Beginner cycling - advice?

Hello! I'm looking for advice on how long a reasonable ride length would be for a true beginner. I'm going on a short vacation next week, and deliberately planned a few days in an area with plenty of flat, easy bike trails to start getting really comfortable on the bike (I live in an urban area and don't yet feel comfortable riding here). Several of the available trails are loop trails averaging 25-30 miles. I assume I'll need to treat them as shorter out-and-back rides, as 25 mi sounds a lot... Any advice on distance? Or, in fact, any aspect of starting cycling?
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Replies

  • lrsirius
    lrsirius Posts: 328 Member
    For a true beginner I would say less than 10 miles, but there are a lot of factors to take into consideration, as mentioned by sijomial.

    Do yourself a huge favor and buy the best cycling shorts/pants you can afford.
  • UmmSqueaky
    UmmSqueaky Posts: 715 Member
    edited September 2019
    Everyone is different. Some people can't make it to the end of the block. And some people can ride 100 miles after a few weeks.

    My first bike ride as an adult, at my highest weight, I rode a mile from home, promptly exhausted myself and turned around. I worked my way up to biking the 7 miles each way to work over a month. That was spring 2013. By the fall, I was regularly biking to work and biked 40 miles with my dad (the left side of my profile picture). This year I rode 235 miles across the state of Wisconsin in one weekend with minimal training (although it would have been a much easier ride if I had trained rather than rely on general bike commuting fitness) and can hop on my bike to do 50+ miles on the weekends no problem.

    You do you. Get good biking shorts, make sure you've got lots of water and some snacks, budget a few hours and set out on that 25 mile loop. Take it easy, stop to rest when you need it and you should be able to cover that distance. Otherwise, go out a few miles, turn around and head back. Add a bit more distance each time you ride and you're on your way to a life of cycling :D
  • lorrpb
    lorrpb Posts: 11,465 Member
    It depends on how beginner you mean by beginner. I got my bike a year ago, hadn’t ridden a bike in 35 years. I did several rides at the local park, consisting of a few miles to get used to my bike. Within 1-2 months I easily worked up to 10-15 miles. This summer I rode a few times a week and worked up to 25-30 miles for a comfortable ride. Fitness wise I could go longer but I tend to experience a lot of shoulder and arm pain, so that limits me. (Yes, I’ve had a bike fit and many smaller adjustments.)
    Have fun!!
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    edited September 2019
    lrsirius wrote: »
    For a true beginner I would say less than 10 miles, but there are a lot of factors to take into consideration, as mentioned by sijomial.

    Do yourself a huge favor and buy the best cycling shorts/pants you can afford.

    And know that they are meant to be worn without underwear (otherwise that's a recipe for chafing).
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,882 Member
    A rule of thumb that seems to work is you can probably do any 10 mph on flat and paved ground. Maybe around 7 (?) if the trails are dirt, it takes more energy to ride on unpaved surfaces.

