How to Avoid Looking Like a Cycling Newbie

We had the distinct pleasure of breaking in a new rider today. Not new to cycling per say, but new to group rides as well as longer distances. Dean came well prepared with a strong running pedigree (yet another Speedster takes to two wheels) all kitted up on his flashy Scott. He looked every part the seasoned cyclist, but there were a few dead giveaways that screamed newbie, and since he was riding with the NutBags, there was no way we were going to let him live it down!

Nothing screams newbie more than seeing OEM reflectors installed on a road bike. He had not only the rear red reflector, but also the nasty clear one mounted smack dab in the middle of his bars. Yes, we know the bike shop will not remove them for you, but please, remove them all as soon as you get your new bike home…at least his wheel reflectors were off, otherwise we would have tormented him even more!

Another dead giveaway was the lack of a saddle bag. Not that a saddle bag is a must, but the contents with in it are vital. Kind of hard to fix a flat without tire irons, let alone even a spare tube. We’ll give him a break on this one, since he was quick to point out that he had yet to obtain a flat kit, but there is no forgiving the bike shop that let him roll out without one. Luckily, no flats were had by anyone on the ride today. Had he had a flat, the aforementioned torment would have become relentless!

Now, to be fair, Dean did a great job keeping up with the gang, holding his place in the pace line like a seasoned veteran. He even pulled us home the last mile or so, holding a very respectable 20+ MPH into a headwind…nice job my friend! But while he pulled us in, we manage to catch yet another tell tale sign of newbage…the dreaded cat 5 tattoo on his right calf. Not only was he proudly wearing a couple of perfect chain imprints on the inside of his calf, but also on the outside…extremely impressive!

As  a favor to Dean, as well as a public service to all would be cycling newbies, I offer you 10 vital tips, as published on Roadbike Reviewto avoid looking like a newbie. By the way, take these all with a grain of salt as we were all newbies at one point.

No Pro Kits: The cardinal violation in trying to be a cool cyclist is when you buy a full professional team kit or champions jersey of a team you do not ride for. Nothing screams ROOKIE louder than a full Discovery Channel uniform on a non-payroll cyclist. The only time these types of jerseys are acceptable is when they are vintage. General rule of thumb is 10 years after a team’s disbanding, just make sure you know a few of the cyclists who rode for those teams so that when approached by other cyclists, you can sound knowledgeable.

Buy the coolest helmet you can afford: When it comes to helmets, don’t skimp. You are going to be wearing this piece of equipment all the time, and you want to be motivated to put it on. If you have some cheapo brain bucket or a nicer one that is two sizes too small, you’ll never want to wear it, and riding without a helmet is verboten. Cool or not, any helmet beats a hemorrhaging cranium.

Buy cycling clothes that fit: Okay, if you are new to cycling, and you’re a bit uncomfortable about the whole lycra thing, then you’d better suck it up. Don’t go out and buy clothing two sizes larger than what you wear on the street. Cycling is about aerodynamics. You need tight fitting clothes. If you wear a large t-shirt, get a medium jersey. Riding down the road with a jersey as aero as a parachute will make any seasoned cyclist holler “tenderfoot ahoy!” Also, if you have a loose fitting jersey, don’t go making matters worse by tucking it into your bib shorts. This isn’t pro wrestling.

Shave your legs: Obviously this tip is targeted for the guys, however, if you are a girl, and haven’t heeded this tip yet , by all means, break out that little pink razor. It may sound crazy, but if you are a cyclist with hairy legs, people will ride ten feet away from you and avoid conversation, particularly if you are easily confused with a wookie. It may sound shallow, but it’s the truth. Nobody should judge a book by its cover, or a cyclist by their leg hair, but it happens. Remember, contrary to rumor, we do not shave our legs for added aerodynamics, although it actually makes you feel faster. The real reason is easy cleanup and faster healing after a bad case of road rash.

