Ride the Puddles

Stuff Beginners Should Know (But Almost Never Do): General Tips

Posted by bikezilla on February 17, 2011

— Ego vs Brain

Don’t let your ego rule your riding.

Most of us can’t afford the best and “coolest” equipment. Don’t even worry about it.

What you need to hunt down is the most practical equipment you can afford and f**k what the guys on the highend bikes tell you is “cool”.

Do you know what I’ve noticed from the “cool” cycling crowd? There’s a lot of really weak, really bad, really selfish and thoughtless guys riding on and with all that expensive stuff.

All of them? No. But I’d guess it’s about 50 / 50. That’s a pretty high Jerk Ratio.

If that isn’t bad enough, just look at “cool guy” fashion: socks damned near to your knees.

Hey, cool guys, that look is equally stupid on you as it is on the guy who walks around Walmart in his sandals.

— Hydration Pack

Road, MTB or CX, wear your hydration pack on every long ride.

Those of you who read Bikezilla regularly, already know that I think your hydration pack should come with you for cold weather riding.

But it really should come with you on longer warm weather rides, too.

This is another “cool guy” violation, because cool guys live in constant fear that they may look the least bit unfashionable and, omg, hydration packs just are NOT pretty.

But smart always trumps cool or pretty. Always.

Unless you spend upwards of $100 to by a jersey with a built in hydration pack. Spending $100 or more for a hydration pack automatically elevates in to the coolusphere — or the dumbusphere, depending on your view.

Don’t worry, cool guys, no one will ever notice that giant hump on your back or the blue / green tubing sticking out of your shirt because there’s a hydration pack between layers.

No, what you need is a functional pack with a generous bladder, and screw whether or not it’s built right into your shirt.

My water bottles are 24 oz each. My larger hydration pack is 1.5 liters (or it was till I accidentally opened the seam with hot water prior to a snow ride. DOH).

That’s roughly 96 ounces of water. On a hot summer ride I’ll finish all of it between 50 and 60 miles out.

I recommend a 2 liter bladder, minimum.

The hydration pack has the advantage of being slightly insulated. You can freeze it over night before your ride and benefit from the cold / cool water during the ride. While you wait for it to thaw enough to drink, you still have you’r water bottles.

I don’t recommend insulated water bottles. The insulation is gonna reduce carry capacity by about 4 oz per bottle. Considering how pathetic that insulation is and how fast your bottles are gonna melt and warm up anyway, it isn’t worth the cost or the loss of fluids.

— Pain Reliever

Take pain reliever prior to and after longer rides.

I take just plain, regular strength aspirin.

It helps more than you can imagine, with butt AND leg pain.

— Tire Pressure

Check and adjust your tire pressure before EVERY ride.

You can avoid 90% of flats just by maintaining proper tire pressure.

Chances are that the minipump you have on your bike will not adequately inflate your tires.

You need a full size pump with a reliable gauge.

So if you do flat during a ride and you have to inflate with your minipump, assume that you’re riding under-pressured and be careful.

Even a light washout can cause a flat when you ride bellow the recommended PSI.

Though the tires and tubes on my CX are identical front and back, my back tire always seems to lose pressure faster, even after changing both tires and tubes.

The front will lose 5 – 10 lbs the first day. The back will lose 10 – 15.

That doesn’t actually have anything to do with this tip. I’m just babbling.

— Mountain Bike shoes / pedals > Road shoes / pedals

This is another cool guy no-no.

For basic riding, especially if you like to relax and enjoy the ride and spend any time at all off the bike, you’ll soooooo appreciate using mountain bike (MTB) shoes and pedals over road shoes and pedals. Yes, I mean even on your road bike.

If you aren’t racing, I mean racing of any kind, you’ll get a lot more benefit from the comfort and ability to walk without looking like a duck, which you get from wearing MTB style shoes.

Of course, if you’re wearing the MTB shoes, you’ll have to use the matching pedals. I have a preference in pedals, but I’ll leave that for another time.

However, if you do ANY racing at all, even just friendly sprints during club rides, you’ll want to go with road shoes and pedals. You’ll really lose something if you don’t.

— Vitamin B12

This may be a really great thing. It may help you feel more energetic.

