Cycling 101: A Complete Beginner's Guide

Cycling 101: A Complete Beginner's Guide

If you're new to cycling and want to try again but need help knowing where to start, you've come to the right place. From choosing the right bike and gear to tips for a safe and enjoyable ride, we'll take you through everything you need to know to start your cycling journey. Whether you're looking to compete in races, tear down a mountain in the great outdoors, or improve your fitness, cycling is a fun and efficient way to get around.

The History of Cycling

Cycling history can be traced back to the early 19th century when the first bicycles were invented and used for transportation and leisure. The first bicycles were called "velocipedes" and were made of wood with iron or wooden wheels. In the early 1860s, the first bicycles with pedals were invented, and these became known as "boneshakers" because of the rough ride they provided.

The first organized bicycle race was held in Paris in 1868, and by the late 19th century, cycling had become a popular sport and a means of transportation in many parts of the world. In the early 20th century, the safety bicycle was invented, which had equal-sized wheels and a chain drive, making it easier to ride and safer than earlier models—leading to a rapid increase in the popularity of cycling as a sport and a means of transportation.

Today, cycling has become a very common form of transportation in thousands of cities, with dedicated lanes for commuters or those on a casual ride on a weekend or afternoon. People of all ages and abilities around the world enjoy cycling. It is a low-impact exercise that provides many health benefits, including improved cardiovascular fitness, increased muscle strength and flexibility, and reduced stress. Let's learn about the different forms of cycling.

Outdoor Cycling versus Indoor Cycling

When thinking about cycling, people tend to think about riding outside or on a stationary bike inside. However, there is more to outdoor and indoor cycling. Each form of cycling offers unique benefits and drawbacks; here are a few of the differences:

  • Setting: Outdoor cycling takes place on roads, trails, and other natural environments, while indoor cycling takes place in a controlled environment such as velodromes and stadiums or cycling studios, gyms, and homes.
  • Variety: Outdoor cycling offers a greater variety of routes, terrain, and conditions, while indoor cycling is typically limited to a fixed track or course in a velodrome, whereas digital experiences are increasing in variety for stationary bikes.
  • Weather: Outdoor cycling is subject to the elements, such as wind, rain, and extreme temperatures, while indoor cycling is typically protected from the weather, it can also be experienced in climate- or temperature-controlled spaces.
  • Social aspect: Outdoor cycling offers the opportunity to ride with others and engage in group activities, while indoor cycling can be a solitary or group activity within a shared space or across distances using video technologies or virtual environments.
  • Equipment: Outdoor cycling typically requires a specialized bike and other gear, while indoor cycling can be done on stationary bikes; these bikes are increasing in features and functionality, along with more connected service offerings.

Both outdoor and indoor cycling have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, and the best choice for an individual will depend on their personal preferences and goals.

What Are The Different Types of Biking

Let's explore the different types of cycling, including road biking, mountain biking, touring, BMX, and cyclocross. Each type of bike comes with its own set of challenges and rewards, and many people enjoy more than one type of biking. Some general examples are:

Road biking

Road biking involves riding on paved roads and is a popular form of exercise and competition. It can be done on a bike designed for speed and efficiency or on a more versatile road bike suitable for longer distances and varied terrain. The main challenge of road biking is the need for speed and efficiency, which requires riders to have good endurance, strength, and bike-handling skills. The rewards of road biking include the thrill of competition, the satisfaction of achieving personal fitness goals, and the opportunity to explore new routes and scenery.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking is an off-road adventure where riders traverse rugged and challenging terrain. Mountain bikes are specifically designed to tackle this type of riding, with features such as large, knobby tires, suspension systems, and a durable frame. The main challenge of mountain biking is the rugged and unpredictable terrain, which requires riders to have good balance, agility, and technical skills. The rewards of mountain biking include the sense of accomplishment from overcoming obstacles, the thrill of conquering grueling trails, and the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the natural environment.


Touring is a long-distance cycling experience, often intending to explore new places and experience different cultures. Touring bikes are built for comfort and durability, with a heavier frame and additional carrying capacity for equipment and supplies. The main challenge of touring is the logistics and planning required for long distances and self-reliance, which requires riders to have good physical fitness and logistical skills. The rewards of touring include the sense of adventure and discovery, the opportunity to meet new people and learn about different cultures, and the satisfaction of self-reliance and independence.


