Lessons from a Newbie Cyclist

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I am SO excited to share some exciting news with my blogger friends: my cycling dreams are coming true!! Two weeks ago I got a Cervelo R3 and basically cannot stop staring at it. I am in love! This is my first “real” road bike and I can’t wait to see how I grow as both a cycling and a runner because of it.

So here’s the R3 (name pending…open to suggestions!)…

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We took her out on her inaugural ride that weekend and it was great. I met my dad at 7:30 AM at his house and we applied tons of sun screen, checked our bikes, and headed to the trail. My parents live near a long stretch of great riding called the Washington and Old Dominion trail and we headed out for a 70k (44 mile) journey.

I’ve done portions of this ride before with my dad on my hybrid bike but never this far. We passed Falls Church, Vienna, Fairfax, Reston, Herndon, and Ashburn before we turned around. I don’t drive that far out – let alone bike it! Once we hit our turn around mark I started to hit the wall. I struggled to keep up with my dad and we climbed over little rolling hills and, as he put it, I was in survival mode. My goal was just to get to our final destination. There was no more passing people or channeling my inner Tour De France.

Just when I thought I could not make it any further we stopped in at the Green Lizard Bike Shop/Café in Herndon and grabbed a cup of coffee. It’s a neat bike shop with a coffee bar right off the trail. The coffee hit the spot and I was back to riding with some energy again – woohoo! Dad took a look at my full package of Shot Blocks and two bottles of Nuun and pointed out that I needed to be eating those more and that I should be finished with my Nuun by now…and I had only finished ½ a bottle at that point. Fueling for a 3+ hour ride is something I need to learn more about! Thankfully my dad is as big of a Nuun fan as I am.

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When we got home dad made us poached eggs and toast for breakfast and we watched the Tour de France (of course) before tuning up our bikes. I’ve watched the Tour with my dad since I was 8 years old and he really got into cycling a few years ahead of the Lance Armstrong wave in America. It was only fitting that I got my first road bike on the first day of the Tour!

The following weekend (last Sunday) we did another 70k starting out in Herndon and riding to the end of the W&OD! My old man is kicking my butt…but I am keeping up with him! Long story short, my butt hurts from hours in the saddle, my shoulders are sore from holding myself up (and tennis), and my kit was stinky and covered in sweat to wash…but I loved every minute of it! Thanks dad!

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No, I did not ride in that shirt, I have a jersey and bib to match the bike of course!

Now I’m no cycling pro…but I did grow up with a dad who is one! My real cycling adventure has just begun and I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way:

PICKING A BIKE

Take your time. I took 2 months of bike shopping, online reviewing, and test riding bikes with a very patient husband before I finally picked my bike. It takes time and a lot of patience…but you need to know what’s out there.

Watch the market. If I would have bought my bike 2 months prior to when I bought it (the first day of the Tour de France!) I would have paid an additional $700. Summer usually means sales! Watch out for holiday sales or dates when new models are being pushed out. The next model of the Cervelo R3 is being released so the current R3 was marked down. Same great bike and huge savings.

Get professionally fit. After buying the bike, we spent an hour on a roller and table with a fit expert who got everything set and ready to go from adding arch support into my bike shoes to tightening every screw. Nothing is more awkward than having to watch yourself riding a bike in slow-mo on a big screen TV…but it makes all the difference! If you buy your bike from a high-quality bike store like FreshBikes, your fitting should be free.

LEARNING TO RIDE

Yes, I already know how to ride a bike and have been riding daily for quite some time…but not on a road bike! I quickly got the hang of the areo position, clip in pedals, and razor thing tires, but I still have a lot of learning to do.

Find a mentor. Latch onto a seasoned rider who can take you through the in’s and out’s of riding. Luckily, my dad is my mentor and he just moved back to the US meaning we can ride together every Sunday morning. As my mentor (he calls me Weed Hopper, haha) he’s teaching me how to properly shift, change a flat tire in minutes, properly clean and care for my bike, how to fuel, and know the different between the good gear and the bad. Oh and he is there to yell at me when I walk on his hard wood floors with my bike shoes as well!

