I’m not going to beat around the bush, cycling has become one of those sports where people will judge you for what you’re wearing and how you look. In the last 15 years, cycling has taken a quantum leap in terms of popularity and with that, a boat load of new kit manufacturers have come to the fore front, marketing to those with a keen eye on aesthetic appearance. Cycling is no longer a sport reserved for the traditionalist. Whether you like it or not, road and gravel cycling has a thriving new audience where looking cool, really is a possibility.
However, cool kit isn’t everything. Simply dressing yourself in the latest gear isn’t going to fool anyone if you don’t get the basics right.
Beginners assemble, we’re here offering you a one way ticket to destination cool without having to shell out much money!
Ditch the pants
Although optional, our underwear mainly serves the purpose of eliminating chaffing in our every day clothes. Thankfully, modern cycling shorts are designed not to chafe. With an inbuilt chamois and no seams anywhere near your moving parts, they are designed to be worn on their own. Wearing underpants will ultimately cause you more discomfort and soreness. Bin off the pants, they’re not needed.
Cover up in the cold
When the temperature drops, most of us tend to switch up the way we dress. Shorts are replaced with trousers, t-shirts replaced with jumpers. So why is it that when people get on a bike in the cold, they revert back to the summer gear? It’s simply a case of lacking experience. Unlike other sports (winter sports aside) cycling exposes your body to wind chill and although you will warm up, protecting your skin and joints from the hard air will make a big difference to your comfort and performance. Every cyclist needs a quality set of bib tights. These don’t have to cost the earth but will increase your comfort no end and of course, you will look more pro than those without!
Don’t wear thin worn old kit
I’ve seen some sights in my time and nothing quite puts me off my mid ride chocolate fudge cake more than a middle age mans rear end being visible through his worn translucent shorts… Do yourself and your buddies a favour, any sign of transparency in the shorts, give them the heads up to get rid of them, pronto!
Shower before a ride
I’m not sure if I’m on my own on this one but before every ride, take a shower. If you’re stopping at a café, you’re going to smell a lot fresher than if you hadn’t. Your kit will also thank you, with reduced odour. Everyone’s a winner.
Be sure to know how to unclip
Using clipless pedals is a must when road or gravel riding. Pedal efficiency is greatly increased meaning you can go faster and ride further. One of the beauties of being clipped into your pedals is that you do not have to worry about your feet slipping off the pedals. Anyone who has ridden mountain bikes will understand how much it sucks to lose your feet over rough ground! But what happens when you need to stop at traffic lights or outside your new favourite café? Top tips include:
- Practice unclipping with both feet, not just your lead foot on soft ground.
- Practice more!
- Ensure your pedal tension is wound down so you can unclip easily.
- Plan ahead and unclip before you need to stop. Keep your leg stuck out so that you naturally then stand on the unclipped foot.
Avoid ‘4th cat tat’
Interestingly, the 4th cat tattoo is something that I see on many riders who have been riding long enough to know better. If you’re wondering what a ‘4th cat tat’ is, it’s basically a black oil chain ring mark which has been stamped into your leg whilst handling your bike. Chain oil on the leg is not cool and can ruin a set of lovely white socks. When you have climbed off your bike, just be wary of your front chain ring and chain when manoeuvring the bike. Avoid the chain ring marks at all costs!
Ride to tempo
It’s quite clear that the biggest difference between a beginner and a pro is the speed at which they ride and this is where all beginners get it wrong. Whether riding in a group or on your own, the pace at which you travel will have a direct correlation with how enjoyable the ride is. When you arrive at the base of a climb, the correct way to ride is to keep a comfortable tempo up the climb and keep the pressure on as you crest the climb. There is nothing worse than riding with someone who goes full whack up a climb, only to deploy a parachute and freewheel down the other side. The pros don’t do this, so neither should you.
How far are you riding and do you plan on stopping for food? Granted, a long day in the saddle is going to require a good amount of food to keep going, but for a steady 2-3 hours in the sun, you don’t need to pack as if you’re riding an unsupported 24 solo epic.
When it comes to cycling attire, less can often be more. If you wear too much, you’re going to sweat like an igloo in an oven. Stick to breathable, moisture-wicking layers that you can shed if needed. When riding tempo (at a good pace) sweating is normal but being over dressed will cause your body to work overtime which isn’t what we want! To me, this is why the gillet is one of the most important bits of kit in your arsenal as it can be unzipped or placed in your back pocket with ease if you start getting a bit warm.
Spin to win
You’ve paid for gears and shifters-use them! Aim to avoid excessively fast leg speed or strenuous ‘over geared’ efforts. The optimal pedalling speed (cadence) typically ranges between 70 to 90 revolutions per minute. You will often find beginners not using the gears which just makes things harder for them.
Clean your bike
Having a clean bike not only looks great but also saves you from getting filthy should you have to stop to make repairs mid ride. In addition to looking better, your bike will run a lot better when its been cleaned and lubricated properly. Squeaky, dry chains are an absolute no no (e-mtb riders, please take note).
You’d be a fool not to carry a set of basic tools and an inner tube when you ride. A versatile multi-tool equipped with various bits enables adjustments to most mechanical parts. Additionally, a chain tool and spare link is a wonderful thing to have if your chain snaps. Essential items like tyre levers, a puncture plug or spare inner tube, along with a compact pump, are an absolute must. Check out our saddlebag essentials article here!
Hopefully these tips will go some way to guiding to the next level on your cycling journey. Is there anything that you think we have missed or got wrong? Let us know! Pedal Cover offer home + bike bundled as well as stand alone cycle specific bicycle insurance. Our insurance covers crash damage, theft, liability, personal accident and much much more. Give our friendly support team a call on 0800 121 4424