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Upstate Peloton
Cycling Club

Information for new cyclists

This page is intended for those new to cycling or just thinking about getting into it. The information is intended to be a starting point for additional research. It is in no way intended to be comprehensive and it does not replace talking to someone at a bike shop.

Written by Chris. Last Updated 7/9/2020.

⊞ What kind of bicycle should I get?
It's really up to what you want to do with the bike. There are a lot of different types of bicycles, but we'll focus on 3 main categories most people think of. The faster/lighter the bike, the more expensive it will be.
  • Mountain - Good if you'll be riding mostly off of pavement on rough terrain. They are OK on pavement, but they'll be slower than hybrid or road. Note: If you want a mountain bike for actual off-road mountain biking trails (rough terrain), this page will not be the best resource for you.
  • Hybrid/Fitness/Dual-Sport - a mix of both mountain and road bike. Faster gearing and tires closer to a road bike, but a more comfortable upright seating position like a mountain bike. Versatile bike for recreational cyclist or commuter as it travels well on pavement, but can handle some light gravel trails as well.
  • Road - Designed for more speed on pavement. Seating position is leaning forward more and optionally tucked for better aerodynamics. GCN video guide for buying first road bike
⊞ What features should I look for in a bike?
Bicycle pricing can be surprisingly cheap, but you might be missing some important features. Once you know what kind of bike you want, here are some features you might want on a bicycle:
  • Proper size - Very important! Bikes are measured by frame size and are generally designed for people with specific inseams and overall height. A bike that fits you will be more comfortable to ride, so you'll enjoy it more and want to spend more time riding it.
  • Axle Type:
    • Quick Release - allow for quick removal for transportation or fixing a flat. Does not require any tools.
    • Thru-Axle - Similar to quick release. Requires an allen key from your multi-tool or may come with one.
    • Bolt-on - not preferred... you need a big wrench to remove the wheel for transport or fix a flat
  • Transportability - if you plan to travel with your bike, you'll either need to be able to stow it in your car (see axle types above) or purchase a car carrier. The cheapest car carriers require the bike to hang from the frame, so you'd want a top tube that's somewhat level, not too wide, and sturdy
  • Number of gears - Aim for at least 7 sets of gear cogs on the back wheel. 2-3 up front by the pedals is normal. If you're going to be climbing a lot of steep hills, you might care about gear ratios.
  • Brand - Name brands will generally have better components, be more repairable, and will therefore last longer. Don't worry about the actual brand as long as it's a recognized name brand.
  • Brake type - Rim brakes have been around for decades and are cheaper, but the future is disc brakes. Each have their pros and cons. A thru-axle is preferred for disc brakes.
  • Shifter type:
    • Hybrid/Mountain bikes will either have grip (twist) shifters or trigger (finger) shifters. some might find the grip shifters difficult to twist, especially kids.
    • Modern road bikes have shifters integrated with the brake levers for easier/safer shifting. Other designs require you to move your hands away from the brakes to shift.
  • Rack/fender mounts - You'll need a frame with mount points if you want to add these accessories.
  • Pedals - Depending on the bike, you may need to add pedals.
  • Freehub? - If you're going ride your bike thousands of miles, you'll need to replace the rear gear cogs from time to time. This is cheaper if the rear wheel has a freehub/cassette rather than a freewheel.
  • Woman's Specific Design (WSD) - A real WSD should have a different saddle, handlebars, stem, and/or crank length, designed to be more comfortable for most women. WSD does not necessarily mean that it will have a staggered top tube, which honestly just makes it harder to mount the bike onto a car carrier. WSD is not necessarily required. Watch a GCN video on WSD
