The most important thing is the bike.
Any efficient bike is good for riding and training. But if you have no bike, and you want to buy a new one, take these things into consideration:
Type of a bike
There are many models - from cycling bikes, mountain bikes, and BMX bikes - it’s not that easy to choose a bike that will really fit an individual cyclist’s needs.
It’s best to go to a specialist in a bike shop who will help you chose a bike suitable for you. Bikes should be adjusted not only to height but also to the type of track and type of cycling you want to do.
Cycling bikes are best for tarmac and dirt roads.
If you are not really sure where you’ll ride or you want to ride in various places and on various types of surfaces, the mountain bike is your best choice. It allows you to ride on tarmac, but you also can take it to the woods or on a dirt road.
The bike should have gears
The average mountain bike has 18 gears with a three-range and six-gear combination, and that’s sufficient for most riders.
Gears are important because they let you regulate the level of difficulty while riding and allow you to adjust the gears to the type of surface. It’s easier to maintain a steady exertion during your training when using gears. When you go uphill you use lower gears, and when you ride downhill you use higher gears.
Many mountain bikes lack mudguards, so you might think about buying them separately. You’ll understand why they are so important after your first rainy training session. The front mudguard is the most important - without it you’ll have mud splattered all over your face.
Mudguards don’t have to be very big. Short, plastic ones will suffice. They won’t disturb the sporty look of your bike and will definitely help training in the rain.
You see many types of seats to choose from nowadays. You have to remember that the looks aren’t important - what is important are the shape, frame, material and the execution of the seat.
You put the most body weight on the seat when riding a bike. Weight, combined with the small proportions of the seat, vibrations and leg movement can cause soreness and pains, which can make it impossible for you to ride for a couple of days.
Most of these problems arise at the beginning of the season or after the purchase of a new bike or a new seat. After a while, when you get used to your training regime, the pain disappears. Nevertheless, it’s good to buy a comfortable seat - one that isn’t too hard.
Your best choice is an ergonomic seat - they are narrow, have buttocks support and a ventilation hole in the middle. Really comfortable seats are 11 inches long, 6 inches wide at the back, and 3 inches wide in the front. So, a good seat is narrow and long.
When you have a good seat but still get sores after cycling, try:
- Moving the seat to the front.
- Lowering the front of the seat.
- Changing the height of the handle bars so your body is in a more upright position.
- Riding without underwear, try just shorts (underwear can cause abrasions).
- Sitting at the rear of the seat, which is wider than the front.
There are many various accessories for a bike. Many are useful and comfortable, but there’s no use buying them at the beginning of your training. Only when you become an experienced cyclist will you be able to determine which accessories will be useful for you.
The only accessories that are helpful in the beginning (and are rather obligatory) are:
- A white light in the front and a red one in the rear.
Whether you have your own bike already or you are planning to buy one, remember to get your bicycle serviced every year. The mechanic will check the general condition of the bike - gears, brakes, and wheels.
You can also ask the mechanic to adjust the height of the handle bars and the seat if you don’t know how to do it yourself.
And, if you want to learn how to take care of your bike yourself, many good books are available as well as tutorials on the Internet. You’ll know how to change a tire or a chain in no time.
Feel comfortable on a bike
A lot of time spent on a bicycle seat can bring discomfort, pain and problems with blood flow. There are many types of bicycle seats you can choose from. Remember that the seat has to fit you.
It’s important to take a break every 30–40 minutes during training - walk a little and give your blood a chance to flow through the places that are blocked during training. Also, shake your hands a little - you’ll get rid of any numbness in your arms and make the blood flow.
An important thing is the outfit that you wear. You don’t have to have reinforced shorts with pads to start cycling. Clothes that you wear shouldn’t be too loose or so tight that they limit your movement. Your clothes should absorb the humidity that your body generates during the training. It’s good to layer your clothing (especially during spring and autumn) - this way you can take one layer off if it gets too hot and put it back on when you cool off. When you start training more intensively, you can buy knee pads and guards or even a special cycling outfit. The helmet is essential! If you want to, you can wear sunglasses - they will protect you from the sun and from bugs.
If your bike has a place for a water container, carry water with you every time you train. If you don’t have a receptacle, think about buying one or about buying a small basket to install above the rear wheel. You can carry not only your water container but also a light jacket or even a camera in the basket.
And why do I mention the water container? Because it is really important to drink water while training. You can also cool parts of your body externally with the water. Always take small sips when drinking.