A beginner’s guide to cycling
Posted on 15 February 2017
Cycling is a great way to keep fit, meet new people and explore the countryside. If you’ve never put bum on seat before, here are some pointers to get you pedalling.
Choose your ride
The two main streams of cycling are mountain biking and road cycling. Many riders do a bit of both, but what you choose will determine the type of bike and equipment you need to buy. Mountain bikers enjoy the thrill of going over obstacles and down hills at speed, immersed in nature and taking in the sights as they cruise along. Due to the narrow paths, mountain bikers tend to travel alone or in small groups. Road cyclists often go out in larger groups and because of the easier terrain, cover longer distances – like a 100km ride on a Sunday morning, or a more casual ride with a coffee break midway.
Once you know the kind of riding you want to do, it’s time to go shopping. Bikes can be very expensive, but you can get started with a decent entry-level or second-hand bike. Good entry-level bikes – both mountain and road – include Giant, Scott, Trek, Specialized, Silverback and Cannondale. The local Momsen brand is also known for affordable mountain bikes.
Read up online about how to choose the right-sized bike, and go to a reputable bike shop in your neighbourhood that offers a range of reliable, affordable bicycles. If you’re still unsure, reach out to the community of cycling enthusiasts on Bikehub, a local cyling blog and forum.
Your basic essential kit should also include the following:
- Padded cycling shorts – you can go without on shorter rides, but these are essential for rides longer than 30 minutes
- A good helmet – not negotiable. Buy a helmet that fits your head properly and is made from high-quality, durable material. Specialized and Bell offer affordable helmets of good quality.
- Cycling shoes – these clip into your pedals and help you generate more power to your pedals
- Water bottle or a backpack with bladder
As with any outdoor sport, take the necessary precautions to protect your skin and eyes from the sun. Always apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses.
Go on your first ride
As you get into cycling, you’ll pick up techniques and tips. On your first ride out, just enjoy the experience. Pick a quiet time if you’re going to be on the road, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. After your ride, get into the habit of stretching to avoid injuries.
These basic riding tips will get you started:
- Practise cleating in and out of your pedals. When you need to stop quickly, you don’t want to fall over because you can’t unclip your shoes.
- Don’t pedal in a high gear for too long, as this places strain on your knees.
- Change your position while riding to avoid pain or numbness where your body is in contact with the bike.
- Look far enough ahead to spot obstacles or hazards in the way.
- Use an app such as Strava (iOS) and Android to log your rides and keep track of your progress.
Reap the rewards of good health
Cycling is an accessible and enjoyable sport for millions of people around the world. It is a low-impact activity and many riders keep going well into their retirement. Apart from the immediate health benefits of cardiovascular exercise, it is rewarding to go out exploring on a bike, with or without company. Cycling reduces your stress levels while improving your cardiovascular fitness. Other benefits include improved joint mobility, and better coordination and posture.