Becoming a New Cyclist – Before the Trip to the Bike Shop

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Something has inspired you to join the great sport of cycling.  Whatever triggered the desire to start riding bicycles, you are not alone.  The sport of cycling is growing and there are new cyclists joining the ranks of cycling everywhere.  Cycling’s growth is due to the technology and variety of options available to the new cyclist.  There are road bikes, comfort bikes, hybrids, mountain bikes, recumbents, fat bikes, e-bikes and more.

Before we talk about bikes, let’s think about you and your needs, goals and motivations for becoming a new cyclist.

(The links provided in this article are just meant as examples – I’m not necessarily promoting – they are just informational)

New Cyclist – Know Thyself!

Your motivation for getting into bicycling is something to ponder.  Why did you choose to become a bike rider?

  • Perhaps you have friends that ride all the time and they enjoy the social aspects of cycling.
  • Perhaps you have been taking Spinning classes and think you might prefer a workout with an ever-changing view.
  • Perhaps you just want to get into better shape or lose weight.
  • Perhaps your doctor has suggested that you exercise more.
  • Perhaps you want to recapture the childlike joys of freedom and fun that you had as a kid with a bicycle.

Ask yourself, “why cycling,” and the answer will help guide your journey.

Outdoor Cycling – Things to Consider

The new cyclist has a few things to think about.  Ask yourself what kind of rider you think you might want to be.

Do you see yourself:

  • Riding “out there,” with others enjoying the beauty and the relative peace and quiet of nature?
  • Riding with a social group on the roads of your community?
  • Riding when your schedule allows to maintain life balance and fitness?
  • Challenging yourself to complete a cycling event like El Tour de Tucson or an MS 150 event?
  • Feeding that competitive fire by someday competing in a mountain bike or road race?

There may be other reasons to ride, but each of these has some elements to consider.

Mountain Biking

As the name implies, mountain biking is often done in challenging terrain.  Of course there are rides that are on flat, dirt roads too.  Mountain bikers often love riding a narrow trail called “singletrack.” Part of the joys of mountain biking is that you are out there, away from busy streets, and traffic and noise.  You often see natural wonders of flora and fauna and geology that enrich the riding experience.  The terrain is usually bumpy, often rough, and will often challenge your sense of balance and sharpen your riding skills and focus.  Mountain bikes are built tough and can take a lot of abuse without breaking down.

The downside of mountain biking for most, is that you often have to transport your bicycle to a suitable area for riding.  This takes additional time and sometimes, additional equipment.  You will get dirty.  You may need maps or a good GPS.  And unless you ride in an area frequented by other riders and hikers, you may find it best to ride with others. Because mountain bikers sometimes ride in dusty, wet and harsh conditions, they can require more maintenance.

Road Biking

Riding a bike on the streets has its own kinds of unique joys and pleasures.  There are many groups that ride on the road together and this can be a great social outlet.  Most roads are smooth and clean and make for a less “jarring” experience than mountain biking.  You can usually find routes that have bike lanes or bike paths and this increases safety.  If “the wind in your face” and a sense of speed is something you like, road biking can offer just that.  Road biking is pretty convenient too – you can suit up and usually start riding from your own driveway.  Road bikers ride in relatively less harsh environments and don’t require a lot of maintenance.

The downside to road biking is that depending on where you live, it can be a relatively noisy activity if you have to ride in city traffic.  There is a little less freedom than is found on a mountain bike – on the road you have to follow many of the same laws that cars have to adhere to, as well as a few that are unique to riding a bike on the streets.  The biggest downside to riding on the road – especially in city environments is the dangers posed by careless and inattentive drivers of cars and trucks.

In Summary

If you are a contemplating joining the fun, freedom and fitness-enhancing world of bicycling, seek out as much information as you can.  Ask your friends who ride about their chosen type of riding.  Of course, the Internet is a great tool for research.  I wish I could recommend spending some time discussing your needs at a local bike shop or two to get more information. But after working in nearly a dozen bike shops over the course of my cycling career, the quality of information you may get there might not be the best to guide you towards your unique goals.  Bike shops aren’t populated with the likes of the notorious used car salesman, but they aren’t exempt from a healthy dose of “let the buyer beware” either.

Save the trip to the bike shop for after you have determined what kind of new cyclist you want to be

After you have decided:

  • with whom and where you see yourself riding
  • and how it all fits into your life, whims and fancies.

The best advice I think anyone can suggest is to collect information and then –  be honest with yourself and to think long and hard about your unique personality type, your unique goal(s) and where and how you find fulfillment, satisfaction and, most important – fun!





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