The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Everything A Self-Respecting Enthusiast Roadie Needs for Summer Cycling…
Look dude, or alternately dudette as the case may be, this is going to be an exceptionally expensive list of stuff, so first on the list is: A really good freakin’ job.
Next, a lot of this crap is tongue-in-cheek, so don’t take me, or yourself too seriously. I promise I won’t take myself or, if you complain, you seriously. Please remember, the key word in the title is “Enthusiast“.
Finally, I have a phenomenal job and it still took me four years to get my stuff lined up perfectly and it takes many cyclists up to a decade to get their full kit compiled. The main thing to get right is this: show up and ride first, worry about the rest of the crap when you can. Everyone looks like a noob at first. Those who would hold being a noob against a person probably aren’t worth befriending anyway.
The “A” bike is the good-weather bike, the sunshine bike. The nice bike, the one that you keep in the marital bedroom. Preferably a carbon fiber frame, but we all gotta start somewhere (my first race bike was an aluminum Cannondale).
The “Rain Bike”:
Look, the “A” bike is probably worth more than the car you drive (or close to it). You don’t want to ride that bike in the rain! While my rain bike is carbon, this certainly not a requirement by any stretch. We ride in any condition except snow (and maybe lightning – this is where that carbon fiber rain bike comes in handy by the way…make sure you’re with someone on an aluminum bike if you get caught out and it starts rumbling*), you don’t want to mess up the good bike with nasty weather!
The Mountain Bike:
The mountain bike should, whenever possible, match the “A”bike. It’s like that bumper sticker on your Chevy Sonic that says “my other car is a Ferrari” – except your other bike is the equivalent of a Ferrari. Great for a cruise with the family (especially if the rest of the family is on road bikes – you get a good workout in) or to play in the dirt. Let’s face it, if you’re into bikes, you’re a kid at heart and most kids love to play in the dirt. Don’t fight it.
The Club Kit (or two):
Bibs, not shorts (trust me, they’re awesome). Doesn’t matter if the kit matches the bike but it doesn’t hurt. The club kit should not (ever) be confused with a current pro or National Champion kit. You are not a pro, nor the National Champion. No matter how awesome you think you look, you are being laughed at. Sorry.
The kit is tricky. I’ve got three complete sets, other than my two sets of club kit, that match my “A” bike and two that match my rain bike. I’ll wear the club kit and the “A” bike kit on the rain bike but not the other way around (the rain bike kit on the “A” bike). However you want to look at it, a properly matched kit looks badass. It just is what it is.Ladies, Cleavage is COOL:
As is so amply demonstrated by my lovely wife, letting the girls get some air is awesome.
Socks, believe it or not, are exceptionally tricky. For men, there are two acceptable lengths: 3″ or 5″ above the ankle but you shall pick one or the other except for wool cold-weather socks. Women, though they should stick to the 3″/5″ rule, can get away with the ankle socks, because they have the cleavage, and, well, see the previous point. The reason for choosing one or the other, of course, is so your tan lines come out perfectly. We’ll get to the tan lines in a minute, because they are important. However, socks are where you can make your anti-establishment statement… No fashion rules currently exist for coordination of socks.
One for each bike. From left to right: Mountain bike helmet, rain bike helmet, “A” bike helmet. Not ironically, they rank left to right in price and sexiness (low to high) as well. I don’t know how to put this more simply: They match the bike they’re intended to be used with.
One for each bike. Also, the road helmets can be worn on the mountain bike but not the other way around. And visors must be removed for the road. The operative word in that last sentence is “must”.
I won’t bother with a photo for the shades (see above) but there is only one rule when it comes to choosing your cycling shades: Aviators are for Top Gun pilots, not cyclists. Don’t. Frickin’. Do. It. Both the rain bike and my “A” bike have white for the tertiary color so I always go with that. For the shades, because they’re worn every time I ride, no matter what (some form of glasses, whether shades or clear, are a must for cycling – I place more importance on protecting my eyes than my melon. I won’t get on a bike without eye protection). Sunglasses are a matter of function as well as fashion though. Improperly fitting shades end up with sweat dripping all over the lenses. I’ve found that a pair that fits tight over the eyebrows usually works best at channeling the sweat away from the line-of-sight so if you get drips on the lenses at all, it’ll be away from your direct line of sight. Also, because we are awesome and aerodynamic, a pair of glasses that have a high bridge, where the frame won’t block my sight when I’m down in the drops, work best. Getting everything right is not easy.
