23 Tips for First-Time Female Road Cyclists [Beginners]
Now that the Tour de France is well underway, more and more people start to become curious about taking up road cycling themselves. While cycling used to be an almost exclusively male sport before, more and more brands and initiatives are geared towards women as well. Makes sense, since cycling is just as great for women to work on their fitness and enjoy being out in the countryside.
I took up road cycling about 6 months ago. At first, there’s a lot to think about: which bike is suitable for my needs, what gear will I need, what should I look out for?
Fortunately, being surrounded by bike-minded colleagues and friends, I got all the advice I could wish for. Especially for fellow female road cyclists-to be, I’ve listed what I found were the 23 most helpful tips!
1. The right size road bike
Perhaps you borrow a bike for your first ride, or maybe you just go ahead and buy one. In either case, don’t just go for the bike with the nicest colour, but pay particular attention to the frame size.
Men and women are different, so there are different specific men’s and women’s road bikes as well. Not every woman necessarily needs a women’s road bike, so it pays to get fitted properly. You can even determine the right frame size yourself.
2. Properly setting up your road bike
Found a road bike in the right size (and in a nice colour)? Then have it set up properly! Make sure that your saddle and handlebars are at the right height.
This is at the very least as important as getting the right size bike. With a properly fitted bike, you’ll prevent a lot of needless injuries and discomfort.
3. Practice with clipless pedals!
Clipless pedals look terrifying, but they’re not so bad! You get used to them in no time. Flat pedals are an option of course, but remember that clipless pedals allow you to ride so much faster!
Before your first real bike ride, practice clipping in and out a few times on a local field. This way, you’ll get used to the motion of engaging and disengaging your pedals before you really take to the roads.
4. Get some proper cycling bibshorts!
An important advantage of cycling for many women is: good looking cycling clothing! There are plenty of brands these days that offer fashionable cycling clothing for women. Yes, us women do often seem to find good looking cycling clothing a tad more important than men do, and why not?!
You might not buy all of your cycling kit in one go. You can easily borrow a cycling bibshort for your first few rides. Taking a shine to cycling and want to get your own cycling clothing?
It all starts with a proper pair of cycling bibshorts. Preferably one fitted with women-specific padding. It might feel a little strange at first, but it makes riding your bike a lot more comfortable.
Just to make it abundantly clear: you don’t wear underwear under your cycling bib shorts (as this will only lead to skin irritation and chafing).
5. Plan a nice route
Think of a nice route before you set off on your first cycling trip. Preferably over easy, quiet roads with few junctions or crossings. This way you’re able to focus on the bike rather than the route.
After all, you don’t want to be stopping every 500 metres to check the map.
6. Spare tube, bike tools, and more
Going for a bike ride alone? Then at the very least bring the tools to fix a flat tyre. If you do get a puncture, then at least you’re not left empty handed.
In order to swap a flat inner tube you’ll need: a spare inner tube, tyre levers to get your tyre off the rim, and a pump to inflate your new tube.
Changeable conditions? Then bring a set of arm- and leg warmers if you get cold easily.
7. Learn to swap an inner tube (or learn to ask for help really kindly)
You have a flat… now what? Make sure you know how to replace an inner tube before you set off! It might be a good idea to practice this at home once or twice, or bring a fellow cyclist who can show you how it’s done.
If you don’t quite manage, you could always kindly ask any passing cyclists for some help. Most cyclists are more than willing to help a novice rider fix a small mechanical or puncture.
8. Check your tyre pressure
Setting the right tyre pressure can get a tad technical, but it’s something worth checking before you set off. Depending on the type of tyres, you need to set a certain minimum tyre pressure (denoted in bar or psi).
For most road bike tyres, the rule of thumb is that you inflate them to 10% of your body weight in bar (so if you weigh 60 kg, you inflate them to 6 bar). Please note that some tyres have a maximum pressure, which is usually denoted on the sidewall. Naturally, you can always ask us when you’re getting some new tyres.
In really simple terms, your tyres need to feel hard enough that you’re barely able to compress them. They shouldn’t be able to deform too much when you’re on the bike and ride over a bump. Want to get a slightly more precise insight into your tyre pressure? Then getting yourself a pump with a pressure gauge is the way to go!
To make things even easier: tyres are getting increasingly wider these days, lowering the required tyre pressure accordingly. Some road bikes even come with tyres as wide as 32 mm, which have a recommended tyre pressure of just 5.5 bar.
So if you’re not sure about your tyre pressure, don’t hesitate to ask someone more experienced for advice. Alternatively, you could always look up more information on the website of your tyre manufacturer.
9. Always wear a cycling helmet!
It sounds like a no-brainer, cycling with a proper cycling helmet, yet still we see riders take to the road without one from time to time.
Cycling helmets come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s always one out there which fits you right. So: tie up your hair and safety first: helmet on!
10. Bring the essentials
The great thing about cycling jerseys is that they often have pockets on the rear. They’re great to bring various items along with you, without them getting in your way. Besides the cycling tools described in tip no. 6, there are a few other items which are useful to bring along.
