Thursday, September 27, 2012

Things A Beginning Cyclist Should Know/Do

Yesterday I took a neophyte triathlete friend of mine for a ride. She's still very new to the sport, having only completed one super sprint so far (but she won her age group!). She's so new to cycling, in fact, that she is still in that New Scared Rider Stage. It's the same stage that six mile seems like a long ride, that hill at the end of your street is a granny gear mountain, and you're super uncomfortable trying to fix anything on your bike because who knows how you're going to break it. And she did great. Her tires were much too under-inflated so we took care of that with help from Diesel. Her seat post bracket was broken so we rode to a nearby bike shop and replaced it, knees hitting her in the chest the whole time, but she's so new she didn't realize how bad that was and how much harder she was making it on herself. But we rode probably eight or nine miles all told just around her neighborhood and she was fine. No complaining, game for different routes, and, most important, she listened to me babble at her.
It all got me thinking about a List Of Things New Cyclists Should Know/Do. I'm not the first one to come up with a list like this, but I want my swing.

Things A Beginning Cyclist Should Know/Do
  • Get Lost- Ride somewhere you've never been, or somewhere you think you know where you're going but you aren't sure. Explore. There is an element of childhood to riding a bicycle and before you had a car this was your means of exploration. Rediscover that. 
  • Fix a flat- On the road, mid-ride. It's going to happen. You're going to have to do it. Might as well get it out of the way.
  • Fix that same tire five minutes later because you didn't do everything quite right the first time- Welcome to the Most Frustrating Thing About Cycling. The learning curve on flat fixing can be brutally steep. You will miss something and that tire if going to go flat again. I don't care how many YouTube videos you watched. Failure is learning. Welcome to class.
  • Weeeeee!!!- Going downhill is fun. Enjoy it. Say, "Weeeeeee!"
  • Visit every local bike shop then make a list of best to worst by customer service- You are going to be close with these people, you might as well find the friendly ones. And Amazon is great when you don't need stuff in a hurry but when the race is tomorrow and you just discovered your tire is flat or you're out of air canisters these will be your saviors. Be cool to them and find the ones that are cool to you.
  • Make friends- Talk about riding. Be That Guy. Talk, tweet, blog, text, and find forums online. Make friends who also enjoy cycling. They are all over the place and will be fonts of information and motivation. Plus, it is safer to ride in a group.
  • Little Hills/Big Hills- There are hills in your neighborhood that look like mountains. That suuuuuck to climb. That have oh the hurtiness qualities. Attack them. Ride them. Graduate to bigger hills. Then, in six months, go back to that first brutal hill and zip up it thinking, "What the hell was so bad about that?"
  • Don't apologise for being new- Everyone was new once. Even Lance sucked for a little while (insert doping joke here). Ride in a group and try to keep up. If they are cool then they won't complain, or they'll drop you then wait. Everyone remembers their struggles at the start. Ride, don't complain, and try.
  • Adjust your own bike, do it wrong, then troubleshoot fixing it- It feels so good to buy a book or look online and get in there and make adjustments. Your instincts and this book say your seat should be higher? Raise it. Don't tighten it down enough accidentally. Slip down while riding. Fix it again, better this time. 
  • Let your insecurities about your adjustments get the best of you and take the bike in anyway- Make the adjustments, feel right but weird, talk yourself into being positive you did something wrong and a horrible tragedy is waiting around the next pedal stroke, take the bike in to the shop, and watch them make miniscule adjustments. A proper bike fit changes your life, but you won't know it until you feel it.
  • Fall over unclipping- We all have done it. You'll do it too. Forget to unclip, do the slow unstoppable fall to one side, get up, glance around like you meant to do that, and move on.
  • Find chain grease on a random part of your body after your shower- "What the? How did I get grease on my elbow? And I swear I scrubbed it off my calf. chain isn't even on that side of my bike!"
  • Conquer a small mechanical problem while out on a ride using only a multi-tool- Your seat slips. An aerobar loosens. Your chain gains sentience and tries to make a break for it. Bust out that multi-tool in your pocket or seat bag and fix it right there on the side of the road. Leave your helmet on, don't trust cars, then get back out there.
  • Keep a small version of your stuff with you- George Carlin did a routine about Stuff. Here. NSFW because duh, Carlin.

 You need a small Bike Version of your Stuff. Money, ID, cell phone. So you can buy a snack, a drink, or an emergency supply. So people know who you are. So you can call for help when you blow your second spare tube. Zip Lock baggie, back pocket, bam ready to go. 
  • Ride somewhere pretty- No matter where you live there is somewhere pretty you can ride to. Find it, ride there, take cell phone pictures and text them to your friends who slept in with snarky, superior messages about how awesome you are and how cool where you are is.
  • Have fun- Of course! This should be fun. Like I mentioned right at the start, you are basically using a grown-up version of a child's toy. Sometimes you need to stop and remember that.