Cycling is one of the best exercise activities you can do for your overall health. It gets you outside in nature and works many of your muscles at the same time providing an excellent cardiovascular workout for your lungs and heart. It is not an expensive hobby once you get the initial gear you need, but it can be a significant investment upfront if you do not already have a bike and some basic gear. You are about to get some of the best tips and advice ever on how a beginner can become a pro cyclist!
Why You Should Be Cycling – 4 Top Benefits of Riding Your Bike
So why should you bother cycling when there are so many other ways to stay fit that requires no money at all? Cycling provides significant health benefits and not just physical benefits either. Here are some of the most impactful benefits you will get from riding your bicycle.
Best Way to Start Your Day
Getting your circulation moving in the early part of the day is proven to boost your mood for the entire rest of the day. Getting on your bike and going for a nice ride near your home will give you an easy workout and some fresh air. It does not have to be a strenuous activity if you take it easy and just enjoy your surroundings. If you can pull it off, wait until after your morning ride to eat breakfast. Taking a morning ride while fasting will help significantly burn fat and boost your athletic performance, as well as the boost it gives to your mood.
Cycling Improves Posture, Coordination, and Balance
By repeatedly riding a two-wheeled vehicle that requires you to balance to stay upright, you are training your brain to stay balanced. Keeping yourself and your bike upright during rides has been proven to improve your sense of surefootedness and balance in the long term. Another great way to improve balance is with agility ladders.
Cycling requires you to keep your back arched and your arms out in front of you. This position will help train your back muscles and shoulders, which improves your standing and sitting posture over time.
If you have medical issues that prevent you from getting on a bike and riding around, you should consider a recumbent bike. These are stationary and can sit in your home. They still provide many of the benefits of traditional bicycles!
Riding Your Bike Will Make You Lose Weight
This is truer if you sometimes go for high-intensity rides, pushing your body to perform and sweat. Even if you take moderately difficult rides, over time you will notice less body fat. It also improves your overall metabolic rate which helps you burn more calories even when you are not exercising. If you are just looking to lose weight, there are much cheaper ways than getting into cycling. One of the cheapest ways to lose weight without dropping a lot of money is jumping rope (yes, really!)
Best Reason – Great Activity for Newbies
If you can balance on a bike, you can learn to become a cyclist. It is not hard to ride a bike (thus the old saying ‘easy as riding a bike’). You do not have to go for a hardcore ride to get the benefits of cycling. You can start off as a beginner and just casually start riding around your neighborhood for 20 minutes a day and see significant health improvements. It is not like playing tennis where you must be humiliated a hundred times getting your butt kicked before it becomes fun!
Before Your Buy a Bicycle Consider This!
Cycling is a popular sport and there are different kinds of bikes for different reasons. There are basically three major types of bikes today:
- City bikes
- Road bikes
- Mountain bikes
Before you take the plunge into an expensive bike, you should take a minute to consider what your intentions are, and what you plan to get out of cycling. There are essentially 3 levels of bikes in addition to the 3 main styles (city, road, and mountain).
- Recreational bicycles- If you are not planning on being hardcore and are just looking for a way to exercise close to home on the roads nearby you should consider looking for a recreational type bike. These are not the most expensive but can be the most comfortable types of bikes.
- Enthusiast style bikes- This bracket of the bike market is the middle of the road so to speak. The price of this type of bike will be more than recreational but less than high performance. These are typically made a little better with some more high-performance parts, and care is taken to make them lighter which can drive up the cost.
- High-performance cycles- As the name implies these are the top of the pile. High-performance bikes will be significantly expensive and made to ensure every detail has been covered. They are going to provide less air resistance, have extremely high-end components, and in most cases, they will last longer than the other 2 types.
Now that you have a good idea of what the different types of bikes are, you need to consider your situation. If you are in a big city and not close to trails, getting a mountain bike makes no sense. A city bike would be the best idea. If you are in a rural mountainous area with lots of trails getting a mountain bike is a no-brainer. Road bikes are best for long-distance paved concrete or asphalt rides. These are great for wide-open spaces with lots of paved streets you can ride on.
Price Ranges for Bikes
First, this is just a guideline. There are hundreds of brands of bikes out there some are awfully expensive, and some are extremely cheap. You could walk into a Wal-Mart and leave with a mountain bike for 200 bucks. These prices are meant to give you a roadmap of the cost for well-made bikes by trusted brands that will last you many years.
- City bikes $500-$1300
- Road cycles $900-$3200
- Mountain Bikes $500-$1600
Enthusiast Level Bicycles
- City $1100-$2300
- Road $2800-$6300
- Mountain $1500-$4000
- City $2000 and up
- Road $6000 and up
- Mountain $4000 and up
Cycling Accessories Every Beginner Needs
As with any sport or hobby, there are a wide variety of different accessories that you can get to make your experience safer, more efficient, or just more fun. There are lots of accessories for cycling out there that are not going to make any difference to a beginner, so this is meant to give you a useful list of things you should consider getting as a newbie.
- Helmet- This is essential. Everyone needs a helmet. Look for one that fits you and is lightweight and suited to your style and needs. They can get expensive for fancy ones.
- Basic repair kit- This is somewhere between essential and optional, depending on your situation. If you are mountain biking in the wilderness you must have one, but if you are just a recreational cyclist cruising your streets and never go too far from home, you could save your money for something else.
- Lock- This is essential if you ever plan on leaving your bike unattended for more than one second. These are not expensive and if you read the bike cost section you will know that this expense is well worth it.
- Saddlebag- Everyone needs a saddlebag. It is a place to store all your stuff while you are out riding and wearing a backpack sucks.
