If you're interested in getting into the sport of cycling, these tips from professional triathlete Beth Walsh are a great starting point.
- Buddy up! Find an experienced friend or two to take you out on the road and show you the ropes in a non-intimidating atmosphere. Once you get comfortable, you’ll forget you’re “working out”: Enjoy each other’s company, the great outdoors and the power of the open road!
- Road bikes come in a variety of sizes and at many price points. Rather than having your heart set on one bike, head to your local bike shop and test a few bikes to find a proper fit. A very expensive bike is of no use to you if it doesn’t fit your body properly. Look for women-specific bicycles (Cannondale has a great line!) because they come in many sizes, but they also have features that are specifically for women, such as a smaller distance between the brakes and handlebars for smaller hands!
- A stationary bike trainer is also a great investment. If you are not comfortable riding on the road alone or are short on time, there is no reason to sacrifice your bike workout! You can hook your road bike up to a stationary trainer at home and get in an excellent workout! Try this simple 60 minute workout: 10-minute warm up riding easy with several 20-second bursts of high cadence (100-120 rpm). Then, 5-by-5 minute intervals: Ride hard for 5 minutes (at 80-90 rpm), then spin very easy and recover for 5 minutes. The last “rest interval” is your cool down.
- Practice clipping in and out in a parking lot or on a stationary bike trainer until you feel comfortable heading out on the road. Once you’re on the road, remember to unclip before you think you need to in order to avoid a last minute topple at an intersection.
- For climbing, try to keep momentum and never be “over geared.” This means shifting to easier gears to keep cadence up as the terrain gets steeper. You never want to push too big of a gear and waste energy on climbs.
- When descending, the most important thing it to relax. Try not to tense all your muscles. Use your brakes heading into the turn, look where you want to go, and then release the brakes and pedal through the turn. Also, when going downhill I usually try to recover, but not just coast. Use a gear that allows you to keep pedaling and remain in control. Typically descents come after climbs so it's a good time to spin out the legs.
Learn how to change a flat tire when training so that if it happens on race day, you're prepared. If you get a flat on a training ride, ask the more experienced person to talk you through it, or practice in the comfort of your own garage with the help of some YouTube tutorials. Your race doesn't need to be over if you get a flat on the bike, and knowing that you have the confidence to change one can relieve race day anxiety.
In 2008, Beth raced her first triathlon. She lives in Encinitas, CA with her husband, James. In 2011, Beth and James competed together at the Ironman World Championships in Kona HI. After a successful 2011 amateur season in triathlon, Beth has decided to take the leap into professional competition. When she is not racing, Beth works full-time as a school psychologist.