I’ve been asked dozens of times by individuals who are considering buying their first bike, “Which one should I get?” My answer is always the same. I tell them that it depends on what they want to accomplish and their budget. But generally, I share with them that they should buy up at least one level than they think they need when they’re just starting out because they’ll quickly move beyond what a very basic bike offers. I also tell them that all reputable bike manufacturers produce quality bikes, but the key is fit and feel. I recommend that they ride several before they make their purchase to help determine what feels best. “Fit” means everything when it comes to choosing the correct bike.
It’s important that those just starting out know what they’re talking about — at least enough so they can ask the right questions. And that comes by getting familiar with the world of cycling and its nuances. As the saying goes, knowledge is power.
Here are a few excellent examples of where to look.
Stuff to Read
BIKE TOURING BASCIS GUIDE — Great brochure that provides many of the answers to questions touring cyclists have, including choosing the correct bike, route planning, gear required, where to sleep and cost. (Guide courtesy of Friedel and Andrew Grant. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. http://www.travellingtwo.com)
Click below to view the PDF of the guide.
Link: BikeTouringBasics Guide
BICYCLING — A cycling magazine published ten times annually and filled with product information and feature articles.
READING THE RACE — Bike Racing from Inside the Peloton by Jamie Smith with Chris Horner. Excellent book for those who want to take road biking to the next level.
ZINN & THE ART OF ROAD BIKE MAINTENANCE — The World’s Best-Selling Bicycle Repair and Maintenance Guide by Lennard Zinn. A virtual encyclopedia filled with facts and illustrations to teach even the most feeble of us enough to make it through the basic to most difficult mechanical issues.
AMERICAN CYCLING ASSOCIATION. A non-profit, cycling-centric organization offering tremendous information on touring and products and services. And their Forum is a helpful resource on its own where contributors share knowledge and offer expertise.
BICYCLE TOURING PRO by Darren Alff — An outstanding resource of books, videos and social media offerings for cyclists interested in learning to tour in the United States and abroad.
I’ve accumulated several tidbits of knowledge through the years I’ve been riding. Listed below are some of them, most of which are not original by any means.
- Drink before you’re thirsty and eat before you feel hungry.
- Learn to eat and drink while you’re on the move.
- To avoid stiffness and soreness in your hands, wrists and shoulders, frequently change your hand position on the bars.
- Put a break in your elbows to alleviate the stress and tension in your arms and shoulders.
- Be aware that your true power comes from your core and butt muscles, much more than from your legs. Train to improve those areas of your anatomy.
- Keep your knees tight to your body so each pedal stroke will be an up and down motion, similar to that of a piston.
- Most of us have a tendency to slide forward in the saddle as we tire, so make a conscious effort to move back when that happens to maximize comfort and performance.
- Twist your head from side-to-side while you’re riding to avoid neck soreness.
- Keep your back straight to solve back problems and alleviate other physical ailments.
- Learn to fix a flat before you find yourself alone in a predicament.
- Nurture your drivetrain as if your life depends on it. Don’t overdo the lube because too much can attract dust and dirt on your chain, cassette and chainrings, but apply it as needed when you hear squeaks or you can’t remember the last time it was done.
- Make sure you have a minimum of a spare tube, levers, pump/CO2 cartridge, multitool, Allen wrenches, emergency patches and a credit card and/or cash so you can take care of at least minimum repairs, adjustments or emergencies while you’re out and about.
- Don’t be intimidated by clipless pedals. They’ll improve your ride in many ways.
- Dress in layers if there’s a chance you’ll encounter changing weather or temperature conditions.
- Wear colorful clothing so you’re easily seen by motorists. And you can’t go wrong by turning on your front and rear lights — including during daylight hours.
- Wear a helmet, even if you’re only riding around the block.
- During hot summer days, freeze at least one of your water bottles the night before so you can enjoy your favorite cold drink during your ride. It also helps control core body temperature.
- Gloves and shorts/bibs with chamois padding are gifts from the cycling gods.
- Be predictable when you’re riding. Choose a line and stick to it as much as possible so fellow cyclists and motorists will get a feel for where you’re going.
- Drop the PSI in your tires when it rains so you’ll have more traction. Also, realize that train tracks, metal sewer covers and even painted stripes on the road can be as slippery as ice when the road’s wet, even during the summer months.
- Communicate by hand signals or audibly when you’re changing lanes, turning, passing or if there’s debris in the road ahead.
- Learn to ride in a group and how to draft off the cyclist ahead of you. You’ll be amazed at how much more enjoyable and effective your ride will be.
- Learn the names and strengths of the mechanics at your local bike shop. Listen and learn from them. It’s a good idea to take them a six-pack of their favorite beer or a dozen quality chocolate chip cookies as a sign of appreciation for all the help they provide. You’ll be glad you did.