Basic Cycling Tips for Beginners
by Amanda Russell, Endurance Coaching
This is a recap of points covered during a group ride and clinic I held for beginner triathletes last week that I sent out to participants.
Braking: Your right brake lever is for the rear brake, your left brake lever is the front brake. Never use only your front brake. This could result in doing what’s known as an “endo”! Head first flipping over the bike. We don’t want that. 😉
1. Use the rear brakes for general braking.
2. When going down a hill, if you need to brake, or anytime you are braking and you need a little extra resistance to slow you, tap the front brakes while rear braking.
3. Use both in unison to stop. Should you need to make a sudden stop, shift your weight to the back of the saddle, or even a little behind, as you brake.
Shifting & Gears: Your right shifter is for the rear derailleur that moves the chain on your rear cassette on the hub of your rear wheel. Your left shifter is for shifting the chain at the chain rings at you pedals. You will do most of your shifting on the rear cassette. Pedaling while shifting will prevent “dropping your chain” (chain falls off rings).
If your chain is on the big chain ring (front) and smallest cog or sprocket (rear), then you are in your hardest gear. If the chain is on the small chain ring (front) and biggest cog (rear), then you are in your easiest gear.
A general rule of thumb for determining which chain ring (front) you want to be on is that you generally want your chain to be in the middle range of cogs on the cassette. Of course, if you need your easiest gear to get up a hill, or your hardest gear to pedal forcefully on a downgrade or in a tail wind, then you will be on the outer cogs. Learning your gearing to keep the chain in the middle range of cogs will prevent extra wear on you chain and rings that occurs when it is pulled diagonally.
Everyone will generally have a preferred, natural cadence they like to pedal. (Cadence = # pedal revolutions per minute) Typically, you want to be between 80 and 90 rpm. Riding at less than that is making your muscles work harder and is not very economical. Riding at higher than makes your lungs and heart work harder. Typical is 85 rpm. I can explain more about the relationship of muscles and energy systems to cadence and gearing for anyone that wants to know. Just ask me. I’ll mention it a bit at our next ride when we go over gearing on varying terrain.
Fixing a dropped chain: You’re getting your hands dirty…no way around it. If your chain falls off while you’re riding, you will suddenly not be able to pedal with resistance anymore. Don’t attempt to pedal backward or you may jam your chain and it could be very difficult to get out.
If it drops off, shift your shifter to the position for the small chain ring if it’s not already. Get off your bike, stand on the side of the bike that the chain is and pull it towards the front of the bike at the chain ring and drop it back onto the smaller chain ring. Lift your rear wheel and use you hand to cycle the pedals through a few rotations. It should settle into it’s gear.
Changing a flat tire:
Deflate tire completely.
Wedge tire lever under tire bead in a spot away from the valve. Try to pop tire out. If it’s hard to, hook the lever onto a spoke and use a second lever a few inches away from there to get the tire to pop. It may take a bit of effort depending on how tight the fit is.
Once you get a spot to pop, run the lever around the rim to release the entire side of the tire.
Push valve through hole, pull out inner tube.
Put new (or patched) tube valve through hole and carefully work your way around the wheel pushing the tube into the tire cavity. Be careful not to let the tube twist around.
At valve, push valve up into tire with one hand while you seat the tire bead into the wheel rim, then seat a few more inches of the tire into the rim.
Work your way around the wheel, popping the tire on. Do both sides together and work away from the valve. You can use your thumbs typically, the palm of your hand or a tire lever. Be careful not to let the tube get pinched between the tire bead and the rim as you go around. The tire should go on easily until you get to about 6-8” left.
This part can go very easily, or it can bring you to tears if it’s a tight fit. If you have a tough time…you’re not the only one! I’ve cried over many, but if you relax and take a break, you’ll get it on there. And the more you do, the easier it gets. The trick here is to hold the wheel so that the unseated stretch is away from you. Place your hands over the bead on each side and with the part of your hands that gets callused, try to roll the tire over the rim. You may have to do it repeatedly, with a lot of pressure and your hands may hurt, but keep working the outer edge of that 8″ until it starts to roll up and over the rim and you can pop the last 1″ or so in.
Check around the wheel by pulling the tire bead back slightly to make sure the tube is not pinched between the tire and rim. If it is, you can usually work it under carefully with the tire lever.
Pull valve up as far as it will go. Inflate with pump. (Make sure you unscrew the top of the valve to allow for airflow)
Hand pumps are great and they’re portable, but they are very difficult to use to inflate a high pressure road tire. Consider getting a CO2 pump head and cartridges. They are even smaller and easier to carry, and inflate to full pressure automatically.
If you are just getting used to them or are planning to get them, here are a few tips for getting in and out of them.
When you get on your bike, clip one foot in with the pedal all the way down at 6 o’clock. Push off and get rolling then bring that foot all the way down again and clip your other foot into it’s pedal with pedal at 12 o’clock. A gentle push down and forward should pop it in.
When you want to stop, bring the foot you are going to clip out up to 12 o’clock. Unclip (twist it out) and try not to lift it off the pedal (this will prevent the pedal from flipping around). You can then just rest your foot on the pedal until you are ready to come to a complete stop and put your foot on the ground. If you try to unclip with your foot at 6 o’clock, you may lose balance.
Happy safe, and hopefully hassle free, riding!