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New Year's resolutions for bike riders

Posted: 1 January 2024 Tips & Tricks

A man holding a sparkler. He is wearing a black jumper, a body of water behind him.

Six simple ideas you'll actually benefit from

New Year, new you, right? Why not? With the switch flipped on 2024, this is an excellent time to take stock of where you are and where you’d like to be… and what needs to change to get you there.

As this is a blog about bicycle stuff, we’re not going to be talking about learning a new language or chugging a green smoothie every morning (though there’s nothing wrong with either of those things). Instead, we’ve got six simple ideas purely designed to help you enjoy your riding more. Even better, they’re free, and far easier to implement than something like ‘save money’ or ‘learn how preferential voting actually works’.

The beauty of these tips is that you can implement them at any time. But what better time than now?

A woman with curly hair, holding a green smoothie up to her lips, looking dubious.
"I'd really rather not drink this."

Tip 1: Rethink your relationship with technology

Many riders start a new year by deciding that this is definitely the one where they’re going to crush their training goals, grab that podium spot, or hit a particular number on the scale.

These are all excellent goals, but it’s in the pursuit of these goals where things can sometimes go wrong.

Numbers and data are designed purely to provide information. For some people, however, rather than being a guide, they can start to become a controlling factor.

If you’re using an app like Strava, for example, consider exactly how you’re using it – is it to keep a general record of activities and track your ride times, or is it to claim as many KOMs/QOMs/Local Legends as possible? If someone pinches your title, how do you feel?

A man in neutral casualwear sits on a couch, pondering something.
*inwardly seething*

You might think that your relationship with technology is all good, but imagine that it’s a stunning day outside and you decide to jump on the bike. During your ride, your legs and lungs feel great. You swoop down descents and burn up the hills like you’ve had a shot of adrenaline. At the end, you’re sure that you’ve never ridden faster or smashed that particular loop in better time.

Quick – better check your Garmin/phone/head unit and see how much you blitzed it.

You press the button and... nothing.

Zip.

Zilch.

For whatever reason, today’s ride did not register, and there’s zero evidence of what you’ve just done.

A woman in a black dress, screaming, standing in an abandoned warehouse.
Dramatic re-enactment

For many people, it can feel like all the effort wasn’t worth it if there’s no actual record of that effort. Sure, you’ve improved your fitness (or even just your mood), but you’ll never know exactly how much you could have possibly beaten your best time by.

This kind of stressing isn’t a fun way to ride.

Unless you’re training at a high level or for a significant race or event, numbers can suck all the joy out of cycling.

So: what if this year you dipped your toe back into riding purely for the pleasure of it?

Try it out: just once this week, head out for a ride but leave your phone, smart watch, or head unit at home.

While you’re out there, think back to when you first discovered the joy of riding a bicycle. Maybe you were a kid, and it was your first taste of independence, and a chance to make new friends. Maybe you discovered cycling as an adult, and it was a great way to get fit and make new friends. Maybe you bought a bike to get to work, and you don’t care about making new friends. Whatever it was, think back to the moment you fell in love with this humble two-wheeled machine.

Why not make this year about recapturing that feeling?

A mountain biker surveys a vista from the top of a climb.
Not a Strava segment in sight.

Remember: we’re not saying that you kick the year off by deleting your account. But as we launch into 2024, seriously think about how you combine riding and technology, and whether you might actually be happier without it.

Tip 2: Know how to get yourself out of trouble

While affirmations and aspirations are nice enough, knowing how to actually do something useful will instantly improve your life, especially when it comes to practical skills.

No-one’s suggesting that you have to become a bicycle mechanic, but knowing some basic procedures will do three things:

  1. It can save you time – if you have a mechanical issue, you can potentially get it sorted well enough to get moving again, rather than having to wait for a lift or hike your bike for kilometres.
  2. It can save you money, as you’ll be able to DIY the problem (not to mention saving on Uber fees).
  3. It’ll give you a confidence boost. Self-sufficiency is a wonderful thing.

But what skills do you really need?

A woman does a yoga pose on top of a bicycle, in a forest.
Don't worry; this isn't one of them.

When it comes to basic bike stuff, you should be able to:

However, there are some other very useful skills which don't involve tools, such as being practically prepared for different situations.

For example, are you planning to go bikepacking or touring in a remote area, or one you don’t know well? Have a backup plan in case your phone can’t get reception or (Millennials, look away!) the battery dies.

Stuff a GPS in your saddle bag, use an app that works offline like Garmin Explore, or even take a physical map if you’re kicking it old-school. Your Plan B may be the difference between finding the nearest source of food and starving in the middle of nowhere.

