10 Things I Wish I Knew From The Start

We all slowly gather more information and experience the more we ride our bikes. We learn by reading, making mistakes, talking to people, observing others and much of the time by generally figuring things out as we go along. However, there are a few "light bulb" moments, as I like to call them, where in the past I have learnt something that I truly wished I'd known from the first moment my butt touched a bicycle saddle.

Since then I've seen my clients go through the same enlightenment process time and again with cries of "why hasn't anyone told me this before?". Some of them may seem simple, maybe you already know them all, but for some of you out there...prepare for some cycling enlightenment.

Can't Reach Your Brakes When You're in the Drops?

You can ask your bike shop to move the hoods down, thereby bringing the brake levers closer to the drops, to prevent that awkward reaching feeling (especially for those with small hands).

You can also have the levers themselves adjusted to bring them in closer, making it easier to get your fingers on the brakes.

A Dropped Chain Doesn't Mean You Have to Get Off Your Bike

Allow the bike to coast but keep pedaling and gently shift your front derailleur away from the direction that the chain has dropped. Be gentle and the chain should catch back onto the chain ring.

Obviously if you're going uphill this becomes more difficult but don't be surprised if you feel a helping hand on your back pushing you to keep you rolling as you ease the chain back on. Still not sure? Try it off the bike just turning the pedals with your hands and you'll see how it can work on the road.

Taking Your Rear Wheel off Doesn't Have to Leave You Covered in Oil

Before removing a rear wheel, make sure you are in your small chain ring and smallest cog on the cassette. This puts your rear derailleur in its most relaxed position and gives the chain the most slack. When you put the rear wheel back on simply line up the chain over your smallest cog again and ease the wheel back into the dropouts. You may have to use a finger to push the rear derailleur down but you shouldn't have to mess around grabbing hold of the chain with your hands.

Struggling to Eat on the Bike?

Cut open bars and blocks before you ride and have them ready to slip out of wrappers easily while you're riding (not recommended with gels I'm afraid—use your teeth for that one!).

Not Confident on a Descent?

There are many things to learn about descending better, more safely or more quickly. However the one learning point that people seem to gain the most from is learning to put their outside pedal down when taking a corner (for example, if you are cornering to the left put the right pedal down) and apply pressure to the pedal. Real hard pressure, not just putting the correct foot down, it should feel like you are trying to snap the pedal off! It's amazing how much more confidently you can descend when you start doing this.

Feeling the Pressure?

One hundred pounds is a very popular tire pressure for some reason, no matter what the terrain or rider weight. Actually,the correct tire pressure varies a lot depending on the rider, where they are riding, the tire width and manufacturer. You can usually call the tire manufacturer or look on their website and find the correct pressure for you, your bike and your riding. Be aware—too much air can slow you down too by causing a bumpy ride!

Feeling the Heat?

If you're going to be riding on a very hot day, prepare both water bottles in advance and freeze them overnight. Have one filled 70 percent full. When you remove them in the morning top up the slightly less full bottle so you have some liquid immediately. As you ride, they'll melt but they'll stay cool for much longer.

Correct Quick Release Skewer Position

For a quick release to be properly closed it has to be fully closed and in order for it to be fully closed it has to be pushed in beyond the level of the seat or chain stays or the front fork. So don't line it up with the frame or the fork, close the lever to the side of the seat stay, rear stay or front fork to ensure it is properly engaged.

Check Your Helmet Regularly

On a slightly gloomier note, be sure to check your helmet regularly for cracks. Even a knock while transporting it can cause the foam to crack and certainly if you've had any kind of fall inspect it well. Your helmet is designed to break instead of your head so please, please make sure it's up to the task.

Don't Run on Empty

Imagine you had a fuel tank in your car that steadily leaked fuel out. A bad approach to taking a journey would be to leave in the morning, forget to fill up with gas, run out of fuel on the way and end up pushing your car home, then when you get home fill the tank up with gas and subsequently leave your car sitting outside steadily dripping gas out before you climb in it the next day and repeat the same mistake all over again.

Crazy? Yes, but that's very often the approach people take to fueling themselves before and during a ride: limiting fuel when it's really needed and trying to make up for it after all the hard effort has been done. So, do yourself a favor and fill up before you go and then keep topping up as you expend the energy. Life will seem much more pleasant that way and you won't end up doing the cycling equivalent of pushing your car home (i.e. bonking!).