Gary Willis, Former British Cycling Talent Coach, Scottish Cycling Performance Manager and Technical Operations Manager for the road cycling events at the London 2012 Olympic Games, shares his tips for getting started in cycling.
There has been a huge explosion in the popularity of road cycling over the last four years with more and more people either returning to their bike after a long time apart or just discovering the world of biking for the first time.
Whatever camp you find yourself in, a great way to get the most out of your cycling is to get some coaching. Most people can ride a bike which is fantastic and goes to show why the sport has become so popular as most people have the basic knowledge to pick a bike up and go, making it really accessible. But with a bit of guidance and support you would get from a coaching session it will help you to avoid a lot of those early pitfalls and get you up to speed quickly and efficiently.
For those that have experience in cycling or as you progress, so too can the skills and technique that go into you’re cycling. Cycling is much more than pushing on the pedals, there is group riding, descending, climbing and braking. There is also the environmental considerations of being out there cycling in all kinds of weather and what clothing to choose and how to ride in those conditions.
Here are a few of my top tips for getting started in cycling:
– Find a quiet area like a car park or closed road area. Practice your slow speed control, covering the brakes and manoeuvring around different obstacles. To go fast first you must master how to go slow! Think about where your hands are on the handlebars, what are you looking at going round corners, where are your feet when you are cornering.
– Don’t be scared to stop and adjust! Your bike should be fitted to your body- not the other way around! It is amazing in the early days of cycling or riding a new bike (especially when you ride with others) that people don’t want to stop and adjust the niggling little part of the bike. If it’s uncomfortable its more than likely not going to stop by ignoring it and hoping that in an extra few miles it will go away. The outcome is usually the complete opposite.
– Ride with others. Getting out riding with a group of friends is really going to bring on your cycling in terms of the distance you travel and speeds you will go at. Working as a group allows you to cover so much more distance by sharing the load. Also if you are with a group it also makes my last point more enjoyable too.
– Whenever possible have a coffee stop on your ride!
Road cycling suggests just that…cycling on the road. The mistake most people make is to just get out there onto the roads before they have really prepared themselves for what lies ahead and it’s a harsh environment for those new to it. It’s a bit like buying a boat and then just heading out into the open sea. We mostly all drive cars but it’s quite different when you sling your leg over a bike. That simple return journey home you do in the car every day turns out to be a gradual climb the whole way. The prevailing wind that you never really noticed (unless you are a sailor) turns out to be quite tough when you are already a bit tired. Getting some coaching to learn how to deal with all these little areas and will help you to overcome and master the elements.
But that’s maybe the tough side I have focused on! Once you are out on your bike you also discover all those small roads with very little traffic that are like a rabbit warren running over the countryside. Hills will soon change from being something that you “try” to get up and become a challenge to see how hard you can “try” on them. Sprinting for landmarks like Mark Cavendish and riding up climbs like Wiggo will become the norm (in your head at least). Oh and you will also start to build a good knowledge of cafes in the area, how long it takes to get to them and the pros and cons of carrot cake.
Get some coaching, get out there and happy cycling this summer.