10 Things to Know as a Beginner

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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?

20 Comments

  • Kate says:

    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 says:

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

    Nutrition while in the bike is crazy important.

  • Kelly says:

    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 says:

    #5…. Absolutely the most important point.

  • Shawn says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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!

  • - 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.

  • Cathy says:

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

  • Bobbi says:

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

  • Scott says:

    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!

  • Another One says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

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

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