But mega-dosing will ruin your ride in a big, messy way.

I used to take a multi B, then stop and pick up an energy drink with a lot of B12, AND get a couple of sports drinks that were also high in B12.

I was getting some nasty intestinal action and couldn’t figure out why. I’d spend my rides racing from portapotty location to portapotty location, squirting my guts out at each stop.

Until I figured out that it was the ultra-high doses of B12 screwing with my guts and my butt.

I still load up on B12, but I’ll take the multi B OR the B12 loaded energy drink OR the B12 loaded sports drinks, not all of them together.

My guts and my behind-parts thank me.

— Lip Balm

Carry lip balm.

Not the wax kind that you screw up out of the tube, but the liquid or soft wax kind that you squeeze out.

I really like the Blistex cream lip balm. If I can’t find that it’ll be Carmex.


It’ll sooth both ends.

You’ll especially appreciate it on those days that you stupidly overload on B12.

With that in mind, you might also consider carrying a tube of triple antibiotic pain relief cream. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

— 3X Cranks vs 2X Cranks

The gears up front are called your “crankset” (“chainset”, for my UK readers).

Having three gears (3X, or a triple) up front gives you a lot more versatility than if you have two gears (2X or a double) up front.

Now a lot of people think, “But the pros don’t use a 3X”, and they’re right. The pros don’t even use compact (the smaller gear is even smaller than on a standard “double” crankset) cranks unless they’re doing some really heavy climbing.

But you aren’t a pro. You aren’t even close. You don’t even resemble a pro except in your own head during moments when you’re pushing yourself to your limits and your feverish fantasies of living inside Lance Armstrong’s body spur you on to your greatest efforts.

The cool guys? They aren’t pros either. Most of them also are nothing even resembling a professional. But they think that they are.

Thus cools guys stupidly shun triple cranksets for doubles. Or they’ll go with a compact and pretend that no one notices that they’ve sissied out in a major way. We notice, guys, and we laugh at you.

But really, this is just another way that cool guys put their egos ahead of their brains.

Don’t be a cool guy. You really just look like a dumbass when you try.

Honestly, you have no idea how much harder it is to ride a double than a triple until you make the switch.

You’re gonna suffer a lot more as a newbie if you jump right to a double, or even a compact crankset.

A lot more.

That triple crankset is a new rider’s bestest best buddy, and it’s still pretty sweet for all but very strong riders.

I promise, you won’t regret starting out with that triple, and like I said, smart always trumps cool. Always.

— Big Gear Riding

At first you’ll find yourself riding a lot of the time, in fact almost all of it, in your smaller / smallest gear.

That’s cool. Well, at first it’s cool.

But eventually you’ll want to get stronger and ride faster.

That requires you to ride in your bigger / biggest gear. A lot.

I mean like all the time.

Don’t “build up to it”. Just do it. You’ll waste months and years “building up to it” and never get there. Never.

But when you do ride that big gear, if you reach your limits (and you will) and you’re on the edge of bonking (having no energy), don’t hesitate to drop it on down to that small gear until you’ve recovered. There’s no shame in easing up.

Remember, you are NOT a professional. There’s no need to push yourself beyond your ability. No matter how hard you ride you won’t be taking home the Yellow Jersey (the leader’s / overall winner’s jersey at the Tour de France).

In closing I’d just like to say:

I’d still do Lance Armstrong’ mom.


3 Responses to “Stuff Beginners Should Know (But Almost Never Do): General Tips”

  1. TheBloomingCyclist said

    did you write this for me?! haha! my friend was just telling me i needed a floor pump, i’m discovering how much my lips dry out when i’m riding (altho i’v never had to use it on my bum!), i kinda wish i had a triple, and i like riding in the big ring!

    • bikezilla said

      No, actually I’ve had the starter notes for this written down for months, and had planned to write it originally during the summer. I’m an expert procrastinator, and there was almost always something else that “needed” writing.

      Er, I mean, yes, totally, totally for you.

      I’m either gonna switch to a triple on my CX, or get a triple on my road bike when I buy it and put a road compact on my CX.

      And a floor pump with a good gauge (a low end pump will probably have a crappy, unreliable gauge) is really a must have for maintaining proper air pressure. You’ll be soooo happy you invested in one.

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