A teenage girl with blue hair sits at a BMX park, looking annoyed.
The existential crisis of a non-functioning phone

Also consider weather conditions. If you’re riding in the warmer months, plan in advance where you can refill your water bottles.

Carry a small first aid kit, especially on remote trips. It's also worth knowing the basics of what to do in an emergency, how to recognise the signs of heat stroke, and what steps to take if someone gets injured in a crash or knocked unconscious.

We’re not saying that you have to do a First Aid or CPR course, but, really, when would you ever regret having those skills?

And, of course, don’t ride in forestry areas on total fire ban days, but you probably knew that one anyway.

A man surveys an empty field, his bicycle lying in the foreground.
"Wait, this isn't the Lobethal Bakery."

Overall, knowing what to do in the event of an accident, mechanical issue or technology failure is invaluable, and can also potentially avert disaster. (Does not being able to find a source of pastries count as a disaster? We think it does.)

At the barest minimum this year, learn how to fix a flat tyre. You would be surprised how many people have a 10K+ bike but have to call for a lift if they get a puncture.

A young man on the phone in the back of a taxi, looking out the side window.
When you realise you left your Pinarello back on the footpath.

Tip 3: Establish a mobility routine

For better performance and injury prevention, stretching and mobility are an essential …

… yeeeaah nah, you’re not going to do this one, are you. You saw ‘stretch’ and immediately switched off.

Fine. We’ll move on.

A pink neon sign that says 'and breathe' against a green leafy backdrop.
There's a neon sign for everything these days.

Before we move on completely, just hear us out on one thing.

There aren’t many guarantees in life, but there’s this: improving your mobility and flexibility will make you a better bike rider. (And it will almost certainly make a bigger difference than the accessory you – sorry, “the kids” – just bought yourself for Christmas.)

If you feel up to the challenge, pick one of these stretches and try to do it twice this week. Just twice. That’s all. Who knows, you might feel motivated to continue.

OK, we’re moving on now.

A woman in an olive-green cardigan, slumped asleep on a table in front of a laptop.
We said, "we're moving on." ... WAKE UP, STEPHANIE.

Tip 4: Go a different route

Let us tell you a (mercifully short) story.

When we first started BMCR twenty years ago, we were running on bare bones and had no money for advertising. To get the word out about the shop, we printed flyers and cycled through the CBD after hours to do letterbox drops.

Rather than just hitting the main roads, however, we sectioned the city into different quadrants and went down every alleyway, avenue and dead end road we could find. During these excursions, we were amazed to discover multiple streets and areas we never knew existed, including tiny parks and tucked-away estates. It was crazy – we’d ridden past most of these places a hundred times without noticing them.

A castle at the end of an autumnal leafy driveway, in muted tones.
Possibly lurking in a side street near you.

So embrace adventure this year and take a detour.

If you always commute via the same route, try plugging your destination into Google Maps and see what alternatives it suggests. Give Cycle Instead a whirl, and experiment with the Recommend a Ride function to find somewhere you’ve never been.

Mountain bikers – do you know your local MTB trails like the back of your hand? Your 2024 mission is to grab some friends and go exploring in an offroad area you’ve never ridden. Flying down a brand-new-to-you track will shake your senses awake – you can’t ride on auto-pilot when you literally have no idea what’s coming around the corner. Fill your brain with new dirt, and remember exactly why you love it.

Roadies, are you always doing the same hills route? Try doing it in reverse – nothing makes you appreciate a descent like climbing it for a change (and vice versa). Switch up the terrain, too. If you’re always doing the outer harbour loop, go for a roll in the hills. If you eat hills for breakfast, try a flat ride.

Go at a different tempo – not every kilometre needs to be smashed, not every outing needs to be a personal best. Enjoy the scenery for once, instead of sweating into your headset bearings.

A cyclist relaxes on the floor of an observation deck, looking up at the sky with a quizzical expression.
"There's been a chair lift here the whole time?"

No matter what discipline, choosing an adventure takes very little effort for a pretty big payoff.

You’ll probably see things you’ve never seen before. And even if you still prefer your original ride, isn’t it nice to know that there are other possibilities are out there?

A cyclist stands at the opening of a forested area, looking out of the shelter. It's very green and shaded.
"Well, how about that."

Tip 5: Keep your shoulders down

Here’s the fastest, easiest and cheapest way to feel better on your bike.

Forget the legs – it’s all about the upper body: back, core and shoulders.

Let’s start with the big one: your back and spine.