BMX (short for Bicycle Motocross) is a type of racing and stunt riding that originated in the 1970s. BMX bikes are small and lightweight, with solid frames and 20-inch wheels. The main challenge of BMX is the need for quick reflexes, agility, and precision, which requires riders to have good bike-handling skills and the ability to perform stunts and tricks. The rewards of BMX include the thrill of competition, the satisfaction of mastering new skills, and the opportunity to express creativity and individuality.


Cyclocross is a type of off-road racing that combines road, trail, and obstacle-riding elements. Cyclocross bikes are similar to road bikes but are built for off-road conditions, with features such as wider tires and a more upright riding position. The main challenge of cyclocross is the combination of road, trail, and obstacle riding, which requires riders to have good endurance, strength, and technical skills. The rewards of cyclocross include the thrill of competition, the satisfaction of achieving personal fitness goals, and the opportunity to test and improve one's skills in a variety of conditions.

Choosing The Right Bike: From How to Why

The next step in getting started is to choose the right bike. There are many different types of bikes to choose from, each with unique features and benefits. Here are a few of the most common types of bikes:

  • Road bikes are made for speed and efficiency on paved roads. They have lightweight frames, thin tires, and dropped handlebars for aerodynamics.
  • Mountain bikes are built for off-road trails and rugged terrain. They have thicker tires with knobs for added traction and a suspension system to absorb bumps and shocks.
  • Hybrid bikes are a combination of road and mountain bikes, with features of both. They have medium-width tires and a more upright riding position, making them suitable for many environments.
  • Electric bikes (e-bikes) are like regular bikes but with a battery-powered motor to assist with pedaling. They can make cycling easier and more accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility.

When choosing a bike, consider where you plan to ride and what terrain you'll tackle. Your local bike shop can help you choose the right bike. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right bike for your needs:

  • Consider where you plan to ride. Different types of bikes are designed for different environments. For example, road bikes are best for paved roads, while mountain bikes are better suited for off-road trails and rugged terrain.
  • Think about your riding style. Do you prefer a more relaxed and comfortable ride, or are you looking for a fast and efficient bike? The riding position and features of the bicycle can significantly affect your comfort and performance.
  • Consider your skill level. If you're a beginner, a bike with a more upright riding position and stable handling may be more comfortable and easier to ride. As you gain experience and confidence, you can move on to a more advanced bike with specialized features.
  • Test ride the bike. It's vital to test-ride a bike before buying it to ensure it feels comfortable and suits your needs. Most bike shops will let you test ride a bike before you make a purchase.
  • Get expert advice. Your local bike shop can be an excellent resource for choosing the right bike. The staff will have specialist knowledge of the different types of bikes and can help you choose the best option for your needs.

Bikes Aren't One Size Fits All

In general, choosing a bike that fits well, feels comfortable, and is suitable for the riding you plan to do is essential. Bike fit is the process of adjusting a bicycle to fit the rider's body. Properly fitted bikes are important because they can improve comfort, performance, and safety. Some benefits of bike fit include:

  • Improved comfort: A properly fitted bike can help reduce discomfort and pain, such as saddle soreness or back pain, making cycling more enjoyable and allowing you to ride longer distances.
  • Enhanced performance: A properly fitted bike can help you ride more efficiently and with less effort, improving your speed, power, and endurance and helping to achieve better competitive results.
  • Risk mitigation: A properly fitted bike can help reduce the risk of injuries, such as knee pain or wrist pain, helping to avoid time-consuming and costly injuries preventing you from riding.
  • Increased enjoyment: A properly fitted bike can make cycling more physically and cognitively enjoyable, motivating you to ride more often and achieve your goals.

For these reasons, bike fit should be the primary consideration for any cyclist, whether you are a beginner or an experienced rider. Professional bike fitters can help ensure that your bike is properly adjusted to your body.

Investing In The Right Cycling Equipment And Gear

Now that you have your bike let's explore a few other gear essentials needed for cycling. These include a helmet, which is the most crucial piece of safety equipment you can wear. Look for a helmet that fits comfortably and is certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Other necessary gear includes a water bottle and cage to stay hydrated on longer rides and a tire pump and repair kit in case of flats. Also, consider investing in padded cycling shorts or a comfortable saddle to make your ride more comfortable. Here are some general equipment and pieces of gear to consider:

  • Helmet: Wearing a properly-fitted helmet is essential for protecting your head in the event of a fall or collision. Most helmets are made of a hard, impact-resistant material and have a strap to keep them securely.
  • Protective clothing: Depending on the type of biking you plan to do, you may need clothing that provides additional protection against the elements and potential falls or collisions. For example, mountain bikers often wear padded shorts and gloves to protect against impacts, while road bikers may wear lightweight, moisture-wicking clothes to help regulate their body temperature.
  • Lighting and reflectors: If you plan to ride your bike at night or in low-light conditions, it is vital to have proper lighting and reflectors to make yourself visible to other road users. This may include headlights, taillights, and reflective tape or stickers on your bike and clothing.
  • Tools and supplies: It is a good idea to carry basic tools and supplies with you if you need to make repairs or adjustments to your bike while on the road. This may include a patch kit, tire pump, and a multi-tool with various hex keys and screwdrivers.

