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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Suggestions and advice on how to get started in cycling

Suggestions and advice on how to get started in cycling
By:  Michael G. Lander
It's a great time to be a cyclist in Memphis with an ever-growing number of
bike lanes and trails throughout the Memphis metropolitan area and beyond. 
With that, the Memphis area seems to be well on its way to meeting many of
the needs and interests of cyclists and giving them, and those interested in
cycling, plenty of reasons to be out riding.

Ask any cyclist around Memphis and they'll tell you that there's so much to love about cycling here in our River City.  It offers a great way to get around, it gives you a chance to spend time with friends and family, and it's an excellent way to get some fun-filled exercise outdoors.  If you're interesting in giving it a try yourself, there are some very simple and easy steps that you can follow in order to get started. 

To begin with, avoid the temptation just to run out and buy the first good deal that you can find on a bike.  Take a little time to think about where and how you want to ride.  Most bikes are made for specific types of riding, but essentially there are two types of riding, or a combination of the two and these are done on mountain, road and various street bikes. 
If you're most interested in getting up close and personal with nature, and the thought of getting off the beaten path appeals to you, then mountain biking might just be the thing for you.  This is definitely the way to go if you want to be able to ride into the woods or into fields, through rough terrain, and trails that might have dirt, mud, sand, or gravel on them. 
If, on the other hand, you'd really rather take in all the scenery around you from a much smoother surface, liked a paved road or a bike trail, then you will be looking more at road or street bikes instead.
For those who want to be able to cross over and ride just about anywhere, you might want to have a mountain bike with tires that you can switch out or you may want to have two different bikes with each one made for the surface or terrain on which you can ride.

As soon as you make your decision on what style of riding that you want to do, the next big step is to begin your search for the bike that will accommodate your specific wants and needs.  One of the most important parts of your cycling involves finding the right bike that will be what you want and need now, and for many years down the road. 

For those of you who want to do off-road trails, the mountain bike is an absolute must.  There are several distinctive features that you will want to look at, one of which is the composition of the bicycle frame itself.  You will find that you have a choice of steel, aluminum, carbon fiber and titanium.  The steel and aluminum frames are less expensive and are durable, and can take the pounding of the rough riding, but the drawback for them is their weight.  Carbon fiber frames are lighter, but they are more expensive and may not hold up well to mountain bike riding.  Like carbon fiber frames, titanium frames are light, but they are also a lot tougher and they are the best option of all.  Their only downside comes in their cost. 
Other things to look at on mountain bikes are the shocks and suspension, which will need to adequately absorb the vibration and the hits it'll take), and the tires that should b wide and knobby for much better traction. 

For those who wish to ride exclusively on paved surfaces, and who want speed, a road bike would be what you you would want to look at.  There are even more types and variations of bicycles to meet the specific needs, interests and desired uses of the cyclist. You can learn even more about the different types of bikes that you can get by going to One other helpful source, when looking for a bike, (or for equipment and gear), is to also take a look at reviews, like at, which should help guide you in your decision-making process.

As with the mountain bikes, you also have the same choices of what the frame is made out of.  Steel or aluminum frame bikes are affordable, but they are some of the heaviest bikes that are available on the market and this would be a definite drawback on the longer rides and when it comes to trying to sustain higher speeds.  Since road bikes made of carbon fiber and titanium are lighter, they are much more preferable to most serious and competitive cyclists, but it does come at a higher price.

For those who may want to ride on the road, with an occasional dirt, gravel, or paved surface, a hybrid bike might work best for you.   If, at this point, you are not sure, you may want to borrow a bike or look for a good deal on one that you can use until you know for sure what you want to get. 

After you decide what you want and need in a bike, you have plenty of options on where you can get it, especially if you're not in a hurry to get your hands on one.  And, if you are not set on buying a new bike, you can often get a good deal on a used one from someone wanting to upgrade to a new one themselves.

As for buying a new bike, you can search for one over the Internet, but most cyclists would probably recommend that you go to a local bike shop instead since that gives you the opportunity to test ride the bikes and see what sort of bike works best for you.  One other consideration that you have to also factor in when you buy on-line is the cost of shipping and a return policy should you get the bike and not like it.  There is also a lot to be said for the face-to-face interaction that you get when you buy from a local bike shop and, when you go there, you are helping support the local economy and jobs in your area.

Mountain biking is an excellent alternative for those who want to get
out and enjoy nature and who are looking for a little more rugged and
adventurous experience than what they are likely to get by riding on
paved trails and city streets.

Other than determining the right type of bike, the other most important thing that you want to consider when buying a bike is that it is the correct fit for you.  Your body type and your measurements (inseam, arm length, and height) will help to determine what bike frame will work best for you.  After taking that into consideration, some adjustments can also be made to the height and position of the seat, if necessary.  Choosing the right size bike means you will ride more comfortably and efficiently. 


Aside from looking for a bike that is the right size, you can also find one that is made for your fitness level and riding experience. With those things in mind, it is always a good idea to do your research before heading to the store, and then ask a lot of questions once you are there. (Click here for local bike shops).
With the exception of road bikes, the price range for a new bike will often vary from a couple hundred to under a thousand dollars. (Click here for the Consumer Reports Bike Buying Guide).

When buying a bike, the best advice is to consider purchasing one that is at the top end of your budget.  Cheaper bikes might seem like a good deal, but they tend to be heavier and are not made for speed.  The old saying that "you get what you pay for," is often true for bicycles as it is for just about everything else.  If you are willing to spend more, you will get a much higher quality bike and it will be a good investment and one that you will likely not regret over time. (Click here for the average price range for bikes).

Experience can sometimes be the best teacher of all along with reading and talking with more experienced cyclists.  Here are some links that might be of interest to new cyclists: , and
And, if you're just getting started in cycling, here is a link to an effective cycling course for riding in traffic. It is shown from the cyclists perspective and the basic premise of it is that if you act like a car, the cars will know what you're going to do. Here is the link to the first of 3 videos:

Road and street bikes offer a practical way of getting around, on
roads and paved trails, enabling cyclists to travel much longer distances,
and at greater speeds, than what can be done on mountain bikes.

After the purchase of your bike, and you've already begin your cycling adventure, you should be sure to set aside some time to ride and then try to stick with it.  To stay motivated, it can help if you can find others to ride with and to come up with one or more reasons to ride, such as to get exercise, to get into shape, or just to do it for the pure enjoyment that you can get out of it.
If you want to get better or faster at it, it can be done by setting goals for yourself, tracking your progress, and putting forth the time and effort that is needed in order to improve.
Potential is where skill and ability intersect with one another and improvement and success in cycling comes about from the culmination of all the previous bike rides that came before it.  Getting there is simply a matter of getting started and never quitting.


  1. Riding a bike in memphis (river city) sounds like a lot of fun. I might try it some day, and thank you for a great siteI really enjoyed.

  2. Thanks for sharing bike starting tips and had great reviews regarding bike on river side. Hope it will help lot especially for beginner.