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Welcome New Riders

by Kristin Sundin Brandt (the Bike Guy's wife)

So you just got a new (or new to you) bike. Whether this is your first time on a bike or you are getting back after a long hiatus, let me say . . . Welcome!

After 24 years riding with, and 22 years married to, the Bike Guy, I can’t claim to be a new rider. But I remember well how intimidating it was when I started, including every time I ventured into a new cycling discipline (note: road riding is not the same as mountain biking).

With that in mind, I wanted to share some advice and resources to help take the edge off...

Wear a (new) helmet

Massachusetts state law mandates anyone under the age of 16 must wear a helmet, but we suggest everyone join the fun. I know, I know, we didn’t wear helmets when we were kids, and we turned out fine, right? But we also didn’t wear seatbelts, and most of us have accepted that’s a good idea, and so are helmets.

While “a” helmet is better than no helmet, you want to replace your helmet every few years as the plastic can become brittle and the foam can degrade. Helmets released most recently also incorporate new technology that claims to help prevent concussions.

Wear What You Want

Seriously. 

You will see lots of flashy kits (that’s what cyclists call cycling specific wearable items) and may hear strong opinions about proper sock length. Wear what works for you, but perhaps consider adding a pair of padded shorts. We promise you will thank us later. If you do want to know the most popular style kit items for a particular cycling discipline, we can give you plenty of guidance. 

Know the rules

For those riding on the road, there are quite a few rules you should be aware of, as well as your rights as a cyclist. You can check out a comprehensive list on MassBike.org.

But rules aren’t just for the road. Those hitting the woods for the first time should become familiar with trail etiquette – including yielding to horses, riding safely around hikers, and when to yield to oncoming riders. There are lots of guides available online, including this one from SingleTracks.com. One of the best things you can do is be courteous to all other trail users.  

Be prepared

Follow the Girl Scout motto “Be Prepared” before heading out on your bike. That means not just carrying the tools I need to fix a flat or make minor repairs, but also knowing how to use them. 

In addition to tools, I also bring first aid supplies, money, and a copy of my ID and insurance card. During the summer I don’t bother taking off my Road ID which tells people who to contact should I be found unconscious (not to scare anyone!).

Find new places to ride

While some are happy to head out on their bike without a plan, others including myself, like to have an idea where they are going and how they will get home. Ride with GPS and TrailForks are two great resources for when you are ready to roam, but with a plan.

Join the community

While we hope to be riding with friends again soon, it will likely be a long time before we can connect with the larger cycling community in-person. But that doesn’t mean you can’t join the conversation now by joining advocacy groups, trail building groups, and user groups (Facebook has a ton of them). Joining virtually will allow you to listen in to the conversation, learn about issues and concerns, get advice, and make friends!

Some places to start

Ask questions

I know you have them because I did (and still do). Beyond going online, you can usually find cyclists gathered near local bike shops, local coffee shops, and local ice cream parlors, and local breweries (do you sense a theme?). Post-ride is a great time to ask riders about routes, equipment, whatever – most cyclists we know will happily take time to help.