Cycling is a low-impact aerobic workout that torches calories and helps tone your legs and buttocks. It is an adaptable workout that you can do solo, in a group or with the family. While knowing the bike safety laws in your area is essential before starting out, beginners only need minimal equipment to start reaping the benefits of riding a road bicycle.
When starting out on a road bike, be aware that everyone is different and there is no standard size or fit for bikes. Having a properly fitting bike helps avoid knee, neck or back pains and simply makes cycling more enjoyable and easier. The proper fit depends on your body’s geometry and how aggressively you intend to ride. When selecting a bike, spend some time test riding various set-ups where the seat and handlebars are in different positions. While test riding, pay attention to any aches and pains and keep trying different bikes if you feel uncomfortable.
In addition to the actual bike, there are a few items that can help you increase your speed or comfort. Quality footwear that features stiff soles is essential for power and comfort. Good quality cycling shoes do not wear out quickly, so take your time trying on various shoes to make sure they fit in all dimensions before purchasing. When it comes to clothing, any top that has a snug-fit and is made of a synthetic material should work but gender-specific padded shorts are important and can make all the difference for your bum while out on a ride. Many states require cyclists to wear a helmet. All helmets sold in the United States must meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s safety standard, so you only need base your choice on pricing and fit.
Before heading out on the road for a long workout, ride around and get comfortable on your bike and riding with traffic. Once you feel secure, start building your speed and endurance. If possible, find a hill that takes 1 to 1.5 minutes to climb for a hill workout. Make sure to warm up for at least 15 minutes before tackling the climb. Then do four intervals up the hill, riding seated on the first interval, switching between a seated and standing position on the second, standing with a gear that provides moderate resistance on the third, and, lastly, standing with a gear that provides hard resistance. After riding up, pedal back down the hill in a relaxed manner.
When out on the road, safety should be your top priority. Pay attention to your surroundings and use your senses, especially your ears. You can hear tires squealing or hear a dog chasing you often long before you can see these potential hazards. When possible, pick smart routes that have low car traffic, no blind corners and a wide shoulder. Similar to turn signals and brake lights, you always want to use hand signals when riding a bike to indicate the direction you intend to go.
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.