If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re at the beginning of your cycling journey. Congrats for taking this step!
There are so many amazing adventures to be found via bike, and there’s something about fresh air on your face, the smells that you take in and the sights you can see that are so much more rewarding than being in your car.
But we also know that cycling can be daunting to those that haven’t travelled down this path before, so we thought we’d try and cut through some of the most “definitely do’s” and reassure you of the “definitely do nots”.
But first, keep in mind that riding a bike should be fun, so don’t get too wound up about all the many elements of riding, it’s a minefield out there. Keep it simple and enjoy!
1. Avoid the Zero to Hero
Ideally, you want to eeeeaase into riding. Start with one ride every weekend, then gradually increase the number of rides per week slowly. This goes for distance too, start short, if you feel fine the day after your short ride, you know you can probably stretch the distance on your next one. Your muscles need time to adapt to this new type of exercise, even if you are very active in another sport, it’s likely the muscle groups will be different.
2. Set Your Seat Height Right
The wrong seat height can lead to a rather sore knee or two, so it’s important to check this one. With your foot on the pedal closest to the ground, you want to see almost of fully stretched leg. Making sure your hips are level, there should just be a very small kink behind your knee – this is where you want to be. Now this may feel a little high if your toes are only just touching the ground, so until you settle into your new seat height it might be best to go for some easy rides on quiet streets to get used to things. We could also go into types of bike seats here… but that’s a WHOLE other article in itself!
3. You Don’t Need Lycra
You don’t need skin-tight clothes, clip-in shoes, or an expensive bike to become a bike rider. You do however need a few very important accessories to get started
- A roadworthy bike (must have working brakes!)
- A helmet (must have been purchased in Australia or New Zealand for it to meet our safety standard guideline)
- Dress in lightweight clothing, nothing that will dangle.
- Closed in (covered toes) shoes
- A bell! Did you know it’s illegal to not have a bell on your bike? ($137 on the spot fine in Qld)
4. The ABC Bike Check
You don’t have to be a mechanic to keep up some basic maintenance on your bike. This will minimise your chance of ending up stuck on the side of the road as well as to ensure a smooth ride in the saddle.
Air – you need to check your tyres before heading out. A track pump is highly recommended, but they don’t come cheap so if you just have a hand pump it will do the trick. It will depend on the type of bike you’re riding as to how much air the tyres will need.
Keeping the recommended amount of air in your tyres (look over your tyre to find the psi range) makes your rides a lot easier as it lets your bike roll more quickly and smoothly, and it prolongs the life of your tyres and results in less flats.
Narrow tyres (road bike) need more air pressure than wide (mountain bike) ones:
- Road Bike tyres 80 to 130 psi
- Mountain Bike tyres, 25 to 35 psi
- Hybrid Bike tyres, 40 to 70 psi
To find your ideal pressure, start in the middle of these ranges, then factor in your body weight. The more you weigh, the higher your tyre pressure needs to be. For example, if a 75kg rider uses 100 psi on her road bike, a 90kg rider should run closer to 120 psi, and a 60kg rider could go with 80 psi. Never go above or below the manufacturer's recommended tyre pressures, which are listed on the sidewall.
Brakes – quite important! Let’s go ahead and check that our brakes are working. Also lift the front of the bike and spin the front wheel to make sure it spins freely without rubbing on the brakes, and repeat for the back wheel. You might need to adjust (push) the brake arms either way to stop them rubbing if the wheel is getting caught. If the brake arm is clutching firming or is way too loose (ie: our brakes are engaging adequately enough), I’d recommend taking the bike in for a professional to adjust.
Chain – there are a couple of things here to check and maintain. Firstly, we want to keep our chain fairly clean to help with longevity as well as to assist our pedalling. Use a degreaser to clean along with a cloth to wipe. Once the chain is clean, we can then add a lubricant. There are plenty of bike chain lubricant brands on the market, but WD40 do a bike specific one and is available at Big W for $10.
If you are jumping on a new bike, keep in mind that your chain may stretch a little in the first month or so of riding. If you are finding that the chain starts to “fall off” often, then you’ll likely need it to be adjusted by a mechanic.
5. Remember to Eat & Drink
If you’re planning to ride for up to an hour, take water with you and sip regularly. If you plan to ride longer, make sure you take along some food to refuel as you go. Aim for 30-60g of carbs (eg: 1 muesli fruit and nut bar or a banana) for every hour that you’ve ridden. You can also add some electrolyte to your water bottle for longer rides to replenish the minerals that you’ll be sweating out. And if you have been out for hours on the bike, ensure to have a super big meal once you finish to avoid falling head first into a big hole.
