What Are Your Best Cycling Tips for Beginners?

Achieve Better Results With Less Training

I often get questions about cycling tips from beginners looking for fast improvements. I introduce them to the basic training principles and basic rules for optimal training I know. Training consistently for a long period is a cornerstone in every cyclist’s success and using some principles for recovery accelerates the progress.

Nevertheless, it can be a good idea to hear what you readers say to your friends when they ask you about cycling tips for beginners.

35 comments… add one

  • Ian

    When someone starts cycling I usually suggest a few group rides that are good for beginners or get them to do one of the longer challenge rides.

    Getting in a well paced bunch teaches them alot about cycling, gives them friends to ride with and makes the starting process alot more fun.

    The challenge ride, like around the bay in a day, set them an achievable goal which encourages them to go beyond what they thought their limits were. I am currently trying to get my 60year old mother to register for a 100k ride with the offer of doing it with her.

  • First, I encourage them to set realistic goals. They can’t expect initially to go out on typical LBS group rides and complete the entire mileage and pace if their fitness level doesn’t match the others in the group. In other words, their baseline fitness level will determine their level of training.

    For example, my sister-in-law is an avid runner. She participates in half-marathons and marathons across the country. She recently took up cycling as part of her cross-training. Therefore, I encouraged her to start out riding 15 to 20 miles per ride and work her way up to higher mileage as she sets a base for herself.

    Cycling will present new challenges to her body physiologically and biomechanically; therefore, her adaptation to these challenges will go smoother by slowly integrating the aforementioned routine into her cross-training schedule.

    On the other hand, my neighbor hasn’t been doing any physical activity for years. Therefore, he would need to start out at focusing on lower mileage per ride with an emphasis on building a solid base.

    Next, don’t worry about speed at first. I’m a huge proponent of Thomas Chapple’s book “Base Building for Cyclists”. Concentrate on building the base, then one can enjoy the benefits of a faster pace later. In other words, live by his motto, “Go slower to get faster”.

    Last, I wrote a post in April on my blog that addressed four things every beginner cyclists should know. It provides sound advice that will increase the quality of any ride a beginner chooses to participate in. Those paraphrased tips are as follows:

    1. Purchase quality cycling clothes
    2. Purchase cycling shoes
    3. Bring energy bars and drinks on each ride
    4. Ride your own ride

    I trust this information is useful.

  • Charles

    Five tips.

    1. Get fitted for your bicycle. It’s worth it.
    2. Pedal on lower gears, at higher cadences.
    3. Pedal in circles, don’t stomp.
    4. Hydrate, and make sure to eat before and after rides.
    5. Trimming two pounds off your bike can cost hundreds of dollars, trimming two pounds off your body is relatively costless.

  • Kris

    My best tip:
    Start Slow, End Fast – For beginners, the key is to start with something simple and in an environment where there are not too many hazards or obstacles. As you build up your confidence, you can start to go faster and on more tricky terrain.

    Remember, the rabbit may not always win the race, to be slow and steady may just do the trick for you!

  • Ken

    Get a riding partner. As with starting any training program, the hardest thing is to just do it. When you set a time to ride, its hard to blow it off when you know your partner will be waiting for you and vice versa. My training partner and I ride before work at 5:30 AM. We meet at a mail box nearby our homes. We never leave each other there waiting.

  • As a new cyclist myself, I can tell you the MOST important thing is to get your ass out there and just ride. Everything else comes after that, and nothing can possibly come before. Great website!

    Thanks, Craig

  • Josh

    Numb toes:

    Stretch your hamstrings, quads (against a wall), and calfs before riding. This will loosen up your muscles and allow increased blood flow to your feet. Make sure your riding shoes are loose. Now here come the weird tips. If you normally take a shower then try sitting down while you shower. I noticed that after a ride my toes get even more numb if I stand on the hard surface of the bathtub. And finally try Robert Bruce’s NEW energy ways on your feet. Those exercises help quite a bit, even though they were designed for something else entirely. Replacing the default paper thin insoles with Superfeet or SOLE is highly recommended as well. A metatarsal pad may also help.

