How to get into (or get better at) road cycling
2nd June 2016
We have seen a lot of great women’s bike races recently. Whether it was Kirsten Wild pipping Britain’s double junior world road race champion Lucy Garner to the post in a sprint finish in the Tour de Yorkshire, Megan Garner holding her own after an early stage win in the slightly sunnier climes of the AMGEN Tour of California or the first race in the MatrixFitness GP Series. We are feeling inspired – are you?
If you are, or if you just woke up one day and fancied cycling – here’s how to take that inspiration and run (well, ride) with it, whatever your level.
Perhaps you have been watching the bike racing on TV for a while, or you just caught some highlights of the womens’ Tour de Yorkshire and you thought to yourself, I would like to get out on a bike…but you are not sure where to start.
Firstly, you might need a bike, in which case don’t be afraid to go second hand to grab a bargain. You can always upgrade once you find yourself getting the miles in. There will be a secondhand bike shop in your area or try searching on bikesoup.com.
Do a bit of research beforehand, so you know what frame size suits you best, try looking here for some guidance and always book your bike in for a service at your local bike shop before you get out on it, to check over the essentials like brake pads, cables and wheels.
You might already have a bike locked away in a corner of the garage or shed – dig this out, dust it down and get it serviced. Whatever it may be, mountain bike, hybrid or road bike, as long as the wheels work and it goes forward – it will do.
Set yourself a target, which can range from cycling half an hour without stopping to entering your first sportive. Its always easier with a goal. There is always the target of the 20km or the 50km distances at the Macmillan Cycletta events which are a fantastic opportunity to set and to meet your first challenge in a friendly and supportive environment.
The challenge here is to keep pushing yourself to avoid getting stuck in a rut. This can be done in a number of ways.
Perhaps try some new routes – local blogs or websites are good for this:
West London Cycling has details of various routes just outside London in the Surrey Hills
Cycle Route has a number of different routes across all terrains;
Strava has a premium option where you can see see the routes people near you are completing.
Entering yourself in a challenging sportive, such as the 80km Cycletta or perhaps go for the 100km. British cycling has good information about sportives and events or try these ones offered by Human Race.
You may have done so already but why not give triathlon a go, to help you get used to racing on your bike and pushing yourself, without the worry of racing in a pack. There are lots of races, or training days, across a variety of distances here.
Complete novice riders and intermediates may both benefit from checking out the Breeze Network, a British Cycling initiative to get more women riding. This helps to connect female cyclists with others in their local area and you can find local rides near you to join in. This helps to make adding in a few more miles easier or to find other women who quite fancy a 50 mile ride at the weekend and would like some company!
So you’ve been cycling a while, you’ve done a few sportives, you’ve got the kit and you’re feeling strong, what’s next?
What about racing? Again British Cycling comes up trumps here with extensive advice and information. You can go and watch a few local criterium or road races to get an idea of whats involved and the fun that can be hard. There are also a number of leagues out there who can be contacted via British Cycling and who can advise when their next event is.
If you don’t quite fancy racing just yet, perhaps just join a cycling or triathlon club where you can improve your bike handling skills, your confidence and get used to cycling in a group. Eventually someone there might persuade you to race! There is a list of clubs here and here.
Good luck, and let us know how you get on!