I am interested in getting into cycling for fitness, i.e. I want this to be my regular form of intense exercise. I am 20 years old and in decent shape. For context of where I’m at with cycling ability I did 20km in an hour. I live in Chicago and so it is not very hilly. I'm wondering how fast and long I should be trying to ride for. Is cadence important? Overall, what would be useful for me to know? Thank you!

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    A helmet is good to have if you don't have one already
    – David D
    Commented Jun 15 at 1:55
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    Hi, welcome to bicycles! It would be helpful if you told us what your goal is; are you looking to become a regular cycle commuter or training for a weeks-long bikepacking tour?
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 15 at 2:59
  • I think my goal is to cycle as a means of regular exercise, not really as much to commute.
    – Ari Jacob
    Commented Jun 15 at 3:11
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    You don't have to commute but it gives regular exercise in time otherwise lost traveling. But that only works if cycling to work is safe enough and the distance works for you.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 16 at 16:07
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    OK -- what should he depend on instead? ;-) In my experience one should be (1) make sure to have well-maintained brakes, including the proper pads for the rim material; and (2) be prepared that the brakes under-perform for the first second or so until the rim is drier. Commented Jun 17 at 7:48

12 Answers 12


The most important part in training to get better, in anything really, is to keep enjoying to do it or to be forced to go on. In cycling by yourself that joy is a big motivator, the forcing is something some people can do but others will give up when it looks like work.

So keep riding in such a way that you will keep riding, not working against a training schedule that makes you hate it.
Improvement might be slower but still better than giving up.

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    Sounds simple, but this is very important advice. If you don't enjoy it, you'll stop as soon as your initial motivation has worn off (which won't take long). Also, training plans are intrinsically unsustainable and are therefore pointless if you're not training for something. Just make sure you're having fun and the rest will follow. Commented Jun 16 at 15:54

Just a couple of things I think many beginners realize too late:

  • Bike fit. Not necessarily by a professional, but just looking up a few bike fit guides on the internet and trying to adjust your bike so it’s comfortable and efficient for you already helps a lot.
  • Selecting the right gears and pacing. Many beginners ride way too hard gears at a low cadence. (I think there is also a learning curve involved here, spinning at 100rpm requires more coordination than pushing hard gears at 70rpm). Many beginners tend to start their ride at a too high intensity or go into climbs at a too high intensity.
  • Clothes. Good cycling clothes make it so much more enjoyable, especially when the weather is bad or changes.
  • Maintenance. Tyre pressure, lubing your chain, brake pad adjustment, shifter adjustment, replacing your chain after ~3000km when it’s worn … It becomes much more relevant when you ride several hundred kilometers every month and it really pays off to learn to do it on your own (especially road side repairs like fixing a tyre puncture).
  • Food and water on longer rides. Above 1 hour to 1.5 hours nutrition starts to become important since your body’s carbohydrate stores will start to be depleted. Eating carbs will really help for those longer rides and is paramount for riding >3h non-stop at a decent intensity. Bananas, soft drinks, dried fruit, dedicated carbohydrate bars etc. are your friend. I still tend to bring too little food or be too lazy to stop to take it out and then regret it at the end of the ride (or even afterwards when exhaustion hits you much harder).

As for training duration/distance: The good thing about cycling is that you almost can’t do too much (unlike other sports like running or rock climbing where you really have to be careful about overuse injuries). The more you ride the better you get. At a higher level there is some benefit in structuring your training with some sessions long but at an easy intensity, others short and hard (interval training) and complementary strength training (barbell squats, deadlifts, core muscles …). But generally cycling really scales well with volume.

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    Your local bike shop are able to adjust the saddle height, forwards-backwards (changing the width), and dip to fit you, as well as the handlebars. It's amazing how much difference even a slight adjustment can make for comfort. While it's in, ask them to service it as well
    – CSM
    Commented Jun 16 at 13:32
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    How about "Carry and Know How To Use a pump + puncture repair kit" ?
    – Kingsley
    Commented Jun 17 at 5:06
  • @CSM: Honestly my experience with bike shops has been pretty disappointing. For bike fit they’ll probably only follow some rule of thumb guidelines with you stationary on the bike (leg extended with heel on pedal for saddle height, plumb line for fore-aft position …). Regular maintenance at a bike shop is going to be expensive.
    – Michael
    Commented Jun 17 at 6:58

If commuting to and from is the only time you have to exercise, then look out for a cycling club that advocates for cyclist rights or that safety on the roads is a priority so you can practice some of their "know-how" on cycling safely on the roads.