Firstly, your mobile phone. Secondly, bring your ID, insurance card, and a bank card or some cash. Should you feel hungry halfway, or perhaps get lost, then you’re prepared to deal with the situation!
11. Find a cycling friend
Even though you can ride your bike alone, cycling is inherently a social sport as well. Besides being outside and getting fit, the coffee stop halfway is a popular pastime as well for many cyclists :-).
So find yourself a cycling friend! Not only is cycling together fun, it’s a great way to share tips and experiences during your rides as well.
12. Make sure you eat and drink sufficiently during your ride
Take good care to eat and drink sufficiently, particularly during your first few rides. Cycling burns a lot more calories than you’d think, so bring enough food like a banana, energy bar, or small snacks.
Make sure to regularly have a bite to eat, and keep drinking. Once you start to feel hungry, you’re actually too late. Because what often follows is the dreaded “bonk”: the sensation that your body, particularly your legs, are so drained of any power that you’re barely able to keep the pedals spinning. It feels as unpleasant as it sounds, so better to prevent it from happening!
13. Pay attention to your position on the bike
Even though cycling is a relatively injury-free sport, you can still suffer from serious discomfort or issues if your position on the bike isn’t right. The first few times are probably quite exciting and perhaps a little scary, which can cause you to be a little tense on the bike.
Try to relax your shoulders, not hold onto your bars too tightly, and don’t lock your arms. You’ll probably feel your core muscles after your first few rides, as cycling is a great workout for that as well!
14. Remember to clip out in time when you stop!
Having followed tip 3 to the letter, you’ve practiced clipping in and out of your pedals a few times. It’s now time to put that into practice on your first ride. So don’t forget to clip out when you need to stop!
15. Shift into an easier gear in time
When you do need to stop, remember to change down a few gears to a lighter cog. This makes riding away at the lights just that little easier.
A lighter gear enables you to get back up to speed more easily from a stop, quickly picking up where you left off.
16. Look ahead
You might be able to leisurely cruise around on your old city bike, but a road bike is probably going to travel a lot faster than you’re used to thus far. So teach yourself to look ahead further. Pay attention to what other road users are doing and keep an eye out on road obstacles, as things get closer to you a lot quicker than you’d think.
17. Create a Strava account and log your bike rides
If you’re getting the hang of things, it could be fun to keep track of your rides and your progress! Strava is well-known throughout the cycling world and a perfect tool for the job.
This mobile phone app allows you to have a look at previously completed rides, plot your own routes, and follow other riders and their progress. You can even compare your results with other (female) cyclists.
18. Participate in a sportive
Sportives are organised throughout the country all year long. These are organised events which have signed routes and a number of rest stops along the way.
Participating in a sportive also means you can check out some new places on the bike! It’s also a great push to keep riding your bike, since that 120 km sportive you’re taking part in a few weeks from now really does require a little training.
19. Work on your cornering technique
Carving up corners quickly and neatly is difficult at first, and maybe even a little scary. Don’t worry, a little practice will soon have you ride through them without issues. The most important to remember is the position of your feet during a turn.
Always keep the foot on the inside of the turn in the top position (so if you turn left, keep that left foot up). This prevents you from hitting the road with your pedal, which could cause you to lose your balance.
20. Don’t grind that big gear
A lot of novice cyclists tend to shift into quite big gears at first. It seems simple enough, having to spin the pedals less frequently in order to maintain the same speed. As a new rider, you won’t be able to keep this up for long. Most women simply don’t have that much power in their legs when they first take up cycling.
So try and maintain a fairly high rhythm, or cadence (fairly high being 1.5 to 2 revolutions per second). This makes it less difficult to ride your bike and reduces the amount of power you need to turn the pedals. You’ll also be able to ride for longer this way, especially as a first-time cyclist.
21. Perform some regular basic maintenance on your road bike
Your bike was probably quite an expensive purchase, and if you’re starting to really enjoy cycling you’ll probably want to keep doing so for a long time. Performing a little maintenance from time to time not only increases the lifespan of your bike, it also prevents any excess costs in the future.
It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Simply wash your bike from time to time and lubricate your chain, preferably before you hear it starting to creak. Naturally, we’ve got a number of bike maintenance tips for you as well. It also pays to have your bike serviced by a professional every 6 months or so.
22. Recover after your first ride
Gradually ease into cycling. Don’t try to cover 60 kilometres or more every day during your first day, but rest up a few days after your first ride. Like with any other sport, properly increasing your effort is important.
Start with a 20 or 30 kilometre ride, and add a few kilometres for every ride after that. Soon you’ll find you’re making a lot of progress over very little time!
23. Share your cycling adventures!
Really got the hang of it, and are you completely in love with riding your bike? Then your newfound hobby might just open up a whole new world for you! Share your adventures on social media, join a local (women’s) cycling club, and set yourself some goals.
Whether you’re training for your first Alpine climb, or want to conquer your first QOM; all the best of luck and enjoy riding your bike! Oh and don’t forget to share your cycling adventures on #mantelmoment ;-).