Top Tips

Here are my favorite, littlest-known, most useful, or most outlandish bits of advice from the pages of Bicycle School.

From Chapter 1: How to Buy a Bike

Cycling shouldn’t hurt.
All bikes from established companies are good.
Whatever the brand, the bike was probably made in China, and the company probably uses the same frame for all models and price levels.
Higher price means better components.
More expensive components don’t last longer.
Buy from your local bike shop.
Your biggest decision is, Do I want a gravel bike or not?
Make sure the frame has room for 28 mm tires, preferably larger.
Size the bike by the size of the effective top tube.
Spend at least $1800.
Demo the bike before you buy.

From Chapter 2: Components

Learn to use internet reviews.
Avoid anything proprietary.
The best bang for the buck in upgrades is wheels.
Buy carbon wheels and ride them every day.
Consider buying a tubeless wheel/tire set-up.
Get thru-axles.
Buy your saddle from a shop that will let you exchange it after riding on it for a few days.
Use clipless pedals.
Unless you are sure you don’t need it, get a drive train with a 1-1 granny gear (32-32, e.g.) or nearly so.
Install a quick-link in your chain.
Get disc brakes.
Try a shorter stem.
Try a wider handlebar.
Consider a quick-release seat post clamp.
Unless you’re sure you don’t want one, get a compact handlebar.

From Chapter 3: Accessories

Get a data recorder (computer, Garmin, smart phone).
Get a heart rate monitor and ride with it.
Carry what you need to fix a flat.
Always carry a handi-wipe.
Wear a Road ID bracelet.
Install curly laces.

From Chapter 4: Clothing

Adopt cycling clothing as soon as you can.
Know the difference between European and American sizing.
Bibs are better than shorts.
After about $90, you don’t get much if you pay more for bibs.
The only way to know if a helmet fits is to try it on.
Don’t buy shoes with (only) Velcro closing mechanisms.
Buy shoes with replaceable parts.
Spend whatever it takes to get insoles that work.
Try Aetrex insoles.
Try riding with red lenses in your glasses.
When you dress, layer.
Try to find vests and windbreakers with back pockets.
You don’t need a cycling jacket.
Buy and use cold-weather cycling gear.
Buy rain pants.
The biggest cold-weather bang for your buck is a skullcap.
Rain-proof gloves and socks work well, even though few cyclists use them.
Launder a pair of cycling shorts after riding in it once.
Close all zippers before laundering bike clothing.
Air-dry everything.
Don’t dry shorts in the sun.

Chapter 5: Your First Ride

Before you ride, do an informal bike fit.
Don’t adjust bike fit by changing seat height or seat fore-and-aft position.
Join the Club of Cyclists.
Start your ride log NOW.
Make a pre-ride checklist.
Start your bike maintenance log NOW.
Get clipless pedals, and practice clipping in and out.
Raise your saddle until it’s too high, then lower it slightly.
Stop by leaning slightly to the free-foot side.
Inflate your tires with enough air to avoid pinch-flatting but not so much that your tires chatter.
Shift all the time.
Spin (pedal at a high RPM).

Chapter 6: Advanced Skills

Pedal four ways: ankling, pushing down, pulling up, and scissoring.
Drive your knees up and down, not your legs.
Keep your knees in the pedaling plane.
Steer by leaning.
Look ahead.
The road obstacle that takes you down is not the rough one, it’s the unexpected one.
Clean your tires with your (gloved) hand as you roll.
Ride in the right-most car tire track.
Interact with the cars.
Interact with other riders.
Do some mountain biking.
Learn basic on-the-road repairs: fixing flats, dropped chains, mis-adjusted rear derailleurs, and blocked pedals.
Get a pro bike fit.

Chapter 7: Climbing

Climbing is in the head.
Know the hill beforehand.
Recover by spinning, not stopping.
Keep changing things up.
Ride on the outside of the corners.
Re-start on the diagonal.
Stand to refresh the legs, not to go faster.
Rock the bike while pedaling standing.
Rock it even more.
Keep your knees in the pedaling plane while standing.

Chapter 8: Descending

Pedal downhill.
Level your pedals when coasting.
In corners:
1. stay upright.
2. lean the bike out from under you.
3. stand on the outside pedal.
4. counter-steer.

Chapter 9: Cycling in Special Conditions

The road obstacle that takes you down is not the rough one, it’s the unexpected one.
Master the attack position.
Unweight the handlebar.
Rain can cut your braking power to zero.
Avoid road paint in the rain.
It’s impossible to ride safely on ice.
Wear cold-weather clothing.
De-fog your glasses.
Acclimatize to heat.
Use electrolytes—in pill form, not powder.
Cars aren’t your biggest danger.
Cars are deer.
Make your presence known to cars.
If you’re old, get checked for osteoporosis.

