change the angle of the arms, neck, and back. This puts stress on different muscles and nerves at different times, which can reduce fatigue. Avoid riding with the hands on the curved portion of the handlebars for a prolonged period, as it may cramp the neck shoulders and hands. Keep the arms relaxed and the elbows unlocked to help the body better absorb the impact of a bumpy road.

While cycling is largely safe, there are certain ways to make it safer and less strenuous, particularly for new riders. By following the Cycling Tips given here and by getting ample Food and fluids, everyone can enjoy their time on the bike.