How to Get Started in Bicycling

If you are thinking about including bicycling in your exercise program, you are in good company. More than 47 million Americans rode a bicycle in 2018, roughly 20% of the American population.
Here’s what consistent cycling to brings to the table:
  • increased cardiovascular fitness
  • increased muscle strength and flexibility
  • Reduced emotional stress
  • improved joint mobility
  • decreased stress levels
  • improved posture and coordination
  • strengthened bones
  • decreased body fat levels
  • prevention or management of disease

Step 1 – Decide what kind of cycling you want to do
There are so many variations of cycling.  We often think of the groups of spandex-clad cyclists we see speeding along the road, but road cycling is just one discipline. There’s lots more. Take a look at this list:

  1. BMX 
Where you live will influence the types of cycling that may be available in your local area.  Live in an urban setting? You may be able to ride your bicycle to work and participate in local cycling events like Los Angeles’ CicLAvia that periodically closes streets, allowing cyclists to ride city streets through popular sections of the city.

Step 2 – Select and find a bicycle that fits your riding goal
If you want to do road rides, you’ll be looking for a bicycle with gears that let you ride on the flats and climb hills. There’s a wide range of bicycles available across all price ranges.

Mountain biking demands a completely different bicycle, as does gravel riding, beach cruising, and track cycling.

A great way to explore cycling is to fire up your Internet and explore the links in Step 5 below. There are great adventures to be had in all of the cycling disciplines.

One caution. Modern road and mountain bikes can easily cost $7,000.00 and more. So consider not beginning with an expensive new ride.

You can find great buys on eBay and your local Craig’s List and Facebook market place.  If you find something you like, stop by your local bike shop and ask for their advice. They also may have a trade-in or consignment bike that fits your need.

Step 3 – Connect with your local bike shop
A bicycle shop with a good bicycle mechanic will do some very important things for you:
  1. He/she will make sure your bicycle fits you. If the handlebars are too far away, the seat is too high or low, or the frame is too large, you will never be comfortable and you’ll stop cycling.
  2. The shop will make certain your bike is mechanically safe.
  3. Every bike shop has a cycling club connected to it and almost every club has group rides that include “no drop” rides. This means you get into the cycling routine without fear of being left behind.

Step 4 – Find a riding partner
If you are just beginning, having a riding partner can help you make cycling a habit.  COVID-19 concerns currently are moving cycling from group to solo rides.  But wearing masks and keeping a reasonable distance makes partner riding low risk.

Even if you ride solo, using a cycling platform like Strava.com, Garmin Connect, Endomondo, Ride with GPS, or Map My Ride, let you connect with other riders virtually.  You also can ride indoors using a trainer and a platform like Zwift.

Step 5 – Find a place to ride
The best to begin riding is near where you live. A great place to find local ride routes is at your local bike shop. They know where their customers ride and they can connect you to local bike club members who will guide you.

Below are some key bicycling organizations that are great resources for information and bicycling adventures. Grab a coffee and spend some time learning what they do and how they can support your cycling goals.

Step 6 – Be a Safe Cyclist
This is pretty simple but very important.  These are my personal key rules:

  • Obey all traffic rules.  A cyclist never wins in a collision with a vehicle.
  • Wear a helmet that fits correctly. Every time you turn the pedals.
  • Wear gloves. If you fall, your hands likely will make the first contact, and asphalt or gravel do a number on skin.
  • Carry a basic repair kit.  Your bicycle shop can fit you out.
  • Never, ever blow through that stop sign!

Key takeaways
The first step to making cycling a habit is to be realistic. Don’t expect to magically become a morning person just because you have a new bike, or plan to ride 100 miles too soon.

Start small and grow from there. No matter when you choose to ride, layout your kit, fill your water bottles, and pump up your tires ahead of time.  And before you throw your leg over the top tube, go through a final check: brakes work, front and rear warning lights are working, front and wheel axel skewers are tight and locked down.

Final Step
Check our events pages at CancerJourneysFoundation.org, DVEN.org, and CyclingChallenges.com for information on our annual KOM/QOM and Sprint champions and our version of the current Everesting craze.  These events will be nice goals for your long-term cycling program.

Vets Riding for Vets
If you already are an active cyclist, check out our veteran cycling community at Vets Riding for Vets.

Here are a few of our favorite cycling resources

There are so many more. Dabble here and then create your own list. Welcome to the wonderful and adventurous world of cycling. Fun and better health await you!

Allez!