When I started working at Backroads this past June, I had never been on a road bike in my life. But this October, I joined 230 of my coworkers at our annual Staff Ride, which this year was held in Spain, and cycled 25-60 miles a day. Here's what I learned, going from 0 miles a day to 60 in just a few short months:
1. If you're going to train, you've got to buy a bike--The big question is how much to spend on a bike. Like buying a car, you can get a brand new Ferrari, a used Kia or a vintage Volkswagen. Before I started riding, I wasn't even sure if I was going to enjoy it (turns out I do!), so I opted to buy a decent used bike from a friend. I took it to get tuned and was good to go. Great deals are also out there on Craigslist and at your local bike shop.
2. Learn to repair a flat tire--Do this before you pedal too far away from home to walk your bike back. A local shop, handy friend or YouTube video can show you how. My first flat surprised me on my way to work (what's that loud clanging?!) and took me 20 minutes to fix but it was a great feeling knowing that I could actually help myself. I keep all of my supplies (tube, patches, pump and tire lever) in a bag under my bike seat.
3. Find a hill and pedal up it--Riding to work and Trader Joe's is great, but when it comes to training for a 60-mile ride, nothing gets you in shape like a hill climb. I found some great beginner routes on the Internet.
4. Get some padded shorts--Don't fight it. I did, and I learned my lesson! Just buy some shorts and get used to looking a little ridiculous. Your tailbone with thank you.
5. Go "clipless"--Invest in those strange cycling shoes and pedals--they make your pedaling more efficient. I was so afraid of clipping onto my bike that my pedals sat in their box for a month. Once I finally tried them out, they only took a few hours to get used to. My advice? Clip your foot out well before you stop. I learned this the hard way by stopping the bike then frantically ripping both feet off of the pedals and doing the splits over my bike like a baby giraffe. Walking with the balls of your feet covered in slick plastic is an added challenge--avoid tile floors and stone pavers like the plague!
6. Find a group to ride with--Prior to Staff Ride, my coworkers and I rode together at lunchtime to get some more miles in during the week! Group cycling is great--it pushes me to go faster than I would alone and I also get to draft (ride close behind another rider to reduce wind resistance) when I get tired.
7. It's all about the gear (sort of)--Getting properly outfitted for road cycling is not cheap, but having the right basic gear makes riding far more comfortable. My unexpected must-have is a cycling jersey. The big pockets in the back hold my snacks, sunglasses, windbreaker, phone and sunscreen. I look like a camel, but I can carry everything I need and get it without stopping.
Riding 60 miles a day in Spain with my colleagues was not easy--but I did it! And it was a blast. I could have shied away from the challenge, but I'm glad I didn't. I got to ride with awesome people through a beautiful country. And I knew, if all else failed, there'd be the shuttle!