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Beginner Cyclist Questions

Do I wear underwear under my bib shorts?

Let me answer that question with another question; did Superman wear his underwear under his outfit? Anyone with even a basic understanding of superheroes knows that the underwear does not go on under the outfit and is instead used on the outside as a rather natty fashion statement. When on the bike, think like a superhero and absolutely do not wear your underwear under your bib shorts. Obviously do not wear them over the bib shorts. Just leave them at home.

Do I have to wear a helmet?

In the UK there is no law that says that you absolutely have to wear a helmet whilst cycling but then there is also no law that says that you cannot leave your house by jumping out the upstairs window. Somethings are just so sensible that they shouldn’t need a law. I have heard that there is a body of evidence that suggests that the mere act of wearing a helmet can make a rider more blasé and therefore likely to take unnecessary risks. I am not sure that I buy this at all. When I wear a seatbelt in a car I don’t suddenly then think I can drive like a rally driver. I have crashed enough times to know that I would not have wanted to have been without a helmet. This includes meeting cars head-on and sliding gracefully along the tarmac.

Actually I think helmets look pretty cool also. I feel a bit uncomfortable when I see old pictures of riders not wearing one in the Tour de France and can’t shake the feeling that something is missing.

Do I have to use clipless pedals?

Never has there been a bigger misnomer than clipless pedals. When you first use them and take that virgin fall, you very much remember (too late of course) that your feet are indeed clipped-in to the pedals. I use clipless pedals on all my bikes and will fully admit that I had a couple of rather inelegant falls in front of rather confused but clearly delighted drivers.

But once you get the hang of clipping in and out seamlessly you won’t regret persevering with clipless pedals. When you are clipped in, you feel completely dialled into the bike, at one with it as you glide down the road. The power transfer is noticeably more efficient and the shoes are just made for riding.

I started out using mountain bike pedals and shoes when I started since you can clip into either side of the pedal and the shoes allow you to walk without looking like a duck. This was great for commuting when clipping in and out was frequent but I soon moved on to proper road cycling shoes and clips and wouldn’t look back. If nothing else they forced me to perfect my track standing abilities.

Is road cycling expensive?

There is no getting away from the fact that getting into road cycling can be an expensive pursuit but the flip side is that one you are set-up it is completely free to fully enjoy the countryside. I like to think in terms of a cost per mile. Each mile costs pennies. Great value for all the memories you will make and the fitness gains that you will see. It goes without saying that if you use your bike to commute you will immediately notice the cost savings. I even got rid of a car by commuting.

So how much should you spend on a road bike? The easy answer is as much as you can afford. When I bought my first road bike I spent £700 on a fairly decent and robust aluminium Cannondale Synapse. This bike has been an absolute workhorse for five years dealing with the rigors of the Scottish winters day in and day out. Once I discovered that I loved cycling I upgraded to a Cannondale SuperSix Evo, a carbon wonder bike that I take care of like a child. It was not cheap but it was on sale.

Everything else that you need for cycling can be bought as and when you need it and you absolutely do not have to break the band. Once your family come to terms with your new love then birthdays and Christmas become an excuse to get more kit. There is nothing better than buying gifts for someone with a well-defined hobby.

Remember that the biggest gains you can make to your ride are in your own body and this is essentially free performance. You will get your biggest buzz in cycling when you overtake someone on a £20,000 bike struggling up a gentle climb.

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