A New Cyclist Appears in Atlanta

“Hey, you know these guys hate you, right?”

That was the first thing I heard on this group ride. It had been a hot, humid hour of cycling a loop around Tucker, GA, halfway between Atlanta and Stone Mountain. As we reached the corner of N Arcadia and E Ponce de Leon in downtown Avondale, we were flanked by Tudor-style structures… an homage to a certain Shakespeare back in England.

My lack of proper cycling equipment had apparently prompted discussion within the mini-peloton. Coming straight from the office, I had on my Outlier New Way Shorts (which are fabulous, by the way, and designed to resist crotch blowouts for cyclists), my blue Keds normally used for swing dance practice, and a cycling jersey that was two sizes too large for me because I didn’t know that you were supposed to size jerseys in a forward-slouching cycling stance.

I didn’t mind having a poor kit (cycling lingo for apparel). I was too preoccupied staying with the pack and not getting dropped to be worried about proper clothing. As long as I could keep up, I was happy just to be riding with much more experienced riders at 25 mph.

Cycling seems to be a sport that rowers can seamlessly transition into. Both sports use just about all the same body parts (predominantly quads and glutes), and both have huge aerobic components. Elite rowers like James Cracknell and Drew Ginn have given cycling a shot after taking a break from rowing. I’m not anywhere near their level of athlete, but my transition was smooth as well.

First, you need a road bike. One with drop bars instead of flat bars. It’s not the drop bars that make it a road bike… road bikes just all happen to have drop bars.

You need a helmet.

Your bike should fit you. Bikes are adjustable to a certain extent, and riders are also adaptable to the bike, so as long as it’s a good enough fit, things should work out.

You need to make sure you can actually control and operate the bike. That means working shifters, brakes, drivechain, etc. Missing expertise in, or failure of any of these critical components could mean serious injury at 30 mph.

It’s good to have a goal for any endeavor you undertake. Mine is to become a Cat-1 level rider, which is the top of the amateur scale. Getting to Cat-1 has many requirements… high fitness, low body fat %, good bike handling skills, tactics, and more. I think most would be happy with just the first two as motivation for cycling, though!

Find group rides in the area. They’re usually segregated by levels. The best way to find out what level you are and how well you’re progressing, is how quickly you get dropped on fast group rides. There’s no shame in being dropped… just finish at your own pace.