If only someone had been there to tell us these

Looking back, we all made mistakes when we first took up cycling, whether that be heading out for a ride without the right tools to fix the puncture that was inevitably heading in your direction, or going out in the middle of winter, woefully under-dressed for the weather that was coming our way.

Now it’s time to look back on our time as a newbie cyclist, and pass on what we learned from the many things that went wrong.

1. You don’t need a carbon bike

Tifosi Duro welds

Metal can be better than carbon on entry-level road bikes

With carbon-framed road bikes now available for well under £1,000, it might seem tempting to start as you mean to go on and make sure that your first road bike is made of the same stuff that the pros ride in the Tour de France. However, if you’re spending less than a grand then aluminium might be a better option.

>>> The best road cheap bikes: ridden and rated

It might not be as sexy, but at this sort of cost the ride is likely to be just as good, plus your budget will be able to stretch as far as some better components, meaning sharper shifting and maybe even an extra gear. But you should make sure that you get a bike with a carbon-fibre fork and seatpost if possible, which should improve comfort.

2. Clipless pedals are worth the faff

Mavic-shoe-and-pedal

Clipless pedals are nothing to be scared of

They might seem scary and unnecessary at first, but the move to clipless pedals is an essenitial part of your transition from a person who rides a bike to a cyclist. There are plenty of different systems to choose from, which can be confusing at first, but they all essentially do the same thing.

>>> Cleats explained: how to set them up correctly (video)

Clipless pedals will make a world of difference to your riding, improving your contact with the pedals, and allowing you to pull up as well as push down while pedalling. They’re also not that scary once you get used to them, and as long as you keep them well maintained then they’re easy to get out of too.

3. Find some comfortable padded shorts

blackmore north hill bib shorts chamois pad

Finding a comfortable pair of shorts will make cycling so much more fun

The most important garment in a cyclist’s wardrobe is his or her shorts, so finding a comfortable pair is an essential step towards becoming a proper cyclist. No one pair will be perfect for everyone, so unfortunately it might be a bit of a case of trial and error in finding a comfortable pair, although companies like Endura do now offer a fitting system.

>>> Buyer’s guide to cycling bib shorts

Although you might not have too much of a choice with cheaper shorts, you can go some way to finding a comfortable pair of shorts by looking for some to suit your riding style. If you’re the sort of rider who prefers to sit up and admire the view, then look for shorts with more padding, but if you’re looking for a 20mph average speed on every ride, then less bulky pads might be more comfortable.

4. A padded saddle is not a comfortable saddle

One of the most common mistakes that new cyclists make is to look for comfort in a super-padded saddle, probably one of those wide ones with gel padding and springs underneath. However, you don’t really sit on your saddle, more lean, which is why some pro riders are able to ride hundreds of kilometres on carbon-fibre saddles with no padding whatsoever.

Instead your shorts are your best place to start if you’re after extra comfort, and you’re better off going for a slimmer seat that will allow you to pedal without the insides of your legs rubbing aginst the saddle too much. There are also plenty of saddles with cutouts that can help to ease pressure on your perineum.

5. Protect your hands and feet

It might seem tempting to splash out on an expensive jacket and pair of tights if you want to stay warm when riding during winter, but while these will certainly keep your core and legs warm, it’s your extremities that will feel the chill first.

>>> Buyer’s guide to overshoes (video)

Riding without feeling in your fingers and toes is a deeply unpleasant experience that should see you going straight home and searching out a good pair of overshoes and winter gloves. For really cold conditions you can also add thermal socks and a pair of woolen gloves underneath your winter gloves for added protection.

6. Don’t bother with a triple chainset

compact record chainset

A compact chainset should offer all the gearing your need

Going for a triple chainset might increase the number of gears on your bike by 50 per cent, but most of these gears will overlap with each other, and the range of gears that you’ll be getting won’t be a significant improvement on what a compact chainset will be able to offer.

>>> Is it the end for the compact chainset?

Riding a triple chianset will just see you constantly searching for the right gear, and you’ll find yourself always having to shift the front derailleur, which isn’t always the smoothest process on entry-level groupsets.

7. Layer up

Endura-FS260-Pro-Adrenline-Race-Cape-1

A thin outer layer is easy to stuff away in your back pocket

At the risk of sounding like your mother, dressing in layers is always a good idea when cycling. This is especially the case if you’re new to the sport and can find it tricky to judge what garments are the right ones to wear just by looking at the weather forecast.

>>> Buyer’s guide to waterproof cycling jackets (video)

This is especially true when riding through showers or if the temperature could change through the day. Having a light outer layer that you can take off and stuff in your back pocket when it warms up or stops raining will prevent you from overheating.

