Starting out in cycling can be a little bit daunting, even once you've bought a bike and all the gear. But now what? Surely it'd be so much easier if the new bike came with a list of 'Ten Mistakes to Avoid' so you could just get on with the riding part. The good news is, we've got that list! In fact, we've taken this so seriously that we've provided you with two lists to study, spread over 2 articles. We guarantee you will emerge with a smile on your face, a level helmet and even the correct sock height...
First off, in Part 1 we are going to look at bike setup. Here are 5 tips for preparing your new road bike.
1. Tire Pressure
The most common mistake beginner cyclists make is failing to maintain the correct tire pressure. Tire pressure has a huge effect on your bike's handling and performance as well as comfort. By inflating your tires to the correct pressure you also increase the lifespan of your tire, and reduce the chance of punctures and pinch flats, meaning longer riding and less expense! Check your tire sidewall for some text that looks something like 'inflate to 80-120 psi' - this shows you how soft or how hard you can ride that particular tyre. Aim somewhere near the top of the scale, near the 100 psi mark. Check your tyre pressure once a week using a floor pump or pressure gauge.
2. Bike Setup
When it comes to comfort, bike setup is where it all begins. A comfortable setup can be achieved on almost any bike to suit your intended riding use, as well as any physical boundaries you may have (back pain, shoulder problems etc.). By visiting your local bike shop you can enquire about how to achieve a more comfortable bike setup. This can be done by adjusting seat height, handlebar angle and everything in between. Don't try doing this yourself as there is a small amount of science behind your position on a bike!
3. Spares to Carry
Nothing shows your lack of preparedness more than when you need a spare and you don't have one. Whether it be a tube, a working pump or at least two tyre levers - carry it all, and you'll never need it. But if you leave your spares at home, Murphy's Law will strike!
When you head out for a ride, always carry the spares you need. These spare bits and pieces should at very least contain; 1 x spare tube, 2 x tyre levers, 1 x mini pump and some cash for an emergency lift home via taxi (or a coffee after your ride!). We always recommend carrying a cell phone with you; check out our article "Road cycling: What to do in an accident" for some reasons why.
4. Lubricated Chain
By looking after your bike you're ensuring it works more smoothly and quietly! Try to keep your chain lubricated to avoid corrosion and excess wear. You'll also prevent your chain squealing like a piglet as you churn along mid-pack on your next group ride. To add a sense of importance to this point, your chain is more likely to snap if it isn't lubricated. Corrosion weakens the chain and one day it will give way... Referring back to point one, consider a weekly bike-care date with your bike. Pump your tyres, wipe your chain off with a rag and re-lubricate it with bicycle specific chain lubricant. Job done!
5. Sparkling Clean Bike
It looked gorgeous when it left the shop, but now it's looking a bit drab... And it doesn't change gears as smoothly... And the brakes squeak. Wash that bike! A clean bike is guaranteed to work as it should, with less grime covering the drivetrain and brakes. To wash your bike, spray on some bike wash, degrease your chain and hose the whole bike down. Let the bike dry before wiping it down with a cloth. Once the bike is completely dry, re-lubricate your chain and pump up your tyres. And for whatever reason, if you need to take your bike in for some TLC at your local bike shop, try to wash it before you take it in! Your mechanic will appreciate a clean bike...
In Part 2 we delve into that most crucial area of road cycling: Fashion. Check out "5 more tips for newbie road cyclists: Looking good" for more details.