New to cycling, or back in the saddle: Our guide
The Eco Bike Co. team features a mix of cyclists. From commuters and cruisers to off-road trail chasers, we have a real blend here at HQ.
What links us all though, is at one stage or another we were all new to cycling – and in the past 12 months, a handful of us have just got back in the saddle.
One of the very few upsides of the past year has been the renewed enthusiasm for cycling in the UK.
A better understanding of the links between exercise and mental and physical wellbeing, greater environmental awareness – and simply the need for an excuse to leave the house once a day (!) saw many people digging out old bikes or looking to make a two-wheeled purchase.
If you haven’t been out on your bike in a while, or if you’re new to it entirely, our team have a few tips to get you started.
It’s not a race! Be sure to ease into it
It’s pretty well proven (certainly in the case of this author!), building fitness takes time while losing it is lightning-fast.
If you’re getting back in the saddle, don’t expect to pick up where you left off. Those hills you used to cruise up? You might want to factor in a stop. The half-hour commute? Perhaps call it 45 minutes.
That said, many of our customers at Eco Bike Co. are returning cyclists. Power assist will offset some loss in fitness and put less strain on your legs to build your confidence back.
An electric bike can be the perfect solution to getting back into the saddle while feeling reassured you can go the distance. Some of our bestsellers for returning cyclists are featured here.
For new cyclists, do not overdo it at first. Set yourself manageable targets in terms of distances and choose routes where you know you can safely stop to rest and rehydrate.
Beginners should focus on feeling stable and confident in the saddle, rather than prioritising speed or distance. There’s no rush: unlike higher-impact sports (such as running), cyclists can enjoy riding well into old age – you have plenty of time to build up your cycling stamina.
Prepare properly: The importance of pre-ride routines
Whether we’re popping to the shop, or planning a day out on Box Hill, there are pre-ride routines that we all take at Eco Bike Co.
Checking tyres is an absolute must. A flat tyre is not only dangerous to the rider, due to lack of control, but can result in wheel damage.
If you’re planning to get out on your bike regularly, it’s worth learning to deal with a puncture. Like buses, you may not see one for ages, but then several occur in one ride.
A puncture repair kit, pump and spare inner tube should be part of any cyclist’s kit (particularly if you’re planning on getting some miles under your belt).
Check your saddle height. Does it feel right? Every so often your saddle will require adjusting. Likewise, give your brakes a squeeze. Should they be tightened?
If you’re pretty handy with a spanner, basic bike maintenance should hold no fears. However, if you’re at all unsure (and certainly if you haven’t ridden your bike for a significant period of time) get it booked in for a service with a local bike shop so you can ride with confidence.
Lights, helmets, and other accessories should also be part of your return-to-cycling audit and pre-ride prep. There’s no substitute for safety.
As mentioned, you shouldn’t be pushing for long distance rides too soon. But as your distances gradually increase, make sure to pack a snack, drink, and let someone know your route. Energy levels and hydration are key to maintaining performance – while sharing your route means friends and family can feel reassured about your location.
Part of the preparation process is knowing the rules of the road. Most bike rides, even in the countryside, require a portion of road cycling. Be familiar with the highway code and be conscious of your road positioning. For some more detailed information on this, check out the British Cycling website.
Looking for motivation? Ride with friends or set a goal
The cycling community is particularly social. Wherever you’re based in the UK, it’s unlikely you’re too far from a cycling club.
These groups are not only a great way to socialise but brilliant for discovering cycling routes in your local area. Often, groups will be divided by ability or take on different routes, meaning you don’t have to over-exert yourself – crucial if you’re just getting started.
If you’re looking for something more informal, why not get in touch with cycling friends, or encourage someone to take up the sport with you?
A buddy can help motivate you to keep cycling your commute as the colder months draw in. Equally, there are few better feelings than cycling to the top of a hill in the countryside and taking in the view with a friend.
Goal setting is another tried-and-tested way of motivating oneself. We’re not suggesting as a new cyclist you should be eyeing up the London-to-Brighton ride, but perhaps aim to build up from fifteen minutes with no stops to half an hour. Your goals should be specific to your level – and if you’re at all unsure about what’s right for your health and fitness, consult your GP or specialist practitioner.
Aftercare: Looking after yourself and your bike
Hopefully, you’ve taken our advice and not overdone your first ride. But even if you are feeling a little worn out, it is still worth taking some time for some post-ride bike maintenance.
Your bike can pick up a surprising quantity of unwanted substances (mud, water, oil) on a ride and if ignored can impact your bike’s performance.
Water and dish soap should do the trick to get it looking spic-and-span.
Don’t neglect the wheels and brakes, and once you’ve finished, be sure to dry off any steel components.
And what about looking after yourself?
Taking up a new form of exercise, or getting back into it, can leave you feeling stiff and sore. Be mindful when planning activities for after your first cycle. Assuming you have taken it steady, you should be okay, but nevertheless, try to factor in some rest time.
It’s also worth completing a few simple stretches to reduce recovery time and help prevent future injuries. The guys at Cyclist magazine have picked out five to start with.
New to cycling, or back in the saddle: We can help
The above provides a general overview of getting into cycling. However, if you have more specific questions about taking up cycling – and, how an e-bike could help you with this – don’t hesitate to get in touch.
We’re always happy to answer any questions and queries that you might have.
Happy (safe and steady!) cycling.