This guide will give you the boost you need to start biking as a beginner.
It covers why you should cycle, a rundown of bike types, and exact bike clothing options to make you look and act the part.
Cycling for beginners shouldn’t be daunting; it shouldn’t be intimidating; simply a fresh of breath air and excitement.
I can’t wait to show you how to start biking! 🙂
Why biking exercise is good for you and your health
I had never committed to any exercise yet alone biking exercise, and after that I just couldn’t stop. There are many benefits including weight loss and better state of mind.
I absolutely love it.
It’s opened so many opportunities up and my body is eternally grateful.
In the first section of the cycling for beginners guide I’m going to take you through two things:
- Why cycling is amazing and good for your health
- How it will transform your life
Step one no doubt sounds familiar, but step two may have you thinking differently about cycling as a beginner. I’ll go into detail on both parts and get you pumped to begin your journey.
you won’t need any more persuading after you’ve finished reading this chapter!
The many health benefits to cycling and how it can help weight loss
There are a lot of reasons you should cycle, but your health should be top priority (there’s lots of good health tips and tricks on top of cycling you can check). My health meteorically increased when I started cycling. No more getting out of breath by simply walking up the stairs and no more feeling guilty about eating cake.
Here are some of the core cycling health benefits you’ll gain by starting out:
- Keeping slim comes pretty quickly with cycling. You can burn a lot of calories fast and without exerting yourself too hard making it a huge help when trying to lose weight. For instance Strava recorded 750 burnt calories from a little over 2 hours of riding.
- Cycling has been said to reduce not only obesity but alleviate high blood pressure. Causes of high blood pressure can include heavy alcohol consumption and too much salt.
- Another health benefit is combatting depression and mental health – promoting more positive thoughts. Not only is the bike exercise good for state of mind, the social connections you’ll get from the world’s best sports community will be worth it. You can find cycling forums on our brands feature post.
- You’ll get strong legs. I wouldn’t worry about becoming leg heavy when it comes to muscle, but if you find yourself doing an insane amount of cycling, perhaps incorporate some upper body workouts too.
- Not just a benefit to weight loss, cycling is good for you and your joints too. Unlike hard impact exercise like running, cycling is better on your bones meaning by the time you get to 100, you may still be pedalling.
Other reasons why cycling is good for you
It’s not just your health that cycling is good for. Turning those pedals will improve your everyday.
It may not be so obvious but these next set of points have been a cycling benefit to me when I first started out.
I am certain they will be for you too.
The community is close knit and unbiased to age. It’s one I’ve been part of for a while now and every cyclist I bump into shares the same enthusiasm and passion.
I began in a Gloucestershire cycling club where I met many young cyclists who all enjoyed cycling’s benefits. From getting lost in the cotswolds through to struggling up small climbs; I had a blast when I was a beginner cyclist.
No doubt the cycling community is active near you. If you join social rides, local cycling clubs, attend sportives, or just hang around your local independent bike shop, you’ll meet some amazing cycling folk.
Get stuck in and experience the social benefits of cycling as a beginner.
Independence and cost-saving
Are you a city worker, or perhaps you’re commuting to college or university? Either way, if you use public transport or drive a car you should think about swapping it for a bike ride.
Not only will you double down on health benefits of cycling your bank balance will be better off too.
Want to know my weekly commute petrol costs?
It costs me £15 a week to get A to B and I only get in 10 minutes quicker. That’s why I switched to the bike although I do occasionally drive if the weather is bad. So cycling is good for you and your wallet!
It’s finding the balance – nobody is expecting you to go full bike! Small and steady steps are the way to making your beginner cycling benefits life-long habits.
Have a conscience? I’m not going to preach about this cycling benefit as I for one am not a saint when it comes to sustainability. There’s a hell of a lot more I could and should be doing. But riding your bike is a starting point.
Pollution is pretty bad right now and if like me you live in a city, you know what it’s like to constantly be in.
Biking can make a difference to your city. Know how to start biking can help reduce this.
Sense of adventure
Hitting the Spanish hills on a mountain bike got me passionate. With no map and no expectation, every corner; every single struggle heightened the euphoria that came with exploring.
To get a different perspective and one that’s much closer to the environment never gets old. And knowing that cycling is good for my health, my mind and my body, made it all that more amazing.
I’ve taken friends and family out in lesser environments and I always get the same reaction. They too wondered why cycling is good for you and your health. The beginner cyclist’s reaction of happiness and pure motivation will never get tiring. If you never experience that, then you are sincerely missing out.
