26 Beginner Cycling Tips From Top Pros

We all started somewhere - here are the beginner tips top pros wish they were taught starting out (and still use today).

By Molly Hurford |

Every Olympian and world champion road racer, mountain biker and gravel expert was a beginner once. They wore underwear with bike shorts, overtrained, under-fuelled, and toppled over on their bike while using clipless pedals for the first time. But they powered through the beginner phase to become the athletes that they are. Here, pro riders—like Ayesha McGowan, Alison Tetrick, Ian Boswell, Ted King, and Mandy Marquardt—share what they wish someone had told them when they were that beginner… from tips on the gear that changed their riding to how to organise your training schedule, they have some amazing wisdom to share that you, too, can incorporate into your new riding life!

1) Commit Yourself to a Training Routine

“Commit to a training routine, but make it sustainable. Big rides might sound impressive, but sometimes aiming for something much smaller makes your program way more successful because you can be more consistent. Aim to do an achievable amount for your lifestyle and time constraints every day. Consistency is key.” —Catharine Pendrel, Olympic medalist and former mountain bike world champion

“Creating and remaining committed to a routine requires making small changes over time and sticking with them until they become habits. Doing so will require some initial discipline, but in time [they will] become second nature.” —Madeline Bemis, road racer with Rally Cycling

“If you fall off track, gently get yourself back on track. One mistake or one day of riding lost doesn’t change your commitment, and beating yourself up for it will only make it tougher to get to your end goal.” —Krista Doebel-Hickok, road racer with Rally Cycling


 2) Even a Beginner Can Set a Goal

“Starting a training program can be daunting, and sometimes the hardest part is committing to it. It is helpful to have a reason to get up early, buckle your shoes, and saddle up, even when it is cold outside or you just plain don’t feel like it. How do you do it? First of all, I like to know why I am training. It could be for your first century, to get healthier, or feel more confident. I write down my goal, whether it is a target event or a certain fitness level. It is important to pick a goal that inspires you, not just what society says is a popular goal. If the goal makes your heart flutter and your jaw clench with determination, you are on the right track.” —Alison Tetrick, gravel racer with Specialized


3) Listen to Your Body

“Don’t get obsessed with the mileage. I think that people are just trying to put in these big miles or time because they think that that’s what’s going to get them faster. But if that was the case, everyone would just spend all day on the bike, and then they would be the fastest they could be. Understand that it’s not necessarily more volume that’s going to be what gets you better results: Intensity in some efforts and proper recovery are key. Now that I’m getting older, I find that I need to really pay attention to my recovery time. If I do hard efforts, I need to give myself the time to recover and understand that that is just as important as the training itself. I’m always telling people that they need to rest more!” —Mari Holden, Olympic medalist, time trial world champion, and current Pinarello ambassador

“Learn to listen to what your body is telling you. There are days when you just don’t feel yourself, and it is best to call it a day and head home.” —Ian Boswell, former World Tour pro road racer turned gravel grinding pro

4) Find Your Crew

“Beginning on a new journey can be intimidating, so definitely keep an open mind to enjoying this new process. Try connecting with local bike shops for group rides and even exploring Facebook groups and Zwift rides to get connected with others nearby and from around the world.” —Mandy Marquardt, track cyclist with Team Novo Nordisk and USA Cycling National Team

“Group ride etiquette is impossible to learn when only riding solo or indoors, and it’s such an important quality. Find group rides from visiting your local shops or by talking to riding buddies. It’ll push you to be faster, which is great, but even more importantly, you’ll learn skills and safety and infinite ways to improve your ride.” —Ted King, former World Tour pro road racer turned gravel racer

“The biggest thing for me when it comes to motivation is accountability. Finding a good group ride to build your week around can definitely help nudge you out the door. And just having a training buddy or teammate and knowing they will be waiting for you the next morning is massive for motivation.” —Kyle Murphy, road racer with Rally Cycling