- Spare Innertube- This is something every beginner needs. If you blow a tire and you are a mile from home, walking after riding for 30 minutes will not be fun.
- Mini pump- These are small little pumps that can fit right in your saddlebag and will inflate your tire if you lose some air or need to switch tubes.
- Light- You need to have a light if you plan on ever riding at dusk or in the dark. Even if you have bright streetlights. Passing cars and other cyclists need to see you. Having a light is not just about you being able to see, it is safer for you to be seen by others as well.
- Chain grease- Every beginner should have some chain lube. You may not need it with you every time you ride but at least have it at home. Chains often get dry and it will not only damage your chain, but it makes it harder to pedal which wastes your energy.
- Water bottle- Make sure you have a water bottle for safety. You do not have to feel hot and thirsty to be dehydrated. They can fit in your bag or clip on your bike if you have a mount. Make sure you always have some water with you whenever you leave to go riding.
Those are the top essentials for beginner cyclists. However, once you have been riding for some time and become an addict (it happens all the time) you should consider getting a fitness tracker specifically for cycling!
Pre-Cycling Warmups That Nobody Does (But Everyone Should)
Warming up before riding is not necessary if you are just going for a chill cruise around the block or a leisurely ride in the park. However, if you are about to do any kind of serious riding you need to warm up to avoid cramping and make your ride a better experience.
Pre-Ride Mediation Session
Before you go on a long ride, or an intense one meditation will help you focus your mind and prepare your body for the upcoming activity. There is not a one size fits all way to meditate before cycling, everyone is different. The most important constant in any meditation is mindfulness and breathing.
Clear your mind to sit on your bike, or on the ground. Close your eyes and let the thoughts of the day just drift in and out of your mind. Do not let yourself latch on to any thoughts or start solving any problems your brain is interested in. Just let the thoughts come and go with no judgment or attachment.
Breathe in through your nose using your diaphragm (this is a ‘belly breath’) and gently out through your mouth. You do not need to do any intense deep breaths, just comfortable breaths. With your eyes closed and mind calm, continue these mindful breaths for at least five minutes (up to 15 minutes if you have the time.)
Glute Bridge Warmup
This exercise will activate your butt muscles (glutes if you want to be fancy). Since you are going to be sitting on your glutes for a while during your ride, it makes sense to prepare them, right? This is also going to be good for your lower back before a ride. This exercise is best performed with a resistance band.
Lay on your back facing up and put the resistance band looped over both knees closing your legs together. Place your feet about hip-distance apart from each other and your heels roughly six inches in front of your butt. Squeeze your glutes and push your pelvis straight into the air. Hold your position for a few seconds and come back down. Repeat this exercise for about one minute. That is not so hard!
Basic Stretching- 2 Key Stretches You Should Do Before a Ride
This is going to be a very non-technical section. Stretching is always good before any kind of exercise, and there are a million stretches. Because this could easily become a massive article about stretching, we will keep it simple.
Stand up straight and stretch out your arms. Gently move from side to side reaching down toward the ground with stretched-out arms. This will stretch your back, core, and shoulders. Repeat for about 10 reps.
Lay on the ground and hug your knees, one at a time pulling the knee toward your chest while breathing out. This exercise will stretch your glutes, legs, and back. Repeat this for another 10 reps.
If you do these stretches and the mediation along with the glute bridge warmup, you will be ready for any ride that is coming up!
The Best Cycling Tips Nobody Ever Tells You
Take excellent care of your bike. Bikes can cost as much as cars, so make sure you are maintaining them and keeping the tires at the right pressure. Chains and sprockets can become dry which can damage them, so keep everything greased up the best you can. It is a good idea if you can afford to take your bike to a shop every few months and let the professionals give it a tune-up.
Be careful in the rain. Obviously, when it is wet outside it is easier to slip and crash. You can get used to the rain or the wet street and forget that it is extremely dangerous. The key is to keep yourself as upright as you possibly can and when you turn, do not lean into it nearly as much as normal. Keep an eye out for rainbow spots on the ground because that can sometimes be oil or grease which can make you slip.
Get good gloves. Over time you will start to get sores and chaffing on your hands from riding. Gloves are not awfully expensive but will make a huge difference in your rides and your hands.
Get professionally fit to your bike. Before you drop a huge chunk of change on a new bike, go into a bike shop and have a professional fit you to a bike. There are way too many measurements on bikes and humans to get it right by accident. If you are just going to ride around for fun on a beach cruiser this is not necessary. However, for anyone looking to spend hours on a bike, this is critical.
Pay attention to cycling time. Too many cyclists are obsessed with how far they have gone in miles. The reason you are cycling is to get good exercise. Exercise is not concerned with mileage but muscles being worked, and lungs and heart being used. Instead of being proud of the 20 miles you just crushed, be happy for the time you just exercised.
Get a good bike lock. You can get a cheap lock if you are just starting out and you are not too concerned with your bike being stolen. However, if you just spent 2000 bucks on a nice bike you should go ahead and spend real money on a, particularly good lock. It is not difficult to snap cheap locks with a bolt cutter. The U-lock designs are some of the best out there and some of those locks will come with a hefty insurance type plan (one brand covers 4k in theft protection).
If you have made it this far you have learned some great tips and tricks. Cycling is meant to be fun and healthy, so do not overthink it. You do not need to buy every gadget out there (there are thousands) and you do not have to buy a $5,000 bike to get the benefits cycling offers. Cycling is for everyone! Just get a bike that you like and a helmet (and the other essentials) and get out there and ride. Your mind and body will thank you!