The invention of the wheel has been mankind’s greatest achievement, followed by sliced bread of course. With this invention, we made moving things around easier and for longer distances. The most apparent invention in line for the bicycle, from the outset it may seem obvious, but the history of the humble cycle saw it’s own set of turmoils. You can read more on the History of the Bicycle.
This blog, however, is moving from its invention to an urban context of its uses. With cars, flights, choppers and faster motorbikes in the market, the bicycle still holds its charm, and it is one of the long-standing favourite ways of getting around.
Let’s begin by asking one pertinent question,
At the source of it, and during these times, biking or cycling resurgence is a result of getting fit, active and healthy. However, if you step back and consider health and fitness as a consequence of biking and recognize biking is a way to connect with the world differently. You realize familiar scenes become renewed, your keenness to travel at a slower pace, appreciating the little things is rewarding both mentally and physically.
Whatever your reason, here are ways you can explore bicycling:
Three words, Tour de France, is an easy reference, although there are many races around the world. Simply put, its training and participating against elite riders just as yourself in organized races around the world. These wary in off terrain mountain bike racing to road racing on paved roads. End of the day, it’s chasing a coveted trophy.
Self Supported Touring:
For the uninitiated may we suggest a short documentary called “Pedal the world”. Touring is about exploring the journey while on your way to a destination. This can be across states, continents ranging from 5-6 days to over a few months or even years. You carry your essentials on your cycle, and you pedal away.
Tours and Travelling:
Similar to touring, but it can be a mix of various activities you take on as part of your vacation. Mostly hosted by organized tour operators like ourselves. Where your accommodation, stopovers and experiences are curated, and you have the benefit of a support vehicle where you can choose to stop or ride as per your convenience. It’s an active and experiential vacation.
As simple as it sounds, it could be riding to school, your neighbourhood grocers, your workplace, you use the cycle as your preferred mode of transportation and mobility while also making it part of your day to day activity.
Cross Country (XC) Adventure:
This is for those who want that shot of adrenalin now and then, this could be downhill riding, lifts, jumps and tricks on a bicycle. Something that you would see sponsored by “RedBull”
Now that you know “why” you want to cycle, let’s figure how you want to take this forward. The first step to getting started with cycling will be acquiring a bicycle. There are different kinds of bicycles for various purposes like road bikes, Cyclo-cross bikes and Triathlon/time trial bikes to race as a sport. Fixed gear bikes, Hybrid, Cruisers for a daily commute. Mountain bikes, gravel bikes and touring bikes for travel. BMX, ….the list is endless. For someone starting, here are the top 3 varieties popular in the market.
Types of Cycles
MTB / Mountain Bike –
Mountain bikes are designed for riding rough, off-road trails requiring greater stability with fat tyres and a suspension to cushion the bumpy road condition. They have flat handlebars offering an upright posture, coupled with very low gear range for pedalling up steep climbs; they make for suitable bicycles for travel and cross country adventures. Most mountain bikes have some type of shock absorbers or suspension. Mountain bikes can be outfitted for use as touring or commuting bikes, although they would not be as light or efficient as traditional touring or commuting bikes.
Road Bikes –
Road Bikes are designed to ride fast on smooth pavements. They have skinny tires and “drop” handlebars and can be used for on-road racing. They are lighter than other types of bicycles. You can ride them on paved trails, but most people find them uncomfortable and unstable on unpaved trails. Most road bikes are not designed to carry heavy loads, so are not very suitable for commuting or touring.
Hybrid Bicycles –
Hybrid Bicycles were originally conceived to provide the advantages of both road bikes and mountain bikes. Their large, padded seats and upright handlebars provide a comfortable riding position. They are best for casual riding around the neighbourhood or bike paths, short-distance commuting, touring and errands around town. They are ideal for paved or unpaved bike trails but are not appropriate for rough off-road mountain bike trails.
Always visit your local bike shop and talk to them about the different bikes, get on the bikes and try them. The internet is an excellent source of knowledge and information on various bicycles, brands and also how to check for quality components on your bike. Renting bikes is also a good option for a beginner so that you can get a better feel for the different types of bikes. Understand your interests with biking before committing to a specific kind of bike.
What to wear and carry on rides
With the right bicycle in tow, it’s time to gear up. Be it in the clothes you wear to cycling essentials you must carry on yourself while you set out on a ride. If you are going to clock long distances, i.e., over and above 30+ KMs, it’s important you wear the right kind of apparel for a comfortable ride.
Padded shorts/Bibs and jersey – There are many schools of thought where riders are pro or against padded shorts. It’s best to find out. Each body type and requirement are different; most riders prefer the comfort of padded shorts and a jersey, that allows you to fit the things you need for immediate access be it a chocolate bar or your mobile, which you can pull right off your back pocket.
Helmets – This should be part of your cycling essential, although there are various types with removable beaks, to visors and even a foldable helmet. A good quality helmet worn the right way can save you from severe head injuries from a fall.
Riding glasses – There are plenty in the market but pick specific riding glasses that are light, UV protected and cover the corners of your eye.
Comfortable footwear – sneakers are ideal, “cleat up” with cycling shoes if you are looking for better performance in your rides.
You will do yourself a favour if you learn to fix a flat as early as you can in your cycling adventures. While at it, add to it some necessary mechanical skills too. Given you’ve spent some time getting to know your cycle, and you are now ready to take on a long ride. Here are some essentials to pack.
– Puncture kit – Tube – Handpump – A snack bar
– Water – this can range from a 500ml sipper bottle to a hydration pack in your backpack.
Planning your ride:
Planning your trip sets you up with the right expectations. You are prepared to face traffic and also eager and ready to soak in the backroads and plan your training accordingly. Google maps and Strava are great resources. Whatever the intensity, or terrain always keep local emergency services number handy on your phone. Look out for the weather and pack accordingly. Know your stops, be it for refreshments on a short ride or accommodation while touring. Plan ahead.
First and foremost, always be conscious of your surroundings. Learn the local etiquette of cycling; some regions may have a cycling lane, while some may not. Know the right side to ride on and basic hand signals. Own your space and be predictable, inconsistent swerving on main roads may not be a great idea. Every region has its sensitivities; dress appropriately, and always carry the numbers for emergency services. If you are starting on long rides, try forming a small group of riders or ride with a group for support in the initial days.
Groups and communities
We can’t tell you enough of the “power of the other” while riding, shared interests and goals will help in pushing each other to reach them. Not to forget the power in numbers, groups are fun, safe and enjoyable while you meet like-minded riders. Every city has its little groups and communities for cyclists. We’ve made a brief list of groups in some of the major cities in India for your reference. CLICK HERE.
We hope this feature helped provide some insight into getting started with cycling and we hope to see you on one of our trips soon! If you have any other questions about biking or our tours, be sure to get in touch with a member of our travel team.