How to choose a bike that works for you
Choosing a bicycle as a beginner can be an arduous task.
“Do I need this, do I need that” etc.
If you’re brand new to cycling, there are several bike types that are designed for different purposes. Again, another factor that makes it just that bit harder to choose a bike that works for you.
In the second part of this series I’ll take you through what bike types there are, what they are good for and how to make it work for your budget.
Whilst you can slave away at details, this course is designed for the beginner and as such we’ll keep it informative to the level you need.
Choosing your bike type
I’m a road bike rider. They take a little bit to get used to if you haven’t ridden one before. Thin tyres and low handlebars.
The tyres are suitable for tarmac surfaces and predominantly smooth ones at that. The handlebars are like horns and drop low, but still allow you to sit up and ride if you want to. This makes for good versatility in riding position.
I’ve found i’m usually sitting up more than on the drops on my road bike – so it’s down to what you do and what you prefer.
You can get them with disc brakes (more expensive and very sharp) or with brakes you’re probably more familiar with when you grew up as a child.
Beginner road bikes tend to be aluminium (no bad thing) which makes for a sturdy ride, but once you get to the 4 figures you’ll start seeing full carbon bikes which need a little more balance and stability from the rider.
It’s always worth trying to test ride one before you purchase. Most independent bike shops will be happy for you to have a spin before you buy your first bike.
Road bikes are suitable for commuting, weekend road rides, and road racing
New prices start from around £300
Choosing a hybrid bike is a good idea for a starter not too confident in the abilities.
I was a hybrid bike owner at first with a Boardman Comp from Halfords. I did however switch to a road bike months later as I started doing longer rides with a cycling club.
Hybrids take the best of road and mountain bikes. The tyres are in between a MTB and a road bike and on more occasions than not, the handlebars are flat. It will probably be something you are more familiar with as a beginner cyclist looking to choose their first bike.
Again, you’ll probably find most hybrid bikes you look at as a beginner bike, to be aluminium. My Boardman was a smooth ride, and I miss it as it’d have been perfect for commuting!
Hybrid bikes are suitable for commuting, short weekend road rides, and mild off-road terrain.
New prices start from around £150
Choosing a mountain bike for your first beginner bike seems to be popular first riders because of the price tag.
The fat tyres and heavy frame are designed to go on trails more so than tarmac, which makes it difficult and hard-going for anything other than that.
You’ll get suspension on mountain bikes, another tell tale sign this are just for your off-road riding. But there’s no harm in using it to commute back and forth – though I personally suggest a hybrid just for that.
Mountain bikes are suitable for commuting and off-road environments.
New prices start from around £100
Choosing a bike frame material
If we were to put the cost of material to one side and weigh up the pros and cons of both, you’ll gauge what might be right for you.
Even if you have no preference, understanding material and benefits to each is good cycling knowledge to have.
- Steel can make for a sturdy ride and as it is quite a weighty material, it is durable. It’s a cheap frame material to have and might crop up when you choose your beginner bike.
- Alumnium is another common beginning bike option and you even see it in the upper ranges. It’s ability to be light and tough makes for a good option; although not guaranteed to be the smoothest of cycles.
- Carbon is what I ride. Full carbon starts from around near £1000, so not necessarily the best option if you are choosing a bike on a budget. Carbon is lightweight – if not the lightest of them all- and from what I’ve experienced, lovely to ride!
I recommend looking at alumnium frames if you are choosing your first bike, but there’s no harm in going all out and investing for a long-term carbon speedster.
How to choose a bike frame size
The next important thing is to get your cycle size and frame right to make bike exercise more comfortable.
Choosing a bike size is fairly easy – and more so if you go into a shop with a qualified sales assistant.
Incase you want to know your bike size right now, I put together this sizing chart so you can measure yourself against it.
Once you have chosen your bike size, there will still be a little bit of work to do.
This involves choosing your saddle height and position, as well as choosing your handlebar height.
If you find yourself cycling a lot, I suggest going to find a bike fitter. But this is another £100 cost you don’t necessarily need as a beginner cyclist. Just sort your frame size to start and then make sure your comfortable for your riding.
Understanding cycling pedals
You’ll see a lot of cyclists clipped in to their bike. Kinda scary right?
Whilst clips seem worrying at first, you get used to them.
As a beginner cyclist, when you choose a bike, they will likely come with flat pedals. These are the pedals most people know and associate with cycling, where you can wear any shoes to push them round.
Clips require cycling shoes that you attach cleats onto. The cleat on the cycling shoe clips into the pedal mechanism and fixes you in. To unclip you simply twist your heel!
