Cycling newbie looking for things to read
May 28, 2011 3:25 AM   Subscribe

I just bought a racing bike. I know next to nothing about cycling. Where do I start?

I got bored with running so I decided to try something new. I bought this bike second hand. Specifically I am looking for: guides on gear (besides the bike which I have), tips on posture, training schemes, nutrition... anything handy you might think of.

I am not looking for biking stories or history of races (e.g. Tour de France). Basically I am looking for a good cycling 101 guide.
posted by wolfr to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
One thing that made a huge difference to my cycling experience (and I ride to work most days) was getting puncture-resistant tyres. I used to get a puncture every few weeks, but now it's been over a year since I had one at all. They're heavier than standard tyres and were damn hard to put on the wheels (get someone at a bike shop to do this if you can) but it was worth it because patching/replacing tubes is a real drag. Mine are Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres but there are plenty of other kinds.

Of course, if you're going for speed rather than comfort they might not be so good. But for commuting or long-distance riding they're great.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:10 AM on May 28, 2011

In pretty much any thread related to bikes, Sheldon Brown seems to come up.
posted by TedW at 4:25 AM on May 28, 2011

Since I gather that you read Dutch: Journalist turned pro cyclist, after she became thirty, Marijn de Vries, has written the book Vrouw en fiets that deals with any aspect you mentioned. Though you could probably skip the parts that deal with what a saddle can do to the female anatomy.

The weblog I linked is also very good.
posted by ijsbrand at 5:56 AM on May 28, 2011

Go to a reputable racing shop in your area, tell them you're just getting started, and request a bike fitting.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:51 AM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Something that makes a huge difference for me in terms of flat tire incidence is to add air to my tires before every single ride. Also, get some bib shorts.
posted by ghharr at 7:11 AM on May 28, 2011

Go to a shop. Talk to them. Ask when & where there are local beginner group rides. Buy road pedals, and a couple decent-quality bibs and non-ugly jerseys. shave your legs. Do some internet reading but don't rely on it. Talk to people, preferably while you're riding with them. That's when you'll learn things - when and how to shift well, how to position yourself on the bike, what to do, what not to do, in a paceline, etc.
posted by entropone at 7:45 AM on May 28, 2011

Here are a few thoughts:

1. Establish a relationship with a local bike shop that you like and that is friendly and welcoming to you even if you didn't buy your bike there. Seconding the suggestion for a fitting, which will also be an opportunity for you to get tips on posture. You may also want to trade your saddle in for something more comfortable - sometimes the standard saddle that comes with race bikes is less than ideal for the long haul.

2. Go to a basic bike maintenance class and learn at the very least how to replace your chain when it derails and how to fix a flat.

3. Invest in a multi-purpose tool, a portable pump or cartridges, a patch kit, and a spare tube to carry along with you in one of those little under-the-seat-bags.

4. Invest in puncture-free tires. It's so worth it.

5. Invest in some proper clothing. Bicycle clothes look silly and are ridiculously expensive, but they're aren't just show-offy- you'll appreciate the virtues of things like a padded seat and wicking fabric as soon as you start going the distance. If you need to save money, try things on at a local shop to get the sizing right and look online. Go with a brand that specializes in cycling gear, such as Pearlizumi.

6. Yay Sheldon Brown, RIP.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 8:32 AM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and just saw you were looking for tips on nutrition too. Get two water bottles- you'll want as much on-bike hydration as possible on long rides. Try out Gatorade-style mixes or tablets to see what you can stand, taste-wise- the sugar and electrolytes really do make a difference. Find an energy bar you like (I prefer PowerBars when exercising) and take plenty along in your seat bag and jersey pockets- I usually take one or two for every 20 miles.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 8:35 AM on May 28, 2011

I will third the advice to look at the late Sheldon Brown's website. There is a wide range of material that is now being maintained by Sheldon's widow, Harriet Fell, and John S. Allen.

On bike fit, it's also worth reading the views of Peter White. Even if your goal is to do hard fitness rides on your bike, you may not want a position that is as aggressive as the position that racers use.

My interest in cycling is in touring and long-distance cycling. For those purposes I have found these books helpful:

Ed Burke and Edward Pavelka, The Complete Book of Long Distance Cycling

Raymond Bridge, Bike Touring

Since your Flickr profile says that you are in Antwerp, you might see whether the Wielerbond Vlaanderen website has any useful information. I haven't looked at it very closely, and it seems more oriented toward racing, but some parts, e.g. the list of permanente driekhoeken near Antwerp, could be helpful for planning rides.

