Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Ten Tips for New Road Cyclists

On Saturday last week, I rode fifty or so miles (small part of one leg) with a group that are riding from Blackpool tower to The Eiffel Tower to fundraise for an extremely worthy cause, please visit their fundraising website and track their progress here.

Whilst riding with them, I was able to pass on some hints and tips of things I've learned over the past year or so, here are some of them (in no particular order).

  1. When approaching a junction, make sure you are in the right gear to accelerate off. Don't coast up and leave it in a hard gear. This means you get your pedal round quickly to clip in and you have the acceleration to make gaps. If you have a big gear engaged, you won't be away quick enough.
  2. Don't drink when going down a hill. Descending is very technical and you need all your reactions to control the bike and - more importantly - keep your hands on the levers.
  3. When going up a hill, don't grind a big gear. Some people can, big respect to them. The general idea is to keep your heart rate in a controllable zone so you don't blow up. It's better to spin an easier gear which you can sustain for a longer period.
  4. When going up a hill, keep as cool as possible. Unzip your jacket, peel off those layers and let the heat escape. You'll quickly start generating heat as you really push those pedals and the hotter you are, the harder it gets.
  5. Stay as close as you can to the person in front of you (their back wheel). It gives you enormous benefits in saving energy, around 25% if you get it right. If you drift off someone's wheel, try and get back there, all experienced cyclists always ride tight to conserve energy.
  6. Check your tyre pressures regularly. It's amazing how much extra speed you can generate when your tyres are at full pressure. You can conserve precious energy by this simple regular check. You can find the optimum pressures on your tyre sidewall.
  7. Get a heart rate and cadence counter. One of the best things I ever did in understanding performance on the bike. Speed = Gears + Effort + Cadence.
  8. If you've recently purchased a bike, consider to change the brake blocks. I blogged about this when I purchased a Specialized Secteur Sport. Most bikes under £1K have budget blocks on them and it's well worth spending £30-£40 on a decent set of upgrades, they are one of the most important elements of your cycling, being able to stop!
  9. Get the basics of your bike fit right. Seat height, seat reach, stem length, crank length, body positioning. If you really plan to be a cyclist, it all starts here. More to come on this.
  10. Wear a base layer. The weather can change out on rides, even when it's cold, you can be warm as your engine is busy turning the pedals. A base layer helps to wick away sweat, preventing rashes and sores. If it's sweltering out, don't bother as your cycling top should do the job for you, when it gets a bit cooler, you should stick one on under your top.


  1. Phil mate - you forgot one!

    Always stop for cake!

  2. Of course!

    Ade is a brilliant cyclist and superfast up hills, please visit his excellent blog at http://ade2010lejog.wordpress.com (you can find it on the right).

  3. Take a spare tube AND patches.

  4. Fantastic advice of new beginners!

    +1 for Always stop for cake!