Spring is officially here! After that brutal winter, there is no better way to get outside and enjoy the weather more than cycling. Running is great, but your body starts aching after a couple of miles. Walking is also nice, but just too slow. Cycling is an adrenaline-filled, low-impact, great way to get exercise. And doing it with a group of buddies is even better. If you've already convinced yourself (and that group of friends) that you want to start, here are 10 tips that may help you get going:
1. Start practicing in a safe place.
I would begin in a neighborhood, park, or parking lot. If you are a first-time user of clip-in pedals, you really need to practice getting in and out of them a lot. I would not recommend joining a group until you are comfortable on your bike. My first group ride, I tipped over at a red light and almost knocked over an older guy (this is one of the most embarrassing feelings ever — not painful, just embarrassing). If you are not comfortable with clip-in pedals, you may want to start without them and get used to shifting and breaking.
2. Always wear a helmet.
This may seem elementary, but I'm shocked by the number of cyclists who think they're too cool to wear a helmet.
3. Always carry your I.D., insurance, phone, and some cash on you.
I suggest keeping it all in a plastic bag in case it starts to rain.
4. No headphones!
You need to be able to hear traffic and pedestrians.
5. Communicate with bikers around you.
If you are passing a biker, tell them that you are coming. If there is a pothole in the ground, point it out for the cyclists behind you. If you're stopping, say so out loud.
6. Always hold your line.
This means don't jerk left or right when you're on the bike. Too many people (at least in Central Park) make sudden turns without looking. This is extremely dangerous for bikers who may be passing and don't expect a biker in front of them to cut them off.
7. Practice drafting.
Non-cyclists don't quite appreciate how helpful drafting is. To practice this, get a buddy and practice staying right behind them as they ride at a steady pace (around 1-3 feet off their back wheel). Change places and feel the difference between the amount of energy you're saving when you're in the back.
8. Don't cross your front wheel with the biker's rear wheel in front of you.
This is a safety precaution just in case the biker in front of you doesn't follow rule 6. If you don't follow this rule, and his back tire hits your front tire, you're the one crashing. He is staying upright.
9. Don't get frustrated with your "bottom" hurting.
You will feel some discomfort the first couple of times you bike. This pain will decrease the more you ride. Don't get discouraged.
10. Always Strava your ride.
Strava is a smartphone app that tracks your rides and compares you to friends.
And don't forget:
1. Bike. Make sure the bike fits you well. Don't get a bike that is too big or too small just because it's a good deal on Craigslist.
7. Hand Pump/CO2 canister
8. Floor Pump
9. Extra Tube
10. Tire levers
11. Tire Patch Kit
12. Sports Sun Glasses
13. Water Bottles
14. Gel Packs