    Bike posture takes some getting used to. I wouldn't recommend spending 3+ hours on your first go. On the other hand, if you stop to enjoy the scenery, have a picnic, etc, it tends to be easier. And, as you said, you can turn around at any time.
  • knightreader
    knightreader Posts: 813 Member
    good bike shorts. no undies.
  • basilandbalm
    basilandbalm Posts: 18 Member
    Got the bike shorts (they feel weird but I suspect I will be thankful!) and am planning a leisurely full day of riding to try one of those longer rides. If the bike is kind enough to my body, might even do a second day. And @Madwife2009, I got the helmet right along with the bike - I worked in a trauma center some years back and as far as I’m concerned they should be mandatory. Thank you for bringing it up. So important. Thanks all! I’m very excited for this trip 😊
  • noblsheep
    noblsheep Posts: 577 Member
    Ditto the bike shorts. I suspect if you start cycling 25 miles from nothing cold turkey, your butt will be the factor that limits the length you can go.
  • moonangel12
    moonangel12 Posts: 971 Member
    All good advice! I used to live on my bike growing up (my dad biked for the Phoenix FD in the 80’s and 90’s) and my parents and I did 25 mile rides together a few times when I was 10 or so. I was trying to decide if I could attempt something like that now, but my body isn’t ready for more than a few miles at a time (bike shorts might be in my future because that is the WORST part for me!) My kids are wanting to do more biking and so we are working towards that now - We have an old canal tow path nearby so that is where we are going to start on since it is fairly level ground. That is one thing to pay attention to on a longer out and back ride, because a slight downhill grade will make for an easier ride out but be brutal coming back when you are already tired...
  • lorrpb
    lorrpb Posts: 11,465 Member
    Also be aware that the type of saddle can affect your seat comfort - cushier is not always better - and a professional bike fit at a local bike shop is also very important.
  • Madwife2009
    Madwife2009 Posts: 1,369 Member
    I got the helmet right along with the bike - I worked in a trauma center some years back and as far as I’m concerned they should be mandatory. Thank you for bringing it up. So important. Thanks all! I’m very excited for this trip 😊

    Sorry for preaching to the converted! I always was enthusiastic about cyclists using helmets, even more so after my six year old took a tumble (hit a kerb, fell off, suffered some bruising) but after being knocked unconscious by a stupid car driver (and I can state with no doubt whatsoever that he was being stupid as he was breaking multiple laws when he hit me) I am a bit of a zealot about them now. I get so annoyed when I see parents out with children, none of whom have helmets. Or parents without helmets but children with them - who's going to look after the children if the parent is knocked out??

    Have fun with your cycling!
  • basilandbalm
    basilandbalm Posts: 18 Member

    Sorry for preaching to the converted!

    Omg, not at all! Keep preaching!
  • Madwife2009
    Madwife2009 Posts: 1,369 Member

    Sorry for preaching to the converted!

    Omg, not at all! Keep preaching!

    After an incident today, I probably will.

    I stopped to help a young man who's bike had skidded in the rain; he fell off and smacked his head against the road. No helmet. Nasty head wound, which could have been avoided, had he been wearing a helmet (and given his medical history, he should have been wearing a helmet).

    Poor guy. But apparently he's okay (in hospital but okay).


    And I do wish that everyone - including those in the health care field - would learn a bit of first aid. The young man had fallen off his bike, the car driver behind him was clueless but at least had the sense to call for an ambulance. We were stationary so I jumped out of the car and ran up the road to help him as he was lying in a busy road. Blood was everywhere but luckily the car driver had a clean muslin cloth that we applied to the wound. I know enough about first aid to be able to help someone, because of my midwifery training (plus I was a company first aider for ten years).Then an off-duty health care professional turned up, and to be fair, was just trying to help but actually didn't have a clue about first aid. Probably knows loads about heart attacks and strokes but nothing about immediate first aid.

    But the young man is okay. Which is the main thing.
  • vivo1972
    vivo1972 Posts: 129 Member
    I started out doing two miles so 25 is a fair bit :) Enjoy it, nothing beats outside exercise... I now do centuries fully loaded after three years as it's such a good boost for mental health and fitness - plus you meet a load of new friends - have fun!

    PS I'm a heretic and wear tight cotton knickers under my shorts as it stops my inner labia chafing. There is no hard and fast rule, everyone finds their own way eventually x
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,882 Member

    Sorry for preaching to the converted!

    Omg, not at all! Keep preaching!

    After an incident today, I probably will.

    I stopped to help a young man who's bike had skidded in the rain; he fell off and smacked his head against the road.

    Also it's important to know that your brakes work by stopping your wheels and creating friction between your tires and the road. Water acts as a lubricant and reduces your braking power. Visibility too but to a much lesser extent. It's ok to ride in wet conditions but important to be aware of this and not outride the brakes. Helmets are a great too but only part of the picture and it's much better to avoid a crash in the first place.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,882 Member
    It's not an either/or, it's ideally both. 🙂