If you already have a driving license then you would have some idea of drivers attitude to cyclist on the road, so take all these into account when cycling.

Enjoy your rides and be safe.


For context of where I’m at with cycling ability I did 20km in an hour.

That's a good start. 20 km should take an hour for someone in decent shape.

I'm wondering how fast and long I should be trying to ride for.

Not sure what your goals are, but for weight loss for example, 20 km isn't very good. The problem is that you first burn carbohydrates and only then fat. If you ride 20 km regularly, you're burning mostly carbohydrates, after which you become hungry and naturally eat the lost amount of calories back. To actually start burning fat, you first need to burn away the carbohydrates and then your speed drops due to starting to burn fat, and you need to keep on riding and not stop at the nearest restaurant. I suggest 50 km for weight loss. Of course, with careful control of how much you eat, you can lose weight with 20 km trips too. It's just that with 50 km trips it's easier.

Is cadence important?

Humans aren't large diesel engines with narrow power band. Cadence is not important, unless it's so far off that you start to think about it naturally. Just use whatever gear gets you through most of the terrain. Sometimes, if the hill is steep, you may want to downshift. If it's a large downhill, you may want to coast, but if you want very little bit of extra speed, an upshift or two plus keeping on pedaling gives you that.

As proof of cadence not being important, just see the popularity of single speed and fixed gear bikes as proof.

Overall, what would be useful for me to know?

Invest so much into gear that you actually enjoy cycling and don't stop it due to lack of enjoyment. For me, this means SPD pedals and compatible shoes, low rolling resistance 32mm road racing tyres and a bicycle with drop handlebars.

If you have a so-called "BSO" (bicycle shaped object, a derogatory term for cheap bikes that have so many issues it's just better to buy a more expensive one than to try to fix all the issues), I suggest a budget of 1000-2000 USD/EUR/whatever for a better bike. Since you're planning of using the bike for exercise, not for commuting (and presumably not for shopping errands), you may be able to save some money by avoiding buying lock, fenders, pannier rack, etc. and make the budget closer to 1000 USD/EUR/whatever than 2000 USD/EUR/whatever but if the usage of your bike becomes more varied, it's good to have a bike where those can be installed if needed.

Learn how to repair punctures and carry the required tools, patch kit, spare tube and a pump with you always. Eventually you will have a puncture, and it's better to be prepared. If you have never patched a puncture, buy two spare tubes, one of them becomes your kit spare tube, the other is a sacrificial tube that you puncture with a needle and subsequently repair for practice (once you have repaired it, it becomes a second spare tube which is useful to have just in case one of your tubes breaks in an unrepairable manner). Also for practice, remove and reinstall the tube and tire few times to make sure you can do it reliably without destroying the tube in the process with a new puncture.

Every two weeks, the tires have lost so much pressure you need to re-pump. Use a task manager application on your phone or something similar and set a reminder with a timeout of two weeks that you can mark as done once you have pumped the tires. For this regular pumping at your home, you won't be using a portable mini pump you always carry with you for repairs on the road, but rather a good floor pump that's so large and heavy it's not convenient to carry it around.

Every 500-1000 km, you will hear the chain starts making noise and you will need to clean and oil it.

Learn how to measure chainwear (Shimano TL-CN42 or Park Tool CC-4 are the best tools) and once the chain is worn, do the repairs yourself of bring the bike to a shop for repairs.

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    Regarding weight loss: It’s all about calories in vs calories out. If I burn 500kcal on my way to work and then eat the coworker’s birthday cake (which I would have eaten anyways) that’s still 500kcal better than if I hadn’t done the bike ride.
    – Michael
    Commented Jun 15 at 8:01
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    If you do not want to invest in an expensive bike till you know you will keep cycling, look for a second hand expensive one, maybe a bike shop near you can help with that.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 15 at 15:23

I'd like to expand on Willeke's good answer, who said you need to enjoy it or need to be forced.

Enjoyment depends a lot on where you bike. If you can set aside dedicated time for exercise, try to find the nicest route accessible from your home. Such routes are often in parks, along power lines, or along rivers or canals. In Chicago, where I have never been, I see, for example, a bike trail along the lake shore. Further inland there is the Centennial Trail with the I&M Canal Trail being a continuation southward, judging by openstreetmap.

