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February 5th, 2010
01:14 PM ET

Learning to ride your first ‘road bike’

By Laura Cozik
Athletic Director, CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge
CEO, Team Lipstick Triathlon

Cycling is the second of three sports in a triathlon, and it can often be the most difficult for people with little experience on a bike. Here are my tips for getting started! This is the first of two articles.

The Basic Skills

• Clipping in – Yes, you must clip in. That means wearing shoes that clip into the pedals. Straddle your bike and squeeze your brakes for stability. Practice clipping in and out with the left, then the right foot, all while standing still.

• Taking off – Clip one foot in and pull that pedal to the 12 o’clock position. Push down hard to take off. Sit in the saddle and clip in with the opposite foot while you still have some momentum. Continue pedaling until you’re ready to stop.

• Braking – Softly squeeze both brakes simultaneously.

• Feathering your brakes – Try pedaling and softly braking at the same time. This slows you down, while allowing you to move forward with the greatest amount of control.

• Clipping out – The heel of your foot should move away from the bike when clipping out.

• Stopping – Squeeze your brakes, then with one foot at the top of the pedal stroke, and one at the bottom, clip the top one out. Come off of the saddle while leaning your inner thigh (of the still clipped in foot) to the top tube for support, then gently put your free foot down. Rule No. 1 = If you clip out LEFT, lean LEFT (or you will most likely fall).

• Falling – The bad news is, you’re going to fall. The good news is, you’ll be going zero miles per hour when you do. So just get it over with! And maybe dress for it – long sleeves, long/tight pants. There are less scrapes that way.

• Body position – It’s very important to be in a position that won’t cause any discomfort or pain. A proper fitting by a professional is definitely recommended. Then relax your upper body, elbows bent, shoulders down, and draw smooth, steady circles with your legs.

• Hydrate – Learn how to take a sip from your water bottle while riding or you will most likely dehydrate. Don’t look down (but for a split second glance), just reach down, retrieve your bottle, take a sip, and replace it carefully. Keep pedaling so you don’t tip over.

• No coasting – Always pedal, never coast. This is a road bike, it’s meant for speed. So pedal!

Stay tuned for Part II next week, Advanced Beginner Skills

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