Bike Shop Girl | 10 Things to Know as a Beginner
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10 Things to Know as a Beginner

number 10

10 Things to Know as a Beginner

As with any sport it can be very daunting and overwhelming when you walk into a completely foreign arena. Questions, fears, hesitance, embarrassment, and so many emotions are rushing through you that by the time you even get on a bike you are stressed out.

Here is a list of things I wish I had known, and I wish more women knew, when they first walk into a bike shop or get into the sport. Over the next few weeks I’ll explain more in depth so they become clickable links.

  1. You do not have to ride a women’s bike just because you are a woman
  2. Don’t wear underwear under your bike shorts – it will cause chaffing and can trap in moisture
  3. Bike shorts will feel like diapers, the more expensive they are, the better they will fit, and the longer they will last.
  4. Do not put a gel pad on top of your bike seat, you are putting a band aid on a bad fitting bike or saddle
  5. Wear a helmet you idiot. It won’t save your life if your head gets run over a car, but most of my accidents it has kept me from getting a concussion, broken nose and in some states it can be looked at as negligence if you are hit by a car without a helmet and have head injuries.
  6. You do not need to feel uncomfortable while buying a bike. Just like a car, find a new shop, or in the beginning tell your fears or worries so the bike shop can address them.
  7. Bike shops can not read your mind. Tell them to the best of your abilities what you want to do with your bike, what your longer term goals are and what your budget is.
  8. As fast as humanly possible, find a group to ride with. It will make you a better rider and you will feel safer.
  9. It is okay to be scared and have fear. Learn to harness it and “push” through things. Always try to conquer your fear, if you can’t manage the hill or rock garden, get off but at least try. (I forget this one at times!)
  10. You do not need to have a fancy bike to enjoy riding a bicycle.

This list could be 100 points long. What are the things you know now that you tell beginner cyclist?

21 Comments
  • Kate
    Posted at 09:01h, 10 July Reply

    While you don’t need a fancy bike to enjoy riding, buying a bike from a department store or the internet can be frustrating. These bikes tend to poorly assembled, prone to problems and costly repairs. Additionally, particularly for women, the fit will be wrong.

  • Tamberlyn
    Posted at 09:06h, 10 July Reply

    Learn to clip in/out before riding with a group.

    Nutrition while in the bike is crazy important.

  • Kelly
    Posted at 09:17h, 10 July Reply

    1) If you have a local bike co-op in the area check them out.
    2) Listen to your body both when testing out/buying a bike & riding. (Had a terrible experience on a test ride b/c I didn’t listen to my body and the rep pushed that the women’s bike would be the better fit for me regardless of how I felt.)

  • Ryan
    Posted at 09:31h, 10 July Reply

    #5…. Absolutely the most important point.

  • Shawn
    Posted at 09:39h, 10 July Reply

    Don’t apologize for anything (“Sorry, I’m not [faster/better/more experienced/keeping up/able to go faster/etc…]). Everyone has been there and should be perfectly willing to help you out. If not, find another shop/group ride.

  • Shelley Bryson
    Posted at 09:44h, 10 July Reply

    Just because the bike comes with clipless pedals you do not have to use them. Put flat pedals on your bike until you have the bike handling skill to attach yourself to the bike.

  • Tara
    Posted at 10:51h, 10 July Reply

    Don’t be afraid to take the lane. You might think you are being courteous to cars by riding over to the right as far as possible, but in fact, you’re safer riding in the right 1/3 of the lane by avoiding possible debris/glass/storm drains AND ensuring that cars can see you clearly.

  • Beth
    Posted at 10:54h, 10 July Reply

    If you cannot afford a good new bike, look for a good old bike. I recently found the love of my life in a late 70’s steel Nashiki (men’s) bike with a few new components (like flat handlebars and a great saddle). Completely blows away the expensive aluminum bike I was trying to ride. Less can really be more for keeping it light and aerodynamic.

    Clipless pedals and bike shoes are amazing for maximizing your power transfer.

    Also, yes you can ride in a skirt. 🙂

  • Kellie
    Posted at 11:02h, 10 July Reply

    Don’t fear dogs. Naturally they want to chase you, but if you sweet talk them, most will back off, lose interest, or just have fun running beside you for a little while. There are some dogs that cannot be reasoned with, so remember where they live, ride by as quietly as you can, and learn to sprint.

  • R
    Posted at 11:16h, 10 July Reply

    I think #1 will need careful explanation.

    I don’t need a step-through frame, but I _do_ need a WSD bike (or an extra few hundred dollars of customization…). If you’ve never had a bike that fit, you’re not necessarily going to know that this one doesn’t fit either. “Long test rides” don’t help in this situation.

    Not all women need the WSD geometry, few step-through frames actually have the WSD geometry, and the whole topic is pretty confused. But I stopped riding as an adult until I learned that the problem was my bike.

  • Tucker
    Posted at 12:25h, 10 July Reply

    If you try something and you fall, get up and try it again!

    Momentum is your friend! If you keep having a bunch of crashes where you fall over trying to get past an obstacle, go faster!

  • Caitlin Estlow
    Posted at 14:31h, 10 July Reply

    – There are no stupid questions. No one is born knowing everything about this sport, don’t be afraid to ask.
    – The importance of proper bike sizing and a then a detailed bike fit cannot be emphasized enough, especially with road bikes. Pick a shop that does more than have you stand over a toptube and says “Yeah, looks like it fits”.
    – Riding with a group will help you gain confidence and make you a stronger rider, riding with women in a group will add some extra fun, too.

  • Great Tips for Beginning Female Cyclists | Pearl Izumi South Lake Tahoe
    Posted at 17:00h, 10 July Reply

    […] read Bike Shop Girl for many reasons, but one of them are her awesome tips for beginner cyclists. This one, geared specifically to women, has a lot of the things we tell new devotees to the sport all the […]

  • Cathy
    Posted at 20:26h, 10 July Reply

    Get to know the folks at your bike shop! They are loaded with experience and really want to help. Let them!

  • Bobbi
    Posted at 20:51h, 10 July Reply

    The best advice I had while learning to MTB: “Ride 5% faster than you really want to.”

  • Scott
    Posted at 13:10h, 11 July Reply

    On my ride yesterday, I remembered your advice on harnessing your fears. This is a pretty technical ride I have been trying to conquer for weeks. When I got to the part I normally dismount and walk down (steep ravine) I pushed through and rode down and up the other side. It felt great! Thank you for the advice!

    • Bike Shop Girl
      Posted at 17:05h, 11 July

      Kudos Scott!

  • Another One
    Posted at 12:10h, 13 July Reply

    I’d add #11 for those who won’t be racing and as an antidote to the idea you need clipless pedals and bike shorts:
    Read “Just Ride” by Grant Petersen.
    (this is from someone who is slightly put-off by Petersen’s semi-cult status)

  • hoopz
    Posted at 21:24h, 30 July Reply

    If helmets are so important, then why do countries like The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the UK, etc. not have mandatory helmet laws except for children?

    • Bike Shop Girl
      Posted at 10:58h, 31 July

      Unfortunately we don’t live there and drivers are idiots here. Also, wouldn’t recommend mountain biking without one!

  • Emily
    Posted at 12:24h, 02 June Reply

    It takes a little while to learn technique! So many beginners get discouraged because they haven’t learned how and when to shift gears, and they think they’re in worse physical shape than they really are.

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