I would also strongly suggest to make bicycling part of your daily life because that is very time efficient and also "automatic". The most obvious opportunity are the daily commute and shopping (one can transport astonishing amounts of stuff with two large panniers, a box on the bike rack and a large backpack). When commuting, is often possible to combine biking and public transport to great advantage: The "main arteries" (light rail etc.) are often fast; what slows public transport down is waiting times and then changing into slower modes of transportation, usually buses, for the "last mile". Having bikes at both ends of a fast train may result in competitive commute times. The big time advantage here is that you put biking to use. Even if the overall commute takes longer than by car, your time "penalty" is only the delta. Compare that to setting time aside for frequent leisure rides without any purpose.

Lastly, when I was your age, I happened to commute by bike for about an hour each way, sunshine or rain, in Hamburg, for about three or four months. I didn't go very fast, and the bicycle I had borrowed was what we called a "Holland Bike", weather-proof, heavy and with a fairly upright sitting position. I didn't notice at first but I was in excellent shape afterwards — I noticed when I ran a couple of miles next to a bike with ease to get somewhere one night (I'm not a good runner, normally). The bottom line is that a training plan, a fancy bike or lots of ambition are not necessary for "everyday results": With regular exercise, the shape improves automatically.


The first thing to know is to make sure you’re cycling safely. Some parts of this are easy and obvious (wear a properly fitted helmet, use lights at night, use high-visibility stuff during the day, etc), but some is not so obvious, such as:

  • If you need to slow down for a turn, do it before the turn, not while turning. Trying to use the brakes while turning, especially if you’re moving fast, increases the possibility that you will lose traction, and if that happens during a turn, the bike will usually go flying out from under you.
  • When looking for a headlight for nighttime cycling (or cycling while otherwise overcast), make a point to get one with a proper vertical cutoff (this is legally required in some places) so that you don’t blind oncoming traffic.
  • If cycling at night, don’t wear dark colors, and ideally get reflective gear to wear. Speaking from experience as someone who does ride after dark, most of my issues are not cars, but other cyclists or pedestrians who are out after dark with no lights wearing dark clothing with no reflective parts, which makes them impossible to see until I’m already on top of them.

Second is to learn and regularly take care of basic maintenance tasks for your bike. Stuff like repairing a punctured tire, cleaning and lubricating the chain, adjusting the brakes and shifters, etc. This will save you a lot of money in the long run, and quite a bit of time. On the same note, investing in a basic set of tools (a small hand pump and whatever wrenches or screwdrivers you need to cover the aforementioned basic maintenance) and some spare tubes for your tires and making a point to carry them with you while riding (you can get nice packs that strap to the seatpost or top tube, or even just something to go on a rear rack to help with this) will save you a lot of wasted time and frustration when you eventually have to deal with a puncture by the side of the road.

Third, if you’re not racing and not competing, then don’t worry about exact numbers. Sure, you might be more efficient with a cadence of 100 rpm once you’ve practiced it long enough to not need to think about it, but it’s actually pretty unlikely that you are going to see any practical benefit from that efficiency, and if your goal is exercise or weight loss, then efficiency is actually counterproductive to some extent (because it means you’re exerting less energy to achieve the same result). If your goal is weight loss, then possibly worry about your own numbers and improving them, but trying to hit some arbitrary number for distance or cadence or speed is usually still not worth it.

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    Lights are the single most important thing if you ride at night. The most important lights are the backlights: If you are on the road, your life depends on the attention of the driver behind you, and lights are the single most important means to attract it. (The situation in front of you, by contrast, is partly under your own control.) Get the brightest light you can get and set it to blink. I ride with a second, steady light that is perhaps less confusing (after grabbing the driver's attention you want to help them interpret the situation correctly) and provides redundancy. Commented Jun 17 at 7:36
  • Also, in a city with lots of ambient light at night among which my headlight may easily be overlooked, I deliberately and illegally adjust it so that the edge of the light cone actually hits the driver. Again, the goal is to attract attention, and because of the ambient light my light will not actually impair their vision. Be mindful of pedestrians though, particularly children (you don't want to be an a-hole). But when people complained about the light being too bright I said "So you saw me?" -- "Yes." -- "Good, that was the idea." Commented Jun 17 at 7:40
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    "Effective Cycling", by the late John Forester, is a great source of how to survive in city traffic -- or anywhere else. The synopsis is to behave as the driver of a motor vehicle should behave, so that motorists aren't surprised by your behavior.
    – ichabod
    Commented Jun 18 at 17:37

