So you bought your first Road Bike and now want to explore even further?
Here's Part 2 of our Beginner's guide to cycling
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Table of Contents
- A Quick Recap >
- Upgrades >
- Inspection & Maintenance >
- Fitness & Indoor Cycling>
- Nutrition & Fluids>
- Bags >
- Are you prepared to ride further? >
A Quick Recap
This blog is a follow up to our Beginner's Blog - Part 1. Head there if you are thinking about buying a Road Bike for the first time or at the very starting point of your journey to become a 'Cyclist'.
Our Beginner's Blog - Part 2, is aimed at those who have bought their first bike, fell in love with it and are now looking to sneak away for long weekends together. Joking aside, in this blog we will look at tips on riding further and feeling more comfortable so if you did want to escape for a weekend then you could feel confident that you would go the distance.
We have put this blog together using our own experiences and based on the questions that we are commonly asked by those new to cycling. This time we'll take a look at small upgrades to your bike and gear, maintenance, fitness and fuel.
Tires & Tubes
What???!!! You've just spent a small fortune on a buying a new Road Bike and now some guy is telling you to upgrade parts. That's crazy!
Trust me! Generally speaking even most new bikes are sold with bog-standard tubes and tires. I had more punctures in my first year of cycling than the rest (currently 9 years and counting). Investing in good tubes and tires is highly recommended to avoid a big ride blowouts. There is nothing worse!
There are plenty of options out there but I can personally recommend the Schwalbe Marathon Collection for Puncture Resistant Tires and Maxxis Tubes.
If you still have money to spend then pedals and shoes maybe the next "investment" that you might want to make. Clip-less pedals make each pedal stroke smoother and therefore more efficient and powerful. These can really help on longer rides. Being connected to the bike might feel a little daunting at first but after a few falls (Yes, it's a learning curve and all cyclists fall at first), using clip-less pedals becomes second nature. Personally, I feel confident that my feet won't slip off the pedal and come back to hit my shins.
There are plenty of clip-less pedals to choose from and it can get a little confusing at first. If you do want to start using Clip-less pedals, the Shimano SPD systems are great for starting with. If you plan to walk and cycle then the SPD (MTB) type, is recommended because you can usually find shoes that still allow you to walk with relative ease. If you plan to stay on the bike for all your rides then we recommend the SPD-SL for more support and comfort.
Inspection & Maintenance
You wouldn't go scuba-diving or skydiving without checking your equipment before you go, so why should cycling be any different. Sparing 5 minutes before each ride to check the condition of the bike could save you from getting into trouble later and end up spending a lot more time walking home.
If you are not sure what to look out for please watch the following videos:
Getting into the habit of regularly inspecting your bike and gear is a good practice to develop. You'll be able to identify issues quickly before they have time to develop into bigger problems.
Many bikes shops do offer aftercare and will happily inspect your bike routinely, so do ask more about aftercare when buying your new bike. However, it is recommended that learn a few basics maintenance skills and familiarize yourself with some basic tools, cleaners and lubricants. We've put a list below of some of our favourite and recommended products for reference.
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- Muc-Off Nano Tech
- Muc-Off Drivechain Cleaner
- Park Tool CG-2.4 Maintenance Set
- Muc-off Hydrodynamic Lube
- Muc-Off Bio Grease
- Roces Bike Stand
Remember inspecting, cleaning and maintaining your bike will help it run smoothly for longer!
Fitness & Indoor Cycling
With the number of apps and the amount of cycling tech around, it's easy to see why some cyclists love to look at their numbers to reinforce their progress. Analyzing power ratios and cadence etc, can help you set goals and learn how to ride more efficiently. For recreational beginners, this may be something to look forward to in the future but when you are just getting started, riding slightly faster and slightly further while still feeling comfortable is an easy goal to keep sight off.
When I first started cycling, I would incrementally increase my ride distances with each ride until l knew how far I could comfortably ride and then still have the ability to walk the next day. This maybe a simple gauge but it worked for me.
Erm! Well..That is until the Winter came. You see once the temperatures got a bit too cold and the Christmas/New Years Parties would come, my ride frequency became less and less. Couple this together with a period of overindulgence, my fitness levels (like most) would drop off during the winter and therefore every Springtime would have to start again with smaller rides.
That was until, I discovered indoor cycling and bought a Cycle Trainer. With an indoor set up I was now able to keep cycling all year round and my levels of fitness were less prone to the fluctuations of on-off seasons.
There are some expensive options regarding Trainers and extras but if you just want to keep the legs turning on wet and cold days then a simple and cheap set up is possible. If you want to make it more fun and enter the realms of virtual reality then signing up for a subscription with Zwift or Sufferfest is recommend.
More to come on indoor cycling in a future blog.
Nutrition & Fluids
The body is an engine and needs fuel. It's easy to forget when riding on long rides that the nearest restaurant, convenience store or even vending machine could be another 10 kilometres away. With the calories being consumed with each pedal stroke, fueling-up before and during the ride are both essential to riding longer distances.
Eating a good breakfast is the starting point for most long rides. Everyone has their own breakfast preferences so I won't dive to deeply into what and not to eat but it is good to include some fruit. The natural sugar in fruit burns slowly.
Once on the road, eating small amounts regularly helps keep energy levels topped up. There are plenty of Energy Bar and Energy Drink options that can provide the sugars (carbohydrates) and salts (electrolytes) that can keep the engine running and legs turning for longer. Here are few options for reference:
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It's also important to pay attention to season variations and elevation when preparing for your ride. You'll find yourself consuming a lot more fluids when climbing and on hotter days. For a comparison, I may only drink half a bidon of water during a 50km ride in Winter, compared to 4 to 5 bidons of water plus energy drinks on the same ride in Summer.
If you are planning to ride for the weekend or longer then you'll need to take spare clothing and some extra items. There are now so many great products for 'bikepacking' and touring nowadays. We personally love the quality and reliability of the Ortlieb Products. Their Pannier systems are perfect for those riding on longer tours and have served us and our clients well.
One 20 litre pannier would be more enough for a long weekend of cycling but you might prefer something more balanced and refined, or just don't need that much capacity. At 11L The Ortlieb Seat Pack is perfect for the one-night weekend getaway. This spacious, water-resistant Seat-Pack keeps its contents (e.g. your extra set of clothes for the next day) dry and safe.
Are you prepared for to ride further?
We hope the above gives those new to cycling a little bit of direction on how to prepare for riding further and cover more distance. We are not looking at power and performance so much but rather a 'things to consider' as you continue your journey of being a cyclist. Making sure your bike is running smoothly and looking after yourself during the off season, will help keep you in the saddle for longer on your cycling adventures. We hope it helps and feel free to share your cycling adventures with us on social media! Safe cycling all!
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