Not only does it increase your fitness, flexibility, strength, and joint mobility, but it can also improve your posture and strengthen your bones. It’s an excellent fat-buster, particularly around the stomach, and even reduces your risk of disease. It’s also good for your mental health. Cycling has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression and stress. Last but not least, it works all of your major muscle groups, is low-impact, and most importantly, loads of fun.
What Do You Need to Start Cycling?
No prizes for this one, but obviously the first thing you need is a bike. However, you need to be a bit savvy about what bike to buy. Consider how you’re going to be using your bike before you purchase one, as there are different types and they make all the difference. These are the main types of bike you need to know:
For those new to cycling, we’ll run you though what each bike is best suited to.
If you plan to cycle only on the roads then the obvious choice is a road bike. These have little suspension, slick tyres and are normally very lightweight. They are the quickest type of bike you can get, and you’ll be surprised and how much pace you can pick up on them.
A mountain bike is designed to be ridden off road. They’ll have plenty of suspension, thick tyres with excellent grip, and weigh much more than a road bike. They’re far more robust and will make light work of rough terrain. If you become quite proficient at off-road cycling, you may become interested in a downhill bike in your leisure time. These are mountain bikes designed to be ridden down steep, rocky paths. For the majority of off-road commutes a hardtail mountain bike will be sufficient.
A hybrid bicycle is a combination of the previous two bike types. It’s also a good bike for beginners. It gives you scope to try out different and varied cycling routes and enjoy the best of both worlds. The world is your oyster on a comfortable yet nippy hybrid bike.
A cruiser (or town bike) is well-suited to urban areas. They’re designed to be ridden on the road but they’re nowhere near as fast as a road bike. If you’re not cycling for sport and simply looking to save money on transport or start doing more exercise, a cruiser is a fantastic way to get around a city; especially if you live in a flat area. The number of cruisers in Amsterdam is testament to that.
Touring bikes are for those that want to undertake big distances. They’re similar to road bikes but are designed to be more robust and take heavy loads for those going on long journeys.
The folding bicycle is another urban winner. They can be taken on and off public transport easily and are an ideal for those with multiple legs in their commute. Some people choose to get two bikes on the scheme, when they do this we often find that one bike is a hybrid for the normal workplace commute and the other is a folder for trips to the city.
Finally, e-bikes! These modern wonders of innovation are all the rage on the continent where 50% of bikes sales now include a small battery and an electric motor. E-bikes, often referred to as power-assisted bikes, are for all intents and purposes normal bikes that offer the rider an extra boost when desired. This means hills are no problem and arriving at work sweat free is a cinch.
Once you’ve purchased your bike, you’ll need to get your hands on a number of accessories.
First and foremost, you need some protection. A helmet is absolutely essential, especially if you plan to cycle on roads. Wearing a helmet can truly be the difference between an injury and a fatality.
Next up, you need some repair equipment and tools. The most common technical fault you will encounter with a bike is a puncture. The good news is that they’re cheap and easy to fix. Carry round one or two extra inner tubes with you wherever you go, as well as an Allen key and a portable pump. It’s also a very good idea to teach yourself how to replace an inner tube (it’s much easier than it sounds).
The only other essentials are hi-vis clothing, and lights – especially in winter. When it starts getting dark before 5pm, there’s a good chance you’ll be riding in the pitch-black. If this is the case, bike lights are absolutely essential. You’ll need a red light to attach to the rear of your bike and white lights for the front.
There’s a number of other bike accessories that aren’t essential but will make a big difference to how much you enjoy riding.
First up are padded cycling shorts. These are much more effective than padded saddles that will significantly reduce saddle-soreness – a common problem for regular cyclists. Professional cyclists have pulled out of events like the Tour de France because of saddle-soreness and when you’ve just started getting into cycling, it can be uncomfortable.
A water bottle and holder are always useful, particularly for long rides, and if your bike requires you to clip into the pedals, you’ll need cycling shoes. Finally, using an app like STRAVA can track your distance, time and speed. Seeing how fast you’re going is a great motivator to push harder, and timing yourself is a really good way to keep things interesting. If you cycle regularly, beating your personal best is really satisfying.
Cycling Training Plan for Beginners
The best thing you can do when starting out cycling is to ease yourself in. We’ve put together this 8-week plan that can take you from novice to intermediate with ease, culminating in a 10-mile ride. In our plan, you will cycle 3 days of the week with every Sunday being the longest ride, so as to avoid conflicting with work (unless you work weekends, of course).