Chapter 10: On-the-Road Repairs

For any repair or maintenance, find the Youtube video that shows you how.
Buy a mini-pump that screws to your inner tube valve.
Carry Handi-Wipes for clean-up.
Make sure the puncturing culprit is gone before replacing a flat tube.
Roll the tire halfway off the rim before fully re-inflating.
There are only two likely problems with a derailleur: the shifter cable is either too loose or too tight.
Almost always, the cable is too loose.
If you drop your chain to the inside of the chainring, stop pedaling instantly and fix it.
Carry a small nail if your cleats or pedals are open to getting jammed by gravel.
Clean your tires with your (gloved) hand while rolling.

Chapter 11: In the Garage

Working on bikes is easy.
Before any maintenance or repair, watch the how-to video on Youtube.
Film the disassembly.
Don’t squirt water into your bearings while washing your bike.
Don’t use floor pumps to check your tire pressure.
Replace your tires before they’re worn out.
Lube your chain often—like, every 4th or 5th ride.
Replace your chain every 2000-4000 miles or you’ll ruin your cassette and chainring.
Buy a pedal wrench—removing one’s pedals is actually a fairly frequent thing.
Replace your rear shifter cable every season or two.
Store your bike with the derailleurs on the smaller cogs.
Replacing bar tape is fun.
Servicing disk brakes is tricky.
Remove and regrease a non-carbon seat post every year.
Check your wheel bearings for wear once a year.
Have your bottom bracket serviced once a year.

Chapter 12: Lightening the Bike

Losing weight is a game.
Strong, light, cheap: pick any two.
Paying a dollar for every lost gram is a bargain.
The cheapest place to save weight is in the frame, if the frame isn’t already light.
Ignore “claimed weight.”
Buy a scale.
The second-best place to save weight is in the wheels.
Easy places to save weight are tubes, skewers, and water bottle cages.
The lightest food is carb-and-protein powder you add to your water.

Chapter 13: Nutrition

Eat real food, lots of carbs and lean meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Avoid fat, especially saturated fat, and sugar.
Don’t drink your calories.
Don’t try to lose weight by cycling.
Don’t set impossible standards for yourself.
Don’t try to hate yourself into losing weight.
On the bike, consume real food, bars, goo, and energy drinks.
Use electrolyte replacements, in pill, not liquid, form.

Chapter 14: Physical Therapy, Injury, and Illness

Stretch while riding or after riding, not before riding.
Cycling works only one odd set of leg muscles, so do other forms of exercise for general health.
The best way to warm up is light riding.
Use sunblock.
Take steps to prevent osteoporosis.

Chapter 15: Training

If you’re over 50, high-intensity training can be bad for your heart.
You can get fit for anything with 30 minutes of work 3 times a week.
Train with a purpose.
Train your cardiovascular system and your muscles separately.
Judge your cardio effort via a heart rate monitor; judge your muscular effort via perceived effort.
Warm up with light riding before a big effort.
Vary your training.
Train by isolation.
Train all 4 pedal strokes.
Between intervals, rest by spinning, not by coasting or stopping.
Recovery is an essential part of training.
Recover between training days by light riding, not by resting.
Avoid Ibuprofen.
Use PR Lotion.
Training zones and thresholds are bunk.
Cross-train for general health and fitness, but not to help your riding.

Chapter 16: Finding a Ride

Don’t use Internet mapping sites, chatrooms, “best ride” designations, or printed guidebooks to find rides.
Look for small squiggly lines on paper maps.
Ask somebody who knows.
Preview the route on Streetview.

Chapter 17: Cycling Vacations

Ride at 50-70% of maximum effort on vacations.
If you remove your front wheel to pack your bike for car travel, lean the wheel against a door you have to open in order to drive away.
Buy anti-microbial travel clothing.
Dry cycling clothing overnight by rolling it in a towel and stomping on it.
A professionally-run, guided, supported cycling tour is the second-least stressful way to explore new territory on a bike.
A dedicated cycling resort is the least stressful way.
Check out Bicycle Adventure Club.
When traveling in Europe:
1) Carry cash (ATM’s are everywhere).
2) Learn the rudiments of the language.
3) Don’t expect to be welcomed as a friend just because you ride a bike.
4) Don’t expect the trains to go everywhere.
5) Food other than sit-down meals can be hard to find. 
6) You don’t need lodging reservations, thanks to the Tourist Information Centers.
7) Don’t expect to rent a quality road bike when you arrive, unless you’ve been specifically promised one.