23 things we wish we’d known before getting into cycling

Nuggets of wisdom from the BikeRadar community

There’s no doubt that cycling is on the rise. Due to the success of sports events, people generally looking to get fitter, and a greater push towards greener modes of transport, riding a bike is getting more popular.

  • UK readers: can you help us get more people on bikes? Whether you’re a keen cyclist or a complete beginner, we’d love you to get involved in our Get Britain Riding campaign, in association with B’Twin. Click here to sign up!

If you’re only just entering the world of cycling then you may be a bit bewildered about where to start. Thankfully we have plenty of advice for you.

In fact, we’ve got a whole load of tried and tested tips for you on how to get out there and make the most of it — just head to our beginner’s section here or specifically to our guides at the top of the page to help you; whether you’re looking for the best way to clean your bike, advice on adjusting your saddle height, help working out which type of bike to get or something else.

Otherwise, drink in these tips from our community who have come together to share that one vital piece of advice that will help make your life as a new cyclist that little bit easier:

1. Wear a helmet and wave at other riders — from Qube

2. Pick the bike that fits best and you like the look of, as that will make you enjoy it and want to ride it more — from coriordan

3. Enjoy your cycling — from crannman

Enjoy your cycling and it won’t matter if it’s raining
Tim de Waele

4. It’s all about the bike — from kieran_burns

5. Pump your tyres before every ride, and track your progress with Strava if you can — from DonBoogie

6. Buy a good seat bag to keep your puny kit in and put in a spare inner tube. Use a good set of lights. Basically, kit yourself out right and enjoy the ride! — from BLW

7. Never assume any driver has seen you, knows where you are going, how fast you are going, or that they know where you are when turning left. Treat them all as idiots and expect at least one to do something stupid — from Maglia Rosa

8. Be self-sufficient — carry your own tubes, tools etc, and know how to use them. No one will mind helping if you have given it a go yourself — from ben16v

Be self-sufficient — people won’t mind helping if you’ve given it a go yourself
Tim de Waele

9. Never leave home without a basic breakdown kit: pump, inner tube, puncture repair kit, phone, drinks bottle and £20 for just in case. You never know when you may need a rehydration stop, even if the pub is the only place you can find! Also my missus used to interrogate me as to where I was going, how long did I think it was going to take and so on, just in case I got run over. I just brought a Garmin Edge 810 and use live track. Now she’s happy knowing I’m safe, and on the plus side, I got a sh*t-hot computer justified by safety! — from ashtec

10. Get a decent track pump and nice tyres — from Cougie

11. Before you go anywhere, take the wheels off the bike and put them back on again. Very easy to do; the front wheel is trivial and the rear just involves looping the chain onto the cassette. A couple of minutes and you’ll know you know how to do it. Then take one of the wheels and remove the tyre, pull out the tube and then reassemble. If you can do that then you know how to repair a puncture. Put a saddle bag on your bike, a small one will do, and stick in a spare tube, a multi-tool, a couple of tyre levers and a puncture repair kit. Fit a mini-pump to the bike — most come with a bracket to allow you to mount it on a bottle mount alongside the bottle cage. None of these are particularly expensive and all are essential. Also get a set of lights unless you never intend to be out except in full daylight. After that, you have the essentials, go ride and enjoy yourself — from Ai-1

12. Don’t lock your quick-release levels in line with the frame/fork: a) it isn’t aerodynamic; b) if you do it really tight, you won’t be able to get your fingers behind them to undo — from Rodders30

Be careful tightening up the qr skewer — at some point you’ll need to be able to get your fingers behind it again
Tim de Waele

13. Invest in a good pair of cycling shorts. It’s always a bit of a dilemma when you start with no cycling clothing. How much do I spend? What if I don’t end up cycling as much as I thought I would? So, it’s natural to buy at the lower end first, and there is plenty of good quality affordable stuff around, you just have to research and decide what is important for you. The one thing that can make the biggest difference to your enjoyment (or otherwise) of time in the saddle is your cycling shorts. I use Pearl Izumi Attack shorts. Not the cheapest, certainly not the most expensive, and there will be better (and more expensive) out there — it’s just an example of spending a little more in an important (and sensitive) area — from Gasperoni

14. Be aware and take your time while road cycling. Don’t ride around with blinkers on, take a good look at what’s going on around you and sharpen the anticipation up. It’ll make your ride both more enjoyable (actually taking in the environment you’re cycling through) as well as safer — from Lostboysaint

15. Be predictable and consistent in your actions and learn how best to be assertive while not being overly aggressive when cycling on the road — from TurboTommy

16. Don’t forget to check out your reflection in shop windows — from HebdenBiker

17. Assume you are invisible. This works several ways:

  • You will ride more cautiously around traffic and learn to expect the unexpected
  • You will ride and wear whatever kit you want and won’t care what others think
  • You won’t take offence when other cyclists don’t wave at you — from BigMat

18. KEEP CYCLING. You can only get fitter and stronger. The good days will outweigh the bad. After five minutes I don’t notice bad weather (yesterday I was even too warm going uphill and did not even notice it stop raining). There are worse things to spend your money on. Once you get into a routine of going out you’ll get used to it to the point of addiction (same with running) — from Ben@31

Never leave home without a basic breakdown kit
Tim de Waele

19. Always ride with clean shoes — from David Millar via moderator Rick Chasey

20. When ever you get in conversation with another cyclist keep dropping the word cadence into the conversation at any opportunity, don’t worry if it’s not relevant to the conversation, just say it anyway — Frank Wilson

21. Lycra is your friend — from Iron-clover

22. You do not live in the gutter. Nor do you need to ride in it. Assert your right to be on the road — SecretSam

There’s no need to ride in the gutter. Be assertive
Tim de Waele

And finally…

23. The correct number of bikes to own is n+1, where ‘n’ is the number of bikes you currently own — universal / BikeRadar team


There were a few other pieces of wisdom shared, but unfortunately we’ve decided not to include them on this list for, er, matters of taste and other stuff. If you really want to know them then you can find them on the thread here. Feel free to contribute your own thoughts while you’re there!