Tips for the Beginning Cyclist

We are very proud of the fact that Velorosa® is a women’s cycling clothing company founded in the Midwest. If we’re being as direct as a blast from the polar vortex—it’s been a rough winter. Brutal, actually. Historically, we squeeze out a few moderate days here and there, but not this year.

Many of us have spent hours on indoor trainers or bundling up in down jackets, racing into a spin or Soul Cycle class—desperate for a chance to turn the pedals over. I know a few brave souls who swaddled themselves in fleece, braced some ice-covered roadways, and got a few outdoor miles of suffering logged on their Garmin.

But just this week, it seems we can finally feel the days getting longer. Getting warmer. Getting brighter. And it’s beautiful. It reminds me of why riding a bike can be one of the best ways to get outside, get some exercise or just get around.

If you’re new to the sport, or hoping to encourage a friend to join you on some rides, here are a few things to keep in mind as you head into biking season. Here are 5 tips to help you, or them, get ready:

  1. Make sure you have the right bike. This one seems obvious, but we can’t stress enough how important it is to get the bike that will take you where you want to go and over the type of terrain you want to ride. It can be pretty intimidating to walk into a bike shop and figure out exactly what you need—especially for women. Don’t let it be. Remember: you’re in a position to spend some money, and you have every right to go all “Jeopardy” on a sales person--asking a ton of questions and seeking guidance on what will fit your needs--both from an anatomical and a lifestyle standpoint. To use a phrase from my teenager, bike shops are getting ‘woke’ to the idea that women are an economic force in cycling.

    So, what do you actually ask in a bike shop? There’s no limit to the questions you may have, but when you’re first beginning, you’ll note that the prices of bikes vary wildly. From frames to componentry, the world of biking has SO. MANY. OPTIONS. And it’s a wonderful thing, really, but it is daunting at first. We won’t go into all the details, but we do recommend reading one of these great articles from Bicycling Magazine or Cyclists Hub. They’re dead-on when it comes to actually selecting the bike that is for you!

    Bike shops can help you figure out if a women’s-specific bike frame is best for you, or if you’d benefit from a women’s-specific bike seat (or as we now knowingly call it, your saddle). But one thing we want to stress is your position on the bike. As a newbie, you may not realize how important seemingly minor adjustments are. So when the sales team suggests swapping out the stem or bars to make sure you’re in the right position, they’re more than likely looking out for your comfort and not gunning for your entire checking account. To that end, it’s worth the extra money (usually about $100-200) to get the bike properly fit. A great shop will put your bike on a stationary trainer and watch you ride. A tech can maximize your personal geometry so that your bike can be even more comfortable. All of us at Velorosa have had multiple bike fittings, and every single time our riding improves, plus any areas of pain or discomfort seem to disappear. The tiniest bit of adjustment can make an enormous difference. So don’t just take it from me, take it from all of us: a bike fit can make all the difference in the world, and we all wish we had done it sooner.

  2. Figure out what pedals you want to use. While you may not want to use clipless pedals right out the gate, don’t write them off immediately either! Once you’ve spent some time getting comfortable on your newly acquired best friend, head back to the bike shop and talk with the team about the benefits of clipless pedals.

    What are clipless pedals? Clipless pedals are a bit of an oxymoron … they do in fact ‘clip in’ to the pedal with a special cleat on a cycling shoe. They’re designed to make you more efficient (up to 25% more efficient, which means you’ll go faster with less work!). They take some getting used to, but once you’ve practiced clipping in and out, you’ll notice a dramatic difference in your riding. I suggest practicing in a large empty parking lot—someplace where you can make big, sweeping turns without cars or other bikes around.

  3. Prepare for the worst. Everyone needs to carry a small tool kit. The very basics include a multitool, inner tube, tire levers and a portable bike pump or CO2 canisters. Most riders have stories of ‘making due’ when something didn’t go right and they weren’t as prepared as they should have been. Including me: I actually ripped a gash in my tire and used a $20 bill as a temporary patch between the tire and the tube until I could make it back home. Next time, I’ll be sure to have smaller bills with me...

    In addition to a tool kit, it’s always good to carry a little money, your ID and a waterproof bag to stash your phone in. (And yes, I learned that the hard way, too. I ruined an iPhone when I forgot to check the weather and I found myself under a microburst. Oops.)

  4. Just show up! But pick the right ride... One of the best ways to improve your cycling is to find other people to ride with. Cycling is an extremely social sport and many bike shops host morning, afternoon or evening road rides. This can be a great way to meet new people, push yourself to get stronger and faster, and there can be safety in numbers. What you don’t want to have happen is show up for the wrong type of ride. There is nothing more discouraging that finding out you’ve put yourself with a group of people who intend to do 40 miles at the pace of a Learjet. (Been there. Did that. Cried. A lot.) You will sound very knowledgeable if you ask someone what the group’s average speed will be. Rides that are really well organized will set an upper limit and are pretty strict to keep the pact together. Everyone’s preferred pace is different, but riding with a group usually offers some aerodynamic benefits. You may be able to ride slightly faster than you would on your own. If you’re not sure where to start, a very nice, and potentially challenging pace, would be 14-17 mph.

  5. Buy a kit. The only way to truly be comfortable on a bike is with bike shorts. Bike shorts are a gift from the bike gods: once you wear them you will never, ever, ever want to ride without them again. Yes, they’re pricey. But the chamois was created for a reason. You should never wear underwear with any bike short (treat your bike shorts like a bathing suit—just put it on and go!) Any additional fabric between you and the chamois can cause friction and some pretty unpleasant saddle sores. The jersey is also a great addition to your life as a cyclist. The pockets in the back make it possible to easily access food, your phone, or money while riding or when you’re stopped ... without any discomfort while in the saddle.

    At Velorosa®, our goal is to create cycling apparel that is more than just functional. Two of the most important functional elements are visibility and comfort. We take both of those to the next level with our beautifully designed cycling jerseys and shorts for women. Our high-performance cycling wear is tailored to a woman’s body and are designed to go the distance. And our bold designs not only get noticed, they get seen.

If you have any additional suggestions for or questions about getting ready for this year’s season of riding, we’d love to hear from you. Follow us on social media and share your tips with us!

1 comment

  • Taylor Hansen

    It’s interesting to learn that clipless pedals are 25 percent more efficient and makes you go faster. My brother is wanting to get me into cycling now that it’s getting warmer and I want to make sure I have the right equipment before starting. I’ll be sure to go to a bike shop and see what kind of equipment is needed for a beginner like me.

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