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Getting used to your New Bike.
By Bikesport, Inc. Staff.

Even if we are adults there are few things as exciting as getting a new bike. Bikes aren’t necessities like a new refrigerator so there is a special quality to getting your new bike and being fitted precisely to it, making it uniquely your own.

If you are new to the sport and this is your first time riding a performance oriented road or triathlon bike then there are a few things worth knowing.

It’s going to feel unusual.

You’ll feel unusual on your new bike. It takes time, sometimes months, to get accustomed to maintaining the riding posture and learning good bike handling skills on your new bike. This is normal for any new piece of sports equipment, be it skis, a golf club or a tennis racket. One reason a bicycle takes a little more work than some things to get accustomed to is that you are actually riding it at relatively high speeds and you are attached to it. Be sure to give yourself adequate time to get acclimated to sitting on and riding your new bike. It takes most new riders about 600 miles of riding, or about 5-8 weeks, before they begin to feel comfortable on their new bike.

My saddle hurts! I need a different saddle!

Saddle comfort is more than just the right saddle for you. Adequate saddle comfort is a combination of good bike fit, being acclimated to sitting on a bike seat, having reasonable fitness, using tight fitting bike shorts worn correctly with no underwear, using chamois cream on every ride and starting with short but frequent rides. Until all these techniques are in place you cannot expect to have tolerable saddle comfort. While saddle choice is individual, there are some saddles that generally produce better results than others. These are our “go to” saddles that are on most bikes when they leave our store. It is likely your bike is equipped with one of those saddles now. There is no one saddle that is “best”. Riders who try a number of different saddles usually settle on one not because of the saddle, but because they have finally put enough time in the saddle that they are now accustomed to it- or they finally bought quality bike shorts and started using chamois cream.

Every new rider experiences saddle discomfort, soreness and numbness. This is likely a part of getting accustomed to your new bike. If you practice good saddle comfort habits and ride with consistency and moderation you will develop tolerable saddle comfort.

My stem is too long and I think I need my handlebars higher.

The three most common comments from new cyclists is that their saddle is uncomfortable, their reach measurement (distance from saddle to handlebars) is too long and their handlebars are too low. If you are experiencing any of these sensations the likelihood is that you haven’t become acclimated to sitting on your new bike. We recommend moderate duration (under 2 hour) regular rides for 600 miles to get acclimated to your new bike. This time will enable you to accumulate adequate fitness to be comfortable in the road or triathlon position. Your body needs time to adapt to your new bike, 5-8 weeks of regular, short, consistent rides is a normal time to get acclimated to your new bike.

I’m picking up my bike on Friday because I have a race on Sunday.

Rule #1 in any kind of racing where equipment is involved: Never race on new equipment.

If you have read anything about road racing and triathlons or have had a conversation with any competent coach or spent time on an internet forum then you have heard this already: Do not race on new equipment.

It takes time for your body to adapt to new racing equipment. It also takes time for your equipment to be “broken in” and to confirm all mechanical adjustments are solid and dependable. The additional stresses placed on your equipment and your body in a race could lead to mechanical problems on a newly assembled bike that hasn’t been broken in. It could cause injuries on an otherwise correctly fitted bike that you are not yet accustomed to. Racing on new equipment is a substantial risk that often results in mechanical problems or injury.

We strongly recommend you ride your bike a minimum of 600 miles and have one tune-up performed on it prior to your first race.

Many people choose to ignore this advice because they are excited about getting their new bike. This is a mistake. Countless stories of bad experiences posted on internet forums confirm this. Be sure to buy your bike early enough so you can have adequate time to get accustomed to It for at least 600 miles prior to your first race.

What maintenance should I perform on my bike?

We’ve published a real-world maintenance schedule of the minimum maintenance you should perform on your bike here.

The basic principles of maintenance are:

    1. Your bike is racing equipment. It requires regular, scheduled, preventative maintenance, checks and services (P.M.C.S.).
    2. If you do not perform regular P.M.C.S. (Preventative Maintenance, Checks and Services) on your bike you will have costly mechanical problems common to racing equipment that has not been adequately maintained.
    3. Keep your bike clean. Clean it after every few rides and always after riding I the rain.
    4. Inflate your tires to full pressure every time you ride without exception.
    5. Apply lubricants regularly but sparingly, wiping off excess lubricant to prevent an accumulation of dirt and grime.
    6. Do not carry your bike on any outside mounted vehicle rack. Always carry your bike inside your vehicle. Note that automotive racing teams never transport a race car exposed to the elements. Always transport your racing bike inside your vehicle. Use an exterior luggage carrier to carry your other gear on the outside of your vehicle to make room for your expensive bike inside your vehicle and to protect it from the elements, accidents and theft on the way to and from events and rides you must drive to.

Like any new activity getting used to your new bike will take time and patience. It will pay dividends as your enjoyment of the sport and your performances improve. A new bike will not immediately improve your performance. If you invest adequate time in getting accustomed to your bike you will likely see improvements in your performance and enjoy riding your new bike more and more!

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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