Last April I bought a Specialized Dolce road bike. I took several road bikes for spins around the parking lot of the local bike shop then bought one that was appropriate for my height, didn’t sound too expensive, yet wasn’t cheap.
The guy who sold me the bike also took pains to tell me what would make me look like a dork to other established “roadies” i.e. wearing the little sun visor that comes included with the helmet (I then wore this for a year out of spite), wearing a backpack (I’ve begun regularly wearing a backpack when biking to the pool), and keeping the stock reflectors on the wheels. He asked how much I’d be biking and I told him 8-10 miles in the mornings before work. The expression on his face indicated what he thought of that. (Unfortunately, I let his words and ideas bother me for this whole first year, thinking my miles weren’t enough, I didn’t look like a “real” cyclist, etc.).
Along with the bike I bought a generic helmet but wasn’t sure what else to get. I was intimidated by all that I didn’t know and the general feeling emanating from the employees of the bike shop that bike stuff was intuitive and easy. I asked them for recommendations on other necessary gear and was told to get a water bottle, a cage for the bottle and bike gloves. “That’s it?” I asked. “That’s it,” I was told.
Yeah… not really. Where are you supposed to stash the bike tubes, how are you supposed to fix your flats, etc? So I went online and did some research. I then purchased most of my supplies off Amazon, including the saddle bag, multi-tool, front and back lights, tire levers, floor tire pump, road tire pump, CO2 cartridges, spare tubes, clipless pedals with cleats and road bike shoes. Ouch. And that wasn’t even including the clothing! I started with a pair of Pearl Izumi* bike shorts and wore these with a(n already owned) running shirt but when winter hit, I quickly bought capris, full length tights, a windproof jacket, a long sleeved jersey, cycling booties, and cheapo stretchy gloves to wear as a liner.
A fitting was included with my new bike and this was *another* thing that seemed simple to the bike shop but made me feel like an idiot newbie. They told me a fitting was included but never said when to do it so after buying the bike, I attempted to schedule an appointment. I was told that this was something you only did after several months of riding in order to figure out what tweaks needed to be made. This logic didn’t make a whole lot of sense then and actually still doesn’t make sense now. So after riding for several months, I then brought my bike back to the shop for an evaluation. The fitter changed out the stem and the height of my seat. The stock handlebars were too wide for my frame causing nerve pain to shoot up and down my forearms after each day’s ride. I’d noticed the pain while driving but had ignored it. After the fitting, I had no more pain! Well, except the knee pain that had developed and didn’t seem to be going away. (The advice on that issue is maddeningly contradictory and non-specific, move your cleats back, move your cleats forward, move your cleats side to side..)
One of the best and scariest things I’ve done to increase my cycling fitness was to join a group of intermediate riders after about 6 months of riding solo. Unsurprisingly, I was the slowest cyclist but since this was a no-drop ride, the guy who was the tail was at my side the entire way. He gave me an unending stream of advice, which given my low desire to receive constructive criticism while physically exerting myself to the max, really just pissed me off. BUT, over the past few months, his words keep coming back to me and I now put his advice into practice. I’ve started feeling grateful that he spent so much time and energy on his Sunday ride sharing what he had learned with me. His advice on gearing, combined with my chiropractor’s thoughts on my rx orthotic inserts, have led to a substantial decrease in my knee pain. Unfortunately, this decrease in knee pain coincides with an increase in ankle pain, but I’ll take it.
*Most of my actual cycling gear is either Pearl Izumi, Canari or Novara at this point. I wear these in combination with my tri gear which tends towards Orca and Zoot.