We were all total cycling newbies once. Before we started counting grams and shelling out $200 for bib shorts, we were wide-eyed—and clueless—enthusiasts.
After pedaling for thousands of miles (and weighing every component on my full-carbon bike), I’ve noticed a few repeat offenses in the road biking world. Want to look cool on your next ride? Read on.
At a charity event, never EVER wear the free shirt. Even if your jersey spontaneously combusts, you throw up on it, rip it or it gets covered in grease, you must resist wearing the tent-like free tee bearing the name of the charity ride. It’s the equivalent of wearing a huge sign that says “I’m new here and don’t have a clue.” If you don’t want to spring for a jersey, at least wear a moisture-wicking shirt.
Remove all reflectors and pie plates. These are the universal symbols for a new bike rider. Ditch the plastic ASAP and if you’re riding at dusk or dawn, opt for a front and rear blinkie light instead.
Skip the skivvies. Bike shorts are an underwear-free zone. Save yourself the excess chaffing and bunching by going comando. Besides, just think of all the clean tighty whities you’ll have as a result!
Save the baggies for the trail. There’s a reason road cyclists wear lycra (no, it’s not so rednecks in pickup trucks can yell at us). The point is to be as aerodynamic as possible. Nothing should be flapping in the breeze.
Utilize jersey pockets. There are two acceptable places to store things on your bike: a seat wedge for tools and tubes and your jersey pockets. Racers and some riders opt out of the wedge and fill their pockets instead. Unless you’re touring or commuting (which this post isn’t about), you don’t need any backpacks, fanny packs or fishing vests. If you remove a jacket, resist tying it around your waist or allowing a sleeve to dangle. Moving wheels love to munch on clothing before taking the rider on a free trip to the pavement.
Aerobars= solo ride. Since you’re not allowed to draft in a triathlon, don’t show up with those silly bars to a group ride and expect to draft with the peloton. Where are your hands? That’s right, nowhere near the brakes. Enough said.
Fake it. When you ride with a group of cyclists for the first time, all you need is a little confidence and to remember a few key things. First, stay as far to the right as is safe. Don’t weave into the lane, never go over the yellow line, and always ride in a straight, predictable line. Point to debris or potholes to help keep fellow riders safe. Use hand signals to turn, don’t run stop signs and red lights, and always pass on the left. Let the rider you’re passing know you’re there.
Master the draft. When you’re drafting another rider, stay close to his wheel, without overlapping. Try to keep a nice, even speed and resist hitting the brakes. Try to spin a cadence of at least 90 rpm and, even if you soft pedal, keep your feet moving at all times. The time to stretch/eat/stare at the clouds is when you’re dead last, not mid pack.
Wear a helmet. Yes, helmets are cool. What do you call a cyclist without one? An organ donor. Don’t leave home without it.
Show your cycling love. Maintain your bike and keep it clean. Greet other riders with a friendly gesture. Realize that it takes a while to grow into a smart and talented cyclist. Pay your dues (like everyone who has come before you) and, most importantly, enjoy the ride.