Cycling is something that can improve your life in a number of ways from helping you ditch the car to saving money and getting fit. This guide will answer all your questions and give you all the information you need to get into cycling.
This guide is for people who already know how to ride a bike and want to take this to the next step by cycling more seriously, cycling in organised rides, and cycling to work etc.
Buying a bike
If you're ready to get into cycling, the first thing you'll need to do is buy yourself a new bike. A clunky old city bike or your childhood mountain bike unfortunately won't do the job so you're best off investing in a reasonably priced road bike. Road bikes have a slightly different geometry to a mountain bike and will allow you to naturally ride faster and more efficiently, therefore allowing you to ride further with less effort and get more out of your rides.
Where to buy a bike
You can buy a reasonably good quality road bike for around £500/$650 and they are well worth the investment. Stick with the big brands such as:
- Giant (or Liv for women)
You can either buy your bike online and have it delivered or you can go to your local bike shop to pick one out and try before you buy. You would also benefit from expert advice if you go into the shop. However, remember that you'll need to be able to get it home so you'll either need a large car or a bike rack. Make sure you organise this before you go to pick up your new bike.
Getting a bike fit
Once you've bought your bike, it's paramount you tweak the adjustments so that it fits you properly. You will need to adjust the height of the saddle and handlebars so that you're comfortable. Riding an ill-fitting bike can cause excruciating pain so do your research and pay special attention to this before you do any riding.
If you want, you can get a professional bike fit from most bike shops. It might cost money or it might be free so it's worth checking first.
Buying bicycle clothing
Once you've bought your bike, you're ready to ride! However, if you're going to be riding any real distance, it's well worth investing in proper cycling clothing. Bicycle clothing is designed to be streamlined to help you ride faster as well as keep you safe as you won't have any baggy clothing getting caught in the mechanics of the bike. Perhaps most importantly, proper cycling gear is designed to keep you comfortable mile after mile as a road bike saddle can be notoriously uncomfortable, especially after being in it for over an hour.
Most cycling jerseys feature large pockets to the back so that you can store your valuables easily and don't have to worry about taking a bag with you when you ride. The basics that you'll need are a couple of cycling jerseys and a pair of bib shorts. Bib shorts have suspenders that go over your shoulders to keep them secure and locked in place so that the waistband doesn't roll down and become uncomfortable while you're cycling. There are numerous other pieces of cycling clothing and accessories that you can buy, but these are the basics for you to start with.
Read our guides below for a full rundown of all bicycle clothing and why you might need it.
Read more: Cycle Gear Buying Guide
Read more: What Kit Do You Need For Cycling
Read more: How To Wash Lycra Cycling Kit
Also make sure you buy a good quality bicycle helmet, read our Guide To Buying A Cycle Helmet for full information.
Learning to ride a road bike
Once you've bought your road bike and got it home, you might be surprised to find it's much trickier to ride than what you're used to. A road bike has different geometry to a mountain bike meaning you lean further over the handlebars and this has a big effect on your body. Also, all road bikes have a high bar between the saddle and handlebars, so if you're used to riding a city bike and swinging your leg through the middle, you will need to learn to stop doing that!
The best way to get used to riding your new road bike is taking it out for a spin and seeing what challenges you face. You will need to figure out the gears as there is a big cog and a small cog and two paddle shifters on each side of the handlebars. Also take some time to test out the brakes as they may well be sharper than what you're used to!
The best way to get used to it is with practise. Leaning over the handlebars puts a lot of pressure on your hands, wrists, and shoulders so these parts of your body will take time to get used to this and might ache a lot at first but this is perfectly normal. It will certainly hurt at first, but don't give up, because you will soon get stronger and your body will get used to the position.
To help your muscles stop aching so much, make sure to do lots of strength training at the gym and core workouts to strengthen your abs as they will be holding you up a lot of the time and using more of your core muscles will allow you to take pressure off your hands and wrists.
Cycling on the road
Once you've mastered the art of riding a road bike, you're ready to get out on the road. Cycling on the road can be very scary and daunting for anyone so don't worry if you feel nervous or scared, this is perfectly normal. Cyclists get a bit of a bad rap from motorists so take care and cycle cautiously. Some motorists will be fine but others may drive too closely to you so it's important to be aware of your surroundings. You might want to invest in a helmet cycling camera to give you peace of mind and capture any incidents that may occur.
