These cycling tips for beginners in Kenya are for those who are new to cycling. You may have picked cycling for different reasons, from exercise, weight loss, fun and even the desire to become a professional cyclist, among other reasons. Be assured that, for whatever reason you decided to begin cycling, there are a lot of adventures waiting for you.
There are several basic rules to know about cycling as a beginner. On top of that, there are several written and unwritten rules that may be confusing or overwhelming to a beginner cyclist. However, the basic principle of cycling is to have fun. This article intends to provide some cycling tips for beginners in Kenya as they navigate through the broader world of cycling.
These tips are suggestions to make your ride more enjoyable, comfortable and safe. Above all, remember that every cyclist was once a beginner. Therefore, these tips apply to both beginners and those returning to cycling after a long break.
These cycling tips may also apply to those who have been cycling but are oblivious to them.
Cycling tips for beginners in Kenya
These tips are in no particular order. Yours truly hopes that the cycling tips will help you out.
1. Take care of your private areas
There are several tips to ensure that you are comfortable and safe in your private areas when cycling. These include the bottom and the genitals.
First of all, ensure you are wearing padded shorts because they help reduce chafing and discomfort while riding (saddle sores). If you are going to become serious about cycling, you need to get some padded shorts. They also help you become more efficient when riding, and in some instances, become faster and ride for long hours on your bike.
Ensure you do not wear underwear under the padded shorts to prevent chafing and increase comfort. It also might make you look ridiculous when the outline of your innerwear shows through your padded shorts.
Learn to ride off the saddle or stand up when cycling at intervals so you can relieve pressure on the perineum, especially for relatively long or long distances. It helps reduce pain and numbness caused by being on the saddle for too long and increases comfort on the bike ride.
To reduce chaffing, you could apply anti-chafing cream. Others swear by the power of vaseline to prevent chafing. You can search for guides on the internet on how to use anti-chafing cream.
Find a saddle that suits you. It is the best defence against saddle sores that are often painful and increase discomfort on the ride. It may take a bit of trial and error to find a saddle that fits your anatomy and style of riding. Most bike shops should have tips for you on finding the best bike saddle.
Also, while padded saddles may provide comfort against saddle sores, they may not be as comfortable as they look. Therefore, it is better to get good padded shorts and a suitable saddle instead.
2. Ensure you are visible and alert on the road
Ensure you are visible on the road all the time. Unfortunately, Kenya is one of those countries that glorifies motorised transport and looks down upon non-motorised transport. You have the right to be on the road. Yet, when there is a confrontation between a cyclist and a motorist, the latter wins in most cases.
There are also very few infrastructural resources targeted for cyclists. Therefore, most of the time, you will be on the road with vehicles in areas where there are no cycling lanes. In these instances, ensure that you are visible, especially during the night.
A big problem that cyclists face is motorists being oblivious to them, especially in darkness.
When out on the road, assume every driver is drunk. So always be alert
Ensure you have a front and rear light when cycling at night. The front one should be a powerful white light coupled with a red light at the back in steady mode or blinking mode. There are other variations of blue lights or red-blue lights. (If you are interested in purchasing these lights, and other cycling accessories, check out my shop below). For a better visibility, you can leave your rear light in blinking mode during the day to increase the possibility of drivers seeing you.
In addition, ensure that you wear reflective clothing, and if not, a reflective jacket. Fluorescent or neon colours work best to ensure that you are visible on the road, especially at night. Green, bright yellow or bright orange tops are some of the colours to consider for visibility. Being visible does not necessarily mean docking yourself in neon colours from top to bottom.
Reflective clothing behaves like a headlight because when light shines upon the reflective clothing, the reflective clothing shines back the light. Reflective clothing works to make the driver aware of the cyclist.
The first rule of cycling is safety. Therefore, being visible helps to keep you safe.
You can also pair your reflective clothing with reflective accessories such as reflective bands. These accessories further accentuate your appearance for better visibility. For example, the bands shine when indicating directions using your hands.