⊞ Where can I buy a bike?
  • Avoid Walmart/Target/etc - Adult bikes are only sold in one size at these stores. Bikes from these stores are usually heavier, lower quality using older/undesirable technology/features, and are generally assembled very poorly. Be prepared for wheels that are grossly out of true (not straight), brakes that don't spring back, gears that aren't indexed, general improper torque (tightening) on everything. This means the bike will be unsafe. (more info)
  • Sporting Goods Store (Dick's, L.L. Bean, REI) - The quality of the bikes are OK and should be assembled better than Walmart/Target if they have an actual maintenance section of the store.
  • Online store - avoid unless you know what you're doing. Not only do you need to determine the right size, but you'll need to put it together.
  • Private Sale (Craigslist, FB Marketplace, eBay, etc) - Most listings won't include the frame size. Sellers may think their bike is worth more than it is, and might think "vintage" is worth more. Like a car, buying from a private party can be risky unless you know what to look for. (See our old bike section)
  • Local Bike Shop - The prices are higher initially, but you'll end up with a higher quality item that is assembled properly. A bike from a shop will actually cost less in the long run, which is good because they will have sold you a bike in the right size for you and will be more fun to ride. Note: some bike shops will sell used bikes.
Questions when buying a bike from a store/shop:
  1. What size bike do I need? Why?
  2. Can I go on a test ride?
  3. How much does the bike weigh? (Lighter bikes are easier to handle when riding and when loading in/on the car)
  4. What makes it a woman's model? Different components or is it just the appearance?
  5. What's the warranty / return policy?
  6. Do I get free adjustments on the bike within the first few months? (e.g. spoke & cable tension)
⊞ Is an old bike OK to use?
This is a safety/reliability question. The answer is complex and there are entire web sites and video libraries dedicated to this. The best thing to do is to have someone inspect your bike, such as a Local Bike Shop to tell you what needs to be done. If you want to get an idea of some of the issues before taking it to the bike shop: Here's a high level list if you don't want to watch a video:
  • Fully cleaned - It's easier to identify issues/tune a bike if it's clean
  • Frame/fork not bent, dented, or cracked
  • Wheels
    • spin freely in frame
    • spin mostly straight (true)
    • do not rub against braking surface
    • spokes are tight
  • Tires/tubes *
    • not cracked/punctured
    • have ample tread life (may be harder to tell on road/slick tires)
    • Hold maximum air pressure plus your body weight
  • Brakes *
    • stop the wheel from spinning
    • rim brakes close to rim without rubbing (wheel must be true)
    • disc brake rotors not warped
    • ample brake pad life remaining
    • rim brake pads not hardened
    • ample braking surface (wheel rims or discs) remaining
    • spring back after releasing the brake lever
  • Headset (where the handlebars turn in the frame)
    • tight (no play)
    • turns easily/smoothly (not too tight; greased)
  • Pedals/Cranks
    • tight, but not too tight (no play)
    • turns easily/smoothly (bottom bracket and pedals greased)
  • Chain *
    • no rust, cleaned and lubed so individual links turn freely
    • not "stretched" from a lot of use
  • Seatpost not seized in the seat tube
  • Front/rear Derailleurs indexed properly (1 click = 1 clean shift)
  • does everything else look/function as you'd expect it to?
  • All bolts tightened to proper torque specifications. A loose bolt can come undone and an overly tightened bolt can stretch and break. If you remove a bolt, add a dab of grease to the threads so you can remove it next time.
Many of the above items are easy to check/fix with the proper tools. For detailed information on the above topics, check out Park Tools, GCN maintenance, or Sheldon Brown.

