Kapiti Cycling Club Inc

The centre of the cycling community on the Kapiti Coast

Newbie Wisdom

Here are a few gems for those new to cycling:

  • Get your bike fitted to you. Typically, when you first start your cycling journey, it's likely to be on a borrowed or 2nd-hand bike.  Unless by sheer fluke, it's likely to be uncomfortable and not setup for you.  You can Google complex formulas for seat height etc, but your best bet is to book into a friendly local bike shop and pay for a basic fitting.  The difference is amazing.  Get it done early and avoid much discomfort and possible injury.
  • Frequent your local bike store.  You can pick up loads of info, lust after shiny new bikes and generally talk cycling.  Plus, we want our local bike store to be there for us when we have an "emergency" (such as a broken spoke), so it pays to support them so that they're there when you need them.  
  • Join a group ride. Turning up to a group ride and being faced with a bunch of lean lycra clad riders on flash bikes is pretty daunting.  Rides are generally organised by speed and distance.  Check out the Group Ride section on this website, then be brave, introduce yourself and have a chat to the leaders to see if it's suitable for you. 
  • Invest in what touches the bike: good cycle shorts (or 'bibs'), gloves and shoes.  And a decent helmet, even though you hope it never touches anything other than your head, you need it to protect you.
  • Always carry a spare inner tube, a pump or gas canister, tyre levers, drink bottle, mobile phone (to call for help if you run out of inner tubes), ID, money (for coffee, at least!).
  • Ask questions but dont expect all answers to be correct. Ask several riders as their opinions may differ wildly.  Take what works for you.
  • Learn bunch ettiquite, dynamic and rules of each group.

Here are some more gems those with a few more kms under their saddle have offered to share:

  • Always, always, wear your helment.  Invest in a quality helmet and make sure it fits you properly.  Never wear a cap with a stiff peak (like a baseball cap) under your helmet, as these can cause serious injury if you come off. 
  • Sunscreen is necessary (we in NZ!), but don't put it above your eyes
  • Follow the road rules - a bike is a legal vehicle. Be courteous to all road users - a wave and a smile goes a long way. 
  • Riding with a rear red light (a 'blinkie') every day, including in the day, is your best bet to being seen.  And statistically, your best safety device. 
  • Punctures suck.  It is a good idea to practise changing your tyres so that when you do get one you can get back on the road and chasing the bunch again as fast as possible.  Ensure your tyres are in good condition.
  • Take enough food for the ride.  Generally, anything more than 60 mins and you will need some energy.  A banana, gel, muesli bar fit easily into your back pocket and are essential items. Likewise, some energy drink in your bottle is a good idea for longer and/or harder rides, especially in hot weather, to avoid cramp.  
  • Wet roads are slippery roads.  Riding like a nana is sensible and will probably get you down the hill in one piece.  Learning how to corner safely is key - and a big plus to riding in a group as you can learn how to choose safe lines.
  • Take a spare jacket or gilet (vest).  The weather can, and often does, change while you're out riding. 
  • Never trust anyone who says “this is the last hill”.  There is always another hill. 

Typical newbie questions and answers:

What cadence is optimal?

Aim for around 95 to 100 rpm'on the flat, but it depends on the situation and personal preference.  But this seems to be a reasonable aim for starters.  If you don’t have a cadence meter then find a rider who has a smooth style and ride behind them.

What front ring should I ride in?

Typically for endurance ride in the smaller ring.  For power, ride in the big ring.  At the end of the day find what is comfortable and sustainable for you.  If you are stuggling up hills or cant go fast enough on the flat then you may need to consider altering your gearing (talk to you bike shop).

What are basic rules of bunch riding?

Stay close, but don’t overlap wheels.  Keep your pace (and pedalling) constant and avoid surging.  Watch for hand signals, listen to spoken alerts and pass them on to others behind you.  Watch and learn.  Ask and learn.  Get involved and learn.

What distance should you start with?

It depends on your fitness and experience.  If you are new to cycling aim for 5 to 10kms then just keep increasing.  You will find that you can ride further and it will be easier once you learn to ride with a group.  It is fine to go out with a group and once you feel you are struggling, simply let the leaders know that you're turning for home, and head home.

What is the best bike?

It is okay to lust after other bikes and it is often tempting to sell your house, kids and or kidneys to fund a flash bike but it still does come down to the rider (and the bike for sure).  If you can’t afford the flash one then start with a good frame and build upon it over time.

Any important gear required for your bike?

Frame, 2 wheels and brakes.  Like all things in life it is not the biggest or best looking that matters, it is what you do with it.  Lights are important for safety and an odometer (speedo) is useful especially if it shows your cadence.

What frame size do you need?

You really need to get this right.  Bike designs are changing and with it the way they measure frame size.  Get the right size before you buy.  Ask your local bike store for advice.  Things such as seat height and stem length can be altered but the frame can only be replaced, so get it right.

What is the general advice about hydration (aka drinking)?

Basic rule is for any ride over 30mins you should carry fluid and learn to take drinks regularly.  You are probably best to practise drinking on your bike as it does take co-ordination to take and return your bottle to its cage.  Do not try it for the first time in a group ride.

What is the general advice about nutrition (aka eating)?

Basic rule is little and often, and definately carry spare food on longer rides.  Experiment with different foods to find what works for you and suits your digestion. Consult with some of the enduro athletes as they have plenty of knowledge and experience.

What should you carry in your saddle bag?

Your saddle bag is the handy dandy bag strapped under your seat (or saddle).  Here you can stash all sorts of things required in emergency, but the essential items are: spare inner tube (or two), a tyre lever (or two), a gas canister and gas-delivery-device (both can be left out if you carry a pump, on your bike or in your back pocket), ID, a $5 note or tyre 'boot' (a piece of old tyre, to put inside your tyre in case you get a gash to your tyre so big the inner tube is unprotected - it happens!).  You can carry all this in your jersey pockets (and some do), but then you have little room left for your phone, jacket and food.