Have a look at the image below to get an idea of what cleats look like.
Make sure to test your new bike
As I mentioned a little bit earlier in the post, when you are choosing your bike it is good to test ride.
I took my now Cannondale for a trip around Cheltenham when I chose my bike and fell in love with it there and then. But I was lucky as that was the first bike I tried. To be honest, I probably should have tried a few more…
Anyway, most shops will let you have a go to make sure it’s a fit made in heaven.
The best beginner cycling gear and clothing for your budget
You want to look good on the bike when you start biking – I mean that’s why you bought a nice bike right?
Cycling clothing and gear has now become affordable and trendy so no matter if your budget as a beginner cyclist is small or massive, you’ll be turning heads.
In this part of the cycling for beginners guide, I’ll be providing you with lots of brilliant cycle clothing and gear suggestions across three budget ranges.
Disclaimer: As a man writing this most products will be unisex or male. All brands I speak of sell women’s clothing equivalents. I am also using affiliate links and receive a small commission for any sales – this has not effected my recommendations and only serves to help maintain the costs of running this website.
Cycling for beginners clothing
Helmets: Not only crucial for your safety, a helmet can have a bit of style and also vary in ventilation. I’ve had some very hot cheap helmets and you’re best to avoid these from the off. Find a few of my favourites below including the current helmet I use.
Jerseys: These come in both long sleeve and short sleeve. I’m going to throw you over some cool designs I love, and know you will too as a beginner cyclist. Take away the brands and see their other cycle jersey designs because a lot of it comes down to personal preference here. Just know that the brands below fall into different budget categories and are all great quality.
Shorts: Cycling shorts are a piece of gear you want to get right. They come with padding to make riding comfortable – a sure must if you plan on doing anything over 10 miles. You can get shorts as standalone, or as a bib shorts which are held up by straps that go up to your shoulders. I only recently went to bib shorts and have never looked back.
Shoes: My beginner cycling shoes were trainers and then I moved to some Shimano cleats. If you’re new and want to practice your bike riding first, then stick to trainers in general. But if you want to clip in, then see my suggestions below. Never clipped in before? Brace yourself for some heart stopping moments as you get to grips. It’s not that hard though; seriously.
When winter approaches, you are going to want to get some winter beginner cycling gear and clothing. Trust me, you won’t even want to ride 5 minutes in the UK without this stuff. Cycling makes everything feel so much colder! A good thing in the hot conditions though.
Jacket: Getting a jacket is something worth investing in. They’re a little pricey and of course you may not need one until winter comes. There’s a few good jackets I can recommend including the wind jacket I wear myself. May also be worth wearing a winter jersey underneath.
Winter tights (to stay warm!): Shorts will only last you so long. Try a good pair of winter tights to get you through the season. I invested in a pair of Rapha and whilst I got a too small size, they do keep me warm.
- Sportful leg warmers (to go with your shorts) – £25
- DHB Classic thermal bib tights – from £55
- Rapha winter tights with pad – £200
Gloves: Never go out in the cold without gloves. It’s a bitter, miserable experience and I’ll never make the mistake again. There are various types of gloves, but as a beginner it’s probably worth getting some all-rounders.
Buff: Versatile and brilliant. As a beginner cyclist, this cloth is essential! Keeps the ears, head and face warm.
- Buffwear – from £16
Beginner cycling gear
Lights: It’s good to have a red light on the back of your bike even in the summer for when the weather turns. For winter and darker days it’s essential you have a strong front light in order to see where you’re heading and alert on-coming traffic of your whereabouts.
Puncture repairs: Pretty self explanatory when it comes to cycling for beginners. Having peace of mind knowing you have what is required to fix a puncture means you won’t get into tough spots. Although you’ll need to know how to fix a puncture first off.
Water bottle and cage: A water bottle is somewhat personal I always feel. They all dispense water after all! My ultimate choice for a beginner cycling water bottle is the podium range from Camelbak. They have a unique mechanism and in my opinion look pretty good on the bike. See what you think.
How to start cycling safely
It’s important when cycling as a beginner you follow the road etiqutte and laws.
Here is a quick rundown of some basics you should remember:
- Use cycling hand gestures and ensure you are confident in doing so. This makes you more predictable when turning at junctions so motor vehicles can drive safely.
- Obey the traffic light system. Don’t skip reds even if you think it’s safe to do so. It may seem simple but both beginner and pro cyclists do it.
- Don’t cycle on motorways; even in the hard shoulder this is illegal.