Finally, for discussion, the Bike Forums are a good venue with a strong sense of community.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:19 AM on May 28, 2011

Best answer: It appears you have clip-in pedals that go with clip-in shoes. I do not recommend riding clipped in until you are very comfortable on your bike and the fit is properly adjusted everywhere else. I am American and I take it you're not, so maybe being clipped in around traffic isn't as dangerous for you, but even so you can still hurt yourself because when you fall and you don't get out of the clips you bring the bike down on top of you and it can suck. Once you have a month of riding under your belt and you're confident enough in your cornering and stopping technique, you can start riding clipped in.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:41 AM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For rides over an hour, learn how much food and water you need. The rule of thumb around here is 250 kcal and "a bottle" (maybe 750mL) every hour after the first ninety minutes, although your local bicyclists may have different numbers due to differences in climate or something. But the point is to avoid dehydration, which is just immediately dangerous, and hypoglycemia, which induces this soul-crushing depression that makes you want to sit down on the side of the road and die. If you're not comfortable riding with one hand and eating with the other, just take a three-minute break every half-hour and snack on a couple of Fig Newtons. It's well worth the delay.

Oh, and here's a trivial one: when posting pictures of your bicycle, it's good practice to photograph it from the right so the drivetrain (derailleurs, etc.) can be seen. Doesn't matter here if all you wanted us to see was that you had a bicycle, but it would matter if you were asking about fit or a mechanical problem or value or trying to show off the bike, &c. An experienced bicyclist can a lot of information just by looking at your drivetrain.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:59 AM on May 28, 2011

Before you do anything, make sure the bike fits you well. Have a reputable shop give you a fitting.

What kind of riding do you want to do? Racing? Geoup rides? Randoneurring? Based on what you are interested in, you can find likeminded folks, and ride with them.

I would have to disagree with slow graffiti on the pedals. "Clip-in" pedals give you more control than flat pedals or toe cages or straps, and they are very easy to get in and out off.

You don't have to have tons of bike specific gear, but at the minimum you should have bottles, bike shoes, a helmet, gloves, and padded shorts.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 12:17 PM on May 28, 2011

Response by poster: Went shopping and got:

* 1 bottle
* Gloves
* Padded shorts
* Shirt (Gore Bike wear)
* Some powerbars and energy candy

About the food: I think you only need this at a pro level, why not take a banana with you instead of a banana bar? This sports food industry sounds 100% marketing to me.

Haven't decided on helmet yet. The helmets I saw looked ridiculous and very toy-like (I realize I do need a helmet, I just don't want to look like a robot). (example)

I own a helmet like this but it's ment for snowboarding and probably not very aerodynamic.

Haven't found shoes yet. I know I need SPD shoes but I don't know which ones to get.

What kind of riding? 3-5 hour sunday rides alone or with friends in low traffic areas (e.g. biking route next to a river), nothing too competitive for now. Belgium has lots of routes, cycling is big here.
posted by wolfr at 7:18 AM on May 29, 2011

The helmet you linked to would work just fine. The robot helmets have vents in them to increase the air flow over your head. This is a Good Thing. You can wear a skate or snowboard style helmet, but it would get ridiculously hot.

A banana would also work fine. I like to bring a mix of "real" food (banana, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fig newtons) and "sports" food (ClifBar, Gu, etc) on longer rides.

Get a comfortable road shoe. I really like my Specialized shoes, and I tried on everything before deciding on them. No movement of my foot, no slipping in the heel, ridiculously stiff sole, perfect feel on the bike. Go with what feels most comfortable to you. Any road shoe will work with SPD pedals, but if your bike cam with pedals and without cleats, you're going to need to buy cleats along with your shoes.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:36 AM on May 29, 2011

Best answer: If you don't already know about it, Fietsnet is a great resource for someone looking for good cycling routes in Flanders. Even if you know where the roads go, not all of them are great for cycling, or just not that much fun for cycling and this is a nice planning tool that keeps you rolling in better spots. (You might have noticed their little numbered signs around without realizing what they were.)

As others have pointed out, bike fit matters. If you're planning a 5 hour ride on a bike that doesn't fit, you're not going to have a fun afternoon. It's worth paying for a professional fit or at least having a pro take a look at your bike and offer some suggestions. If you don't know a good shop near you -- though there must be more than one -- you could make the trip to Van Eyck, which is huge and has a very knowledgeable staff.

You can get away with skimping in many places, but absolutely not on your shorts. Not just padded shorts, but good cycling shorts -- which may be expensive -- will save you from a world of misery when you start doing longer rides. Buy several pairs and don't wear them more than once without washing.

People will tell you all sorts of stuff about what shoes to wear or what to eat, most of these things are really a matter of personal preference. You have to find your own way, make a few mistakes, and discover what you like for yourself. Everybody is different, and what works for someone else might not work for you.

Finally, Sheldon Brown's site has been mentioned so many times for a reason. It's a treasure trove of good information. Definitely worth a look.
posted by dseaton at 3:10 PM on May 29, 2011

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