Although it sounds counterintuitive, the angle of your back – as in upright versus nose-to-the-headstem – isn’t as important as alignment. When riding, concentrate on keeping your spine straight (or as straight as your body will allow; being aero is one thing, but you need to work within your body’s parameters). Your primary aim is to remove that mighty hump you currently ride with.

Yes, pro riders sometimes ride with an arched back, but 99.9% of people reading this aren’t pro riders (unless Vingegaard has magically stumbled upon our blog – hej!) so forget trying to imitate the position of your heroes and work with your own body.

(Yet another great reason to look again at your mobility or lack thereof.)

A doctor, holding a model of a spine, shows a patient the vertebrae at the base.
"Basically, you're turning into Quasimodo."

Second area: your core.

Cyclists often concentrate on the most obvious moving parts – quads, glutes, calves – without giving a second thought to the structure that supports the entire body: the trunk and hip muscles. A strong core is the difference between efficient riding and slouching along like a sack of potatoes.

To get yours right, imagine that you’re pulling your pelvic floor up from the saddle. Make sure your pelvis isn’t rolling forward, either, which can put extra pressure on your delicate bits. It will take a bit of effort to remember at first, but will become second nature with practice.

To further develop your core, Pilates is brilliant, and there are heaps of free classes on YouTube.

A young man, listening to headphones, holds a plank position on the footpath.
The dreaded plank: brutal but effective.

Finally, your shoulders and chest.

Lead with your chest when you ride, not excessively so but enough to ensure that your back stays straight and your shoulders nicely separated instead of rounding. Your shoulders should be also back and down, not hunched up near your ears.

It’s especially important to make sure your head isn’t dipping. We know more than one rider who’s dropped their head towards the end of a hard session… and then ridden straight into the back of a car. When you’re tired, it’s easy to start slouching, so periodically check your position throughout your ride. Stick a post-it on your top tube if you have to.

A man rides a bicycle along a city street, no helmet, head down looking at the frame.
Yeah, don't do this. Any of it.

Want to take things a bit further? Consider getting a professional bike fit. If you’ve been tossing up whether or not to get one because you’re wondering if they can fix a certain issue, make 2024 the year you make it happen. Posture is one of the most overlooked areas of bike riding, and it’s very difficult to assess yourself properly. A good fitter, on the other hand, will know exactly how your posture is affecting your riding, and how to address any existing or potential problems.

A word of caution when it comes to picking a bike fitter. Don’t go to someone who just bangs on about how they’ll make you faster. Instead, choose someone who deals with all different types of riders and sets them up according to their body and riding style. Not everyone wants or needs a slammed setup.

A road cyclist riding his bike, silhouetted against a sunset.
"Aah! Oh, that's better. I can ride a bike again!"

That's your riding posture in a nutshell: back straight, shoulders down, lead with your chest. Looking after this will affect everything about the way you ride. You’ll breathe more easily. You won’t put unnecessary stress on your joints or inadvertently squish your soft bits.

And you hopefully won’t ride into the back of a car.

A young woman riding a road bicycle in casual clothes along a city street.
The spine is great. The saddle height, however, needs some work.

Tip 6: Don’t ignore the small things

Our final resolution is a no-brainer, and, as mechanics, one we cannot stress enough.

DON’T. IGNORE. THAT. WEIRD. NOISE.

Something creaking? Get it checked out.

Something squeaking? Get it checked out

Something leaking? Get it checked out.

Don’t wait until something’s broken before dragging your bike in to the workshop and then get frustrated that we can’t fix it tomorrow because we’re booked out.

A young man leans against a vintage bicycle in a city garden, surrounded by pink and green flowers.
"What do you mean, you're full up for four weeks?"

Prevention is the key to keeping your bicycle running properly. Jumping on problems early is absolutely critical if you want to potentially save yourself a lot of money (and also not have to be off the bike for weeks while you wait for a part or service spot).

At the very least, lube your chain and pump up your tyres once a month. It’s such an easy way to take care of your bike, and yet so many people don’t do it. Get your calendar up right now, and schedule a reminder.

Do it.

DOOO IT.

Now go and conquer the year

There you have it in six easy-to-implement tips: ride in a different spot, remember your posture, learn some basic skills, pay attention to odd noises, think about your tech, and at least consider stretching.

Though simple, these resolutions will pay off hugely in the long run, both for you and your bike.

If nothing else, for the sake of your ears and of those around you, lube your damned chain.

A woman silhouetted against a gentle sunset, standing with her bicycle at the top of a hill, pointing into the distance.
"I have a pump in my basket, and I fear nothing!"

Need your creaking, squeaking or leaking bike checked out? We can take care of that.


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