Cycling Basics


Cycling is another name for bicycling. Participants cover a variety of distances while riding a bike, either for leisure or as part of a competitive sport. Generally, speaking there are two main categories of cycling. The most common is road cycling, in which participants ride a bike on a level surface such as pavement. More advanced riders tend to prefer off-road or mountain biking, which is far more challenging in that it involves uneven surfaces and constant changing of speeds.

While casual bikers tend to partake in the sport merely for exercise or pure enjoyment, competitive cyclists often compete in races. This is an entirely different form of cycling known as track racing, in which athletes race around a steep, oval-shaped track in an effort to finish the course in the fastest possible time. Track racing is not for beginners, as it is a high-speed competition and collisions can happen if riders are not careful about passing one another.

The Basics

Cycling is a very demanding activity from a cardiovascular standpoint. While riding a bike can be an easy and efficient way to get around, riding for long distances or competing in races requires a lot of preparation and physical fitness. Consequently, cycling is a great way to stay in shape, as pedaling for an extended period of time not only increases your heart rate and gets the blood flowing, but it also provides a fairly intense leg workout.

Regardless of the course/terrain (road off-road, track) there are varying levels of difficulty when it comes to cycling. For instance, an easy road course might feature a level surface and a short distance from start to finish, while a more difficult road course would likely involve several hills and sleep slopes.

Unless you are competing in cycling races, bike riding requires little experience and prior knowledge with the exception of knowing how to ride a bike. It does, however, require commitment. Cycling for at least 30 minutes to an hour every day is important not only for staying active, but for choosing the gear and bike that is most comfortable and best suited for the type of cycling each individual rider chooses to engage in.

Learning To Cycle

Beginner cyclists should start out by riding for a fairly short period of time (approximately 30 minutes). In addition, steep slopes and uneven riding surfaces should be avoided initially. Once a beginner cyclist gets the hang of biking and starts to ride fairly consistently, it is safe to increase riding time. Riders should increase their riding time in 10 minute intervals, as trying to jump from 30 minutes to a more rigorous, hour-long ride for instance will likely result in overexertion and extreme fatigue.

Above all, it is important for inexperienced cyclers to listen to their bodies. Challenge yourself to a good, hard workout, but extreme shortness of breath or bodily exhaustion is a sign that you are being too ambitious and should return to a level of cycling you can handle with confidence.

How To Learn Cycling

The first step in learning cycling is knowing how to comfortably ride a bike. This simply requires practice, and with time most people are able to stay atop, pedal and steer the bike with relative ease.

Next, you'll want to watch a few tutorial videos that specifically cater to the type of cycling you prefer. This will help you to learn basic tactics in maneuvers to help with successful completion of each course you cycle. In addition, consulting with someone who is well versed in cycling can be beneficial, as doing so provides you with expert tips based on personal experiences.

Equipment For Beginners

There are four main categories of cycling gear: the essentials, core gear, repair tools and comfort/convenience.

The most essential cycling gear includes a bike and helmet. There are many different styles of bikes and helmets, manufactured by a variety of companies. Choosing the right bike and helmet requires you to find the type that fits you most comfortably and aligns best with your style preferences.

Among the list of core gear is a water holder (attaches to the bike), first-aid kit, sunscreen and glasses to protect the rider's eyes. Much of the core equipment can be stored in a lightweight backpack that is worn by the biker throughout the ride. However, reaching back to grab an item out of a back is extremely difficult when riding a bike, so it is recommended that these safety items are easily accessible.

Repair items include a tire pump and wrench. The pump is necessary to add air to the bike's tires when deflation starts to occur over time, while a wrench can be used to unscrew bolts and loosen portions of the bike in order to patch up any issues.

For comfort and convenience, look to wear a relatively thin, sweat-wicking top to absorb perspiration and prevent you from becoming overheated. Gloves to protect your hands and a lock to station your bike somewhere and prevent it from being stolen are also helpful pieces of equipment to have on hand.

Cycling Equipment

Best Bicycle For Beginners

While there are several basic bikes that are well suited for beginner cyclists, the best one for an amatuer rider is likely the Marin Presidio 1. This bike is considered a "hybrid bike," well regarded for its maneuverability and ability to ride effectively on virtually any terrain or surface. Prices vary depending on the store, however the average price for the Marin Presidio 1 is about 650 dollars. Although this may seem like an expensive price, $650 is actually considered very cheap for a bike, especially when considering the fact that the bike can last for upwards of 10 years if cared for properly.

Beginner Tips

Always wear a helmet to prevent a potentially serious head injury should you fall off the bike

Change gears frequently to adjust speeds and give your legs a break (high gear means high resistance and vice-versa, so set the bike to a high gear when traveling downhill and a low gear when pedaling up a steep hill)

Make sure the bike seat is situated at a height that is most comfortable for you based on your height

Follow traffic rules (i.e. always ride in the same direction as passing cars, stay within the shoulder or as close to the side of the road as possible)

Be alert at all times, as a lapse of focus or failing to keep your eyes on the road ahead of you poses major safety risks relative to crashing or colliding with another biker or vehicle