Well, that wraps up our first steps to hitting the road or path via bike. We hope you found some helpful info here. Now, go and have fun!
I have fond memories of getting the tools out and trying to take apart my bike as a young girl. I’m not too sure if I successfully put things back where they should have gone, but the recollection of this gives me a great sense of pride of my younger self.
I can’t say I looooove tinkering with my bike these days, but knowing that I can change my tyre if I was stranded, that I need to oil my chain to ensure a smooth ride, and that I can take apart my bike and put it back together again should I need to transport it, gives me a great sense of independence and plenty of confidence in my abilities.
These things allow me to ride by myself if I choose, to travel with my bike, and allows for a ‘stress free’ corner in my sometimes ‘stressful’ life.
It’s never too late to learn new things, especially when they lead to open doors for the taking.
For those thinking about making their cycling debut at this year's Brisbane to Gold Coast Cycle Challenge (B2GC), let me share with you an experience that taught me a few important things before tackling the big ride.
It was 2005, I was 25, and my father had just upgraded his bike, so I inherited his old bike, affectionately known as the Yellow Scorpio (inset). A heavy, yellow, old-school bike made sometime prior to 1990, I'm sure. I was new to the cycling scene but with sport a regular fixture in my life I was full of confidence that cycling would be easy to take by the reins and roll with, so to speak. And of course, I rode a bike as a kid, so same same right??
I rode a total of 3 rides before the big day, yes the big day that consisted of 100km from Brisbane to the Gold Coast. My longest ride of those 3 rides was a Riverloop (~35km). On top of this, I took one water bottle (whaaaat!?) which contained 600ml of Gatorade. And no food. At the halfway stop, I wasn't sure what to do first... go to the toilet, refill my drink bottle, eat a banana? ... and the next thing I know the group I had found myself riding with for the first part of the event was heading off towards the Gold Coast. Without wanting to miss the opportunity to continue drafting off this bunch, I got back on my bike before doing any of the above mentioned (and quite important) things and raced out with them. So, would you be surprised if I told you that with 20km to go (80km into the ride) I was cramping big time with EVERY single pedal stroke?? I thought I was going to have to get off my bike and wait for someone to rescue me, it was so bad, and I was almost in tears. I'm not sure how, but I managed to get to the end and swore to never ride again (which I've said a few times since). After collecting my thoughts, and my blood sugars, I was told by some friends that we would be rolling around to The Spit for breakfast. Mustering all the energy I could, I straddled the Yellow Scorpio for what I hoped was the final time that day... I lifted my right foot and clipped in, then my left, CLIP. The only problem was I had forgotten to pedal. Before I knew it, I was back on the ground, except laying sideways this time, with a few thousand B2GC finishes gazing towards the loud crash of metal on pavement, and me laying with my bike still firmly attached to my feet. Friends rushed to my aid, but in their fits of laughter it was a while before they could lift me up and out of my predicament.
My 3 (very simple) tips for your first Brisbane to the Gold Coast Cycle Challenge:
Tip #1 - get some decent k's in the legs before tackling this event. You don't need to go and ride a full 100km beforehand, but several 70-80km rides would be a good idea, and regular time in the saddle consistently for several weeks will make for a way more enjoyable event day.
Tip #2 - trial some nutrition during your training rides to see how they sit in your stomach and how you perform; do your legs cramp under load, are you taking a long time to recover post ride? I highly recommend seeing a dietitian to nut out any of these issues, each person is unique in their requirements, absorption, intolerances etc.
Tip #3 - to clip in or not clip in? It really is a personal choice and one that probably needs to align with your reason for cycling. If you ride to take in the scenery at a leisurely pace, I would stick to flat pedals if that feels comfortable for you. If you are keen to push some power through those legs, get up hills more quickly, and to feel part of the bike - go for clipping in. Just remember to clip out :)
I hope this has enlightened you on what NOT to do. All the best for your first event, wherever it may be!
It's fairly common knowledge these days how unhealthy refined sugars are, which has opened doors for a lot of creativity around how we replace our sugar hit in a much more healthy way.
Many of us believe natural sweeteners are the answer, but if you consulted a dietitian they certainly wouldn't approve this line of replacement. So what is the magic ingredient? My favourite alternative to refined sugar is medjool dates. Medjool dates are a much better choice than white refined sugar because our body can do a better job at breaking them down without spiking blood sugar levels. Medjool dates are high in natural sugar and natural sugars are complex carbohydrates that provide the body with energy.
Once upon a time when I was training for a competitive race, I was fortunate enough to learn a few tricks from a sports dietitian to keep my sugar tooth satisfied, whilst fueling my body with real foods. The flood gates opened to so many ways to use medjool dates. I'd like to share some of my favs with you below, enjoy!