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Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Top 10 Tips for Beginners



1. Don’t give up! 

Remember, everyone started out as a beginner at some point. It takes time and dedication to get stronger. My first season was the hardest, but I stuck with it and worked hard. By the next season I had surprised myself by how much I had improved.

2. Take something away from every race or ride – especially the bad ones.

It’s all a learning experience. Think back and reflect on why it didn’t go well. What could you have done differently that would have made it go better? Were you too timid on the start? Did you get dropped because you weren’t able to anticipate an attack? Did you lose focus and make a careless mistake? This will give you an idea of what to work on. I still do this after every race and focus on that area for the next time.

Photo By Angy Snoop (And thanks Robin :) )

3. Set goals for yourself.
Setting goals gives you something to work towards. What do you want to accomplish? Participate in a new kind of race? Learn how to ride a technical section of trail? Improve your climbing or descending? Get rid of a stutter step on a cyclocross remount? Achieving your goals, not matter how small, is huge confidence builder. Having a set of goals is highly motivating and gives a purpose to your training.

4. Join a club/team or join a group ride.
Having a set time each week to ride with a group of people gets you out riding consistently. There is a little extra pressure to ride on those days that you might otherwise be lazy ;) If the riders of the group are stronger than you, it will teach you constantly push yourself and you will find yourself getting stronger. There is so much that can be learned from more experienced riders/racers.

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5. Buy a nice bike.
I cannot begin to tell you how much a decent bike makes a difference. Go to your local bike shop and have them help you find one to meet your needs. And make sure to get a bike fit while you are at it. I hated my first mountain bike and wanted to throw it off a cliff. It was a heavy, a little too small, and had a quick release adjustable seat post that was always slipping. At least having that bike made me appreciate the next one that much more!

6. Use your gears.
This may seem silly, but it took me a long time to really use my gears. Don’t be afraid to shift a lot, especially on mountain bike trails. Don’t hesitate to shift down several gears to get up a hill. You want to maintain a good cadence, not "show off" how hard of a gear you can use to barely get up a climb. And, and if you in too hard of a gear on a climb, you won’t be able to respond as well to potential attacks.

Photo by Justin Torner

7. Step outside your comfort zone.
You know the saying: “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done” (Thomas Jefferson). This is so true. The things that seem the most terrifying can turn out to be the most rewarding. Yes, it may be scary to join up with faster riders, and yes, you may get dropped. It can be scary the first time you race, race a new cycling discipline or upgrade categories. But the important thing is that you will get stronger and become a better rider because of it.

8. Don’t be a sandbagger!
Yes, it feels good to do really well and win a bunch of races, but know when it is time to upgrade. Staying in a category that is easy for you won’t help you improve. You have to be challenged in order to improve. My biggest motivator to work hard has been upgrading categories. Knowing the next season would be even more challenging made me put in just a little more effort and keep focused over the winter.

9. Ride consistently.
It gets cold and downright miserable in the Midwest, but that does not keep me from being active December through February. I aim to get outside at least once per week, ride the trainer even though it can suck, and do other activities such as cross country skiing and yoga. (Swimming is good too, but I am not a swimmer).


10. Keep it fun.
Unless you are a pro and doing this for your job, don’t take things too seriously. Not every ride has to be a training ride. Stop and enjoy the scenery every once in a while, townie around, take a friend along for a ride. If you aren’t having fun, then what’s the point?

Muddy Cyclocross Race
Photo by Mauro Heck


Have any tips to add? Post them below in the comments section!

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