A Beginners Guide to Cycling
Beginners Guide to Cycling
The current coronavirus crisis means that all public gyms have been closed and people must stay home, unless leaving for essential reasons only. Fortunately, one of the essential reasons to leave your house, as stipulated by the Government, is to exercise. With all gyms closed, this makes the choices of exercise somewhat limited. However, currently there is no restrictions on cycling – other than to only ride with no more than one other person.
Given the situation we find ourselves in currently, there may be many people who have decided to buy a bike and get into cycling. Or, you may be the person who has decided to wipe the dust off your bike that has been sitting in the garage for the last – however long.
If this sounds like you, here are some tips on how to get the most out of your cycling experience, how to best avoid injury, and most importantly how to stay safe.
1. Frame size – not all bikes frames are the same size, it is imperative that you get the right size frame for your height. If you are buying a new bike from a bike shop, this is not going to be a problem for you as the shop will fit you on the right size frame. However, if you are buying a second-hand bike online, you’re going to need to do some research around what size frame will fit you. To make matters worse, bike sizes vary between different manufacturers. My advice is to google “size chart” with the brand and model of the bike – usually you can find the information online.
2. Get a bike fit – without a doubt, the number one cause of injury in cycling (aside from crashing) is having an incorrect bike fit. Most commonly, this will present as knee pain, low back pain and saddle pain. It’s well worth spending the money to get fit on your bike properly. There are lots of places that do bike fits – you can even get them done online nowadays.
3. Buy good quality shorts – to all the new riders out there… sorry to tell you this, but you’re going to get a sore butt. Whilst this is unavoidable, you can do some things to help the situation. That is why I suggest buying some good quality bib nicks (shorts). These days you’re looking at about $150-$200 for a decent pair. If you’re not sure what is a good brand, choose one that the professionals use – they only wear good brands. Trust me your butt will thank you for it.
4. Build your weekly kilometres slowly – whilst cycling takes a very low toll on your tendons and joints compared to other forms of exercise, if you do too much too soon, you will get pain. I’ve seen this so often with new cyclists. If you’re friends have been riding for a while, please don’t think that you can jump straight into the same amount of volume as they are doing. It takes months to condition your body to tolerate the demands of cycling. I recommend doing 3 months of bases (easy) kilometres before you start to do any hard rides, mountains, intervals etc.
5. Use your gears – try to avoid grinding away in a big gear with a low cadence. This puts an enormous amount of strain through your knees. Whilst many professional riders use this type of riding as a training method to strengthen their muscles and joints, if you are new to cycling the rules are different. I recommend keeping your cadence between 70-90rpm to begin with.
6. Tire pressures – most people think that by pumping up their tyres to 120psi, they will be harder so they will roll faster. However, this is not always the case, it really is dependent on the surface you ride on, and on the road the speed difference is negligible. On the flip side though, having higher tire pressure will always reduce the handling ability of your bike. You are essentially making your bike harder to ride for minimal or no speed difference. I recommend using 90 – 100psi even for riders that are 90kg+. Your bike will handle better and the bumps won’t feel so rough either.
7. Learn how to fix a puncture – seems like an obvious one, but if you’ve never done it before, you might find it’s a lot harder than it looks. No one wants to be that person stuck on the side of the road for an hour trying to change your tube. Buy some extra tubes, have some levers in your saddle bag, and practise changing tubes at home.
8. Don’t ride with headphones on – whilst I’m not strictly against this, if you are new to cycling, it’s not a good idea. Being on the road so close to cars is an experience that takes some getting used to. It takes months and years to be comfortable riding amongst cars. Master the basics before you think about using headphones.
If you are following the recommendations above, but you are still experiencing pain when you are riding, I recommend booking in to see a physio who can help you work through your issues. It’s important to remember that every person is different. If you’re experiencing persistent knee pain, back pain, neck pain? If you’re unsure if you have you bike setup up properly? We can help you, book in to see one of our physiotherapists today.
Thanks for reading,
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Trent is a graduate of the Doctor of Physiotherapy program at Melbourne University, and also holds a Bachelor of Exercise Science from Victoria University. Trent has a personal interest in CrossFit, running and for the last 5 years has competed and raced in road cycling.