    Seat:

    The further forward your seat is the easier it will be to overly engage your quads. The further back your seat is the easier it will be to engage your hamstrings through “pulling up and back.” You want to find that spot right in the middle.

    The worst thing you can do is go out there and push yourself way beyond what your current level of fitness is. Doing this will only injure your body and leave you off the bike for possibly many weeks. Don’t forget to rest either. It is worth reminding yourself that “rest requires discipline – the discipline to not over-exert yourself.”

  • Davo

    Find a cycling buddy to ride with!!!
    Riding alone is a beginners nightmare (as is winter cold). Finding someone that you can rely on to go for regular rides with is almost as important as the bike itself. If exercise has always been a chore then staying motivated is essential to avoid latent ambivalence getting the upper hand over you.
    Stay disciplined and regular. Four rides a week is a reasonable starting goal.
    Cycling should be compulsory, well …. if I had my ay it would!!!

  • Rob Forrest

    The two most important things to me, as a beginning cyclist and bidding racer, is to get out there and ride, and get out regularly in a group. You’ll feel accomplishment by getting the miles under your belt and you’ll get a huge amount of motivation from riding with like minded people.

  • I’m a beginner but experience pain in the neck and shoulders/shoulderblades on long runs >40km. anything i must look at specifically?

  • Dee

    For very beginners!

    Wear a helmet. Reveiw traffic safety stuff.

    Strech your hamstings. and warm you muscles with a quick walk around the block before you get on the bike.

    Dress for the weather with stuff you have- Sunscreen, sunglasses for sun. For mild wind gloves and something to keep the ears warm. From there get ready to enjoy exposure to the elements. The exposure is a little more intense on a bike than walking.

    Pick a place near your house, bike trail or nice quiet block with some easy elevation to play with. A little car traffic is plenty of stimulation at first. Car exhaust is unpleasant. Just make laps around a block or so at first.

    If you haven’t ridden much since you were a kid, it is uncomfortable at first and car traffic can be nerve wrecking. 15 minutes is a respectable ride at first. Balancing on a real bike, feeling the wind, and watching the scenery go by is so much more rewarding than riding a stationary bike. Three short rides in a week will give the muscles and senses time to acclimate.

    The next week, push a little harder. Make one lap to warm up and aim for 30 to 45 minutes.

    The first seven minutes are easy. From 7 to 15 minutes are the most uncomfortable. The helmet is sweaty, the arms are not comfortable, the seat is hard, and the tops of the legs are heavy. Live with it for 8 more minutes. Concentrate on breahing through the nose deep with the mouth closed like you are trying to get air to the quads. Breath a lot and don’t be shy about it. Car fumes are not good oxygen! The rest of the body will settle in and help the quads. The lower legs, arms and trunk muscles start coordinating and the tops of the legs get some help. Goofy, but talk nice to yourself and appreciate your efforts. A block for a lap is nice since you only have a short predictable grade to deal with. Go the otherway if you need to to get the wind behind you on the uphill.

    From 15 to 30 minutes it is work, but it just feels better. From 30 minutes to 45 to 1 hour it is even more comfortable. Just quit while it is fun and safe and walk a bit to cool down.

    Once you can ride for an hour a few times a week, it is time to branch out and invest in some stuff. Schedule, habit, and success have been established and the block lap is any easy way to get on the learning curve.

  • Kelly

    Thanks so much for all of these great tips and especially for reminding everyone to keep it fun. I am going to the local cycling shop this week to by my bike and can hardly wait for my first ride!!!