Start off by riding on quiet roads and cycle paths until you have more confidence. Cycling on a Sunday is the best time when you're just starting out as traffic is always lighter, especially early in the morning. You will need to be confident enough to take one hand off the handlebars so that you can indicate.
As with everything, gaining confidence riding on the road comes with practise. You might find that riding in a organised sportive that's ridden on open roads will help with your confidence because you'll have lots of other cyclists around you and feel the safety in numbers.
Commuting by bike
Commuting by bike has lots of benefits such as saving you money, helping you get fit, as well as the fact that cycling to work is a great way to make your work day more eco-friendly. Cycling to work is fairly different to going out for a training ride at the weekend and as such you will need to make adjustments. You might need to add panniers to your bike so that you can transport your belongings with you and you will at the very least need to take a change of clothes with you.
If you're going to commute by bike, you'll need to be confident cycling on the road and being surrounded by traffic. Make sure your bike handling skills are up to scratch so that you can indicate with your arms and follow the highway code.
It's best to take it easy when cycling to work otherwise you'll be hot and bothered when you get there. Don't overdo it and enjoy the ride. There are steps you can take when you get to work in order to freshen up but getting changed will be the main thing.
Read more: How To Freshen Up After Cycling To Work
Cycling in organised bike rides
The final hurdle to overcome once you've become an established cyclist is taking part in an organised ride or 'sportive' as they are known in cycling circles. The Tour de France is perhaps the world's most famous sportive, but if you don't think you'll be joining the king of the mountains at next year's event, there are plenty of other organised group rides all over the world.
Cycling in organised bike rides can be a great way of exploring on your bike without having to worry about getting lost or forging your own path. Enjoy the benefit and support of marshals and rest stops and find a true passion for cycling.
Read more: How To Get Faster At Cycling
Further reading and sportives in the UK
Whether it's for charity, to prove to yourself that you can do it, or just for fun, running your first marathon is a huge milestone. We're here with all of the information you need in preparation for running your first marathon.
Choosing your marathon
Choosing the right marathon can have a huge impact on your success and enjoyment on the day. Most people opt for one of the six World Marathon Majors as their first marathon as they are the most renowned. These marathon majors are London, New York, Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, and Berlin. These are the marathons that have gained iconic status over the years due to being so well organised, having such great support, and being set in beautiful cities.
Due to being so popular, these marathons all have difficult entry processes and you cannot simply pay an entry fee to gain a place.
London Marathon Ballot Entry
There are three ways to enter the London marathon: enter the public ballot, run for charity, or achieve a Good For Age place.
The London marathon public ballot opens at the beginning of May of each year, about a week after the race, and is open for a week to give everyone a fair chance of entering. Results are then published 6 months later in October when eager hopefuls will either receive a magazine through the post notifying them that they have been successful or a commiseration email telling them they have not got a place. A record 414,168 hopefuls entered the 2018 ballot to run in 2019, making the London marathon the most popular marathon in the world.
However, this also means your chances of getting a ballot place are very slim. In 2016, almost a quarter of a million people entered the ballot in the hopes of achieving one of the 17,000 allocated ballot places. That means that each person only had a 7% chance of getting a ballot place. With nearly twice that many people entering the ballot in 2018, your chances of gaining a ballot place are pretty tiny.
One of the easiest ways to run the London marathon is by gaining a place through a charity. There are numerous charities who provide runners with places in return for raising at least £2,000 for their charity.
Finally, there are Good For Age places. However, you have to be very speedy to attain one of these places. For a man under the age of 40 you'll have to be able to run sub 3 hours and women will have to run sub 3 hours 45.
The Boston marathon is also famed for its strict and tough entry process. For this race, you can only enter if you achieve a 'BQ' or a charity place.
If you BQ, that means you have managed to run a marathon in a Boston qualifying time. For men under the age of 35, that's sub 3 hours and for women of the same age it's sub 3 hours 30. However, it is made even harder by the fact that entries are always over subscribed each year, meaning the actual BQ time is often lower than this target.
