If you are not crashing you are not trying hard enough. That probably isn’t the type of quote that new cyclists want to hear when they are trying to find their way. While it is true, in time if you want to become great you will have to overcome your fears and yes crash sometimes to learn important lessons. Lets go over some basics that help to ensure that new cyclists become veteran cyclists who will share their experiences to help our sport continue to flourish.
The bicycle industry has done a great job of keeping the operation of increasingly high tech bikes relatively simple. Even so there is still a learning curve. At first it is important to keep rides short or lower intensity. This gives you a chance to build muscle memory so when things get more difficult or technical you are more likely to be able to approach it with confidence.
Bike fit is often overlooked by new riders. If you don’t know how your bike should fit there are numerous resources you can use to get it dialed in. Youtube videos, groups like Lee Likes Bikes, or professional fitters can all give you tools and knowledge to take your riding where you want it to go.
Covid restrictions have changed the current landscape of group activities, but outdoor exercise with proper precautions is still a great way to stay healthy. When you are starting out try to ride with people who are at your level and/or experienced patient leaders. Few things help you grow as a rider like having appropriate challenges from riders who are at or near your level. Bonus if you can do that with an experienced leader who knows how to let you ride at your own pace. When you don’t have to worry about directions or getting lost you can be free to learn to be more at one with your bike.
Bike demos and Demo days are your best friend. It can be intimidating to show up to a shop or riding area to demo a bike or companies’ lines of bikes. These days aren’t made for professional riders though, they’re made for you, the new rider. Bike demos are the best way to get the feel for numerous different bikes and riding styles. You never know what you might get on and fall in love with. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a pre production Rocky Mountain ETSX. It had Easton RAD Bi-Oval Tubing and Grey Flames. I was in love, and when disaster took my Jamacian Gold Klein Adept from me later that year I knew just what to replace it with.
In all the excitement of starting or getting back into riding it is really easy to overdo it. Some of you, and you probably know who you are, are going to push your limits physically and technically. I get it as does anyone who has experienced the quiet thrill of pulling off something that you had no business trying. That’s all part of riding, part of any new sport, but remember if you get hurt it can limit your growth and could even take you away from riding for a time.
If you are primarily a road rider please be safe, obey traffic laws, and keep the rubber side down. When offroad is more your style you are more likely to push control to it’s limit. If you want to keep it relaxed and in control then you need to spend time developing bike control, but if you want to really improve your skills then you need to learn to crash.
It all comes back to if you are not crashing you are not trying hard enough, but I will qualify that by saying crashing does not mean getting hurt. No matter what kind of bike you ride you can learn alot by putting flat pedals on and learning to corner, bunny hop and at least do small jumps. Flat pedals make crashing safer, you can just jump off if you get in trouble. Flat pedals also teach you how to move the bike properly, if you think you can bunny hop, but can only do it when clipped in then you can’t really bunny hop.
Cycling is a tremendously diverse sport even if you have been doing it for years there are always new things that you will learn. Take it slow, be safe and remember most of all cycling is about having fun.