Cycling Tips for Beginners
Cycling Tips for Beginners
Make the most of your new obsession with these helpful tips and tricks.
If you’re new to cycling — whether it’s a new year’s goal or a great source of exercise in the age of COVID-19 — congratulations!
There are many amazing adventures waiting for you. But we also understand that cycling can feel very overwhelming at first. In addition to knowing the basic rules of the road, there seems to be a whole set of unwritten rules. Can I wear low socks? Does your water bottle need to match?
Well, we’re here to say: forget the rules. Cycling should be fun, and to get you the most fun out there, we’ve rounded up the best beginner cycling tips to help you get rolling. These are not rules; they are just suggestions and simple fixes to make riding safer and more enjoyable.
1. Correctly set the seat height
Do you feel pain in the front of your knee, or do you feel like your pedalling is underpowered? Your seat may be too low, causing you to not stretch enough during the pedal stroke. This is a common mistake made by beginners because most people feel more comfortable and confident if their feet are on the ground. However, the wrong saddle height can put you at risk of injury.
Fix: Hit your saddle. At the proper seat height, your knees should be slightly bent at the bottom of your pedal stroke, without rocking your pelvis. Measure the distance between the bottom bracket and the top of the seat. This is your seat height. It should be very close to your inseam (in centimeters) times 0.883. If you need help, go to your local bike shop. The staff should be happy to set the optimal saddle height for you. Then, lift yourself off the saddle and straddle the top tube so your feet can touch the ground when you stop. It helps to tilt the handlebar towards the foot you want to put down.
2. Perfectly fit the bike
In fact, how your bike fits you is one of the most important aspects of riding. If the fit is a pain, no matter how excited you are to ride that new bike, you won’t be spending too much time in the saddle.
To get the right fit, two elements are key: seat height and reach. As mentioned above, when your feet are at the bottom of the pedal travel, the seat height should be high enough to allow a very slight flex in your knees. Proper extension means your arms and torso form a 45-degree angle on the bike. Too long and your back will sore when you reach for the handlebars; too short and your knees will be too close to your arms.
When you buy a bike, give it a test ride to make sure its frame size is right for you. Then, buy a complete set of professional bikes at your local bike shop to adjust for the perfect seat height, reach, and more.
3. Don’t stress the gears
You don’t need fancy clothes, clipless cycling shoes (despite the name, actually clip on to the pedals) or top-of-the-line bikes to be a cyclist. Sure, slick gear can be fun, but when you’re riding a vintage beater, there’s nothing more fun than smoking a bunch of high-end carbon bikes on a climb. The important thing is that you just get out and ride before worrying about any potential gear upgrades. You’ll definitely need a few things to get started (bikes and helmets of course), but don’t worry about dropping a ton of money into lots of fancy new gear.
4. Keep Your Bike Maintained
You don’t have to be a pro wrench to handle the basics. Routine maintenance—like lubricating your chain—can not only save you a ton of money at the bike shop, but it can also extend the life of your bike and its components. Keeping the recommended amount of air in your tires (check your tires to find the psi range) will also make your ride easier and extend the life of your tires. Check out other simple bike repair and maintenance tasks your bike mechanic wants you to accomplish.
5. Avoid doing too much too quickly
One of the biggest sources of damage is trying to run too many miles before you’re ready. Build slowly, relax, and give your body time to adjust to the longer distance. Likewise, if you’re training, don’t start too fast or you risk burnout and fatigue in the second half. Warm up in the first third of the ride, then get used to the rhythm in the second and go all out for the final third.
6. Carry a spare tube or patch kit
One minute you’re on the road, cruising with the perfect tailwind, enjoying the good times of your life, and then the crisp air hissing from your tires shatters your peaceful reverie and the party is over. If your puncture backup plan is to call a friend, take a few minutes to review this guide to replacing or repairing an inner tube. You won’t believe that having the right bike tire repair kit on hand (spare tube, repair kit, tire lever and mini pump) will make you feel more independent, and the trick to getting yourself back on track in 15 minutes of the road.
7. Use your gear
Gears are your best friend when climbing and your biggest source of speed on long, undulating roads. But it does take some practice to master when and how to switch to the most efficient gear. This is a basic guide to using all gears.
8. Learn how to ride in a group
There’s a reason group rides have their own protocols and etiquette – if your ride is unpredictable, it can easily lead to a crash. If this is your first time riding with a new team, hang out in the back, watch and ask for help if needed. Any question is a stupid question when your own safety and that of your team are at stake. For more information on group riding rules and techniques, please review the materials before proceeding.
9. Remember to refuel
If you’re only riding for an hour, you should have water, but you don’t actually need to eat on the bike. If you plan to ride for two hours or more, bring a snack and start eating after 45 minutes to an hour of riding. Continue to eat small amounts of food every 15 to 20 minutes or so. Forgetting to refuel can put your body in a deficit and drive you crazy — or into a low blood sugar state. Tiredness, irritability, dizziness, nausea, confusion – it’s not a good way to finish a ride.
