1) Make a habit of riding. Riding a bike on the reg is like flossing your teeth. It’s an easy habit to develop that serves several benefits: fitness, social, mental well-being, sustainability. If you don’t push through and get rubber to the road for a week, it easily becomes two or three then on and on.
2) Break your riding habits. The key benefit to riding is that it’s fun. There’s a childish enjoyment to it so making your riding overly systematic robs some of the fun. If you’ve got the discipline down, then remember to occasional appeal to those spontaneous urges to take on a different kind of ride.
3) Keep it clean. Not everyone is a mechanic, but it doesn’t take a mechanic to keep your bike running smooth. All it requires is you being on top of keeping your bike sparkling clean. The more regularly you make a habit of washing off the road grime you notice your ride is smoother, has fewer mechanical hiccups and most importantly will leave your bike looking flossy and fast.
4) You are what you eat. Make sure you eat well. The more time you spend riding the more you’re going to find yourself eating so figure out a diet that works for you.
5) Find others to ride with. Riding solo can be a lonely affair. Making riding friends can inspire your imagination on the bike and can enforce positive habits. It can make things competitive or just introduce you to other areas of riding or places to ride.
6) Mix it up. Commuters know the pain. If you got too much of a good thing you’ll quickly find yourself sick of it. Change where you ride or what you’re riding occasionally to get a fresh feel for things.
7) Explore other sports. Otherwise you’ll end up looking like a character out of Triplets of Belleville. Well, if you’re training to race that’s a given no matter, but other sports do wonders for your riding. Practicing other sports can encourage better posture and better breathing, deepen your anaerobic pain pool, and just take care of other parts of your body that cycling might be chipping away at.
8) Know when you need a break. Having a solid riding habit is good but everyone needs the occasional sweet relief. If you’re sick, rest until you’re better even if it really throws off riding plans. If you’ve had a solid season, be sure to park the bike and do something entirely different for a few weeks. It’s ok, you will always be able to get back on the bike.
9) Your bike is everything. Make sure you’ve got a ride that complements your riding. Be doubly sure the fit is good. Finally, a bike you think looks great is positive self-expression, not vanity. You want a bike that feels like your best friend and is a machine you can be proud of.
10) Don’t buy the hype. The bike industry is replete with radical new tech and doo-dads that improve performance by nothing. The beauty of the bike by design is simplicity, so if you’re looking for a new ride don’t get a bike with a focus on how much you can spend, but whether or not it fits your ability.
11) Support your LBS. The internet is a wonderful resource for learning about bicycle mechanics and I highly encourage anyone looking to enrich their bike life to learn about what they’re riding and how it works. However, the internet is also littered with bullshit. Find an LBS you like (talk to the staff and see if the vibe works for you) and treat them like the goodly blue collar technicians they are. Sure, the LBS costs more but for the type of firsthand experience and the extra assurance they’ll take care of you, it’s worth it.
12) Practice wheelies. No joke. Or practice any trick really. Goofing off on the bike and practicing a wheelie or bunny hop or something is fun and reminds you that you can still enjoy yourself like a kid.
13) Push yourself. The harder you work, the greater the rewards. Don’t let comparisons to other riders intimidate you. Know the kind of rider you are and look to be able to rider further, faster, up more hills, on scarier terrain or just more regularly. Find some part of your cycling to improve, set a goal and ride towards it.
14) Know your limits. The hardest part about creating metrics with your riding is knowing how exactly you fit into them. Work to achieve what you want with your riding, but don’t rain hell on yourself if you don’t make the high water mark. Use this as an opportunity to adjust your goal, but keep reaching for it.
15) Don’t ride dangerously. No one likes that asshole who puts themselves before anyone else. Ride smart and responsibly. Be able to distinguish between something risky and something dangerous. You can do what you want to yourself on the bike but think about consequences to those around you. Also, if you’re riding with others, make sure you know their abilities and don’t put them in a danger.
16) You’re going to wreck. This is not if, but when. Everybody will crash their bike. Sometimes it’s hard, others it’s relatively minor. But never take the fact for granted and be sure you treat your bike with that respect in kind.
17) Don’t ride if you’re sick or injured. The itch to ride can be strong, but in some situations it’s best not to scratch it. If you’re laid up for a while, make sure to check with a health professional before getting back on the bike to see if the work you’re putting in is helping or hindering.