  • Daniel

    I began two and a half weeks ago after the Tour de France ended. I started off thinking 10 miles was going to be good. I slowly learned that this is nothing in this sport. But, along with a proper diet, ie. rice and eggs for breakfast with an occasional bran cereal with blue-berries, an exorbitant amount of various fruits for lunch, and pasta with parmesian and basal for dinner with some greens and the occasional rice and eggs again for overnight muscle-healing protien: I am npw able to ride 20 to 25 miles a day in just two weeks of training for at least two to three hours at a time.
    However, after reading some I found out that I am bonking a lot in the humid mid-west climate, I keep finding myself trying to outrace the person next to me on the trail, as if I am trying to lead a peloton or something. This – I strongly advise against. Do not do ad hoc mock races against complete strangers. Their strengths are contingent upon several unknown factors, ie. how fresh their legs are and how long they’ve been riding that day. So – it’s a fool’s errand to try to outpace your neighbor under high traffic cement paved trails, especially if they are simply better than you at this point. Just try to keep your own pace, listen to your own body, and learn your own body – to NOT push it.

  • kristy

    i started cycling about a month ago i am over weight but i have found that cycling is the easiest form of exercise i have found so far. i enjoy it and have a really great bike path near my home. it is a 10km trail and had at first set my goal as doing the entire 10k there and 10 k back for a totaly of 20km for next summer that was a bit of a low goal since in a month of have accomplished that now my goal is to just gradually speed up. i guess i am building allot of muscle though since i have gained 5 pounds since i started but i am feeling and looking better with each passing week

  • Dawn

    I just started bike riding this morning. What a great morning as well; temps were in the mid 50’s. I have a couple questions. Does cycling help your glutes? and what is a good distance to start off with when just beginning? I couldn’t beleive how great i felt afterwords!
    Thanks!

  • Ryan

    Excellent advice. Particularly “Dee”! Excellent plan for getting started. My wife is an experienced cyclist, I have been wanting to get into riding for sometime now. It seems though she is an awesome cyclist that she gets “the cart before the horse” so to speak when it comes to training me. She tends to get impatient with me and frustrated to the point of saying “just forget it, take it at your own pace, I have to RIDE, I’ll meet you back @ the start”. So in spite of that I am trying to do some research on my own to find out the best way to get started as to not form bad habits etc. Dee – Your info was VERY helpful to me. Thank you for taking the time to put that out there for all of the folks out here like me.

    Ryan

  • Mary

    I am very, very overweight but in good health otherwise. I’ve just started to ride a bike again. My issue is I can only endure about a 15-20 min ride (or about a 1.5-2 mile distance) but I do go almost everyday. What I experience is labored breathing, and a feeling I’m not going to make it back to home. How far should the seat be raised…should be legs be fully extended on the down stroke? I have been doing this for about a month and can’t seem to make any progress. Any and all suggestions will be gratefully appreciated

  • AB

    I see a lot of people say buddy system. As a new rider sometimes you may feel more confident alone for a few rides to feel yourself out on a new bike and relish any embarassing moments in solitude. And if any of you are like me (which I’m sure there are), prefer to ride alone but are worried about animals or attackers, then your buddy system may just need to be a large can of pepper spray shoved in the netting of your camelback.

  • Karissa

    Mary,
    I have been very out of shape several times in my life. I find that 6 weeks to 2 months is a good time to see a noticeable difference in my cardiac endurance. When I get winded to the point where I feel I cannot breath, cannot endure any more, and want to go ahead and quit I remind myself that it’s ok to just cut back a little or even stop long enough to catch my breath and bring my heart rate down before continuing on just a little bit further. I give myself flexible goals and then go for them. Sometimes it’s 5 minutes longer than the last or sometimes it’s more. But if you listen to your body as well as push yourself you can see an improvement.

    Hope that helps.

  • jk the bike guru

    i started cycling a month ago and already feel a big difference in my general wellbeing,i did it to get my cholesterol level down and drop a few stones,the biggest difference is my thighs like tree trunks after a long ride also my cardio fitness has improved a great deal,would recommend investing in a good light weight bike with plenty of gears mine has 24 and what a big help this is on the steep gradients just go your own pace your body will soon tell you what that is if your a beginner but you wiil improve with every ride trust me vary your routes so you dont get bored.