Lots of great input already here! I'm in my 4th year of training towards regaining my fitness after regrettably 20 years of couching. :)

.1. I agree, a) biking should be FUN, and b) yes, learn to bring and use a repair kit, and c) most new cyclists (myself included) pushed at low RPM's (cadence) unnecessarily. For a number of years I thought 60 was good, but from advice, I've since adjusted to ~80 as effective for me, at my current level of fitness and V02Max (your oxygen-processing efficiency).

.2. I will say in my experience that cadence is important, and varies greatly based on a) age/fitness, yet at 20 y.o., you have a lot of -fitness depth- to experiment with, AND based on b) proper crank length and individual inseam length, as a component of a proper Bike Fit per above = selecting and setting up the proper size frame + cranks for YOU. Some cycling websites have excellent online tools to help you self-fit at a basic level, but not to replace a proper bike fit by a trained expert, but to give you a better awareness of what to look for and to avoid as you fine-tune your cycling interest.

Self-fit starting options: https://www.canyon.com/en-us/, and I think https://www.feltbicycles.com/en-us.html,

For Canyon, first select a bike -AS IF- to buy, then start the build process with their "Fit" instructions = they're very good!

(Cadence DETAIL: Too low a cadence may indicate too-long cranks. Too-long cranks will strain your effort on climbing and against headwinds; while Chicago is flat, it's also windy, isn't it? Too-short cranks won't hurt you, but Too-long cranks will also lead to injuries of knees, back and/or hips; I've discovered all these three the hard way via injury, and in my case I'm in the process of getting shorter cranks.

Here are two excellent crank-arm resources towards proper fitting and surprising testimonials: http://bikesmithdesign.com/Short_Cranks/crank-length-and-power.html


Inseam cm ... Recommended Crank Length mm: Under 75cm ... 150mm or less 65 - 69 cm ... 145mm est 70 - 74 cm ... 150mm est "75 – 79 cm 155mm 79 – 82 cm 160mm 82 – 85 cm 165mm 85 – 89 cm 170mm 89 – 94 cm 175mm Over 85 cm 180mm if preferred.)

.2. As you continue to pursue this interest, consider investing later in A) a heart rate monitor (strap or watch), B) a bike computer = lots of choices, and C) a power meter = pricey but worth it, to more precisely gauge and monitor your performance without putting your health at undue risk. << D) On this same health topic, may I suggest, discuss your cycling plans with your doctor, who already knows your medical history.

.3. Find cycling clubs in your area that are "positive encouragers" that will support you and back you up, and can be there to help if you run into problems you're not prepared for. I've found two overwhelmingly positive support systems,

locally through: https://www.christiancycling.org/ (Unfortunately, your closest is in Indiana, but they might still be worthwhile, or maybe they could re-direct you),

and online via my favorite: https://www.strava.com/

Originally, you could join Strava for free without a trial period. These 2 pages seem to indicate you can still do so:

https://www.strava.com/student?origin=global_footer ... and ... https://www.strava.com/features

Both communities locally and online are extremely encouraging, with very few people that discourage and talk-down to others.

Overall, I am hugely impressed with the cycling community in general, not just from my area but also of visiting cyclists for large events, such as various Tour rides.

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    Strava has a free tier, which is sufficient for a lot of users.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jun 16 at 6:00

Among all the other good answers I'd like adding one more thing:

Choose the appropriate bike to your style.

Every bike is a compromise. Some are best for one purpose and nightmare at others, some are somewhat okay-ish for most purposes. Wrong combination of expectations and desires, and bike design choices leads to frustration.

I would strongly recommend starting with a decent used hybrid or gravel bike, see below, because they combine reasonably both road and off-road performance. After some time (years) in the saddle you'll find what you actually like and you can go for more targeted option.

