Newcomers Fear Not: The Ultimate Guide to Cycling For Beginners

Words by Kathryn Dickinson

on 31/03/2020 14:32:00


Newcomers fear not! Rutland Cycling share the Ultimate Guide to Cycling For Beginners to help you get to grips with everything bike related.

Guide to Cycling For Beginners

There are so many benefits to getting out on two wheels, from improving your health and fitness to saving on transport costs and enjoying an exhilarating weekend ride. Don't delay owning a bike and starting your own journey any longer, simply read our ultimate beginners guide, full of top tips every newcomer to cycling needs to know


Ultimate Guide to Cycling for Beginners

Which bike do I need? Best bikes for beginners

With so many different types of bikes, it can be difficult to know which bike is best for your cycling needs. It really depends upon the type of riding you aim to be doing, whether this is cycling to work through town or heading off road at the weekends.

Style of bike:

Mountain bikes:

(or MTB for short) come either as full-suspension or hard tails (only front-suspension). If you are looking to get started and you have a limited budget, a hard-tail may be the best choice for you. Perfect for getting a taste of mountain biking, yet enjoyable to ride on a road or cycle path. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, full-suspension mountain bikes open up a whole world of fun in the form of bike trails and parks. For both types of mountain bikes, we have a wide range of bikes at different price points. Bottom of the range bikes will have simpler components/groupsets and will be made from aluminium, top of the range will have more expensive brakes/gears/suspension and will most likely be made from carbon. If you're not sure what different groupsets mean in terms of performance then click here to find out more.

Rutland Cycling employee and MTB rider Luke Turner's top tip "I would recommend buying a more expensive hard-tail than a cheaper full-suspension bike. You will get more for your money and have more fun on the trails."


Road bikes:

Generally seen being ridden around the countryside by lycra-clad riders, road bikes are designed purely for riding on the road. With stiff frames and no suspension, these bikes are built for speed. Don't let this intimidate you, road bikes are made for every type of rider and not just those weekend warriors. Road bikes are ideal for riding around towns and through countryside lanes, so if you want a bike both for commuting to work and exploring at the weekend, a road bike may be the bike for you.

Much like with MTB's, road bikes come at a range of price points and these vary by frame material and components. Road bikes can take a little while to get used to, with a much lower position than a MTB it can feel strange to ride on dropped handlebars. If you prefer a more upright position, an endurance style road bike may be more suitable as these style bikes can feel more comfortable riding.

Rutland Cycling employee and road cyclist Dave Hicks' top tip "Buy the best frame you can when looking for a bike, you can always upgrade components further down the line. Also, consider what kind of riding you want to be doing and choose a bike that matches it."


Hybrid bikes:

What they say on the tin, hybrid bikes are a combination of a road bike and an MTB. If you want a bike that will truly ride on any surface, a hybrid bike may be the ultimate solution. Built for cruising through town and tackling the rougher terrains on cycle and canal paths. Hybrids feature flat handlebars and sometimes come with a front suspension. Certain women's hybrid bikes will feature a step-through design or a much more sloped top tube. Hybrids combine performance, comfort and durability making them a sure go-to for anyone wanting a bike that can do it all.

Rutland Cycling employee and Hybrid bike rider Mike Greenshields' top tip "Look for a bike with the right gearing for your type of riding, if you can find a bike with disc brakes this will be really beneficial on those wetter days."


Electric bikes:

A recent entry into the cycle market, electric bikes (e-bikes), have been booming with more and more people turning to electric to help power their rides. If you don't feel confident riding longer distances or would like a bike that can help you ride further, faster and for longer, an e-bike could be the answer to your problems! E-bikes come in a variety of forms, from e-MTB's, e-road bikes to e-folding bikes. E-bikes generally cost upwards of £1000, depending on the type of bike you choose, with varying motor and battery capacities. If you're looking for a bike to help you rediscover your love of cycling, an e-bike could be your next bike.

Rutland Cycling employee and e-bike rider Kathy Yallop's top tip "I use my bike for riding to town and when locking it up, I like to remove the battery to deter any thieves. Having an e-bike with an easily removable battery is extremely useful as I can take it round with me."


Women's bikes:

More and more companies are starting to create women's specific bikes, designed to increase comfort for the rider. While you do not have to buy a women's bike, they do come with female specific geometry meaning you may find the bike more comfortable and suited to your body shape. If you don't want to purchase a women's bike, it is possible to adapt a generic bike to fit better, one easy way would be through changing the stem (the small bar from the bike to the handlebars) to make it shorter, and reducing the width of the handlebars.

Rutland Cycling employee and road cyclist Kathryn Dickinson's top tip "Regardless of whether you buy a women's specific bike or not, spend a little extra on a comfortable saddle. You can demo saddles and find the most comfortable one for you. A bad saddle could end your cycling adventure before it's even begun!"


Pre-loved and sale bikes

If you're looking for a real bargain, purchasing an older model bike can be the best choice. With most bikes, there aren't a huge amount of differences between older and newer models so keep your eyes peeled for sale bikes! Pre-loved bikes can be ex-hire bikes or returned bikes from customers. All pre-loved bikes are fully checked over by our expert mechanics and come with the normal manufacturers warranty, which doesn't include wear and tear (which is to be expected on pre-loved bikes). Browse our huge range of sale and pre-loved bikes here.

How can I go faster?

It can seem a little daunting trying to figure out how to get better at cycling: Should I go out for as long as possible? Should every ride have me out of breath? Without any real plan, you may run out of motivation and the bike may be retired to the back of the garage.