Look over your shoulder regularly to be aware of your surroundings. It also lets the motorists know that you are paying attention.
Also, no earbuds or plugs and headphones! They reduce your awareness and increase the chances of an accident.
3. Have a reason for why you are cycling
Have a goal and stick to it. Do not copy what others are doing. You will end up disappointing yourself.
If your purpose for cycling is to lose weight, then set your goals around losing weight. Ditto if it is to increase your speed.
If your purpose for cycling is leisure and sightseeing, then set your goals around that too.
Do not copy what others are doing. Set achievable goals for yourself. Do not attempt that 50km ride your friend is doing if you know you can only ride 20km as a beginner. Neither should you ride two hours a day to lose weight if you are suffering or miserable on the whole ride. Cycling is all about baby steps. Above all, cycling should be a way to explore your environment and to have fun.
Cycling can be a great source of adventure when you put your heart and mind into it. There are different cycling clubs in Kenya, especially in urban areas providing a worthwhile adventure on two wheels.
4. Ensure you hydrate and eat properly
Eating and hydration are to cyclists what fuel, electricity or solar energy is for vehicles. When out riding, make sure you carry enough food and drinks to get you through a ride to avoid bonking.
Bonking to cycling is like hitting a wall. It is the feeling of complete tiredness. You cannot ride any further. You find it difficult or even impossible to ride on. Bonking happens especially on longer rides (like three hours or more) or when someone exerts all their energy during the beginning of a long ride.
It is important to learn about bonking and avoiding it at all costs. Essentially, it means that you have not taken in enough carbohydrates and have exhausted the glycogen stores in your body, leaving you with abnormally low blood glucose levels.
Ensure you carry or eat enough carbohydrates, and especially those carbohydrates that are easily digestible. Bananas or energy gels fall in this category. You can also pack electrolyte drinks (homemade or commercial) to replenish your sodium requirements in the body lost through sweating.
With these snacks and salty foods and drinks, ensure you have regular stops to eat or learn how to do the same with one hand on your bike (like drinking water).
Ensure you eat some few minutes or hours before a ride also and after the ride. But if you can, avoid heavy foods since they may affect your stomach and make you feel uncomfortable during the bike ride.
5. Stick to familiar routes
This tip applies to beginners or lapsed cyclists. Stick to familiar routes when out with your bike. Avoid dangerous roads even if your Google maps or tracking device tells you it is okay.
Sticking to familiar routes also helps in case of an emergency. It is better to explore unfamiliar roads as a group with other cyclists or when you have enough safeguards in place when something goes wrong.
Sticking to familiar routes also helps with your security in instances where mugging and theft are more likely to occur. It also helps with your confidence before increasing the duration of your goals.
6. Learn some simple bicycle tips
Learn some simple tips to repair your bicycle, such as how to:
- fix a puncture (flat tire),
- replace a punctured tube with a new one
- fix a broken chain.
You can check for tutorials on YouTube (I recommend the GCN channel).
Ensure you always carry with you a mini pump (or a CO2 cartridge), a multitool and a puncture repair kit. Having a saddlebag attached to the back of your bike seat makes carrying these items effortlessly. (Check my shop above if you would like to order these items)
Learn how to change a tube before you need to do it. It is much easier to learn in the comfort of your home than on the side of the road.
Alternatively, you can fix tubeless tires and avoid those silly punctures altogether. Though doing this is not cheap.
Also, learn how to shift and use the gears on your bike. Being able to cruise through the cogs and find the perfect bike gear for your terrain will make you faster, more efficient – and it’ll make the ride more enjoyable too. It also helps reduce the wear and tear on your drive train.
Ensure you clean your bike and oil your chain regularly.
Take the bike regularly for servicing at your local bike shop.
Apart from padded shorts, get padded gloves and comfortable cycling shoes.
Before turning, slow down, look as far as you can into the turn and be ready to brake.
I hope these tips for cycling beginners in Kenya have been helpful. For more cycling tips, check the other articles on cycling.