Cycling for Beginners: 5 Tips to Get Started

There are many benefits to cycling, including getting some exercise, reducing your stress level and doing your part to be more green. But it can sometimes come off as intimidating if you’re new to cycling or returning after a long break.

But don’t worry, getting started is easier than it seems. To help, here are five tips on how to start cycling and trails you can explore in California so you can hit the open road with confidence. 

Tip #1: Choose the Right Bike

Of course, you can’t get started without a great set of wheels. Just like picking the perfect pair of running shoes, you first need to size your bike. Next you need to pick a bike that fits your budget and riding style. Are you going to log casual miles on the weekends? Do you want to use your bike for exercise? Think about how you intend to use the bike and how you might want to grow with the bike.

Tip #2: Get Geared Up

Finding the perfect bike is only half of the equation. There’s also some essential gear you’ll need. A new helmet is the most important and should be worn at all times while riding. Helmets have a shelf life, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and buy a new one instead of reaching for that old one hanging in the garage.

Some other things you will need are: tire levers, a mini pump, spare tubes, a multi-tool and a reusable water bottle or two.

Tip #3: Create a Habit

Your first few rides might be tough as your body is adjusting to the stress of a new activity. But like all things in life, real progress is made when you stick with it for the long run. Be realistic with your riding habits. Setting a long-term goal is a great way to stay engaged and track progress. You can aim to ride a certain number of days a week.

Tip #4: Stay Safe

Sometimes not all rides go as planned. So always carry a basic multi-tool, a form of identification, cash and your phone in case of an emergency. Follow traffic signs and use appropriate hand signals when making a lane change or turn. Headphones or earbuds should never be worn while riding outdoors either.

Tip #5: Practice Makes Perfect

Cycling might seem hard as a beginner, but with every spin you take, it will only get easier. Practice in an empty lot, sidewalk or paved biking trail. Get a feel for the brakes, the petals and steering handles. And remember, always follow the rules of the road and be aware of your surroundings.

The Best Bike Trails in California

Thanks to generally good weather, varied terrain and eye-catching scenery, California is a cyclist’s paradise. So if you live in California or are visiting for the weekend, here are a few not-to-miss bike trails to add to your itinerary.

The Strand, Los Angeles

The 22-mile path stretches from Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades to Torrance County Beach. Along the way, you’ll pass through Santa Monica, Venice, Manhattan and Redondo. You’ll see wide beaches with volleyball courts and all the color and mayhem you’d expect from the City of Angels.

Rincon Bike Trail, Ventura County

This 3.6-mile protected bike path runs along the coastline and connects the town of Carpinteria with Ventura. Roll past Rincon, a world-class surf break, and watch dolphins frolic as you cruise down the coast. The trail connects with old Highway 1, which boasts a wide bike lane.

Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, Monterey County

The Monterey Peninsula is one of California’s most scenic coastlines. The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail is a multi-use trail that runs 18 miles from Castroville to Pacific Grove. Ride under windswept cypress trees and along a dramatic rock-encrusted coastline. 

American River Trail, Sacramento

The American River Trail follows the river over mostly flat terrain for 32 miles and is one of the longest multi-use trails in the country. Follow the paved, two-lane path from Sacramento’s old town at Discovery Park east to Folsom Lake. Parks and swimming spots dot the route and there are plenty of restrooms and water fountains along the way.

West Cliff Drive Bike Path, Santa Cruz

It’s short at just over three miles, but the West Cliff Drive Bike Path offers plenty of scenery. The path begins at the San Lorenzo River and passes by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a classic California seaside amusement park. Stop by the Santa Cruz Wharf for a snack, then pedal up the cliffs toward the lighthouse at Steamer Lane.