  • Choose road bike if you love riding on tarmac and other hard and smooth surfaces fast and light. Such bikes are super light but with little to no cargo capacity*. Outside the roads they are poor (dry, solid mud) to nightmare (wet grass, wet mud). The question off the road is not "Whether I get a puncture" but "when I get a puncture". Most of those have drop bars so your position will be optimized for aerodynamics but compromised on handling.
  • Choose mountain bike (MTB) when you love riding on rough terrains like gravel, mud, dirt in maintains. On "smooth" gravel/dirt they are okay-ish but on tarmac they are nightmare to ride. The full suspension frames are great for downhill rides but waste a lot of energy otherwise, rigid bikes are most efficient but hard for your hands and butt. Hardtails are good compromise because they smoother the ride for your hands while your legs can damp the hits from the rear wheel. Hardtails and rigids have higher cargo capacity if it matters to you. These have quite wide straight bars, so you have better control of the bike but less aerodynamic posture.
  • Choose hybrid bike if you want to combine the surfaces with more of easy off-roading and a bit less of tarmac. These bikes combine good off-road maneuverability and reasonable drag on tarmac. Handlebars are a bit narrower compared to MTB so the posture is more comfortable.
  • Choose gravel bike if you think of a hybrid but want more of the tarmac road and the drop bars.

All those above are performance oriented, meaning you want to cover long distances at once. You somewhat need to learn the comfortable and efficient position and set the bike properly.

There are also other bikes that focus for other purposes:

  • BMX are for stunts and stunt tracks.
  • City bikes are focused on comfortable ride around the city centres. The posture is comfortable but tiring on long rides.
  • Cruiser bikes are more comfortable and a bit stylish.
  • Single-speed / fixed gear bikes are optimized for reliability (If it's not there, it cannot break) but they are horrible in steep uphills and off the road. Hardcore fixies (no brakes) are for hipsters.

Almost every style has its e-bike version. They are great for those who want to prolong their "biking career". I would not recommend them to people with little-to-no expirience with bikes. They help only with the power and nothing more but at the expense of lower control (traction lag, power misballance) and weight (different braking styles, different centre of mass).

(*) I have bought Specialized Allez road bike and I'm abusing it off the road and with rack and panniers. It is fun to push it beyond the limits, but I'm much slower off the road than my SO on their gravel bike (which would have been much wiser choice).


If there's bike-friendly public transportation in your area, considering cycling a low-traffic (or off-road) route near it. That way, you can push yourself a bit further, safe in the knowledge that if you do over-do it, you can get the train/bus back home.

Alternatively, have your partner or a friend on stand-by to come and collect you in their car. You can also cycle to a restaurant/pub/etc, having arranged to meet them there


I'm wondering how fast and long I should be trying to ride for.

There is a somewhat highfalutin concept called "progressive overload".

This means, for your case:

  • Start with whatever distance and intensity of riding that you can do without pain or too much exhaustion. It should be fun, as well. You should not be so exhausted that you cannot ride next day (for purely recreational levels), or at least the day past that (if going a bit more enthusiastic).
  • Next time, ride a little longer, or a little harder.
  • Rinse and repeat until it is too hard, then reduce ("deload") significantly.

You can just do that in an ad-hoc manner for now. If you want to get more earnest, you can plan a few weeks (like 3-4) in advance, where you make sure that your distance, duration or intensity increases by an amount you can handle, followed by a week of significant reduction (in which your body can recover fully).

If in doubt, do it slower, not faster. It does not matter whatsoever if you start too small - the nature of this process will get you up to the amount of "work" you are capable to do, eventually. Avoid doing too much too soon - if you cannot ride at all for a week because your bum hurts from too long in the saddle, then that is much worse than riding too little.

Try to focuse your utmost attention on consistency - it is better to ride often, week after week, even if it's a bit slower or shorter than you could, then to ride too hard and be forced to take a long break, or burn out completely.

Have fun and good luck!

  • I can recommend something simillar to interval training. Pick (round) trip you like and at some spot try to push hard - high tempo, high force - for a while and then relax (low pace, low tempo). Half a minute, minute, as you feel like. When approaching home (last uphill, last kilometer) you can try pushing as hard as you can and when you strat thinking "It's enough, I can't do any more" try pushing even harder.<br> Later you can make the intensive intervals longer and more intensive.
    – Crowley
    Commented Jun 19 at 21:17

I just turned 80 and I would rather ride my $200 customized salvaged hybrid bike than drive ever! My suggestion for the 2 most critical concerns is GOOD BRAKES and a GOOD MIRROR! I have a bicycle version of a 'motorcycle mirror' which clamps on my 'cruiser' handlebars and I like it very much, but it is really finicky about staying in adjustment - especially on rough gravel or when I bump it on the door frame getting it out the garage door. Find something that works for you from the various available options, but NEVER ride without a mirror! A good recreational ride for me is 30 - 50 miles of flat 'rail-trail', and no rush to complete it! I ride sitting straight upright on a WIDE seat for comfort thanks to a 5" riser on the handlebars ... 'efficiency' is of no concern to me, but ENJOYMENT is everything!


