Published on: 5 June 2023. Written by: Olivia Matsell.
Cycling can seem like a daunting activity if it’s something you don’t do often, or at all for that matter. But cycling is a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors, get from A to B and get some exercise, all while doing your bit for the environment. Follow these tips, and you’ll be ready to ride in no time.
As the saying goes… you never forget how to ride a bike. But we could all do with a refresher now and again.
Especially as summer is right around the corner, the great outdoors is waiting to be explored. Longer days mean more time to enjoy the finer weather, and warmer temperatures make for less chilly outdoor pursuits.
And cycling isn’t just an ideal way to see the great British countryside or explore your local town or city; it’s a great form of aerobic exercise that gets your heart rate going and uses plenty of muscle groups. It is also far better for the environment.
The UK is seeing it soar in popularity too. Findings from TFL show that the number of people taking to cycle paths in the capital is up 40% on results from 2019. According to biking expert and Vitality partner, Specialized, cycling can offer a more convenient option for smaller journeys.
Whether you want to become a road cyclist, mountain biker or city commuter, here are four tips to grease your wheels and get them in motion, covering kit and clothing to nutrition.
1. Saddle up!
First things first, you need to choose a bike. Do you need a mountain bike, road bike, gravel bike, e-bike? The list seems endless.
A good place to start is choosing a style that suits the activities you’ll be carrying out most on your bike. By asking yourself the below three questions, you’ll have a better idea of where to start your search. A local bike shop will then be best placed to help you with your, no doubt, excellent choice.
- What are your needs?
- Where will you be riding?
- Is it for fitness, races or just getting out in the fresh air?
When trying out the bike, it’s important to make sure you’re comfortable. Kirsty Woodcock, Head of Marketing at Specialized, bike experts and Vitality partner, explains: “Riding a bike shouldn’t be uncomfortable. The most important things to consider are your contact points: bum, hands and feet.
“A simple sit bone measurement will ensure you can get the right saddle width and you can adjust the saddle and handlebar height from there.”
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The best way to ensure you’re comfortable in the saddle is to book yourself in for a bike fit, which you can do at a number of bike shops.
If you are on a tight budget, pre-loved bikes can be great value for money. There are many recycling bike schemes across UK, so it’s worth looking around your area.
Don’t forget to service your second-hand bike also. You can do this at your local bike servicing centre, like Halfords, to make sure it’s up to scratch.
No matter your age or skill level, you can find a Specialized bike to suit you, and save money on it too.
If you purchase equipment, including gloves, shoes and saddles, along with your new bike, you can take 25% off that as well. Or 15% off if you choose to buy later.
2. Remember your tools
Now that you’ve got your bike, it’s likely you’ll want to start using it as soon as possible, but there are a few things you need to think about before you take to the roads or the trails.
It’s good practice to carry some kit with you to make sure that, if you have any malfunctions and you can’t get to a bike repair shop, you’re able to stay safe. In your toolkit, it’s worth having a pump, spare inner tube and set of tyre levers to ensure you’re able to deal with a puncture.
Alongside this, knowing how to fix a flat tyre can come in handy. Watch the video below to see how.
If you’re about to set off on a long bike ride, Kirsty recommends some extras, such as a chain tool and links. Not just equipment, carrying a bike lock is a must-have for when you travel.
3. All the gear…
If you’re getting in the saddle for the first time, it goes without saying that you should wear a helmet every time you get on your bike.
“Helmets can literally save your life,” says Kirsty. “Specialized make some of the safest in the world, are they are also fitted with MIPS, a safety system that provides even higher protection. They also have a fit system that ensures your helmet fits snugly, but comfortably.”
Lights are another essential to make sure you’re visible, as well as a hi-vis jacket to wear at night-time. Because you may sweat when cycling, whether on your commute or on a longer bike ride, these should be sweat wicking, meaning they dry quickly, and sweat doesn’t saturate the fabric.
It’s also advisable to invest in some padded shorts if you’re going to be using your bike for longer distances or very often. “Being comfortable means you’ll enjoy your ride more, allowing you to ride further, and more often. Padded shorts and a top that wicks sweat are key,” adds Kirsty.
She also recommends a water cage: “Even if you’re not planning on epic distances (just yet), it’s a good idea to fit a bottle cage to hold a water bottle on your bike. Once you’re confident riding, you can easily sip this whilst riding, but don’t worry if that’s not possible when you start.”
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4. Take it slow
If you’re getting back into riding after learning at a young age, you might not feel ready to go longer distances, and that’s absolutely fine.
Jonny Kibble, Head of Exercise and Physical Activity at Vitality, recommends cycling in 30-minute blocks and slowly increasing as your fitness improves. Cycling is a very different activity to other types of exercise, such as running or gym work, so make sure you are easing yourself in.
If you think it would be helpful to do some training, either to boost your confidence, or you are going to be doing a lot of city-cycling, organisations like Bikeability train cyclists can help you become more proficient and streetwise.
Alternatively, there are dozens of clubs that you can join, including through British Cycling, which connects beginners with more experienced riders, who will help you improve your skills.
Don’t forget to fuel yourself when on your bike ride, follow these tips from Vitality expert and nutritionist, James Vickers, on how to fuel long bike rides.
And to keep you healthy off the bike, why not try James’s post-ride smoothie recipe?
James’s post-ride smoothie:
150g frozen mixed berries
150ml milk or alternative
50g high protein yoghurt
So, why not join the other 6.5 million people in England and take a ride on two wheels!
How to earn Vitality Active points
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And did you know that your phone is already tracking your steps. You’re already doing the hard work, so why not get rewarded for it. Take 2 minutes to connect your phone today and start earning rewards.
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