* If the bike has been sitting for many years and seems fine otherwise, it wouldn't hurt to get new tires/tubes & rim brake pads because they deteriorate over time, and a new chain because of the chance of rust, which weakens the chain—It's not fun snapping a chain mid-ride. Don't skimp on these items. The faster/stronger/heavier you are, the more important these items are.

⊞ What accessories do I need/want?
Unlike the bike itself, you can usually get away with buying cheaper accessories when you're getting into cycling, and then upgrade over time. Not everyone needs all of these, but here are accessories to consider.

The web site operator does not necessarily have any experience with the products referenced; they are listed purely as an illustrative starting point for product research.

Helmet
Helmets are critical for safety! You want to be certain to purchase a helmet that fits properly and breathes. Helmets should be replaced after a crash or every 5 years. Helmet upgrades can offer superior ventilation, protection (including MIPS), aerodynamics, and reduced weight. Shop Amazon
Car Rack
Unless you can fit the bike inside your car (video), you'll need a way to transport your bicycle(s) to your cycling destination, or the occasional trip to the shop. Cheaper car racks have bikes hang by the top tube, so the bike frame needs to support it (near-level/narrow top tube, non-carbon frame, etc). Depending on your bike, you may want a platform style rack, but they're the most expensive of them all. See rack warehouse for a wide selection of racks/types. If you have a really light or really expensive bike, you want a really expensive carrier.
Floor Pump
You'll need to refill your tires from time to time. On a road bike, you'll want to top off the air 1-2 times per week. If you run tires that aren't properly inflated, you run the risk of getting pinch flats. If you run wider tires (hybrid or mountain) on pavement, you can usually go longer between refills. Be sure to get a pump that has both presta/schrader valves and a built-in gauge. Shop Amazon
Frame Pump
If you have a flat tire on the road/trail, you'll need to put air back in your tires. These pumps are good and cheap, but they're bulky and take a long time to pump. Shop Amazon
CO₂ road/trail tire inflater
If you have a flat tire on the road/trail, you'll want to get back on the bike as fast as possible. These fill up the tire very quickly. Be sure to ride carefully afterward. Buy extra threaded cartridges of the proper size for your tires, and carry at least 2 cartridges on a ride. Also, it's common for CO₂ to seep out of the tube overnight so you'll need to deflate/pump up the tire before your next ride. Tip: cut up old tubes and put around the cartridges because they get cold when inflating. Shop Amazon
Spare inner tubes
Always carry a spare inner tube of the proper size because repairing them takes a long time. If you own a road bike, you may want to purchase a multi-pack of tubes, which often come with tire levers or repair kit. Shop Amazon
Tire Levers
Tire levers help you remove the tire from the rim. Plastic ensures you don't damage the rim/tire. Be sure to get a color that you can find when you drop it in the grass. Shop Amazon
Tube Repair kit
If you use your spare tube, you'll need to repair a tube to continue. Ideally you would replace the tube in the wheel, then immediately repair the bad tube in case you have another flat on the same ride, since the glue usually takes time to fully set. Shop Amazon
Multi-Tool (BIG)
You can skimp on some things, but don't skimp on tools. This item includes all tools you should need, including a mini-wrench for removing a bolt-on wheel to repair a flat. This item is ENORMOUS however. If you have a Quick-Release or thru-axle, get a cheaper/smaller/lighter item {below). Learn how to properly use a chain tool. Shop Amazon
Multi-Tool (small)
If you have a Quick-Release or Thru-Axle, this is a good multi-tool. It's on the bigger side, but not too big. Learn how to properly use the chain tool. Shop Amazon
Saddle Bag
A saddle bag is usually used to store necessary (but hopefully not needed) items, including spare tube, tube repair kit, tools, CO₂, tire levers, etc. Be sure to get one that is big enough but not too big. A bag with a loop on the back is nice so you can clip a rear light to it. Don't try to store your phone or food in here. Shop Amazon
Water Bottle/Cage
Stay hydrated! Make sure your bike frame has mounts for these. Shop Amazon
Rear view mirror
Looking behind you while riding is not safe. If you have a road bike, you may want a helmet mounted mirror instead. Shop Amazon
Lights
It's difficult to find the perfect set of lights at a decent price point. Minimally you want a light that's bright enough to be seen in the daytime and has a battery that lasts a long time. A light with a variable flashing mode will be most visible and will last longer, but might not be legal in all areas. Best bicycle lights. Shop Amazon
Bicycle Shorts
For rides up to 45-60 minutes, you might be able to get away with athletic apparel. If you ride longer than this, you may want to consider padded bicycle shorts. Lycra also makes you faster. If you don't like the look of tight bike shorts, wear a looser pair of thin shorts over them, but that will slow you down. Bicycle shorts are sold for different types of riding (rider position on saddle) and different types of padding for more endurance/heavier riders. An upgrade would be bib shorts, which feature built-in "suspenders" to keep the shorts in place. Note: bike shorts are intended to be worn directly against your skin. Shop Amazon
Bicycle Jersey
This is a special shirt with pockets in the back, which makes carrying keys/wallet/phone/food easier. A jersey should be somewhat tight, especially for road cycling, so the fabric doesn't flap too much in the wind. Flapping fabric is not only annoying, but will slow you down. Shop Amazon
Fingerless gloves
Some people like bicycle gloves to help reduce numbness and wipe away sweat. If you pick the correct color, it can make your hand more visible for hand signals. Don't forget to wash these! Shop Amazon
High visibility socks
High visibility is important when you're riding on the road for all clothing. It's very important in socks because approaching drivers are more likely to notice the up/down motion of feet. Besides just color, contrast is also important when considering high visibility. Shop Amazon
Sunglasses
Sunglasses not only protect you from the sun, but from wind and bugs. If you're going to be riding at dawn/dusk, you may want a pair of glasses with interchangeable lenses or a separate pair of clear glasses, or even a cheap pair of safety glasses. Shop Amazon
Cycle Computer
Basic cycle computers ($30) are wired and will tell you speed, distance, time, etc. You run the wire to the front wheel, put a magnet on the wheel, enter your wheel circumference, and you're good to go. More expensive models include cadence (pedal RPM), are wireless, or are GPS based. If you really want to explore the roads, you want a GPS cycle computer which allows you to pick a route on a map and use turn by turn navigation on the computer, but those can cost hundreds. Shop Amazon
Home Storage Solution
In case you want/need to store your bicycle off of the floor Shop Amazon
⊞ Where do I ride? How to I plan my rides & log them?
The easiest way to plan for a ride is to use a ride mapping service on your desktop/notebook computer to draw the route you want to ride so you know the distance and elevation gain before starting out. These same services usually have corresponding smart phone apps for you to record your actual ride using GPS. Watch this GCN video on route planning. They mention the Komoot service which is similar conceptually to the below services, but I don't know of anyone who uses it.

