Bike riding is one of those activities that most of us did as children but many people, me included, gave it away when we got our driver’s licence in our late teens. It wasn’t until I reached my early forties that my partner suggested that I should try road cycling. And for me, it’s been a life changing experience.
I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to totally absorb themselves in bike riding like I have, but it’s a great way to get some exercise and have fun at the same time. Here’s a few tips to get you started:
Assess Your Fitness Level
The first step is to assess your own fitness level. If you’re already exercising regularly you’ll have no trouble completing a 30km ride on your first attempt. If you don’t exercise very often then you might have to take it a bit slower. Like any form of exercise you can take it step-by-step and gradually increase the distance or time you ride each week.
Choose a Bike
The best place to find out about bikes is your local bike shop. They’ll be happy to point you in the right direction and get you set up with a great bike to suit your needs, and all the necessary accessories.
Your bike choice should be dictated by the type of riding you want to do. If you want to ride on paved bike paths or the road then you should look at a road bike, a flat bar road bike or even a hybrid bike. If you plan to ride off-road then a mountain bike is the one for you, or perhaps a hybrid that can handle both off and on-road.
You could even ride a borrowed bike to start out, but I recommend you acquire one of your own if you’re really enjoying your riding.
What to Wear
Lots of people say, “I wouldn’t be seen dead in lycra!” and start out wearing loose-fitting casual clothing. The funny thing I’ve found is that nearly all road cyclists move over to lycra within a short period of time. But there are other options including mountain bike shorts that include padding and relaxed fit jerseys. These garments are made for bike riding so they move and flex in all the right places when you’re on the bike.
Of course an Australian standards-approved helmet is a must. It’s not only sensible to protect your head, but is law in all Australian states and territories.
Where to Ride
You might start out by riding on bike paths if you’re lucky enough to have them in your local area, but most ‘serious’ road bike riders will soon graduate to the road which is what I did fairly quickly. I still ride on paths occasionally but I avoid them particularly on weekends where you have to share them with pedestrians and other less confident cyclists like small children!
If you do decide to take to the roads you need to obey the road rules and ride in a confident and predictable way so car drivers know your intentions. You should also wear bright colours and if you’re riding in dim light, then front and rear lights are mandatory.
How to Find Like-Minded Riders
The best motivation you’ll ever get to go bike riding is meeting up with a group of like-minded individuals. Many, many times I’ve woken up in the early morning and wanted to stay in bed but I’ve dragged myself out of bed because I’ve agreed to meet one or more people and I just can’t let them (or myself) down. You might find a local riding group, such as the BUGs that operate in NSW, by searching the internet. BUG stands for ‘Bicycle User Group’ and there are plenty of them. You could also try asking the staff at your local bike shop or even the groups of cyclists at your local café.
Cycling is a great addition to your 12WBT Exercise Plan – just swap it for one of your cardio training days. Find out more about how 12WBT will help you achieve your health and fitness goals.
Nicola Rutzou writes a blog called Women Who Cycle and is a keen advocate of women’s cycling in all its forms. She works in the cycling industry in her home town of Sydney and is an enthusiastic road bike rider and occasional racer.