If I hadn’t had a Dad that was very into cycling to help me, I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start! What bike do you buy? How do you change a tyre? What does Ultegra mean and why do I want it? – All very reasonable questions to be asking if you aren’t a cyclist.
I would LOVE for more women to get into cycling! Sure, you could spend your time working on big glutes in a cute Lorna Jane outfit over spending 4 hours on a bike with saddle sores in very unattractive lycra and Oakley glasses – but trust me, the cycling life is worth it!
So first of all you need a road bike, and which one you get is all dependent on your budget! If you are just starting out, don’t worry about spending a fortune! Go into your local bike shop and try a few on for size – my first bike was Planet X and I would definitely recommend the brand, as it was great value for money, the best choice would be one with dropped handlebars which help you to get into a lower and more aero position, which makes you faster! The more into it you get you can start looking into more expensive ones, opting for a carbon frame to make it that little bit lighter, but for now, just as long as it fits and feels right is enough. The more you spend the first thing that improves is the groupset – which means more gears to choose from and a smoother shifting, which is what Ultegra is if you were still wondering from the first paragraph, it’s a type of groupset!
Most importantly you need a helmet! Secondly, you need some proper ‘biking shoes’ as in the kind that clip onto your pedals. This can be the really daunting bit for people, but I assure you, speaking as the most clumsy person in the world who still manages to stay on her bike in them (most of the time anyway), you will get the hang of them! On this note, for your first time using cleats (clip in’s) I would literally just ride up and down your street practicing clipping in and clipping out so you get your confidence up! It’s also important to invest in some padded shorts (your bum will thank you for it), a jersey, gloves and ideally a jacket. If you are manning it through the winter then it starts to get a bit more expensive and you will need shoe covers, wind/rain jackets, snoods, base layers, etc.
Unfortunately you also need to learn some basic bike mechanics such as changing a puncture. I mean, you can get by for quite some time (tried and tested) by relying on your cycling group to help (and by help, I mean do the whole thing while you don’t even pretend to watch and learn), but eventually you will find yourself alone with a flattie, no idea what to do and a long walk home or an expensive taxi ride!
So start by getting the right tools – a set of tyre leavers to get the tyre off the rim (easier said then done), a puncture repair kit or a new inner tube entirely – which is easier in my opinion. Practice makes perfect on this one so either ask someone to demonstrate or watch some videos on YouTube before attempting it yourself. I would buy a saddle bag to fit on the back/underneath of your seat to keep all this stuff in.
Join a club or find someone to cycle with. Cycling is so popular now I can guarantee you will find people to go on a few rides with. Going in a group is way more enjoyable, plus they will know some better routes for you to try! Going out alone when you have no clue about cycling could really put you off the sport – so get joining groups on Facebook and find some lycra buddies. Getting routes can also be made much easier (and more expensive) by investing in a Garmin. These little gadgets attach to the front of your bike and work like a sat nav, also tracking your speed, distance etc.
So all that’s left is to actually get out there and enjoy the ride!