Five Things I Wish I'd Known as a Beginner Cyclist
Ah, the benefit of hindsight. How we all wish we could impart to our younger selves some of the wisdom we have gained over the years. With this in mind, the latest of our series of Big Bear Bikes supported rider series, Ellen McDermott tells us five things she wishes she’d known as a beginner cyclist.
1. The Local Club
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again ‘til I’m blue in the face, the most important thing I did when starting out was join a club. You really take for granted all the skills you learn about riding in a group until you come across fellow riders who don’t think to point out potholes, call clear when it’s safe to pull out of a junction and know the meaning of “through and off”.
2. Ride Snacks
I cringe when I think back to what I used to stuff my jersey pockets with when going on long club rides. I’d take about six energy gels with me and we’d probably have a cafe stop in the middle of it. These club rides were never full-on races, obviously I was trying hard most of the time because up until then I was completely sport-free and my fitness had a lot of catching up to do. But they definitely DID NOT require the consumption of 120g of concentrated carbohydrate for a three-hour ride. My gut is gurgling right now just thinking about that! But I didn’t know, I just read the side of the packet “take 1-3 gels per hour” so that’s what I did. Now all I talk about is homemade ride snacks and more and more cyclists, even experienced ones, are asking for the recipes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not gonna start chewing down on a homemade granola bar during a 60-minute full gas criterium. It’s not practical, I’d either choke or drop it all, this is where gels have their place.
3. Get Stuck into Racing
I didn’t actually have this issue but I’m coming across it more frequently and I don’t know where it comes from. Maybe it’s because there are more and more older females getting into the sport and we’ve become a little, shall we say, careful? It’s the fear of getting stuck into racing. I slid head first into a ditch the first time I raced but your body is pumped so full of adrenaline that you just get straight back on. Yes, I came last, no, I didn’t care! There’s something so amazing about the flood of emotion you get after finishing a road race, it’s so addictive and before you know it you’ve entered two races every weekend for the next two months and are looking for the nearest women’s race team!
4. Don’t neglect the power of being comfortable on your bike
If you take up cycling to improve your health and fitness or you are already competing at a high level, the benefits of including some flexibility and mobility routines will always benefit you. Core strength will keep you stable on the bike and improve your climbing; single leg gym work will ensure you’re firing equally on both sides. Also, if you feel uncomfortable on the bike then that’s a major red flag to get a bike fit.
And then comes the most obvious but dreaded or overlooked – the ability to maintain your bike to a certain extent. Don’t become dependent on someone coming to collect you if you can’t fix a puncture on the side of the road. Changing a tyre (especially a stubborn one) is a necessary evil for riding bikes. Get a good repair kit like the Bontrager Pro Flat Pack and the GCN videos on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channe... for cleaning your bike, and carrying out a range of maintenance tasks will be your new best friend.
Ellen McDermott, winner of the 2019 Irish National Criterium Championship is supported by Big Bear Bikes. She currently rides the Trek Madone which is available on special order right now.
Ellen is originally from Tullamore in Ireland but now lives in Whitby. She is a road racer with Team Boompods in the UK and in Belgium with Team Isorex.