8. Wear a baselayer

Pearl Izumi base layer

Baselayers are an essential for all conditions

One layer that you should always wear whatever the weather is a baselayer. In cold weather a merino baselayer will provide an extra layer of insulation while a lighter mesh baselayer will create a layer of cool air to stop you from getting too hot.

>>> 15 reasons why cycling in winter is great

Baselayers will also improve your comfort, especially if you’re wearing a cheap jersey that might not feel to nice against your bare skin, and will look pretty cool when you’re riding up a mountain in hot conditions with your jersey fully unzipped.

9. Become self-sufficient

Unless you’ve got a very understanding other half who is willing to come an pick you up whenever get a puncture, you’re going to need to be able to perform some basic maintenance. This means investing in some basic tools to stick in your saddle bag.

>>> 11 bike maintenance mistakes and how to avoid them

You don’t need to go crazy, just a basic multi-tool, mini pump, some tyre levers, a couple of inner tubes, and maybe a chain tool is enough to get you through most maintenance scenarios that you’re going to encounter out on the road

10. Get your tyre pressure right

Graham Briggs checks tyres, British circuit race national championships 2013

It’s wise to let a little air out of your tyres in wet conditions

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the maximum tyre pressure on the side of your tyre is a target. You don’t always need to go out riding at 110psi. In fact if the roads are wet then it could be well worth letting a bit of air out which will give you a better grip (as well as a comfier ride).

>>> Buyer’s guide to road bike tyres (video)

However, you don’t want to go too low, and it’s worth pumping up your tyres at least once a week to keep your bike running smoothly. This will also help to prevent pinch punctures which can become a problem if your tyre pressure gets too low.

  • Chumply Chummunderson

    ‘Riding without feeling in your fingers and toes is a deeply unpleasant experience……’ I concur.

  • blemcooper

    But the pros are NOT fitting compact cranks on “every day races”, they are using them only on the few most mountainous days, which no “new cyclist” will be tackling any time soon.

    For everything else, the pros are still using 53-39 (or taller).

    I’m not saying newbies should avoid triples (certainly not if they will be hauling groceries), but a compact is probably fine and slightly easier to use, especially for non-enthusiast riders who always seem to end up in small-small gear combos at some point, which are much worse of a problem with a triple than with a compact.

  • Howmanyjackos

    CYCLING WEAKLY If the super teams fit compact chainsets and 11-28 cassettes in every day races it seems reasonable a beginner may well benifit from lower gears.
    I’m more than disappointed
    .the only hindrance of running a tripple is the miniscule weight of the the extra chainring..its lessthan an extra big 34t cassette over a 26t one.
    Cycling weekly is becoming more and more industry driven.
    Sram 11speed !
    CYCLING WEAKLY!
    Please stop insulting cyclists.

  • Pee Bee

    I was referring to my old bike which I bought as a returner to cycling .. so in many ways I was like a beginner … and how a triple served me well under those circumstances.

  • Thom Cate

    I think we have to read the article as being for the masses who are new’ish to cycling and not those who live within sight of Mighty Hautacam. The vast majority of new cyclists simply don’t need triples (because more gears), but rather need fewer gears (because simpler, flatter terrain).

    Read the title of the article: it’s for new riders. Experienced riders such as y(our)selves may in fact get great advantage from a triple…but *most* new riders should seriously consider a 2x or 1x system to start.

  • Pee Bee

    I disagree with the comment about continually searching for the right gear with a triple. If anything, searching for the right gear has been my experience with a compact. With a triple one can run a closer spacing on the cassette and yet have a wide range from hardest to easiest gear. With a compact, in order to gain the same range, one has a wider range on the rear cassette. This can mean frustrating gaps in the mid range which can be a problem on club runs with the available options sometimes being just too high or just too low. As I live in the Pyrénées with Hautacam visible from my garden, I run a 28 rear on my compact. On my old bike which was a triple, I used to ride it most of the time on the 52 or 42 chain rings which behaved much like the bike of my youth, except it had more rear cog options. However, in the mountains, the triple was handy to say the least..correction essential.

  • Mike Williams

    I agree there is nothing wrong with a triple. I ride two 3×9’s and two 2×10’s and the triples are more reliable. As for FD shifting, where I live I basically leave my commuter triple in the middle ring (the others are for climbing or descending).

  • Andrew Bairsto

    I agree with the article I certainly am no mountain goat but have never ever found the need of a triple and I have been up some of the steepest climbs in Europe.

  • Howmanyjackos

    Don’t get a triple..what industry driven crap.