FitBits: 5 tips to be a better road cyclist (on my baby's 3rd birthday)

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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

5 tips to be a better road cyclist (on my baby's 3rd birthday)



Me and Chris have seven babies in our household, and we love them all dearly.

They make a fair bit of mess, require a lot of care and attention, and are of course quite expensive to bring into the world and look after, but bring us so much joy every day.

My road bike is three years old today! Happy birthday babes, mummy loves ya xxx 

I remember when I first got it, how excited I was to upgrade from my much loved but chunky hybrid (Giant Escape 3) that I'd had for two years previous. That hybrid went to a very good home and was much loved too by my sis-in-law until some scrote stole her wheel :(

Our first ride :) 



My Giant Avail 3 may not be the lightest, or highest spec road bike on the market, but it's been so much more than a set of wheels to me. I've loved all my bikes over the years, but this one is a teeny bit more special - my trusty steed, race machine and partner in crime - she comes everywhere with me.

I've ridden my roadie every single day since I bought her. She's taken me to work and back, to the gym, to meet my BTRS buddies for a run or midweek duathlon, to town for shopping, coffee and mooching about with friends.

To the pub, but never left locked alone for too long for fear of her getting stolen by some cruddy Brighton bike thief (sadly they do exist).

First time scaling Ditchling Beacon!
Aside from the day-to-day we've been on so many long adventures together: from my first ever group ride from Velo Cafe, bringing up the rear behind a group of speedy boys, (this girl CAN, but she's a bit slow) or scaling the formiddable Ditchling Beacon for the first time with Chris ahead on his matching Giant Defy 3.

I was so excited to join the club and become a 'proper' Brighton cyclist.

She's made me learn to ride clipped in, seen me through my first two triathlons, giving me the confidence I needed to spend my energy worrying about surviving the swims safe in the knowledge that I'd catch the fuckers up on the bike.

Game face during my first triathlon at Eton Dorney



She confidently (and safely) weaves through traffic, relishes the wide open country roads on evening rides, and responds well when I push hard during races or midweek duathlons with the BTRS crew.

She makes me feel free AF and I love her with all my heart. Even though I do still perve over other bikes, (n+1, always n+1), I know she's still the one for me.

For now...


Be a better road cyclist - 5 tips

I'm not trained to give advice but speak from over 20 years experience of riding on the road, (learned when I was at primary school - thanks Dad), so let me share some of my wisdom if you're looking to improve your confidence on the road.


1) Buy a bike fit for purpose


Think about the kind of riding you want to do. Are you commuting every day, or just saving for racing? Do you want to pootle around the shops on a weekend? Or enjoy long and comfy weekend rides with coffee and cake stops?

For a first road bike, I chose the Giant Avail 3 (priced at £800 at the time) because it was sturdy, made with good components and capable of the daily short commute, long rides and triathlons thrown in for good measure - it's a great all-rounder.


2) Service regularly, or learn to do it yourself 


Whilst I'm really good at regularly servicing my baby, what I'm not very good at is learning what the hell I'm doing myself, and even though I've been on a great free course from Brighton & Hove Council, I can't really remember much of it so will have to do it again!

My roadie's long and happy life has been possible due to the various new cassettes, chains, pedals, brake cables, pads, tyres and everything else that it's had to keep it running smoothly, which which kind of makes me feel like Trigger proudly showcasing his trusty broom, but you get the idea.





3) Ease in gently 

Another great reason I chose the Avail 3 is the extra set of brakes it has on the handlebars, giving me extra options to slow down without having to move around too much.

Going from the nice wide handlebars and upright seated position of my hybrid to the more aggressive, narrow and forward leaning road cycling style was difficult at first so this extra functionality was invaluable as a beginner.

I'm actually really gonna miss them when I do finally upgrade to a bike with only one set of brakes! 


I also didn't go for clipped in pedals until I was completely confident in the new riding position, and practiced clipping in and out around the park with Chris holding me up! To this day I've still not fallen over at traffic lights too, so that practice must've done me some good!


4) Ride like you're driving

Whether you're a driver or not, you should act like a car when cycling on the road.

That means stopping at lights, (yes, every time), never riding up the left hand side of a larger vehicle (bus, lorry, van - it's a massive blindspot and the driver cannot see you), always indicating to cars when turning corners so they actually know where you're going.

When I first got my road bike, looking behind me before I stuck my arm out to indicate used to throw me off balance with the narrow positioning but I practiced in the park so I was confident on the road and now it's second nature.

When indicating, look behind you to make sure they're not right on your arse, put your arm out straight in the direction that you're going (not a pissy little point with your little finger - do it like you mean it, and they'll slow down for you to turn).


5) Join a HSBC UK Breeze cycle ride



OK so you can only do this if you have a vagina as it's a women only group, but I went along to one with Active Sussex and it was great - watch the video below, and check out the other This Girl Can videos we've made here.

If you're not in the know, Breeze is a nationwide initiative from Sport England and British Cycling offering free, women-only rides across the country, for all ages and abilities, building confidence and skills on the road.
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Any other tips I've missed here for beginners?

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