Before you begin, select which days are best for you to cycle (ideally Sunday will be one of them) and you will alternate days. We recommend Tuesdays, Thursdays and of course, Sundays. Feel free to expand on the times if you feel you can. This plan is aimed at complete beginners. If you feel you can cycle for longer, go ahead, just keep the times relative to each other on the plan.
- The first two weeks are about getting to grips with cycling, so start off with a couple of 10 minute cycles on the first two outings, finishing with a 20 minute cycle on the Sunday.
- Repeat Week 1.
- Cycle for 15 to 20 minutes for your first two allocated cycle days. Cycle for 30 minutes on the Sunday.
- For this week, we’re going to remove one of the days, and cycle for longer on the remaining two days. We would recommend cycling for 25 minutes on the Wednesday, and 35 minutes on the Sunday.
- Back to three times a week again. Cycle for 30 minutes on your first two days, with a 45 minute cycle on the Sunday.
- Repeat Week 5.
- Cycle for 30 minutes on your first day, reduce it to 20 for your second, and finish the week with a 60 minute cycle on the Sunday.
- For the final week, you’re going to add an extra day of cycling. Ride for 45 minutes on your first day. Cycle for an hour on your second day, and follow that with a 20 minute ride the very next day (Friday, if you’re using our recommended dates). For your last cycle of the plan, ride for 10 miles.
And there you have it. With this plan, you’ll go from total beginner to completing a 10-mile bike ride with ease in eight short weeks. The route you pick is up to you. For complete beginners, we recommend sticking to a relatively flat route. If you want to challenge yourself, choose a route with some hills.
Alternatively, if you don’t live too far from your place of work and you’re getting into cycling to save cash on your commute, you can apply this plan to it.
If it’s only a short distance you’re covering, cycle into work one or two days a week and gradually increase this until you’re cycling in every day. You’ll still be enjoying loads of the benefits of cycling, including saving money, increasing your fitness, and reducing your carbon footprint.
To give you an idea of distances and speed, the average cycling speed for a beginner is about 12mph. This means that in your first week, you’ll be covering distances of up to 2 miles. After eight weeks, the 10-mile ride shouldn’t feel daunting at all.
Cycling Tips for Beginners
There are a few things that aren’t immediately obvious for cycling novices, so here are a few top tips to note before you get started:
- Keep your tyres pumped up. This will make cycling easier and reduce your chances of getting a puncture.
- As mentioned before, keeping a puncture repair kit (inner tube, Allen key, tyre levers and pump) on you at all times is highly recommended.
- Invest in some eyewear. They will protect your eyes from bugs, rain, stones and glare. You’ll be surprised at how many bugs will get in your eyes if you don’t protect them.
- Buy, and use, mudguards - especially when cycling to work.
- For long bike rides, make sure you keep yourself fuelled and hydrated. Energy bars, bits of cake, sweets, and bananas - these are all great sources of energy for long rides and will serve you well.
Road Cycling Tips for Beginners
When it comes to road cycling, there are a few more things to consider, and tips you’ll find useful.
- If you’re going to get into road cycling, it’s imperative that you wear a helmet. You’ll clock much faster speeds than on most other types of bike and you’ll be sharing the road with vehicles. Over half of all cycling fatalities are due to head injuries so always, always wear a helmet.
- Ensure you’ve chosen the right riding position. It’ll make a big difference to how comfortable you are and consequently, how long you can ride for.
- If you’re using clip pedals, try to get into the habit of unclipping early and with the same foot first every time. Clip pedals will increase your power and speed; they just take some getting used to.
- If cycling in a group, learn how to ride as a group. You’ll use your energy more efficiently and as a result can go on longer, faster rides. The social aspect will also motivate you to cycle more often.
- When taking corners, always put your outside pedal in the lowest position and apply downward pressure. This will help your bike grip the road.
You can read more about cycling safely on roads in our article on road positioning.
Cycling is a fantastic, fun way to stay healthy. Choosing to cycle to work can save you money, will increase your fitness, and reduce your impact on the environment. Hopefully, this article has given you everything you need to pick up a new hobby and start cycling. If you’re interested in starting cycling, you can get great deals and reduced prices on bicycles and accessories through our salary sacrifice scheme.
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