Planning for your first bike ride!
How to plan for your very first road bike ride
1. Be realistic for your initial ride
Just how fit are you? Can you run down the street without breaking a sweat or does a single flight of stairs leave you panting and out of breath? We’d suggest keeping your first outing short and sweet, and enjoyable.
If you’re moderately active already, make your first ride approximately 15 -18 miles long and aim to complete it in an hour to an hour and half. If you’re less confident about your fitness, try to plan a route with a stop or a loop back to your point of origin (car, starting point, house, etc) at five miles which gives you the option of adding additional distance if you’re feeling good or just head home if you’re not.
2. Wear the right clothing
If you plan to do a lot of cycling, there’s really no substitute for a proper pair of padded Lycra shorts. Bib shorts are best because there’s no waist elastic to cut into your stomach, but most high quality cycling shorts are better than none wearing none at all.
Shorts should be tight fitting, as loose material will bunch and chafe, causing additional soreness, and an unpleasant first ride. Also wearing underwear is an absolute no-no. You don’t want to be adding extra seams that could chafe your most delicate body parts.
If you’re not comfortable in skin-tight clothing, there’s nothing to stop you from wearing a pair of comfy shorts or leggings as well, just make sure that they are over your cycling shorts and not underneath them!
A cycling jersey is ideal for your upper half, but hardly essential for your first rides. If you do not have one, a close-fitting T-shirt is fine, or a heavier sweatshirt for cooler weather conditions.
Just remember that you will be generating a lot of heat when you’re pedalling away, so dress lighter than you would normally. A good rule of thumb is that if you feel slightly cold when you first step out of your house, you should be comfortable once you get going.
If you haven’t bought all your kit yet, come back in to BG Bicycles, and learn the differences in the materials, chamois, length, and fit!
3. Bring the right kit/gear
You shouldn’t need to carry out an extensive roadside repair on your first ride into your new cycling world, but you will want to carry the basics for a flat/puncture repair. BG Bicycles recommends, you a spare inner tube (correct size), a set of tire levers, and CO2 Kit.
You should also pack a basic multi-tool in case you need one. We have several multi-tools ranging from a simple unit all the way to a space saving ratchet multi-tool!
We don’t recommend going on your first ride at night, but if it’s anything other than a nice, bright day, and always use both your front and rear lights from BG Bicycles, in order to make yourself nice and visible to other road users.
It’s also worth packing a lightweight jacket or gilet if there’s even the slightest chance of rain, and a little cash or a debit card for emergencies. If you are riding by yourself, let someone know your route, distance, and when you are leaving as well as your anticipated return. In this set of circumstances, have your phone in your saddle bag or jersey pocket for emergencies.
4. Plan out your route
As we’ve said, keep it short to begin with, and aim to ride on roads with no big hills and minimal traffic. If that’s not possible where you live, consider driving somewhere which is more suitable.
You’ll enjoy yourself much more if you can focus on riding your new bike rather than dodging cars, especially in the first few miles of your new hobby.
5. Prepare your bike (before every ride)
BG Bicycles, your bike shop will have sorted out the essentials for you, but there are some basic things which you can easily check yourself.
Your saddle should be at a height where you can pedal freely, and you should have just a slight bend in your knee when the pedal is at its lowest point. If you can place both feet flat on the ground while seated on the saddle, then it’s far too low and you will develop a pain in your knees.
Your tires need to be properly pumped up before every ride, and this is best carried out with a floor pump with a gauge. The correct pressure varies depending on your weight and the exact size of the tires. The knowledgable LBS staff will inform you of the pressure to run in your tires, in the event you forget, don't worry. On the side of your tire, there will be a minimum and maximum recommended pressure. Plump close to the maximum, and voila!
Lighter riders can go lower, heavier riders should go higher. As you gain experience, you may want to experiment with higher or lower pressures to fine tune your ride.
Before hitting the road, take some time to familiarize yourself with your new bike, making sure you can comfortably operate both the gears and brakes. If your bike is fitted with clipless pedals, practice clipping in and out, just as you did on the trainer at BG Bicycles before you left the shop.
It’s a good idea to always unclip one foot a few seconds before you come to a halt. That way you’re much less likely to forget and tip over awkwardly at a standstill.
Try shifting through the gears, but avoid the easiest two at the back when you’re in the bigger chainring at the front, and the hardest two at the back when you’re in the little ring. These gear combinations force the chain to work at an extreme angle, referred to as cross chaining, which puts unnecessary strain, wear and tear on your drivetrain.
Don’t operate both shifters at once. It’ll make everything work a bit more smoothly and it reduces the chances of an accidental chain drop.
You should be able to ride comfortably with your hands on the brake hoods for prolonged periods, and from there you need to be able to shift both front and rear gears, depending upon elevation, wind, etc.
The drops can be used when you want to go really fast, descending or a change of position. It’s important that you can brake safely from either the hoods or the drops, so try both out and make sure you’re comfortable transitioning from one to the other. Do this one hand at a time so that you never completely let go of the bars.
6. Prepare yourself
You likely won’t need to eat much on a ride this long, but it’s best to get in the habit of carrying a bit of food with you, gel, waffle, chews, proper hydration.
You should also bring at least one bottle in your bottle cage, and try to take a sip every 20 minutes or so, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
The rest is up to you, so saddle up, have fun and be safe out there!