Are you a beginner cyclist, an injured runner looking for a great cross training activity to keep up your endurance, new to fitness and looking for a low impact way to get fit or just looking for a great way to beat the summer heat while blasting some major calories? Or maybe my recent post, Cycling For Your Health, struck a chord with you and now you are wondering ….”how do I get started?”
Ask any of your cycling friends or any salesman in a bike store and before you know it, you will be dressed like Lance Armstrong and have at least a couple of grand invested in your new interest. So, in an effort to keep things simple, here are five things that you don’t need in order to get started cycling.
1. A cyclist’s body
So often we compare ourselves to professional athletes and our friends or family members who have been engaging in a particular sport for quite some time and think, “Oh I could never (fill in the blank), because I don’t look like that.” Of course you don’t! First of all, if you have that thought, then you obviously haven’t been participating in that particular sport. And second, we are all built and shaped differently with our own unique strengths. Never sell yourself short because you don’t ‘look’ a certain way; just get out there and start doing it …before you know it, you’ll be looking and feeling like a pro yourself!
2. An expensive bike
Walk into any cycling store in search for a new bicycle and you will be immediately overwhelmed at all of the options you have to choose from. You’ll hear words like carbon, alloy, steel, titanium and you’ll have to choose from a road bike, mountain bike, hybrid or commuter. Don’t get caught up in the idea that you must have the most expensive bike in the store in order to enjoy cycling as a means of exercise. If you are shopping in a ‘bicycle store’ per se, expect to see prices to range anywhere from $600 to thousands for a road bike. However, if you never plan to race or be a serious cyclist, you can buy a bike from any sporting goods store that will serve you well. It really depends on your goals. This article from Bicycle.com is a great introduction to buying your first bike.
3. Matching jerseys and shorts
Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to have those cute little ‘matchy matchy’ jerseys and shorts (kits) in order to get your cycling on. While cycling specific clothing does have its advantages, i.e. jerseys are longer in the back than in the front for extra tail coverage as you are bent over the handlebars, generous pockets on jerseys for all of your ‘stuff’ and cycling shorts offer much-needed padding for long rides and help with chafing, it is certainly not necessary for beginners and for shorter distance rides.
4. Clipless pedals and shoes
If you are not familiar with clipless pedals and shoes, these are special pedals and shoes that ‘lock’ together. The pedal has a locking mechanism and the shoe has a cleat which attaches to the pedal creating a solid connection to your bike. This system provides greater power in the downstroke of pedaling and more leverage in the upstroke. These are great for indoor Spin classes because they allow your feet to stay in the proper position and provide a smoother pedal stroke. While, obviously, they are not necessary for indoor spin classes …they are also not necessary for cycling outdoors. They certainly have their benefits in both settings and should be something you may want to consider as you progress and become more comfortable riding outdoors.
5. To be a bike mechanic
Yes, it’s true! Apparently, even the professionals are mechanically inept when it comes to the mechanics of their bicycles. You should, however, know the basics …like how to change a flat tire and put your bike chain back on ….and always ride with your cell phone in case something more serious goes wrong.
So, dust off that old bike in your garage or head out to your local bike store and purchase a good entry level bike ….and stay tuned for the next post in the Cycling 101 series, I’ll give you five things you really do need for cycling.