The saddlebag is a source of contention as far as I’m concerned. Some bikes look just fine with a saddle bag. I have four saddlebags. It took that many to finally embrace the fact that my “A” bike looks like a Ballchinian with a saddlebag on it, no matter how sleek the posterior man satchel is. I was seriously bummed out about it too – never mind that I blew almost a hundred bucks on all of those saddle bags. In many circles, saddlebags are more than acceptable. If you’re afraid that you too have a Ballchinian bike, try the Serfas Jersey Accessory Bag that fits perfectly in your back pocket. I love mine. Keeps my stuff dry, even when I’m drenched from grinding out an awesome 105 miler.
Folks, there are two brands of the dozens, acceptable for the cycling enthusiast. Look Keo’s or Speedplay. The only things missing from this truism are the words, “Thou Shalt…” Don’t bother going to the comment section. Thou shalt not…
The Tan Lines:
The tan lines shall be embraced and cultivated, grown to maturity over a lengthy season. Farmers invented them. Cyclists make them badass. Enough said.
Cash, card, license (in case a cop pulls you over for speeding, you don’t want him to get your name wrong on the ticket – you’ve gotta frame it, after all), tube, air/CO2, pump, tire levers… One should always have the means to successfully change a flat or buy a Coke and a Payday** at a convenience store.
As an aside, a note to all Swartz Creek, Flint, Flint Twp, Byron, Cohactah, Howell, Brighton, Lansing, Durand, St. Charles, Grand Blanc, Lainsburg, Gaines, Okemos, Genesee or Livingston County sheriff’s deputies or Michigan State Police Officers: If you clock me speeding, I want the ticket. I’ll pay it without a fight, just to be able to frame it. Just do me a favor and exaggerate it a little bit. 40 in a 35 would be great. Better yet, to the officers in Tiger, Georgia… Be on the lookout for an astonishingly handsome cyclist on a red on black Venge… I’ll be going down the hills at 50-55 mph and the speed limit is 45. I ride between the hours of 8 and 10 am and I’ll be down there in a few weeks. Thanks in advance.
A floor pump is an absolute must. Frame pumps are acceptable on the rain bike but not the race bike (no exceptions, it’s always all about the bike, dude). A decent CO2 canister and pump take up less space than a folded inner tube. A Ballchinian bike is bad enough, without the twig.
As enthusiasts, we learn how to keep our bikes operating optimally. From truing a wheel to cleaning out the steering assembly to replacing a cassette, we clean and lube it all. I have; Master Link Chain Pliers (Park Tool MLP 1.2), two spoke wrenches (one made specifically for the road bike spokes and a universal spoke wrench), aero (bladed) spoke wrench to straighten aero spokes when you tighten them (Park Tool BSH-4), wrenches, a full metric/standard Allen wrench set (Home Depot ?), two compact Allen wrench sets (DeWalt), a rubber mallet, pedal wrench (so I can take off those stupid platform pedals and put on a real set of pedals). A few adjustable wrenches (various sizes), a hack saw (you never know, I’ve used mine twice), a cassette nut and chain whip, and the capper…the big dog: The Bontrager 4mm 5Nm Preset Torque Wrench. I use mine to torque down my: Seat post, stem and handlebar… It’s perfect and fast. No worrying about over-torqueing the carbon fiber parts.
The Cleaning Tools:
I’ve got brushes galore. Shop towels (not the crappy looped one’s, the good, soft shop cloths – the rough, looped towels catch in the cassette and chain ring teeth). A good degreaser. Brillianize carbon fiber frame polish.
The Bike Stand:
You can either drop a couple hundred bucks on a decent stand or build one (as I did) for eight bucks and an hour or two’s time. My wife, kids and I have nine bikes that I have to maintain. A stand turns a thirty minute ordeal into a two-minute production line gig.
*The bit about riding with someone on an aluminum bike in a lightning storm is a frickin’ joke. Riding in a lightning storm is not advisable.
**Coca-Cola and Payday’s are supreme cycling fare. Don’t believe me? On your next century, stop at a convenience store and try them. Manna from Heaven. The Payday is intriguing because it has everything we need – a good jolt of sugar and slow-burning energy in the peanuts – and nothing that melts. They are cycling food (ERG All Natural Energy Bars are also stellar, at between 400 and 500 calories each).