The type of equipment and gear needed for road biking, mountain biking, touring, BMX, and cyclocross may vary slightly depending on the kind of biking in question. Some general examples of specialized equipment and gear for each type of biking are:

  • Road biking: lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing, a water bottle, a hydration pack, and specialized shoes and pedals for efficient pedaling.
  • Mountain biking: protective clothing such as padded shorts and gloves, a water bottle and hydration pack, and a bike rack or bag for carrying equipment and supplies.
  • Touring: clothing and gear for various weather conditions, a bike rack or bag for carrying equipment and supplies, and tools and spare parts for making repairs on the road.
  • BMX: protective clothing such as knee and elbow pads, a bike rack or bag for carrying equipment and supplies, and specialized shoes and pedals for performing tricks and stunts.
  • Cyclocross: protective clothing such as padded shorts and gloves, a water bottle and hydration pack, and specialized tires and wheels for off-road conditions.

It is a good idea to research and talk to other riders to get a better idea of what type of equipment and gear is best.

What Are The Core Skills Needed For Cycling?

One of the best things about cycling is that it's open to people of all ages and abilities. Only basic skills are necessary for riding a bicycle effectively and safely; they include:

  • Balance: The ability to maintain control and stability while riding a bicycle by keeping the bike upright and centered over the wheels is an essential skill for all types of cycling and can be improved through practice and training.
  • Pedaling: The ability to use the pedals to generate power and momentum by pushing down and pulling up with the feet in a smooth and efficient motion is a fundamental skill for road biking and other cycling types involving speed and endurance.
  • Braking: The ability to slow down and stop the bike safely and effectively by applying pressure to the brakes on the wheels is an important safety skill that all cyclists should master and can be practiced on various terrain and conditions.
  • Turning: The ability to steer and control the bike's direction by leaning and shifting the body's weight and the bike in the desired direction is a critical skill for all types of cycling, and it can be improved through practice and experience.
  • Shifting: The ability to change gears on a bicycle by using the shifters and derailleurs to adjust the resistance and the range of motion of the pedals is a valuable skill for road biking, mountain biking, and other cycling types involving hills and varying terrain.

Overall, the core skills for cycling are the foundation upon which all other cycling abilities and techniques are built. By mastering these skills, you can improve your overall performance and enjoyment of the sport.

What Are The Physical and Cognitive Benefits of Cycling

Cycling provides physical and cognitive benefits, including improved cardiovascular fitness, increased muscle strength and flexibility, and reduced stress and anxiety. Cycling is a low-impact form of exercise that provides various health benefits. Here are some reasons why cycling is good for you:

  • Improves cardiovascular fitness: Cycling is an aerobic exercise that can improve your heart and lung health. Regular cycling can help increase your heart's ability to pump blood and deliver oxygen to your muscles, improving your cardiovascular fitness.
  • Burns calories: Cycling is an effective way to burn calories and lose weight. Depending on your weight and intensity level, you can burn between 400 and 750 calories per hour of cycling.
  • Strengthens muscles: Cycling involves using a range of muscles in your legs, hips, and core. Regular cycling can help strengthen these muscles, improving your overall strength and power.
  • Low-impact exercise: Unlike many other forms of exercise, such as running or jumping, cycling is a low-impact activity that places minimal stress on your joints. This makes it a good option for people who are recovering from injuries or have chronic joint pain.
  • Reduces stress: Besides the physical benefits, cycling can positively impact your mental health. Regular cycling can help reduce stress, improve mood, and boost cognitive function.