Note that this information comes from a road biking perspective:

Safety advice

  • Never tilt your head when you drink! Many cyclists will tilt their head up to drink from their water bottles to let gravity assist them. This is a bad habit. Do not do this. Put the nipple in your mouth and tilt only the water bottle up, keeping your eyes comfortably on the road, and squeeze the bottle. If you can't do this, just stop your bike to drink. On cold days, the aching titanium screws in my femur reminds me of this.

  • Learn good braking technique. Your front brake is your primary brake. Your back brake is only to be used in conjunction with your front brake when you need more stopping power than your front brake can safely give you on its own, and as a backup. Your back brake has much less stopping power for one simple reason: When you are decelerating, weight is transferred from the back wheel to the front wheel, so any braking increases traction on your front wheel and decreases traction on your back wheel. Over-braking on your back brake can cause your back wheel to skid which can cause a severe loss of control. It's a lot harder to use too much force on your front brake, but if you do, you may find yourself going over your handlebars.

  • Fit your helmet right. You want a helmet that fits well and is snug, but not too tight. Many people wear their helmets so loose that they're useless in a serious accident. A good rule of thumb is that it should be as tight as it can be without being uncomfortable. There's nothing wrong with having it slightly too tight, realizing it half a kilometer out, and loosening it slightly.

Comfort/efficiency advice

  • Don't let your seat be too low! This is hugely important. If your seat is too low, your knees will be bending too much and this can cause fatigue and even damage over time, especially in children and teens. If you're new to road biking but have ridden casually before, the optimal seat height can seem too high, even when it's not. When your leg is fully extended on the downstroke, you want your knee only slightly bent (but not locked).

  • Practice biking straight. You can do this by biking on the white line of a bike lane (when there are no cars). At first you may weave, but practice will get you better at it. I find this makes for a more comfortable ride when biking straight comes perfectly naturally.

  • Shift gears at the right time. Shift into a lower gear before you begin to go uphill. Whatever gear you think is low enough, go a little lower. The last thing you want is to be biking uphill and frantically trying to down-shift before your pedaling becomes so slow that the gears won't shift before you come to a stop. When you up-shift, do not apply force to the pedals. Slow down your pedaling slightly and then up-shift. You do not want to up-shift while you were transferring power from your chain to your wheel. This will damage the derailleur.

  • Clip-in pedals are amazing but dangerous. If you dump from your bike, you will break your ankles. Everyone knows someone who broke their ankles using them. However, they work absolute wonders for road biking because they enable you to use muscles that you've never used for cycling before. This translates into more power as well as less fatigue. Don't buy into uncomfortable ultra-lightweight carbon fiber shoes though. If you go this direction, practice quickly unclipping at stoplights.

Maintenance/care advice

  • Not all gear ratios are viable. If you have a bike with a front derailleur (e.g. a 21 speed is likely a 3x7 with 3 gears in the front and 7 in the rear), do not allow extreme ratios. Being on the highest gear in the front and the lowest in the back will damage the chain and both derailleurs and can even cause the chain to fall off.

  • Damage to composite frames is invisible. Unlike metal frames which will bend and deform visibly when they are overstressed, composite frames can hide damage underneath layers of lamination. If you get in an accident or otherwise subject the frame to an overstress event, do not assume that a lack of cracks indicates that it suffered no damage. The damage can be hard or impossible to spot, and the damage can cause a catastrophic fracture of the entire frame in the future. Make sure an expert examines it if you suspect damage.

  • Disc brake maintenance is a nightmare. In the past, disc brakes were limited only to mountain bikes due to their weight, but these days they are light enough to fit on road bikes (they're still not as light as rim brakes though). However unlike rim brakes, they're harder to maintain and you're pretty much locked into a single vendor. That isn't to say that you should avoid disc brakes; they have great advantages like superior stopping power and better traction when wet, but you have to keep in mind that maintenance is different.

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