Tips for Beginners
If you haven't cycled much (or much lately), you have to begin somewhere. How about riding around your block or commuting to work? Build up to higher speeds and longer mileage, but ride regularly. Time in the saddle is important. Even five minutes a day can start to prepare you.
Participate in the organized training rides. Ask the ride leader or other experienced cyclists questions that you may have. There are no stupid questions! Be aware that opinions vary on most cycling topics, so ask a few people for input. And be sure to ride hills, even in your early rides - they will help your legs get stronger.
Tip: The most inexpensive cue sheet holder we've seen is a simple clothespin. It works! At the beginning of each ride, you will be given a cue sheet that lists all roads, turns and mileages. Don't get into the habit of simply following other riders. Instead, learn how to read these sheets – riders who do not use cue sheets get lost! If you are following one of these riders (and you won't know it if you are!) then you may also get lost.
Follow the road names on the cue sheet and watch for signs. Keep in mind that listed mileages are approximate. If you wish to strike out on your own, you can find ride routes posted in the internet or you can purchase books that are compilations of cue sheets for area rides. In addition, the ACT website has cue sheets available to download for our most popular training rides.
Most of all, have fun! Make friends that ride the same speed as you do. Exchange phone numbers so you can meet up on other training rides. Having fun on the training rides will mean a more enriching riding experience, both while training and on the Ride.
Here's some information that will help you avoid problems that may come up due to limited knowledge or not paying attention to details. Use this page to add to your biking knowledge or refresh your memory at the beginning of a new biking season.
- Use Butt Balm! What's that, you ask? Any of several brands of body lubricant -- applied directly to your privates or the inside of your bike shorts before and during a ride, to help prevent chaffing. Pick one and test it out on training rides. Ask other riders for suggestions and favorites. Apply a light coating at first - you may need to reapply during longer rides.
- Many problems that cyclists encounter result from poor bike fit. If possible have your bike personally fit at Machinery Row Bicycles.
- Sore butt: Saddle sores are caused by friction, not by pressure, so getting a gel seat is not usually going to help this problem. In fact, it makes it worse. Butt balm is something you will become very familiar with. Also, wear good cycling shorts with a sewn-in pad.
- Knee problems: Spinning at a higher cadence will take some pressure off your knees. Your minimum cadence revolution should be sixty, and your average should be about eighty.
- Back and/or neck pain: Develop your abdominal muscles to stabilize riding position and balance strong low-back muscles. While you ride, stretch your neck by moving your head from side to side occasionally.
- Sunburn: A sunburn on Saturday can prevent you from riding on Sunday. Always use a sweat-proof sun block with a high sun protection factor (SPF 30 or more). Don't forget your neck and the top of your ears, and reapply often.
- Finger and wrist pain or numbness: Hand pain is usually caused by one of two factors: either a saddle that slopes downward at the nose and pushes your weight forward onto your hands, or an excessive reach to the handlebars which results in the same thing. Besides correcting these problems, varying your wrist position is also important to reducing pain.
- Headaches: Post-ride headaches could be caused by a number of things: dehydration, high temperatures and very bright sunshine.
- Dehydration: You should be drinking at least one bottle of water per hour and urinating at least that often.
- Squinting: Buy good sunglasses; your eyes are worth it.
Tip: Don't wear underwear with cycling shorts. The seams will irritate your skin.
Continue to ride, weather permitting. Ride at a slower speed and work on riding skills. When it's cold, don't stop for more than a few minutes. Ride to stay warm.
Cold hands? Take one hand off the bar and snap it out to the side. This will quickly force more blood into the hand. Also, make sure your gloves are not too tight since this might decrease your circulation when your hands are gripping the brake levers. Feet numb from the cold? Walk or run one minute for every twenty on the bike. Can't seem to get your body's core warm? Wear a vest or fill an insulated bottle with coffee or hot chocolate instead of just water.
Wear several layers of clothing and two or three pairs of socks. Toe or shoe covers, made of neoprene, can help keep your feet warm. Be sure not to overdress as you will sweat and get cold. Remove layers of clothing as you warm from the exercise. Winter riding isn't for everyone, but give it a try, and you might be surprised by how much you enjoy it!