6 Life-Changing Benefits of Cycling
You don’t have to spend a century “counting”. Even a little bit of riding every day can make a big difference in your life.
For most people, riding gear for a few hours a day seems like an unattainable dream. Logging a lot of miles every day does take a commitment, but riding a bike every day is not only very doable by itself, but it can also have a positive impact on your life.
If you’re not ready to ride every day forever, try completing a short streak first – it’s easier to build a habit by reducing small goals. That way, you might prove to yourself what is possible. Need extra persuasion? No matter how much time or energy you have for cycling, here are six life-changing benefits of cycling every day.
1. A more pleasant commute
One of the first benefits of biking every day is that if you’re pressed for time, one of the most logical ways to incorporate it into your schedule is to make it part of your commute. “Unlike gym workouts, cycling can be easily integrated into everyday life,” said Nick Cavill, a former public health adviser and director of the UK’s Cycling Programme, which promotes cycling’s many benefits in the UK.
Cycling time to and from the office quickly increased: 60 percent of Portland cyclists cycled for at least two and a half hours a week, most of which was short trips. If your commute is long, you can try cycling (to the train station or parking lot) or invest in an e-bike.
Cycling to commute also offers very real health benefits that don’t require you to specifically exercise, but the benefits of riding on two wheels go beyond avoiding traffic and living a healthier life. Driving to commute is associated with weight gain and obesity, even among drivers who take time out to exercise. Women who walked or biked to get off work for at least 30 minutes a day were also found to have a lower risk of breast cancer.
2. A sharper mind
Another benefit of cycling through your commute is that once you get into the habit of cycling to work, you’ll be ready for what comes next, such as choosing to ride a bike instead of a car on the weekends for a quick errand or ride to the gym . Daily exercise has been found to increase energy and reduce fatigue. Even a 30-minute workout can improve reaction time, memory, and creative thinking.
“Cycling is one of the best exercises I recommend,” says Corey Kunzer, a physical therapist and director of the Mayo Clinic Division of Sports Medicine. “It’s easy on the joints and helps relieve stress.” Cycling has also been found to reduce anxiety and depression. Men who increased their daily cycling commute had improved overall mental health when surveyed.
3. More confidence (can lead to better sex)
All of this newfound mental health can lead to newfound confidence — which may or may not be a good thing. Men who exercised six to seven days a week were found to self-report their sex drive was above average, or well above average. (Women also reported increases, but not as dramatically.)
However, there are at least some reasons why they think so highly of themselves. Exercise has been shown to increase libido and decrease sexual dysfunction to some extent. Too many good things can lower testosterone levels in men, but just 20 minutes of vigorous exercise can make women more sexually responsive.
4. Reduce Overeating
Cycling on a regular basis can also help you relax your diet and maintain your weight – kinda. A simple spin isn’t exactly the green light to eat two more doughnuts, but the great thing about cycling every day is that it can help you loosen up on restrictive eating. In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Bath, two groups of men were severely overdosed, but only one group exercised daily. Despite consuming the same number of calories, the group that exercised every day managed to offset the adverse effects of overeating, such as blood sugar spikes and unhealthy metabolic changes, after accounting for calories burned by exercise.
“One reason daily exercise is so useful is that it allows your muscles to act as a ‘buffer’ for the food we eat,” says Dylan Thomas, professor of health sciences at the University of Bath and author of the Science study. “When you use your muscles, they break down carbohydrates and fat stores.” So even a short ride, like a quick commute to the office, can put your body in a better position for the day.
5. Better sleep quality
With all of our modern stress coupled with a lot of screen time, it’s harder than ever to disconnect and fall asleep these days. But beyond external stimuli, a University of Georgia study found a link between cardiorespiratory fitness and sleep patterns. The study included more than 8,000 subjects between the ages of 20 and 85 and found a strong correlation between decreased physical performance and inability to fall asleep and general sleep problems.
Translation: Moderate-to-vigorous cardiovascular activity, such as cycling, has been shown to promote health, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. This benefit of cycling might sound obvious to anyone who has ridden a bike and experienced exhaustion and soreness (some endorphins spilled in), but now science has proven it.
6. Longer life
The final benefit of cycling is that daily bike rides don’t just make you healthier and happier: they also prolong the time you have to feel this way, even if you’ve gotten up years ago. A large 2015 study in Norway followed a group of older men in their 70s and 80s and found that just 30 minutes of physical activity a day made these men live longer compared to men who did not engage in any physical activity at all 5 years.
Another 2011 study in Taiwan asked more than 400,000 adults how much they exercised over 8 years and tracked those answers and found that just 15 minutes of exercise a day was associated with a three-year increase in life expectancy. None of these people were young, and most were not very athletic when they started their studies, so it’s never too late to start!
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