So You Want To Start Cycling?

Which is one is for you MTB or road bike?
From time to time, I have friends, acquaintances and neighbours asking question on what to buy if they wanted to start cycling. Over the years I've developed a keen smell for small talks, serious talks or just trying to start a conversations kind of discussion about cycling.  I'll always try to give the simplest answer to that question but there's no one answer that fits all circumstances.

There are different kind of circumstances that drove them to think that cycling is something that they believe might work for them.  Some people wanted to just exercise or workout. Some wanted to loose some pounds, trimming down the spare tires or ABS wrapped around the waist. Some thought cycling looks cool especially with the team jerseys,  cool shades, weird but funky helmets, clipped shoes and branded bikes.  Some used to do cycling during their younger years and some who cannot run or swim if its to save their life. The worst kind would be the one that don't really know what they want but wanted to give it a try but with high hopes that it might suit them by clinging on somebody who would share their ideas.

Cycling is a good way to workout but like all other workouts they really boil down to oneself. It takes determination, passion, self-motivation, self-discipline, perseverance and realistic personal targets to work. Understand your physical needs and limitations. You have to build your own baseline, milestones, workout plans, budget and if possible find someone who share the same motivation. Without these, you should really do soul searching, meditation or whatever that works to find out what you really want to do.

I know some stuff about bikes probably more than a typical average person in my neighbourhood but I don't consider myself to be an expert. It takes more than just doing weekend cycling for one to become an expert. And those who declared themselves as experts are mostly shams.

Road bike or MTB?
The typical questions would be what to buy, MTB or road bike? There are few "special" people who actually asked me about hybrid, comfort, electric and foldable bicycles. For his you'd fall into special categories but its an entirely different topic. The second question would be how much is the cost?

MTB can be used on road too but you might need to change 
to slick tires 
The choice between MTB or road bike really depends on your preferences. The answer depends on what kind of biking you want to do such as long distance rides, trail riding or cross country, road riding, or just spins around the neighborhood. Here in this country, normal people wouldn't ride bicycles to work, not under the hot and humid tropical weather.  An avid cycling person would at least have both road and MTB.

But what really is the right thing for you is for you to decide and find out for yourself. Tepuk dada tanya selera dan periksalah kocek sendiri.

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned racer, there are actually a lot of options out there for road bikes or MTBs in a variety of price ranges. There are many bike brands such as TREK, SCOTT, Giant, Merida, Fuji, Look, Specialized etc with dozens of models using a variety of materials and components or group sets with different entry prices.

Prices and Bikes
Serious beginners should expect to spend more than RM1500 on a new bike. Anything less will probably result in disappointment in the long run. Although price is important,  having proper bike size should be the number one priority. If a bicycle frame is too large, it may be difficult for you to reach the shifters, brakes or even the ground comfortably. Alternately, too small a frame would create discomfort and might increase the risk of knee injuries.  Its important that the bike should fit your body proportion and not the other way around. There are many websites out there that can help you better understand about bike sizing guides.

Cycling Computers and Heart Rate Monitors are good accessories to have
if you're serious about cycling.
Road bikes under RM5,000 almost always have aluminum frames, and they feature lower-series or to some extent even non-series components than road bikes and MTB designed for higher-end or racing performance. Apart from MTB which by default equipped with 3 chainrings, typically for road bikes under RM2,000 are equipped with triple rather than double or compact chainrings. Triple chainrings can make it easier for beginners to power up hills, the only set back is that the gear shift might be a little sluggish.  It might not be as trendy as the two chairing system but it is mighty useful for beginners who ride in hilly areas or when you're down to the last quarter of what is left in your gas tank.

Medium range road bikes entry price starts at more than RM4,000 and go up to RM7,000. It is possible to get lighter full-carbon frames within this price range, but most bikes comes with aluminum frames with carbon seat stays, fork to absorb road vibration which contribute to comfortable long distance ride. The components on these road bikes can vary based on the price, with less expensive bikes sporting mainly Shimano 105, Tiagra or Non-Series components while more expensive bikes use parts from the Shimano Ultegra or Dura Ace group.

For the higher end bikes with entry prices starting at RM11,000, I call this the bike for the Dewa (Gods and Godess). They come with difrerent variety of high grade full carbon frames with super components series like Shimano Dura Ace and Campagnolo.