  • Emily

    I took up cycling at the start of September, so basically a beginner myself! I wanted to cycle into work rather than using the congested tubes at peak times. Already I’m starting to see the benefits……I have transformed into a cycling enthusiasts and would recommend it to anyone!

    I started off feeling a little bit wobbly and had little or no confidence on the road! My colleague at work recommended I do the IAM cycle training. At first I thought she was joking as who needs training, cycling is easy peasy right?

    Wrong! When I had my first bike incident on the third day I was a wreck and was coming to terms with joining the rest of the commuters on the tube! So I decided to take my colleague up her offer and believe me it’s the best thing I have done. I know one to one sessions aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but it’s definitely worth a shot if you need a confidence booster.

    So my best advice to any cycling beginners is to seek professional advice before starting out on your two wheels!!!

  • Carmel

    This is a great website for beginners. Everything else i’ve looked up is for advanced cyclists, or people wanting to compete, wereas I’m doing this for excercise, so not needing tips to ride 40+kms.
    I was wondering if anyone had some advice on how to prevent tiredness of the legs? I’ve just started up cycling again, and am doing approx 15km rides which feels just right as it’s mostly flat. but i’m finding after a couple days my legs aren’t sore, but just tired. and really feeling it in my lower abs and back as well. just makes everyday stuff not get done so fast, or i just want to lie around which isn’t really an option.

  • CHRISTOPHER

    I would really like to know how much longer my ass is gonna take to get used to the ridiculous seat on my bike. I am an overweight 53 year old and have been riding a hybrid mountain bike for about one month now and after each ride it feels like …………. yes you know .
    I am also battling with pins and needles in my hands after a few kilometers and this gets retrogressively worse and i eventually need to start taking my hands off the bars to try and get some feeling back into them.
    If i can only just get around these two problems i am sure cycling is gonna become a really enjoyable means to keeping fit and keeping my weight down .
    Appreciate any advise.

  • Robert

    I have just began cycling and went on a five mile ride. I am at 270 lbs but feel great. When completing it i felt very good but have had some anxiety issues afterwards. Am i setting my goal to high

  • mark

    My wife and I just got new bikes yesterday. Here is my best advice, ENJOY the ride. If it isn’t fun, you probably won’t keep doing it! Try new trails, ride with new people and just get out and keep it fun. Next weekend we are doing a ride with the Police in our local town.

    Be safe, have fun and say young!

  • Ellen

    Hello, I think that i need some advice. I started cycling again after a ten year break a month ago. I must have been fitter than i thought because on third day on a bike i managed to cycle for two hours. Yesterday i decided to push myself and cycled for three hours. Today my legs are sore but i’m not sure what i should do or what distances i should be aiming for. I’m 37.. Does having sore legs mean that i should rest until they are not sore before i ride again? Should i try to be doing as much cycling as possible for as long as possible every week or is it better to stay at a comfortable level for a while? How do i know if i’m doing too much or doing too little?

    My aim is to be able to cycle for a whole day, for a few days at a time. I’ve fallen in love with an avid cyclist and if i want to spend more time with the man i’ve got to get much better at this cycling lark. ( I also enjoy it. except when i’m far behind him feeling slow and tired and frustrated. Cycling buddies are better if you’re at the same level) There’s no point in me asking my boyfriends advice as he has always been super fit.

  • Alan

    Glad to read about so many others starting out green. I bought a mountain bike and am on day #5 !!! I am 46 and overweight so what felt good was a couple of miles (we are hilly terrain). I pushed it up closer to 3 miles this morning. I am annoyed I must stop and catch my breath always on one hill, but I can see myself beating it in a few weeks. My long term goal is to ride to work someday. Its about 10 miles as the crow flies.

