1. Take it easy. I know, I know. It’s bright and sunny and warm and you’re back on your bike again. Exciting as that is, take it easy. Old school racers all talk about base miles and spending hundreds/thousands of kilometers in the small chain ring. They’re just spinning, getting their fast cadence back, putting in the base training, before the push for speed. No hill training, no sprinting, they just spin.
You might not be a racer but I think there is a lesson here for the beginning cyclist. The first few weeks of spring aren’t the time to worry about how fast you are. Just ride and smile and soak up the sun. Ease into it.
And if anyone comments on your speed, just say “base miles” with a serious look on your face.
See The Case for Base Training.
(And yes, I know there is a debate about whether the ultra-conservative training approach favoured in cycling, based on years of experience on the mountains of Europe, and more recently challenged in the sports science labs of the new world and found lacking, is anything more than tradition. My point here is you can take it easy and look all knowing.)
2. Speaking of speed, now is also definitely not the time to compare yourself to other riders. Come spring some big differences emerge. This year has been the longest I’ve ever gone without riding a bike. Snow started in November and just stopped recently. It feels weird to me to be sore after the first spring rides but I am. This year, thanks to sad family circumstances, I also did nothing to keep up cycling. No regular spinning, no track cycling, no regular roller sessions, zip, zilch, nothing. (For what I’ve done in years past see Seven winter cycling options (I’ve tried them all!)
I often advise beginning cyclists to try group riding in the fall. (See Reasons to start riding in the fall.) That’s because in the spring people are frisky and come back to the group with different levels of fitness. Some have been track riding all winter and others have gone south for training, and then there’s the people like me. It will all come out in the wash in a few months but for now, don’t compare.
3. Be patient with drivers. It’s a shock to their systems to see us out there. They’ve forgotten about bikes and need to get used to us all over again. I try to put some goodwill in the bank by being extra smiley and waving lots in these first few weeks. I go for ultra high visibility at intersections and aim for eye contact.
4. Check your bike over carefully. If you care for your own bike, it’s time to do that. If you are a “get routine seasonal maintenance done by the shop” person that’s okay too. Just do it. And get in long before you want to ride. The first few beautiful weeks are often very busy.
5. While you’re not working hard, just spinning, see above, you can pick a skill to work on. You might work on not coasting. That fits in well with spinning. Or you could work on balance or on cornering. Pick a technical, rather than a strength/speed thing, and work on it for a few weeks.
6. Keep your eyes open for new potholes. This spring is the worst I’ve seen our roads. Giant bike sized pot holes. Look for cars and signal before you swerve to avoid them And signal to others you’re riding with that they’re there. Don’t ever swerve around an obstacle without signalling leaving the bike behind you heading directly into or over it.
Pothole or Hazard. A simple point to the road hazard will be enough to signal to the other riders. Do this well before the hazard is near and predictably move over so you don’t roll past too close to it. From The Beauty of Cycling