Avoid Cat 5 Tattoos: Nothing gives away newbie status more than someone with greasy chain marks on their inner calf muscles. This often happens when someone doesn’t keep their chain clean and has an inefficient cycling posture, spin, or tries to clip out of the pedal towards the inside. To avoid this tell tale sign, keep your chain clean and wipe it down after every ride. Also make sure that you are cleaning the cogset and chainrings also to avoid getting cogset grime on your nice clean chain.

Pick the right accessories: Some accessories make a cyclist look cool, while others make them look like a tool. For instance, any saddle bag that you can actually fit your saddle into is way too big. Any more than two water bottle cages on a bike is overkill. Any cyclo-computer with more wires on it than your home PC is faux pas.  Avoid all rear-view mirror related devices regardless of whether they mount on your helmet or handlebar…it’s a major nicht-nicht. Besides, do you really want to see yourself getting hit by a car?

Dump the reflectors and “plastic ring”: If you just bought a brand new bicycle, congratulations! The first thing you must do once the bike arrives home is to remove all reflectors from the bike as well as the plastic ring which protects the top cog from the spokes in your rear wheel. If the bike is properly maintained and dialed-in, the ring is unnecessary, and it looks silly. Failure to comply with this advice will result in excessive finger pointing, hand-covered giggling, and cruel people shining flashlights at your bike. If you do heed this warning just be sure to install the proper headlight and blinky light, particularly if you ride in low light conditions.

Practice with your clipless pedals: Before going out on the road, if you have clipless pedals and are using them for the first time, practice in your driveway or backyard for a few hours beforehand. There is nothing more embarrassing than flopping over like a beached whale at an intersection for hundreds of people to see. It’s ego crushing. It happens to almost everyone at least once, but by practicing, you are lowering the risk of committing the Flop of Shame.

No hydration packs: Leave the hydration packs to the mountain bikers. Camelbak’s or any other back mounted hydration system with a perpetually dangling drinking nozzle will make you look more like a 70’s era voice box guitarist like Peter Frampton than a roadie…unless you are mountain biking, leave the hydration system at home and stick to bottles.

Stay out of your aero bars in the pace line: Aerobars should never be used in a pace line. The lone exceptions are at the rear or front of the line. You get plenty of aero advantage  from drafting the riders in front of you. If you desire more, use your drops. If you absolutely have to use your aerobars, then merge out of the pace line and ride along side of it.

Know the cycling etiquette: If you are planning on doing a group ride, make sure you know common cycling etiquette. There are a lot of little things you pick up over the years, but the most important ones are:

  • pointing out potholes and other objects in the road for the persons behind you
  • use hand signals to indicate when the group ahead is slowing or stopping
  • do not make abrupt and unannounced speed or direction changes
  • never overlap wheels unless your handlebars are even with their thigh and they can see you
  • if you get a flat in the middle of the pack, yell out “flat”, merge out of the pace line and hold your line until everyone has passed or stopped to assist you
  • when standing out of the saddle, always pedal while simultaneously standing up to avoid a lag in momentum which can lead to the rider behind crashing into you
  • if you are in a fast group and don’t have the energy to pull the other riders, stay at the back out of the rotation
  • outlandish grimaces and other facial expressions are welcomed and must in pack riding

Welcome to the NutBags Dean…an congrats on a new distance PR!

Route: Coconut-40
Ride Time: 2:57:01
Stopped Time: 4:15:48
Distance: 46.73 miles
Average: 15.84 mph
Fastest Speed: 33.94 mph
Ascent: 3682 feet
Descent: 3732 feet
Calories: 2479

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2 thoughts on “How to Avoid Looking Like a Cycling Newbie

  1. lovely post! I had a really good laugh reading this. I am going right now to remove my reflectors i attached to my new Trek 1.5 yesterday! :-)))

  2. I don’t get why its a no-no to wear team kits! Nobody says “Oh you can’t wear that England football shirt, you’ve never played for England” do they? Haha. As for champions jerseys though, that’s fair, you ain’t earnt the right to wear that

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