One of the toughest things about cycling is, as with most things, just getting started. The equipment needs can be a bit extensive, but the only ‘essentials’ include: bike, shoes, helmet, and clothing. If you foresee cycling being something you may want to pursue indefinitely, it is worth putting the time and effort into getting a good road bike that most importantly fits you well.
Along with the bike will come a choice of pedals (you’ll likely want to get the kind you clip into), cycling shoes, and a helmet. Why the clip-in pedals? When your foot is ‘attached’ to the pedal, it allows you to produce power by both pushing down and pulling up; you will find that riding feels easier but you also get more power out of each pedal stroke; a very useful thing when you consider that you turn between 60 and 100 revolutions per minute!
You will probably come to find that you may need to replace the saddle at some point, as this is a highly individual item in terms of what fits you best. The basic cycling clothing includes padded cycling shorts and a jersey, which will have pockets behind your lower back for nutrition, cell phone, etc. Once you decide upon a bike, the next step is to get a professional bike fit, from a reputable source. Hopping onto a bike without a good fit can result in injury; the correct saddle height is crucial, as it will help keep your knees, joints and overall body healthy.
Another essential item is a small saddle bag (which fits on the seat post underneath your saddle) which includes tire levers, a CO2 cartridge with a head unit, a spare tire, and a multitool (which has various sized Allen keys to adjust bolts on your bike). You can skip the CO2 cartridge for a hand pump on your bike, however I find the CO2 is easier, less cumbersome, and gives you more assurance that you will get enough air in the tire when fixing a flat. Be sure to practice changing a flat tire before you head out, and always carry the necessary tools. It’s a quick and simple process which will keep you safe if and when you get a flat.
So; you have your bike, helmet, shoes, clothing, saddle bag and you’re ready to go. Be sure to practice clipping in and out of your pedals a few times; and just a note, you will topple over a few times! We all have! The Veloway is a great place to start, which is in southwest Austin. It is a 3 mile winding path which is devoid of traffic. You can then venture out from the Veloway to what is known as the “South Mopac Loop”, or an 8-mile loop out and back along South Mopac with a wide shoulder. Reach out to local bike shops and talk to friends to learn bike routes. Austin is a cycling-friendly city for the most part, so you’ll often see bike lanes on roads in and around the city. You can find plenty of hills, but be sure you are comfortable standing up before you venture up any steep roads.
One of the great things about cycling is the places it can take you. Running definitely has a ‘freeing’ appeal to it, and the simplicity is refreshing. But cycling is unique in that it can take you 10, 20, 30+ miles from your home; all in just a few hours’ time. As you get more comfortable, try to seek out nice ‘hill country’ rides and really get out of town. I’d encourage you to try to find the winding backcountry roads as well. You will find the entire experience much more relaxing and less stressful when you can escape the traffic. Good luck, be patient, and most of all have fun!
Cycling 101-Oh, the places it will take you!