Too many times I see or hear people asking for legitimate advice when they’re just starting out or near the beginning of their cycling journey and they get responses that i’m sure mean well but are often very expensive solutions to simple problems. That’s problematic for a few reasons. It feeds into the “cycling is elitist” mindset, it makes the sport look intimidating and can leave people on a budget feeling inadequate. It also makes you look like a jerk, the idea that your way is the only way isn’t helping anyone.
A lot of people hate cyclists, it’s our own fault. We don’t call out the ones acting like they own the roads and giving subpar advice to newbies. New cyclists look up to the ones who’ve been riding for a long time – so if you’re acting like the king or queen of bikes – what message does that send?
I’m sick of this elitist attitude, and because of that, I came up with a list of the things I think are contributing and of course – no list would be complete without the opposite. Enjoy friends!
Cycling shit that doesn’t matter when you’re just starting out:
- FTP- this number may come in handy at a later date but likely not when you’re starting out. People will try to flex their FTP at you when really, it’s a number that shows one side of how a person rides. It measures your power output average over 20min. Well, what if you’re a sprinter and can crank out 1000 watts for 5 sec but only 200 for 20 min? Or what if you don’t have a power meter? Or what if you don’t care?
- Carbon anything. I know i’ll get some flack for this but if you can afford a carbon frame, yay you, and if you can’t, the aluminum of today’s world ain’t terrible. It’s the carbon bottle cages, rims, handlebars, etc that you likely don’t need. Besides, If you’re not familiar with how to use a torque wrench than those ‘upgrades’ can end up being a costly repair or replacement.
- Tyre choice- sure, you can go ahead and google rolling resistance comparisons of almost every tyre out there. BUT if you’re only riding at 25km/hr then does it make a difference? Not likely. The difference is so minute at that speed that you likely won’t notice. Buy something you can afford and that holds up well to wear and tear. Even I use Gatorskins on a set of everyday wheels – contrary to popular belief that i’m losing 10 watts per tyre (oh the humanity). SAme goes for tubeless – nice to have, but if you don’t know how to set them up and maintain, you’re going to end up a frustrated mess (sometimes literally)
- QOM’s/KOM’s – If you need motivation, sure…go for it. But don’t kill yourself trying to steal a segment. More than a few of these end at stop signs and there’s likely no way to steal it unless you’re blowing the stop sign. Let’s not give anti-bike people something more to complain about. Ride smart, ride safe and don’t go out for the sake of stealing a KOM – it’s trashy.
- The rules – ahhh, “the rules”…some take them as a joke, others a little too seriously. Read on and decide for yourself…https://www.velominati.com/ I personally adhere to only about 5-10 of these and mostly, it’s personal preference.
- Zwift races- I saw a post recently asking if people who were racing zwift were planning on racing in person at a later date. Ummm please don’t think your zwift crit will be the same as a real one. There’s no amount of virtual reality that can prepare you for changing winds, other riders and uneven pavement.
- Upgrading components- truthfully, this can cost you a crap-ton of money to do for very little gain – your initial investment in a bike should be within your budget but talk to someone who knows and don’t settle for something you’ll need to upgrade right away. For example: going from a Shimano 105 groupset to Ultegra is at least 1000$ -The gains are MINIMAL. If you’ve got a grand burning a hole in your pocket then ok but….also: see above for carbon upgrades.
- Speaking of components, electronic shifting. I don’t care how much money you have – manual shifting is both a skill and an art. Learning how to shift your gears in less than desirable conditions well is imperative. Plus, no one wants to hear you whine about how you’re stuck in the small ring when your battery dies.
- Unsolicited advice: “You KNOW, if you just…” Gross. I’m immediately turned off and not listening to you. Here’s how to help someone, “Hey, can I offer you a bit of advice regarding…?” and If they say no…you shut up. And dudes, don’t assume women don’t know anything about bikes because a lot of us do – and most of us will ask when we need your help.
- Bike shaming: I think all of the above can be summed up in this category – If someone is out riding and they aren’t hurting anyone else, don’t give them a hard time.
What you should care about:
- Having a bike that fits you- seriously. Get a bike fit done, make sure whatever you’re riding is comfortable. Preferably by someone with a physio background – sorry bike shops, unless you’ve got a degree in biomech or something like that I don’t think your eyeball and weight on a string is good enough, especially if someone is having pain.
- Keeping your vag/junk happy- I just did a post on this – buy good shorts, use chamois cream, bike fit, saddle choice, ride on.
- Learning how to ride safely – ride with people, drink water while moving, corner safely – esp if there’s loose gravel. Ride in all kinds of weather. Learn how your bike feels in a headwind, cross wind, rain…seriously.
- Learn how to change a flat, how to inflate your tyres with what you’re carrying with you. If you’re carrying CO2 – be prepared to use it. If you’re carrying a hand pump, be prepared to borrow CO2 from someone else -Seriously, have you ever tried to pump a tyre to 90psi with a hand pump? Good luck to you. And RIP your arms.
- Having a helmet that fits you- You only get one brain. Wearing a helmet is mandatory in my opinion but make sure it fits you. There’s no point in having a 200$ helmet and letting the chin strap dangle 2” off your neck, it’s not going to stay in place so you might as well not even bother. Get one that has lots of adjustment and padding to change out if needed. Ladies: play with different hairstyles while riding – I prefer a low pony/braided low pony with the option of a cycling cap (weather dependent).
- Learn what layers and accessories you prefer in different weather – this will require riding in all kinds of weather and a trial and error type experiment. For example: I’m either shorts or full tights under bibs. I hate hate hate knee/leg warmers (and i’ve tried a few)- they don’t work for me. I have a temperature cut off for shorts vs tights and it works for me. You might love your knee warmers and that’s great- I might have some to sell you.
- Advice: find someone you know and look up to in the bike world, bounce ideas off them, learn from them. Don’t put a highly generalized question out into a big forum – you tend to attract only the asshats who give awful advice and it’s hard to weed them out when you don’t know. Find a bike shop you trust and support them. Tip your mechanic when they do you a solid – in beers or otherwise.
At the end of the day, ride long or short, fast or slow, up or down. Don’t let anyone tell you that there’s only one way to do it and ride. Do it your way and enjoy, because riding bikes is awesome.