In addition to these general benefits, each type of biking may provide specific physical and cognitive benefits depending on the nature of the sport. Some examples are:

  • Road biking provides a high-intensity aerobic workout that can improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance. It also involves coordination and concentration, as riders must navigate traffic and maintain a smooth and efficient pedaling motion.
  • Mountain biking involves a combination of endurance, strength, and agility, as riders must navigate challenging terrain and obstacles. It also requires quick reflexes and decision-making skills, as riders must respond to changing conditions and hazards on the trail.
  • Touring involves long-distance cycling that can improve endurance, stamina, and mental and emotional resilience. It also provides opportunities for cultural immersion and learning, as riders have the chance to explore new places and meet new people.
  • BMX involves high-intensity, short-duration workouts that can improve power, speed, and coordination. It also requires creativity and self-expression as riders perform stunts and tricks that showcase their style and skills.
  • Cyclocross involves a combination of endurance, strength, and technical skills, as riders must navigate various road, trail, and obstacle conditions. It also requires strategic thinking and decision-making, as riders must choose the best line and pace to achieve their goals.

No matter which type of biking you choose, you can enjoy a wide range of physical and cognitive benefits from this fun and rewarding sport.

The Basics for getting started

If you are new to cycling, you should know a few things before hopping on a bike. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Learn the basic rules of the road: If you are planning to ride on the road, it is essential to know and follow the laws of the road, including obeying traffic signals and signs, using hand signals to indicate turns, and riding in the correct direction.
  • Wear a helmet: A helmet is essential for any cyclist. It can help protect your head in a crash or fall. Be sure to choose a helmet that fits properly and is certified by a recognized safety organization.
  • Check your bike: Before you ride, make sure your bike is in good working order. Check the tires, brakes, and other components to ensure they function correctly.
  • Start slow: If you are new to cycling, gradually building up your endurance and strength is vital. Begin with short rides on flat, easy terrain and progressively increase the distance and difficulty as you become more comfortable and confident.
  • Join a cycling group: If you need support and encouragement, consider joining a local cycling club or group. These groups often organize rides and events and can provide an excellent opportunity to meet other riders and improve your skills.

What Are The Best Workouts

The best workouts for different types of cycling will vary depending on the specific demands of the sport. Here are some examples of exercises that may be effective for different types of cycling:

  • Road biking workouts may include interval training, tempo rides, and long rides to improve endurance and power.
  • Mountain biking workouts may include hill repeats and strength training to improve leg strength and power.
  • Touring workouts may include long rides and endurance training to improve stamina and endurance.
  • BMX workouts may include interval training, sprints, and strength training to improve power and speed.
  • Cyclocross workouts may include interval training, hill repeats, and strength training to improve endurance, power, and agility.

It is important to consult with a coach or trainer to develop a personalized training plan that is tailored to your specific goals and fitness level.

Basic Nutrition And Hydration Tips

Proper nutrition and hydration are essential for optimal performance in cycling. Here are some basic tips for fueling and hydrating during cycling:

  • Eat a balanced diet: It's essential to eat a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats; this will provide your body with the fuel it needs to perform at its best.
  • Consume enough calories: During long rides or intense training sessions, it is important to consume enough calories to maintain your energy levels and avoid bonking; this may involve eating snacks or sports gels during your ride.
  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration can negatively impact your performance, so it is essential to stay hydrated during cycling. Be sure to drink plenty of water and sports drinks, especially in hot or humid conditions.
  • Consider sports nutrition products: Sports nutrition products, such as energy bars, gels, and drinks, can provide a convenient and portable source of calories and hydration during your rides. Consider adding PLASMAIDE to your pre- or post-ride routines.
  • Consult with a professional: To develop a personalized nutrition plan tailored to your specific goals and needs, consider consulting with a nutritionist or sports dietitian.

During intense cycling (e.g., long rides, competitions, races, etc.), consume plenty of calories to maintain your energy levels, avoid bonking, and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and sports drinks. To take your nutrition to the next level, consult a nutritionist or sports dietitian to develop a personalized nutrition plan tailored to your goals and needs.

What Are You Waiting For?

Cycling is a great way to improve your health, reduce your carbon footprint, and save money on transportation costs. Exploring your surroundings and discovering new places is also fun. Whether you're a seasoned cyclist or just starting, there are many physical and cognitive benefits.

Cycling is a low-impact form of exercise that can help improve your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your muscles, and increase your endurance. It's also a great way to relieve stress and improve mental health. In addition to the physical benefits, cycling can also help reduce your carbon footprint by replacing car trips with bike rides. This can help reduce air pollution and combat climate change.

Finally, there are many reasons why someone should get started cycling. Whether you're looking to improve your health, reduce your environmental impact, or save money on transportation, cycling is a great activity to get involved. 

So why not give it a try and see the benefits for yourself?

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