Feature Strava RWGPS MMR
Easy Route Planning to find bike paths, elevation gain, satellite and StreetView. StreetView is important to compare the shoulder width to traffic ratio and sometimes the road surface, which can be difficult to determine.
* Strava claims that they'll be significantly improving the route planning feature in 2020.
Paid *
Good
Best Better
turn by turn navigation to follow complicated routes and get alerts prior to turns. Honestly you want a dedicated GPS cycle computer if you want this feature. (Garmin, Wahoo) No Paid (Basic) ?
Live Location Sharing so your emergency contacts will know where you are. Strava's implementation of this is kludgy. MapMyRide requires your contacts to be a user (last I checked). Unsure how RideWithGPS implemented this. Paid (Summit) Paid (Basic) Paid (MVP)
Segments to compare yourself with other riders who have ridden identical sections of road/trail
* to see overall segment leaders in Strava, you need a paid membership
Yes * Yes No
Post-Ride analysis for general tracking, actual/estimated power, heart-rate, cadence, splits, etc
* some (but not all) features require a paid membership
Yes * Yes * Yes *
Ride Privacy so that you don't share too much information with others; Privacy zones so people can't see your defined addresses (e.g. home, work); Suggest creating multiple accounts to test privacy of your main account for non-members, non-friends, friends Ride / Zone Ride / Zone Ride only
Sharing to external users overriding some privacy controls Good (Summary) Best (Summary / details) Good (Summary)
Internal Social Media to interact with friends, including activity feed Best limited Good
Large User base for segment comparison and social media aspect. Yes (Athletes) ? fair
Battery usage for recording activities. Results may vary by device. ? ? ?
Paid user annual cost live location sharing alone is worth a small fee.
** renew at Christmas time as there will sometime be a deal
$60 ** $50(basic)
$80(Premium)
$30

As a road bicyclist, none of the big three excel at everything. Strava is the de facto logging/analysis service. My bike computer uploads to all three, but I use free RideWithGPS for route planning/sharing and Strava summit for post-ride features. I only use MapMyRide because some of my friends use it.

