Unsolicited Advice on Becoming a Cyclist

So you want to be a cyclist? Awesome. Go buy a bike. Ride it. Congratulations, you’ve done it. You can read more, but, the number one rule? You’re going to ride around in spandex; don’t take yourself too seriously.

Go visit your local bike shop. Don’t go to a department store, sporting goods store or god forbid- the internet. There’s a reason your local bike shop is there and unless it’s a fly by night operation selling stolen beach cruisers, chances are they have years and years of experience getting people on the proper equipment. Sure that $12,000 bike marked down to $2000 online looks like a great buy but unless you plan on riding the Tour next year or have a team of mechanics on standby it’s probably not the right bike for you, let alone the correct size.

Go visit a shop and get fit. Test ride bikes…several of them. Find one you like. Ride a cheaper and more expensive one and see if you notice enough difference to justify spending more or saving a few dollars. Don’t try to haggle. The guys at the shop aren’t getting rich off of you. Color does matter; you’ll put in less time on the saddle if you hate the way your bike looks. That’s a fact. Tell the staff your budget and what kind of riding you plan on doing. Unless you live in British Colombia you probably don’t need a 6″ travel bike, it may look flashy and cool but if you’re local trails are mostly hilly fire roads you’re going to seriously regret your decision.

Ok, so now it’s time to get serious about cycling. You’ve gotten your bike. You’ve ridden it every day and you’re addicted to the sport. You’ve stopped spending time with your non-riding friends, dishes are piling up in the sink, you’ve got grease stains on the back of your calves, and when you’re wife asks you where you want to eat dinner on Saturday you spontaneously blurt out the name of the trail you’ve been meaning to check out. Congrats. You’re hooked. Go find some other people to ride with. Remember that local shop you bought your bike from? Chances are they have group rides, can connect you with other riders, or will point you towards local clubs.

To Strava or not to Strava? This is a very hotly contested subject. Some riders think it’s the best invention since the wheel and others will tell you that it’s ruined the sport. Personally I find it gets me riding more. I use it to find other riders in the area, explore new routes, and use the segments for interval training. Whatever your decision be warned that it’s addictive and don’t be the douche that speeds by an downed rider because you’re on the way to getting that KOM you’ve been working on for months.

Lycra? Absolutely if you’re on the road, but, you can go either way on the mountain. Some people are baggy people other’s aren’t. I’m not a baggy person. If you do go baggy try to find shorts with a built in liner. Never wear street clothes for any significant ride unless you want your ass to look like the face of an acne riddled 15 year old, or you can carry a 12 pack of PBR in one hand while steering with the other. Saddle sores are very real and they hurt. Bike clothes manage moisture and while moisture is the essence of wetness, it’s also the essence of blisters. If you’re riding and racing cross country you should opt for lycra. Or not. Why are you still reading? Stay away from sleeveless jerseys; they’re just weird.

Shaved legs?  It seems like these days hairy is the new smooth. If you’re a roadie it’s pretty much a requirement with your USAC license. If you have the Charles Manson look going on and ride with a flask in your bottle holder then you can do whatever you want, no one will ever question your decisions. You operate on a different level, congratulations you get a free pass. Stab.  The dirt is a free for all. Mountain bikers aren’t a judgmental breed. Word of warning: once you start it’s hard to stop. I have a friend who waxes monthly. Do that if you can afford it. I like the Dollar Shave Club since I have a lot of surface area to groom. Personally once I felt the silky smooth feeling of a freshly shaved pair of legs there was no going back. Sure it’s little creepy the first few dozen times and you’ll spill some blood but man does it feel nice when you rub your legs together…and oh those bed sheets are a whole new kind of smooth.

road rash

This is why we shave our legs. This gravel courtesy of the Belgian Waffle Ride

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