Build your strength. Now I am not just talking about building up your strength and time in the saddle…but muscles you might need to strengthen now that you’re biking. As a runner my legs are pretty strong. I hated those “thunder thighs” in high school, but they power me though my runs and rides, and now I love them! Want to know what’s not strong? My shoulders and my core! Immediately after my first long ride I turned to my dad and said, “I really need to look up some shoulder gym moves and do a whole heck of a lot more sit ups!”

Pick a ride. Just like with running, riders should find a race, tri, or ride to sign up for to help them train. Knowing that my dad and I want to ride a century (100 miles) at the end of August will help me wake up early and ride in this summer hear because I have something I am working towards.

Invest in good gear. The first thing my dad told me when I told him I wanted to start cycling was “well if you’re going to ride with me you can’t look like a fool out there.” What he meant was that I can’t be out there in running shorts and a baggy t-shirt…I needed to be aerodynamic. Your butt will thank you for a solid bib or pair of biking shorts and your speed will thank you for the tight fitting jersey with handy-dandy pockets in the back. Luckily my dad has a closet (really…) of bike gear that I get to inherit when he’s done with a piece. He also has 3+ of everything so I got his gloves, UV sun sleeves, helmet, skull cap, etc.

Learn to draft. Every watch professional cyclist riding wheel to wheel? There’s a science behind that and this weekend I have conquered my fears and am learning how to ride right up against my dad’s front tire. Heading into a powerful head wind? Well tuck in behind your dad and BOOM let him pull you. As we ride I started a little mantra of repeating “just let daddy pull you, just let daddy pull you” which we ride so that I don’t give up or get too far behind him. So I now know how close I should be and where I should be looking ahead. Next up: figuring out how to do it continuously and use it to my advantage.

Cross train. I love that running further and stronger will help my biking and that biking further and stronger will help my running. They are complimentary!

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Happy riding! Do you have and tips for this beginner cyclist? Share them in the comments below!

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9 thoughts on “Lessons from a Newbie Cyclist

  1. I have to say you got an expensive bike…but happy riding. May your journeys take you far. Making cycling part of your lifestyle…just watch that bike and not get it stolen.

    • findingmystrong

      You are right, it’s a bit of an investment. My dad is a competitive cyclist and triathlete so he had a lot of say in the type of bike I was going to get and the quality of bike. She stays in my apartment and will never be locked up on the street anywhere – I am very protective, haha. I am loving every minute of cycling so far and hope to become competitive as well!

      • My partner is not a competitive cyclist but has cycled thousands of km. He tracks his cycling…over 200,000 km. in last 23 years. He cycle tours with his loaded panniers for several wks. on his own also in addition to making cycling part of his lifestyle.

        I think your father has a particular view of cycling which is different than my partner. And I know my partner would not be recommending a Cervelo bike for his 30+ yr. daughter as a near-starter bike! (My partner has 4 bikes.. so a real cyclist.)

      • findingmystrong

        New to competitive distance cycling, I am only 25, but I have been racing in triathlons for several years now and have been riding on cheaper bikes for 8+ years. We wanted to start with a quality bike that I would be able to ride in for years versus a cheap road bike that would break down and need constant replacing (like my older bikes). It was getting difficult to keep up with him on hybrids etc.

  2. Looks like a great bike – a bit envious as I’m still riding my entry level Specialized Allez ! I’m new to WordPress, but have just started a blog to collect great cycling routes from around the world. If you have a great route, then feel free to share it! The blog is called hellocycling.wordpress.com. So far there is only a few routes in Europe, but I hope it can grow to include many more countries. Cheers!

    • findingmystrong

      I’m loving it! Perfect fit and it rides as smooth as silk. I love your site idea! We lived in Europe for many years and I hardly imagine our routes in Virginia compare 🙂 but il think of some!

      • I should probably upgrade 🙂
        Good to hear that you like my blog idea – It all started when i came home from a ride one day being so fed up with traffic and people not respecting cyclists, so I decided to map only great routes w. very little traffic. Anyway I’m sure there are some in Virginia 😉 cheers.

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