Of all the hobbies available to those looking to get fit, cycling is among the most appealing. It’ll allow you to stretch your legs, just as walking or jogging does, but it’ll also provide you with a fantastic means of transport over slightly longer distances. It’s fun, too.
To be sure, would be cyclists will have to invest in a bicycle – along with a few choice accessories – in order to get started. But while you can easily spend more on a decent bicycle than you might on a family car, there are also budget options that’ll get you going in the short term. When and if you eventually do make the transition to a more sophisticated vehicle, you’ll be able to appreciate its merits all the more keenly.
If you’re contemplating investing in a two-wheeled vehicle, then you might at first be disoriented by what seems a bewildering amount of information. Let’s see if we can clear some of the confusion, and set you on your way toward cycling competence.
The first step, naturally, is to buy a bike. But this isn’t quite as simple as it might first seem, as from the moment you step into your local bike shop you’ll be confronted by a dizzying range of options. Should you opt for dropped handlebars or not? And what about the size of the frame?
When you first walk into the shop, you should have a budget in mind, and you should stick to it. Like buying a television or a high-end computer, there will always be a slightly more expensive model with a few seemingly-essential features that you didn’t know about until you walked in, but which you’re now convinced you can’t do without. New cyclists might aim to spend as little as £300, or as much as £2,000 – but beyond that you’ll see diminishing returns, as getting the best from something made from carbon fibre and titanium will require a little cycling nous (not to mention physical prowess). Bike Radar put together frequent roundups of the best affordable bikes to be had, and following their suggestions is usually wise.
If you’re looking to save money in the early stages, then going second-hand is a great option. Road bikes, like musical instruments, have a habit of being presented as gifts and then being subsequently tired of. As such, you’ll likely be able to pick up a local bargain.
Next you’ll want to invest in a few accessories. In Britain, where cyclists come into frequent contact with other road users, a helmet is all-but essential. You’ll also want a pair of decent cycling shorts to reduce the friction between your thighs, and a jersey that’ll preserve your body’s aerodynamism. The final and most important piece of equipment is a pair of shoes. The best of these will clip into a compatible pair of pedals, thus increasing the efficiency with which your pedalling translates into the motion of your wheels.
Bike carriers present another worthwhile purchase for cyclists looking to ride out in the countryside. A low-cost towbar won’t add appreciably to the cost of your bicycle, and it’ll allow you to reach otherwise unreachable cycling trails without befouling the interior of your car.
Before you get started, you’ll want to set up your bike. The most important part of this process is setting the saddle height correctly, which will ensure efficient pedalling and remove much of the risk of injury. Generally speaking, the distance between the bottom bracket and the top of the saddle should be around ten millimetres less than your inside leg measurement. That way you’ll be able to get enough power without having to hyperextend your legs. Make small adjustments as you ride until you find a position that’s right for you, and you need never worry about it again! You’ll also want to adjust handlebar position – start with it higher, and then push it further down once you’re ready to up the pace.
Like any activity, cycling is a lot more fun if you’re able to do it with like-minded people. If you can’t persuade any of your existing friends to saddle up, then look out for local cycling clubs; they’ll provide you with the sense of camaraderie and gentle rivalry that’ll spur you on to new and more impressive feats of cycling endurance. You’ll stand a much better chance of sticking with the hobby if you’ve made friends who’ll encourage you to do so!