Greasy Chain Charitable Trust

Helping all New Zealanders become fitter through cycling

Greasy Chain Charitable Trust

Helping all New Zealanders become fitter through cycling

Cycling To Get Healthier

Why cycle?

Unfortunately we have an unenviable statistic in New Zealand – did you know that New Zealand has the third highest adult obesity rate in the OECD, and our rates continue to increase? One in three adult New Zealanders (over 15 years) is classified as obese, and one in ten children.

Regular cycling can help redress this statistic. Cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and circulation, reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Cycling also strengthens your heart muscles, lowers resting pulse and reduces blood fat levels.

How to start cycling

From the outside looking in, cycling looks simple – all you have to do is pedal, right? But it can sometimes come off as intimidating if you’re brand new to getting back on the bike for the first time in a few years. You might find yourself thinking, “Wait, I need more gear?” or simply, “Yikes. Do I have to wear Lycra?”

But once you take that first ride, we’re sure you’ll be hooked by the sense of freedom, adventure, and joy so commonly felt on the bike. Getting started is easier than it seems, and we’ll let you in on a little secret: You don’t even have to wear tight fitting clothes if you don’t want to. To help, we’ve gathered up six need-to-know tips on how to ride a bike for beginners so you can hit the open road with confidence.


Choose the Right Bike

You’ll need a great set of wheels, and they needn’t be expensive. While we’re big fans of all types of bikes, we’re specifically talking about bikes suitable for the road here. This is the most common and accessible form of cycling for beginners, and the lightweight bikes – with skinny tires and efficient riding geometry – are designed to help you navigate paved bike paths and city streets. However, the following tips apply to other types of bikes, mountain bikes, town bikes, even e-bikes.

Just like picking the perfect pair of running shoes, you first need to size your bike. Stand over the top tube and look for about 2.5cm of clearance between your body and the frame. If this sounds foreign to you, your local bike shop can help with this.

Next you need to pick a bike that fits your budget and riding style. Are you going to log casual kilometres on the weekends? Do you want to use your bike for exercise? Are you planning on eventually doing long-distance rides like centuries or racing? Road bike frames have specific geometries and components, tailored for each of these goals at every price point.


Get Geared Up

There’s some essential gear you’ll need. A new helmet is the most important and must be worn at all times while riding. Helmets have a shelf life, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and buy a new one instead of reaching for that old one hanging in the garage.

A cycling kit – jersey, matching padded cycling knicks (essential) and socks – is more aerodynamic and comfortable on the bike than other athletic clothes. The material wicks away sweat and helps regulate body temperature; the form-fitting cut reduces chafing; and the padded seat (chamois) protects sensitive areas from road vibration.

While we suggest starting your cycling journey with standard flat pedals and athletic shoes, eventually you may want to transition to road bike shoes and clipless pedals. This shoe-pedal combination secures your feet in place to improve pedalling efficiency and bike handling. Unclipping can sometimes be tricky, so be sure to practice in a field until you get the hang of it.

Other important items
Include some tools (tyre levers, a mini pump, spare tubes, and a multi-tool) and a water bottle or two. You can also opt for a cycling computer, which comes in handy for tracking distances and navigating routes.

Make sure you have at least a rear flashing taillight – even in daylight – to make sure motorists see you. A front light is also useful and essential after dark.


Create a Cycling Habit

Your first few rides might be tough – your body is adjusting to the stress of a totally new activity. But like all things in life, real progress is made when you stick with it for the long run. The first step to make riding a habit is to be realistic. Start small and grow from there.

It’s been found that a minimum of two to three regular days a week, quickly develops into a habit. Try to make sure that you select the same days and the same times, so that it does become habit forming.

No matter when you choose to ride, lay out your kit, fill your bottles, and pump up your tyres ahead of time. Prepping and deciding to get on the bike is sometimes the hardest part – doing a little pre-ride preparation will prevent excuses from getting in the way.

Setting a long-term goal is a great way to stay engaged and track progress. You can aim to ride a certain number of days a week or look for a local charity ride, gran fondo, cyclo sportif or create your own long-term kilometre goal.


Stay Safe

We’ve already mentioned how important wearing your helmet is while riding, but there’s more to staying safe on your bike than just protecting your noggin.  Putting on the helmet mentally alerts your brain to the need to stay safe.

When riding alone
Always carry a basic multi-tool, a form of identification, cash, and your phone in case of an emergency. As much as we hate to admit it, sometimes not all rides go as planned – don’t find yourself stranded on the side of the road after a crash or with an unfixable mechanical with no help.

Always follow local traffic laws while riding
This includes coming to a complete stop at all stop signs and red lights (even on group rides) and using appropriate hand signals when making a lane change or turn. Set a good example for other road users by obeying the rules.  Also, don’t assume the car coming up behind you knows you’re there just because you’re in their lane. The more aware you are of your surroundings, the more you can anticipate any drivers not paying attention or hazards out on the road.

Headphones or earbuds should never be worn while riding outdoors
If you need tunes for motivation during a ride, opt instead for a small Bluetooth speaker and store it in your pocket or water bottle cage.  You’ll also find that there are helmets now available that have speakers and directional mikes linked by Bluetooth to your cell phone.


Find Your Riding Style

As you spend more and more time in the saddle, you’ll learn more about your personal riding style and preferences. Maybe you love riding non-competitively with a group, or you prefer heading out on solo adventures. Maybe you find yourself yearning to race, or simply using your bike to commute to work every day. There are endless ways to ride and enjoy riding – it just takes a little trial and error to find yours.


(Eventually) Find a Group

There’s something to be said about finding the internal motivation to ride regularly, but sometimes a little positive peer pressure goes a long way. Cycling is uniquely both an individual and group sport. You can certainly ride and accomplish goals solo, but riding with a group can make it physically easier (you can draft off each other for less wind resistance) and more motivating.

You’ll quickly find that cycling is a surprisingly social and supportive sport. Weekly group rides can hold you accountable and give you the extra push you need to throw your leg over the saddle when motivation is lacking. Many people in these organised rides have advice from years of experience that they’re more than willing to share – watch, learn and ask questions.