5) Nail Your Fuelling on and off the Bike

“It’s simple: Eat and drink early and often.” —Tetrick

“Fuelling and hydrating on rides is really important to avoid bonking and recovering before your next workout. My favourite go-to ride snacks are the Honey Stinger Waffles and Honey Stinger Performance Chews.” —Marquardt

“When I started, I didn’t know how to fuel properly, so it was hard to ride more than two hours. When I started eating something like a Clif bar to go with my water on my rides, I had much better sustained energy to be a bit more adventurous.” —Pendrel

“You don’t need to always buy expensive sports bars or gels. These might be convenient for pulling out of your pocket quickly in a race, but add up in cost—and many don’t taste that great. My go-to snack for almost any ride is a classic PB&J sandwich.” —Clara Honsinger, U.S. Cyclocross national champion

6) Cross-Train

“I recommend that every cyclist should take a few minutes before each ride to do some core and activation exercises, especially for the glutes. A short routine—like this one—can prevent injuries while enhancing comfort and power on the bike.” —Leah Kirchmann, road racer for Team DSM

“Have fun and mix it up during the winter with yoga, Pilates, and even weight training—these all benefit [performance on] the bike and your mind.” —Marquard

7) Even a Beginner Can Have the Right Gear

“Clip-in pedals really improve stability and pedalling efficiency. And they’re not as intimidating as they seem.” —Bemis

“Don’t wear underwear under bib shorts … I learned that one the hard way!” —Bemis

“Wear Chamois Butt’r!” —Tetrick

“Bike lights are game-changers! There’s going to be times that life happens, and getting in that coveted ride means riding before or after sunrise.” —Doebel-Hickok

“Full front and rear fenders from a brand like SKS are so helpful— they are such a game changer. I messed around with clip-on rear fenders and a soaked booty for so long. It took me a long time to realise how much of the water on a wet ride is coming from the ground as road spray, not from the rain itself.” —Murphy

8) Know How Your Bike Works

“Probably the biggest mistakes I made when I started riding was running way too much tire pressure for my size on the mountain bike. I used to run 40 PSI because I thought tires should be hard. Now I race at about 18 PSI with tubeless tires, which gives such a smoother ride and better traction.” —Pendrel

“One thing I wish I knew as a newbie was bicycle gearing. For my 10-year triathlon career and for my first three years of cycling, I assumed the cassette on a wheel was the same for everyone. I had no idea there was gearing available that could make it easier on hills or more powerful on descents. Then someone asked me, ‘What kind of gear ratio did you use for the race last weekend?’ and I responded, ‘Huh? What do you mean?’ I got an education after that! I highly suggest going to your local bike shop and/or asking an experienced cyclist to explain gear, ratios, and cassettes to you … before your 10-year mark of participation.” —Kathryn Bertine, former pro road racer and author of  Stand: A Memoir on Activism

9) Relax and Enjoy the Ride (Literally and Figuratively)

“My advice would be to use all the tools to quantify your training—like coaches, power meters, heart rate monitors, etc.—but don’t let all the gadgets take away the pure bliss of riding your bike and exploring. Having a training plan is so beneficial to keep you on an upward trajectory, but don’t become obsessed with all the numbers. You will have good days and bad days, and neither of them last. Don’t get discouraged. Just know that each pedal stroke is giving you forward progress to something better.” —Tetrick

“There are so many amazing things about cycling, and that’s the joy that I want to be able to connect back into now and share with people. There’s a really special thing about riding your bike that I don’t think you can get any other way—it’s that speed that you can get when you’re descending, and the beautiful places your bike can take you.”—Holden

“Whether it is training, racing, nutrition, or motivation, there are times when you just need to back off and relax. Don’t beat yourself up over these small setbacks—rather, take the time to maximise the change of pace. Neal Henderson of Wahoo Sports Science once told me, ‘Don’t get stuck looking at a single tree, look at the whole forest.’” —Boswell

“The workouts and races that feel big and intimidating today will feel insignificant sooner than you think.” —Ayesha McGowan, road racer with Liv Racing

READ MORE ON: Best advice Tips & Tricks Tips from the Pros Top Tips

Copyright © 2024 Hearst