Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Cycling to me came out of the pure desire to venture out of the city while getting some fitness in. Little did I know, it opened me up to a world that has brought me an incredible amount of joy and an insatiable curiosity to test how far I can physically go and explore. Here are the top 3 things I wish I knew before I started:
How to be safe on the road
Riding is simple, go out, pedal, have fun. Though, one thing that is secondary to some is how to be safe. I recall being taught some basics in elementary school and honestly, didn't use safety techniques again until I picked up road cycling as an adult.
What kind of hand-signals to use on the road so you can be predictable to those around you? Start with knowing how to signal left, right, and stop. Other ones are also pointing at poles and pretending you’re swatting a fly behind you to indicate to cyclists behind you to move left gently (in case there’s a car door ahead or people walking). Here’s more etiquette for group rides.
What kind of accessories can help with your visibility? For lights, start off with tail-lights as that is used for day and night. Front lights are a great for dark, foggy, early morning rides and of course, at night. Choosing to bring a front light is recommended to have as it helps for when cars are coming towards you on dimmer days.
Be as predictable on the road to cars and cyclists around you. Point and stick that arm out with conviction. Assert your position and make eye contact with drivers at every intersection which ultimately will help you gain more confidence as well.
Fix a flat
There seriously needs to be a pamphlet for each bike to show you how to do it. One of the most, if not THE most common roadside maintenance skill to have is this. If you’re going to practice this, get yourself a floor pump (you’ll be using this weekly as a bike owner), watch some Youtube videos on fixing a flat, and spend a few hours getting comfortable with the parts of your wheel and the parts connected to it (especially the rear). This is also your chance to get intimate and hands on with the parts on your bike. I’d personally start off with removing the front wheel and practice simulating fixing a deflated inner tube with that first. Please don’t force a hole into your wheel :D. Take your time in learning this skill and your bike repair skills will skyrocket.
How to clean your bike chain
Clean your drivetrain (the parts that your chain runs through) and lube your chain regularly. This will prolong the life of the chain (removes grit so the bearings can spin easily) and you will notice the speed increase because it’s running smoothly. There are plenty of tools to help you with that as well! Best practice is to do this after every ride - degrease, re-apply grease, then wipe off the excess.
There you have it! These are just some of the skills I wish I knew when I began cycling. Get the hang of the above and all that will be instinctual and you'll have one less thing to worry about on the road.