  • Debra

    I just gor a new bike as did my grown son and I am starting back to riding. My son is helping me out since I’m new to the bike shoes and pedals on an individual bike. This is a great site especially since I was looking for guidance for beginners. For Ellen – maybe you two could try out a tandem. My DH and I love our tandem as he is a much better rider than I am although I’m trying hard to get better. I trust him totally as the tandem captain and he tries hard to let me (the tandem stoker) know what to expect. It has been a great way for us to ride together and both of us get a good workout and continue to improve.

  • Reggie Sims

    i just purchased my road bike i am so excited. I have gear including my shoes and my clothes, all for fitness, and a long life. i start my first ride tomorrow. Headed to the lake which is 10 miles i hope i can finish it?

  • Brenda

    I am 60 and was at 220 lbs. Three years ago I bought a trail bike and was going up and down the road for approx 1 mile every few days. My husband asked if I needed a map to find my way home. (ha ha)
    Two years ago I bought my husband a bike so he would ride with me. Over the summer I got up to 8 miles several times a week.
    this year I decided to get serious and got a road bike, so I could better keep up with my husband. We ride every day a minimum of ten miles and 25 miles several days a week, sometimes twice a day since November. We are taking vacations where there are bike trails and are planning on doing the 80 mile ride to Portsmouth next summer.
    I’m down to 170 and dropping a pound or two a week.

    As to riding with some one of the same skill set,no and no. My husband pedals 14-20 miles hour, I can do 8-10. But I keep pushing to catch him. He doesn’t get frustrated, he just goes ahead of me and circles back around, that way he gets almost a third more miles than I do, and he loves seeing the weight fall off.

  • Scott

    I just got a bike a week and a half ago, and I’m loving it. I hadn’t done physical exercise for about 4 months prior to this….and apparently I’m doing pretty well for myself in the beginner category. I’ve been averaging about 35 miles a day (240 miles total), and really am not tired afterwards. The only time i’ve been tired was after a 51 mile ride in 2 and a half hours…but other than that, I’ve been good. What should I do to further push it? I really want to get involved in racing, but don’t want to enter my first cat5 race and get smoked.

  • Pat

    I am a true “beginner.” I am 67 years old and have signed up to do a two-day Tour in September. I am to ride 15 miles each day. I have been riding about 3 weeks and am doing okay. Should I be riding every other day? What is realistic for me? I am slightly overweight — I could lose 10-15 pounds. I have a great bike and helmet. I’m still not quite sure about when to use what gear. Help!

  • Hank

    Hello to all readers. This blog has been a great find and a great help. As a newcomer, I have been puzzled by things I’ve read and heard about keeping to a certain pedaling cadence, and adjusting gears up and down to maintain the pace. First question: what should the target pace be? Is it based on age and weight? At 67 and at 92 kg, what would be a reasonable pedal cadence for which I should strive? Second question: I see handle bar units for time, distance, speed, etc. but nothing for measuring pedal cadences. I have found trying to maintain a steady count to be ineffective for me. (My counting rate is easily affected by my breathing rate, perceived sense of exertion, etc.) Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.
    Hank

  • Devin mccombs

    I am 14 and 140 pounds I play multiple sports and do P90X daily but I recently discovered biking and I am really enjoying it. I have a hybrid mountain bike and ride roughly 10 miles a day. My time is down from 54 min to 38 but I am trying to break 28 with out buying a new bike of investing any more money in to my bike. What are some beginner tips anyone can give me. The end game is to win a few triathlons and biking is my weakest leg. Any help is greatly appreciated, thanks.

  • Senora

    Just got a bike for my birthday which is Friday. I will be 45! I have been seeking something adventurous since I have more years behind me than in front of me! I finally just did it. I have been putting this off long enough. I am in great health and hoping this will help me stay that way. I’ve always wanted to run but after todays ride. I am hooked :-) Looking forward to riding throughout Colorado.

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