18) Fit and comfort are one in the same. Fit is a pseudoscience. There are great guidelines for insuring you get the most out of your bike without compromising your body while in the saddle, but part of it is a smoke and mirrors game to make sure you’re comfortable on the bike. If you’re comfortable with your bike set up the way it is for the riding you do, then that’s a great place to start. If your body is giving you grief, you should pay your LBS a visit and see what insights they have about adjusting your bike to get it just right.
19) Some things just hurt. You wouldn’t go to the gym and not expect to feel sore afterward, and the same goes for a bike. If you’re spending time in the saddle, your ass will hurt. Same goes for your hands, wrists, lower back, neck, etc. Get a feel for what pain is a given and what needs to be addressed.
20) Carbon fiber is just fancy plastic. Going with a high tech carbon fiber piece of equipment is neat, but its cost is commensurate with the marketing. If you’re rough on bikes or plan to put the thing through its paces just be very aware that if it’s comprised at all (cracks, chips, splinters) then it’s done. Regardless, with any carbon part you will always worry that it will fail critically. There are warranties and services to replace/repair carbon but if you don’t want the extra anxiety, go with a traditional alloy.
21) Good bike design is simple and just works. It should be relatively intuitive. If you’re looking at a rad bike part and the explanation for the design is long-winded and sounds generally awesome: It’s not. A brilliantly thought out design work around is an extra problematic step to just designing out the problem in the first place.
22) Most stuff is “Made in China”. It seems people are probably more comfortable with this now than ever, but it’s a dumb hiccup to have over a bike or part. Get rid of the notion that everything made in China is featuring inferior materials, construction or design. Some things do but that’s only because everything (the whole spectrum of quality for both developed and developing markets) is made in China. You get what you pay for, so if you’re looking at a factory direct, no name carbon wheel set at 1/10 the cost, it may suck. It may not, but paying more equals less risk.
23) Your bike should look good. Your bike is a mechanical representation of who you are. When you’re looking for a new bike or just tweaking the one you got, make sure you pander to the part of you that wants your bike to not just feel and ride great but look cool, too.
24) You don’t need a computer. Riding should be first and foremost about the experience. Learn a little bit about how your bike rides and how you feel on the bike without relying on data and other numerical metrics first. Learn how to slot yourself ability-wise within a line up of like riders and grow your strengths from there.
25) Don’t be afraid of computers. Know your rider self first and foremost but don’t be an archaic luddite that swear off technology indefinitely. There are benefits to quantifying your rides to clearly understand the nuances of your riding. Or if you’re commuting and just want to make sure you get to the office not a minute early, knowing your route to the T is pretty useful.
26) Try racing. It doesn’t have to be the spandex clad bunch sprints of a road crit if that’s not your scene. There’s all kinds of ways to get competitive on a bike. From unofficial alleycats to raucous beer-fueled polo matches, #CXseasoniscoming to a 12 hour mountain bike race: There’s a little bit of something for everyone and competition helps you learn more about your riding, is fun and can connect you to your tribe.
27) Heckling is a form of support. If you’re competing or just out watching, being the bastard on the sideline is entirely acceptable and encouraged. Another benefit of heckling is that it also forces you to be accountable. Don’t talk shit that surmounts your ability or else you’ll be held to it, which is fine if you use this as a nifty trick to inform your own riding metrics and goals.
28) When you assume, you make an ass out of “u” and “me”. There are different strokes for different folks so don’t make a judgement about another biker on the basis of the riding they do. BMX isn’t just for kids and road cycling isn’t just for yuppie assholes.
29) Ride at your own pace. If you’re riding solo you know where you need to go and how to get there. The speed of your ride is only secondary. Push the tempo when you want or just spin it out, and to hell with everyone else.
30) Once in your life, go on a bike tour. Everyone that rides a bike needs at some point to plan a multi-day adventure. Setting out on a ride that doesn’t just bring right back home is a rite of passage to understanding the limitless horizon a bicycle brings you.
31) You’re never too old to have fun. Whether you’re an angsty teen figuring out how to ride a pump track, a 20-something who loves practicing trackstandz on loudly colored fixies or a retired Vet with back issues bound to riding recumbents and having water bottle squirt fights with your pals, riding a bike is about fun first and foremost.