So how do I get better at cycling?

First of all, write out a plan. Have an end goal and work backwards from that, whether that's a 100 mile sportive or to compete in a local race. Once you write out your goal, it will become easier to plan out how to get there. Don't start off all guns blazing as more than likely, you will burn out after a couple of weeks and never want to ride again. Set realistic daily/weekly/monthly goals and stick to the plan.

If you're not feeling great or life gets in the way, don't stress. Do what you can and you will find the whole experience far more enjoyable. If you're looking to get into racing and taking cycling a bit more seriously, then setting out a training plan will be highly beneficial. Incorporate both harder interval (sprint) sessions with longer tempo (around 70% max effort) sessions throughout the week whilst also going for longer, steadier rides at the weekend when you have the most time.


Rutland Cycling employee and triathlete, Kathryn Dickinson's top tip "For sessions and winter riding, I can't recommend enough using a turbo trainer. It can be hard to get in rides with work and dark evenings, turbo training can make those sessions a little bit more enjoyable. If you want to still ride with others, using an app like Zwift can vastly improve any dull ride on the turbo!"

What do I wear?

You may have noticed a wide range of different outfits of those out riding their bikes. Mountain bikers will generally be in looser fitting clothing whilst road cyclists will nearly always be wearing tight lycra. If you're unsure what clothing you should be wearing, consider what kind of riding you will be doing. If you are just looking for a gentle ride around town, normal clothes or loose fitting, hi-vis clothing will be just right. For mountain biking and off-road cycling; waterproof, loose fitting clothing will be most comfortable. Generally, tight fitting clothing will be best for road cycling as it will be perfect for those longer rides, if you prefer not to go for the lycra, any sports clothing will suffice.


For beginners, a good set of trainers will be more than enough to get you out on the bike. If you're wanting to purchase a pair of cycling shoes, we have a wide variety of shoes for different disciplines, browse our range here.

Clothing basics:

  • Helmet: Extremely important if you are going to be cycling on busy roads with lots of cars.
  • Padded shorts: A must for anyone looking to cycle often and longer distances.
  • Sunglasses: Glasses keep both bugs and the sun out of your eyes, on darker days you can use clear lenses to protect your eyes from the wind and rain.
  • Reflective jacket: If you want to ride when its darker then a hi-vis jacket is essential. We would recommend wearing highly visible clothing at all times on the road.

At the end of the day, it's about feeling comfortable out riding and enjoying the outdoors. If you don't want to spend too much on clothing when you first start, there are plenty of brands that offer good quality cycle clothing at a reasonable price. Or perhaps browse our clothing sale to find a deal here.

Why does it hurt when riding my bike?

So, you've purchased your bike and been riding for a while but can't get rid of those little niggles on every ride. Most cyclists experience discomfort whilst out on the bike and this shouldn't be a regular occurrence on your rides. Back/neck/knee pain can easily be aided with a bike fit, but what exactly is a bike fit? A bike fit is performed by a trained fitter, who will analyse your position on the bike and make adjustments to improve your riding style and comfort. They do this through adjusting saddle height, handle bar height and reach, and cleat positioning to name a few.

We have a number of stores who offer Ret�l bike fitting with our expert members of staff, find out more about bike fitting here.

Getting to know your brakes and gears

Whatever bike you choose to buy, it's worth getting to grips with the type of gears and brakes that bike uses. Unfortunately, things can go wrong with mechanical gears and learning the basics can save you time and money by fixing them yourself. The same goes for rim brakes and disc brakes, find out the difference here.

Maintaining your bike

The time will come when one day, mid-ride, you'll hear a hissing (or perhaps a bang) and it will be one of your tyres going flat. This can be one of the most frustrating things whilst riding but all is not lost. Fixing a puncture, or replacing an innertube is fairly simple. Once you have mastered the skills, you will be able to change a tyre in a matter of minutes. Check out the below video on how to fix a puncture.

There are going to be times when you may be completely stuck for fixing your bike and no amount of YouTube videos will help, we hold maintenance workshops at some of our stores with fully trained, helpful mechanics who will be able to put your bike right. Find out more about evening classes here.

Top 5 cycling essentials

1. Helmet - Necessary for anytime you will be riding on roads with traffic on or mountain bike trails.

2. Lights - More and more, cyclists are riding with lights on at all times. Daytime running lights help to increase your visibility. Find out more here.

3. Lock - If you are going to be riding into town or commuting to work, a solid lock is essential to keep your bike safe.

4. Puncture repair kit - There's nothing worse than being caught out without a spare or repair kit, make sure you never ride without one. otherwise it may be an expensive taxi home.

5. Spare drink and food - It's always worth taking a bit of food and a drink, running out of energy mid-ride can be the worst thing if you are a long way from home. If you don't have somewhere to carry food then a couple of pounds will keep you out of the dreaded bonk zone! Find out more about nutrition here.

Can I join a club?

Cycling with friends is always going to be better than cycling on your own. If you don't yet know anyone else who likes to ride then come along to one of our rides and meet likeminded cyclists. We host MTB night rides, Breeze rides for Women and Women's road rides. Come along and meet our friendly ride leaders who will help you with any cycling related queries! Find out more about events and rides here.


Find your nearest Rutland Cycling store

Still have some questions about beginning cycling? Pop into one of our stores and speak to our expert, friendly staff who will be able to give you helpful tips!