Recently I have been helping a few people get onto bikes for the first time. Its been a real case of going back to basics. This process reminded me of the many intricate details and bits of information that has become second nature to more experienced cyclists.
Here are the Top 6 things that are so obvious to you NOW as a cyclist that you probably forgot that at some point you too didn’t know them:
1. Underpants and Bibs: Thats right. How many experienced cyclists would even ask the question – but for a first time cyclist who’s busy holding up this tangled mankini with a colourful padded chamois the question is right there: “So – do I wear underpants with this?” (Also had to double check which way around and was it inside out or not!)
For the Newbie: No underwear with bibs. Ever. Or you’re on the road to severe chafing!
2. Wax Lube vs 3-in-1: For many people getting back on a bike after a 20 year absence (since riding to primary school on a 5 speed Raleigh or BMX), the concept of chain lubrication was quite simple: dose it in M40 oil (or the old 3-in-1 tin with the long plastic valve). The new wax-based products come in various forms (wet or dry lube) and can greatly increase the lifespan of your parts. You can often hear a newbie by the lack of lube in their chain and gears – its a big telltale sign.
For the Newbie: No liquid oil. Ever. It gathers muck quicker than holding a moulting white cat against your black woolen tuxedo.
3. Gears: Yep – understanding how to shift gears using your brake levers on a road bike is a very foreign concept to the new cyclist. One minute you’re pulling the brakes; the next you’re pushing them in (shallow or deep) to change gears – and even then its a struggle to understand when and why to change gears!
For the Newbie: Get a mate to show and help you.
4. Helmets: For some reason, a newbie loves the feel of a helmet positioned far back off the head. This “large forehead; loose straps” look might give a greater sense of security to the newbie – but its literally an accident waiting to happen!
For the Newbie: This is not the Vietnam war where its cool to have a sliding helmet. You shouldn’t be able to put more than a finger-width between your eyebrow and the front of the helmet. Also, you shouldn’t be able to put more than 2 fingers through the straps around your chin – otherwise the helmet simply gets knocked off your head if you fall. Pointless.
5. Tyre Pressure: Its not like pulling into the petrol station and asking Blessing to “go 2 bar all around”. And its not the old “thumb test” that you did at school i.e. pushing the tyre to feel how hard it is. Nope – tyre pressure is an important thing and many rookies need to be told and taught how to do this properly.
For the Newbie: You need a foot pump with a gauge as one of your first accessory investments. And road tyres are around the 8 to 9 bar mark; with mountain bike tyres between 1.8 and 2.5 bar – dependent upon your weight and the terrain.
6. The Tour De France: To the newbie, this is a really cool race with lots of guys riding over amazing scenery for what seems like a very long time. Things like the various jersey classifications as well as the sprinters who win the stages (but never the overall race) are always quite puzzling to the newbie. And what the hell is “a domestic” doing cycling this thing. Oh – and if your mate is so good at cycling, why hasn’t he entered the Tour De France before?
Understanding the TdF is no easy feat. You will need a few seasoned cyclists to sit you down over a bottle of wine or two just to understand the overall race concept. But its better than golf….
For the newbie: It actually takes quite bit of explaining and research to get to love and fully understand the tactics, intricacies, and workings of this cycling event.