⊞ What should I bring on a ride?
Bring only what you need. Pack light except for food/drink. Here are suggestions/ideas:
  • Roadside toolkit (see 'accessories' section) Optionally include nitrile gloves, small tube of sun block to reapply on longer rides, OTC pain pills, Hand sanitizer
  • Food and drink - more than you think you'll need
  • Money/card for extra food or other supplies (include a small bill or two)
  • Photo identification
  • Health Insurance card
  • Emergency contact information
  • List of known allergies
  • Cell phone! Both to log your ride and to make phone calls
I scanned various emergency cards into a document and included other emergency information so everything is on one sheet of paper, which I store in a ziploc snack bag on all of my bikes. Ideally this would be carried on your person near a cell phone. Don't rely on your phone's ICE contacts in case the phone gets damaged in a crash.
⊞ How do I ride faster?
  • Train!
    • Ride as much as possible. Ride indoors if the weather isn't good, especially over the winter.
    • Ride up more hills.
    • Build up endurance and ride longer distances.
    • Follow a training plan.
  • Eat better! Eating better and exercising will help you to lose weight. Less weight will help you go faster, especially on those hills!
  • Aerodynamics - Starting around 13-15MPH, aerodynamics becomes an issue.
    • Don't wear baggy clothes
    • use the drop handlebars when practical
    • Keep all of your gear stored tight and neat; avoid using a backpack
    • Always ride with a tail wind. 😀
    In other words, cycle shorts, jersey, saddle bag.
  • The Bike:
    • Make sure you have a proper bike for the type of riding you do. Make sure it is the right size, and adjusted to fit you properly.
    • Make sure you have proper tires for the type of riding you do. If you have a hybrid or mountain bike and ride it on smooth pavement, use slick tires.
    • Make sure you maintain proper tire inflation!
    • Make sure everything is properly maintained, cleaned, and lubed. Note: If you're riding a properly maintained 20 year old bike, an expensive new bike won't necessarily make you noticeably faster. There are many other good reasons to buy a new bike, including comfort, safety, and maintainability, all of which means more time for riding.
⊞ What other tips should I be aware of?
Besides the other things already mentioned on this page:
  • Have fun!
  • Make sure someone is aware of the route you'll be riding (or use live location sharing)
  • Follow the rules of the road & use hand signals.
  • Follow bike path rules/etiquette (speed limit, single-file, "on your left", etc)
  • Learn how to repair a flat tire (video). Don't just assume you'll figure it out if you need to. If you have a tire failure, be aware of the dollar trick (video) or carry a small piece of road tire with you
  • Everyone finds hills tough. Obviously you want to use a lower gear when going up a hill, but it's easier if you pedal faster and switch to an even lower gear. Also, you waste a lot of energy by standing & pedaling, so stay seated for those long hills
  • Don't make these riding mistakes (video)
  • If you do your own maintenance, don't make these mistakes (video). Invest in a torque wrench so parts are tight enough but not too tight. If nothing else, learn how to adjust cable tension to make shifting smoother and braking better.
  • Inspect your bike regularly and get a tune-up regularly.
  • Have more fun!
  • Participate in an event! Popular non-race events are:
  • You can never have enough bicycles! If you think you want a road bike,it's totally OK to start with a hybrid/fitness and then purchase a road bike later. Keep the hybrid/fitness for slower rides or as a backup/winter bike.
  • Join a club for group rides! Use Strava to find clubs. Bigger clubs are more likely to have different groups for different skill levels.
  • Looking to learn more? Follow to GCN (YouTube & Facebook) or GMBN (YouTube & Facebook)
  • Capital District Social Media content to check out:
⊞ Do you have any special tips for kids?
Besides those mentioned above:
⊞ Think I left something out or got something wrong?
Although this is a big page intended to cover a lot, it's not meant to be comprehensive. Also, it's aimed at newer cyclists only.

If you think I got something wrong, let me know.

⊞ What changed in this page?
Only major content changes will be logged.
Version 1.15
Date: 7/9/2020
  1. Added GCN video for Women's specific design (WSD) bikes
  2. Added GCN video for route planning
  3. misc tweaks
Version 1.14
Date: 5/19/2020
  1. changes to strava free features
  2. added cycle the erie canal
Version 1.13
Date: 5/15/2020
  1. added a link on tire pressure
  2. add bike to work event
  3. different light set
  4. all external links open in a new tab
  5. misc wording tweaks
Version 1.12
Date: 5/10/2020
  1. reorganized 'ACCESSORIES' section and included examples/link to amazon
  2. restructure expand/collapse to rely on JavaScript - add expand/collapse all buttons
  3. merged 'WHERE2RIDE' into 'PLANLOG' section
  4. added how to ride faster
Version 1.11
Date: 5/7/2020
  1. started tracking versions
  2. Added 'OLDBIKE' section
  3. re-organized 'PLANLOG' to include limited feature comparison
  4. remove misc MTB references throughout the page
Version 1.10
Date: 4/27/2020
  1. started tracking versions
  2. Added bicycling.com link for buying walmart bikes
Version 1.00
Date: 2/20/2020
  1. initial versions