Have you been to your local bike shop lately? Bike sales are booming, bike mechanics are swimming in service tickets, and there are a ton of cyclists out and about - on trails, on paved and gravel roads, even just cruising through town.
Perhaps you’re one of the many brand new cyclists trying out riding for the first time as an adult. Or maybe you’ve just come out of a “bicycle hibernation” and are revisiting cycling as a form of exercise and enjoyment. Either way, we recognize that getting started (or re-started) in this sport can be difficult or confusing. What kind of bike do I need? What gear is essential? Why would you go on a group ride when riding by yourself seems less stressful?
We asked some of our Liv Racing professional athletes about the things they wish they’d known when they first started biking. Their tips will be sure to set your mind at ease and help you put your best wheel forward so that you can enjoy a lifetime of fun on a bike.
Getting the Right Bike
First and foremost, Liv Racing Team Manager Elizabeth Walker suggests purchasing a bike that is the right tool for the job, but that also helps you become the cyclist you want to be.
“Don’t ‘undersell’ yourself on a bike! 1) You deserve the better bike, 2) Make sure you choose the bike that is going to help you become the cyclist you want to be (not a bike that matches your current skill level), and 3) Chances are, you’re really going to love cycling.
Getting a bike that is a little bit better will help ensure you don’t ‘outgrow’ the bike skill-wise in the first 6 months. Go for it! (Plus, nobody’s ever said “I wish I hadn’t spent this much on my bike!”
Getting the Right Gear
Questions about clothing, specifically padded shorts, can feel a little embarrassing to ask your local bike shop.
Cross-country, gravel, and cyclocross athlete Serena Bishop Gordon offers the following advice: “Buy a quality padded short (chamois), and wear it as layer #1. That’s right - don’t wear underwear underneath your chamois. This will help prevent unnecessary chafing. Additionally, if you need it, apply chamois cream liberally directly to your skin to reduce friction on the skin.
Finally, don’t re-wear your cycling shorts without washing them between rides. Wash inside out with a mild detergent and hang dry to extend the life of your shorts (and I also don’t recommend sitting around in them after your ride - ew!).”
Things to Remember When Getting Started
Bella Naughton, Liv Racing gravity athlete, addresses the most common confidence issue for new cyclists once they finally hit the road or trails: “Don’t apologize for being slower than others in a group ride. We all have to start somewhere and it takes time to develop speed, technique, fitness, and endurance!”
Elizabeth echos: “There are no ‘sorrys’ in cycling unless you hurt someone. There is no reason to apologize for who you are or where you are in your cycling journey. We’ve all ‘been there’ - the slowest, least technically able, the least motivated, etc. - and we all remember what it’s like. Ride the pace that makes you happy, choose the lines that are going to make you a better rider, and never apologize for learning!”
Find a good posse of friends to ride with. Riding by yourself feels emotionally safe, but riding with others really helps expand your skills and sense of community. “I’m a strong advocate of women riding with women, and men riding with men, especially when first starting out. It’s important to set yourself up for success in a welcoming and inclusive environment, and oftentimes that isn’t with our significant others,” Elizabeth adds.
Crystal Anthony, Liv Racing cross-country, gravel, and cyclocross athlete, is also a coach and mountain biking skills instructor in her hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. “If you want to learn the basics or improve your technique, there are a myriad of skills clinics to shorten the learning curve,” including Liv Ladies AllRide Tour!
There are a few gear items that can also help you pick up confidence and skills quickly: “No matter where you live, the Florida flat lands or the mountains of Colorado, a dropper post for your mountain bike is a great tool for improving confidence and technique in descending. Don’t let your shop convince you that you don’t need it!” Crystal says.
Bella adds, “I felt pressured to switch to clipless pedals really quickly, but I wish I had stayed on flat pedals a little longer. There is no substitute for learning technical maneuvers on flat pedals so that you can’t ‘cheat’.”
There are a lot of aspects of cycling, no matter what kind of cyclist you are, that might make you feel apprehensive.
Elizabeth offers one final piece of advice: “A good friend once told me, ‘If it makes you nervous, it’s because you know deep down you can do it.’ Think about it: if a feature, technique, or skill is too easy, it doesn’t make you nervous because you’re confident. If a feature, technique, or skill is outrageously out of your wheelhouse, it also doesn’t make you nervous because it is so far outside your comfort zone that the idea seems ridiculous. You feel nervous when something seems attainable, but you’re lacking confidence. All that said, try new things on your own terms, not because someone else told you to do it - clipless pedals, a new trail, a new feature, a particular size or style of bike, etc. Acknowledge that you feel nervous, but don’t pressure yourself (or let anyone else pressure you) into trying things you don’t yet feel comfortable doing.”
Our Liv Racing Athletes
Meet all the Liv Racing Team athletes and learn about the team, news, and more here.
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