For those who have been following me on Instagram for awhile, you will know that I started cycling due to my lingering torn meniscus injury – cycling doesn’t create as much impact on the knees as running does, so I’m able to do it as regularly as I used to run. However, as I’d previous dedicated myself to running, I had almost no idea on what I needed to start cycling – sure, I knew I needed a bike, but as it turns out there’s a lot more required to start cycling than what’s needed to start running.
So to that end, I thought I’d put together a quick guide for all those runners out there who are interested in starting cycling. And just a disclaimer: I’ll be biasing this guide towards road cycling as this is the path I went down, but I’ll do my best to include considerations for other bike types.
You’ll need a bike
Ok, I covered the most obvious point first.
First, you need to know what type of bike you want – do you want to cycle on the roads (road bike), off-road (mountain bike), or do you want the best of both worlds (gravel bike)? This is just the ones I can be bothered to mention – if there’s a particular way you want to ride, chances are there’s a type of bike for you, so you should do a bit of research to figure out which is the one that matches your idea of cycling.
Once you’ve worked that out, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a friend who has a bike of the type you’re interested in, is willing to lend it to you, and who’s of a similar height to you so you can try it out and make sure cycling is for you. This is especially true if you’re intending to ride on the road as you’ll need to be comfortable with this concept.
The last point worth mentioning here is: know what your budget is. If you’re buying a bike, you’ll quickly realize that you can either go budget or spend your life savings on a bike – spend within your means is my best advice, but also don’t skimp too much if you’re going to commit to cycling long-term; a bike is definitely an investment and you generally get what you pay for.
Again, a pretty obvious one, but one that’s not necessarily mandatory depending on where you are. However, helmets are proven to save your head and your life in a crash and it’s best to not find out what the alternative is.
You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on your helmet – as long as it meets either your local or some safety standard, you’ll be sitting pretty.
Learn your local road rules, for bikes AND cars
This is a point for those intending on road cycling – learn your local road rules!
If you’re already familiar with driving in the area you’ll be riding, you’ll have an advantage, but it will behoove you to learn any specific rules for cyclists, and also cycling etiquette so that you conduct yourself in a proper manner on the road. Most places won’t have an exhaustive list of rules – these will usually just be a few things to remember while you’re on the road so you don’t get into any strife.
Lights for your bike
If you’re cycling for the first time, you may want to ride early or late at night to avoid peak hour traffic, which is actually what I did. What this means, though, is that you need to be obvious to morning and nighttime drivers. Reflective clothing and the like are great, but most countries will require that you have a light at least on the back of your bike, if not also the front.
This may end up saving your life if visibility gets more in fog or sudden rain and it becomes hard to see what’s ahead of you (or for drivers near your). Most lights these days will be rechargeable, so just make sure to have your lights recharged before you go out on your rides.
Some basic tools
If you intend on cycling long term, you’ll definitely need tools to repair and service your bike, but even if you’re just dipping your toes in to see whether or not you like it, you’ll still need a few tools to get you by.
A multitool will be as useful as it sounds for minor tweaks here and there and if you’re intending to try riding for long distances (or really any distance), then it’s advised that you take along a spare inner tube, some tyre levers, and a hand pump to fix any flat tyres, should they happen. If all of the above sounds pretty foreign, don’t despair! There are plenty of resources online that will help you understand what’s needed and how to do it.
The alternative is getting stuck at the side of the road while out on a ride, or not being able to adjust your bike so it’s a bit more comfortable for you.
Don’t go too hard to start with
My last point is particularly for those runners who are more fit – you may think having good aerobic endurance will transfer immediately to cycling, but that’s not 100% true. While you are likely starting from a better place than a complete beginner, the muscles and muscle efficiency involved are slightly different, so pushing yourself too hard too quickly can make you very fatigued – I know, because this happened to me.
Similar to when you started running, start out with some short rides, then gradually increase the distance and length of time for your rides as weeks go by. That way, your body is adapting to your new chosen activity and you get to ride more often.
That’s a wrap
Well that’s all I’ve got for this post – by my reckoning this is the bare minimum list of things you’ll need to get started. There are always other things you can get once you have established an affinity for cycling, but I’ll save that for another post.
For now, get out there and get cycling!
I hope you all enjoyed this guide as much as I enjoyed writing it – if you want to see more of this, or have some suggestions on what to add, I’d love to hear from you down in the comments. Or hit me up on Instagram!