With the weather warming up and solo workouts being encouraged now more than ever, there’s no better time to discover a new sport and exercise activity than the present. We’ve reached out to ShokzStar and accomplished triathlete Katie Z. for tips and tricks on how to start cycling. Whether you’re a biking beginner or a cycling enthusiast, these pointers are sure to help you pedal past your limits.
What I remember the most from my first professional race as a triathlete was one of my competitors (and now friend) yelling at me on the bike, “What are you doing?!” To which I responded, “I have no idea!”
It was my first time doing a draft-legal triathlon, and while I had a background in swimming and running, the cycling aspect was still relatively new to me. I am currently in my 7th year as a triathlete and I’m still constantly learning and trying to get more comfortable on the bike. Over the years cycling has caused me the most anxiety, frustration, tears, discomfort and fear. It has also brought me the most feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction. It’s introduced me to an amazing community of people. It has been the catalyst to turn my attention inwards to the mental aspect of training and life, thus resulting in a heightened awareness of my emotions and how to be the best version of myself even through feelings of fear and discomfort. Cycling has transformed me as a person and an athlete. I now find myself enjoying aspects of riding that I would have dreaded in the past, while also being able to apply other aspects of what I’ve learned to life in general.
Even as I have gained a lot more confidence in my cycling it still continues to be a focus of my training and energy as I strive to get better and more comfortable. Here are some of the key components that have helped me progress over the years:
Always put safety first
Make sure that you feel safe where you are riding. Gather information from bike shops and cyclists in the area to learn the best routes to ride. Wear a bike helmet, bright-coloured clothes and invest in a rear bike light. Always carry a form of ID. I always wear my ROAD ID with my name and an emergency contact number on it. I also always wear my AfterShokz open-ear headphones so that I am always aware of what is going on around me and can hear the different sounds to be able to respond accordingly.
Whatever it is you’re trying to achieve on the bike, start with manageable challenges for yourself. For me, when I first wanted to start getting better at my bike skills I went to empty parking lots to practice cornering around the medians, lamp posts, water bottles, etc.
Learn from those around you
I went to my husband, my coach and my teammates to ask for help. I also learned a lot from those who I do the group rides with. Determine who you respect as cyclists/coaches/experts in the field and reach out to them with questions.
Learn the strategies that work best for you
In order to get past the mental and emotional barriers on the bike, I started speaking to a sports psychologist. I learned how to best manage the stress that I would feel moving out of my comfort zone by relaxing, breathing, and focusing on specific cues (relaxed arms, weight on the outside book, where I was looking).
Be kind to yourself
There are going to some days that are better than others on the bike. Some days things will click and other days they won’t. Be patient with yourself and work with whatever type of day you’re having. Even if that means your goals need to be shifted a bit.
Put yourself in uncomfortable (but safe) situations
Although at first group rides were not my favourite thing, I continued to show up to them and learn better skills as I found group rides to be highly valuable in race simulation. I chose group rides based on the ones that respect the rules of the road and are known to be more “safe”. As a result of participating in the group rides, I learned to follow people’s wheels that I trust and put myself in better positions in the pack. It’s been really fun partaking in these rides year after year and seeing and feeling how much progress I’ve made.
Just go out to enjoy riding!
Although I try to incorporate a lot of intentional practise into my daily rides, some days I just need to turn off my brain and go enjoy the ride. I love riding with my AfterShokz on these days so I can still hear all that is going on around me while listening to some of my favourite music. One of my favourite ways to explore is through mapping out a ride on gmap-pedometer.com or using Strava to find routes that other people have done that are new to me.
Even when I’m on the training bike riding indoors I enjoy wearing my AfterShokz so that I can ride to music or a podcast (because an indoor ride without some form of entertainment would drag on for me) while still being able to hear my family members in case they need me or I just want to be able to hear their reactions to my glorious singing.
It’s been really exciting to observe my personal growth and experience things that would have caused me anxiety in the past with joy and excitement. Whether it is racing, training, descents, climbs or corners, it’s been fun to be able to compare how I used to approach these challenges to how I do now. I love cycling with an explorative mindset where I still want to get better and improve, but in a way that is enjoyable for me. I look forward to each opportunity to explore on my bike, seeing where my legs can take me and just enjoying the ride.