There're other bike components in the market but normally they don't come in full system such as Shimano, Campy (Campagnolo) and SRAM. Some specializes in other components sets such as Deda, Mavic and ZIPP to name a few.  And they can be really really expensive.

What about second hand bikes?
I don't normally recommend second hand bikes because if you're really serious about cycling, you'll end up changing or upgrading the bike to better ones. You'd have to be extra careful for 2nd hand stuff especially carbon bikes and carbon parts.

The common thing most people missed, pedals and shoes
If you're a beginner, don't start cycling using clippless pedals unless you're really confident and comfortable with your bike. Whether you're looking at road bike or MTB, you might want to think about using clipless pedal when you start to get better at handling the bike. Please remember to practice practice practice with the clipless padals and shoes before using it on the road.

Trust me, it doesn't look good falling off your bike infront of a packed Mamak restaurant with your foot still stuck to the pedals.

The pedals on the bike really serve  as a means to transfer power from you to your bicycle.  If you're just taking a spin around the neighbourhood, then there's no need to be very fancy. The plastic blocks with grooves pedals will do the job. But if you want to go on longer rides, you'll benefit greatly from clip-less pedals  because:
  • Properly set up clipless pedals and shoes will help to securely hold your foot to the pedal. It would be easy to slip off the pedal and send your foot into the wheel especially during longer ride where you tend to get really tired.
  • Allows for a correct placement for the position of your foot over the pedal

  • A good pedal/shoe system has to be able to transfer all of the power from your leg to the pedals without trying to bend your foot over the top of the pedal, which causes both fatigue and pain especially during long distance rides

  • Secure your foot while climbing hills and during high speed descends, hence improving bike's stability.  

Rome was not built in one day
Most people, depending on their personal motivations or goals, tend to expect fast results.  It takes time to lose weight or be fit. Not everyone can be a good sprinter and and not everyone can be a good climber. You have to learn what you are good at and focus on that. But it doesn't mean that you have to give up because everyone can ride despite of their weaknesses. Focus on building your strength and most importantly fitness because when you're in good shape it feels good to ride be it on hilly areas or long distances.  Remember this, It takes time so make the time!

Don't try to act smart, Get some advice
There you go, I've said my piece. In the end what really matter is you should find the right bike for you in terms of size, preference and budget. Always allocate some money for suitable cycling attire, shoes, helmets, gloves, pumps, spare tubes and tube levers. If possible get yourself a cycling computers that comes with cadence for road bikes and a heart rate monitor. It's not wise to spend  your money on stupid things such as mobile bike stands and unnecessary gadgets. Not only they are unnecessary added weight, most of the time they are good for nothing.  

Bike gadgets can drive you crazy...
One piece of advice, don't only listen to the bike salesman. You have to do your own research and if possible bring along someone who is well verse with bikes with you when you're checking out the shops. Always get a second or third opinion before deciding to buy a bike. The branded bikes have better resale value compared to an unknown brand. So go and watch cycling tours or read cycling magazines to get yourself accustomed to the brands and makes. 

These are my personal opinion and its based on my observations, the things I read and research I did when I started cycling.  You need to do your own research if you are really serious about cycling and planning on getting yourself a decent bike that is worth your money.

You gotta love it to enjoy it. Have fun choosing your bike and cycling. Always remember safety first!




Epol said...

Very informative. Siap gambar2 dia pun dah macam cycling magazine.

Zaha said...

Writeup yg hebat.. mcm baca Pro Cycling Magazine.. keep it up Faizol..

Faizol said...

Thanks Epol & Zaha.

I hope this will help those who seriously wanted to start cycling.

Anonymous said...

is 2012 Specialized Allez with Apex good for beginner? Price ~RM5k.

Or is there a better cost/price ratio option?

Thank you.

Faizol said...

Hey Anonymous,

5K sounds okay. Just be sure to do enough price surveys and check the spec thoroughly for non-series stuff. Parts like brake calipers, crank and cogs.


Epol said...

Apex or 105 and above setup should be enough for beginners but those frame with this setup usually a bit stiff. This stiffness in the frame will contribute to lots of pain and ache especially in the butt, hand, shoulder and back. Whether the beginner can handle the pain to keep the passion alive is another question!

Just my opinion.

Faizol said...

Thanks for sharing the info Epol,

To Anonymous, there you go, a piece of valuable info.

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