For example, those who entered to run in 2019 had to achieve a time 4 minutes and 52 seconds faster than the qualifying standard. Therefore a man under the age of 35 would have had to achieve a BQ of under 2:55:08 - very speedy!
Entering your first marathon
Due to the strict and often difficult entry processes of the World Marathon Majors, it may be an idea to run your first marathon somewhere that allows simple paid entries. Unless you are willing to take on the stress of raising a huge amount of money alongside the gruelling training, there are plenty of other marathons out there that are perfect for your first marathon.
Three such popular marathons in the UK and Europe are Brighton marathon in East Sussex, England, Paris marathon in France, and Edinburgh marathon in Scotland. Each of these races simply require you to pay the entry fee and you're in. They are equally well organised with fantastic routes in beautiful cities and still benefit from overwhelming positive support at the sidelines. It's certainly worth considering a less famous marathon to be your first.
What is a good time to run a marathon?
Finding the right pace for you is hugely important for your first marathon, but don't try to achieve an unrealistic time. Everyone is different and a good time for your marathon will depend entirely on your age, gender, body weight, how long you've been running, and your ultimate goals. Are you just running to have fun and enjoy the experience or are you competitive and looking to run as fast as possible? As this is your first marathon, you don't yet have a personal best time to try and beat, but having a goal in mind is a great motivator.
Of course, the previously mentioned Good For Age times are an excellent indicator of just that: what is a good marathon time for your age. However, so long as you enjoy yourself and get out of it what you wanted, your time really is irrelevant.
That said, it's important to train enough that you can run a sensible pace and not end up on your feet for too long. Putting your body under that much strain can be pretty dangerous and you want to be able to put up a good fight rather than having to walk most of the course. After all, the quicker you run the quicker it will be over!
Training for your first marathon
The most important factor in your success of running a marathon is your training. Whether you're a complete beginner to exercise or you've run up to half marathon distance, running a full marathon is a completely different experience and requires full dedication as well as knowledge on nutrition and hydration.
Finding a good training plan
Your first port of call should be finding a great training plan that suits you and your goals. One of the most popular places to find marathon training plans is Hal Higdon's website. An American writer and marathon runner, Hal has written over 30 best-selling marathon training books and guides and has contributed to Runner's World longer than any other writer. His training plans cover something for everyone from the beginner to the intermediate to the advanced. For your first marathon, it's recommended to go for one of the beginner training plans.
Fitting training around work and home life
Before you commit to running a marathon, it's important to know that you must remain dedicated over several months and put in the time to train. This means your social life will likely suffer and you may need to give up things like alcohol and tighten up your diet. Speak with your family and friends about your intentions to make sure they are on board as their support could be invaluable to your success.
You also need to make sure you have the time to fit training around your work life. There are plenty of ways to fit training into your daily routine, such as running early in the morning before work, working out at work such as at lunchtime, and incorporating training into your commute. Explore these avenues and find out what is going to work best for you.
Many of the popular UK and European marathons take place in spring time, meaning you will be training over winter. This comes with its own perils such as unexpected snowfall and freezing temperatures. Make sure you have the right activewear for winter running as this will make winter training more bearable. Your essentials should be a long sleeved training top with temperature control to keep you warm without overheating and a water resistant running jacket and gloves to protect you against the elements.
Many people who have run a spring marathon say that training through the winter is the toughest part. Dark evening runs after work and cold early morning starts can make motivation difficult, but if you keep your goals in mind and stay dedicated you will be able to enjoy working out and stay motivated.
Both Berlin marathon and New York marathon take place later in the year, meaning the bulk of your training will take place over summer. As we saw in 2018, a freak heatwave can really make a difference to your training and it's important to stay safe when running in hot weather. Be sure to carry extra water and be flexible with your training. Listen to your body and adjust your speed accordingly, as running at 100% effort in soaring temperatures and blazing sunshine probably won't end well.
Nutrition and hydration
Any marathon runner will tell you that you could put in endless miles and countless training hours but it will all be for nothing if you don't crack your hydration and nutrition strategy. As we saw in London in 2018 when a woman fell into a coma after crossing the finish line, hydrating with only water can be potentially dangerous and it's important to replenish your electrolytes and sodium as well.
Drinking a sports drink and taking sodium supplements will combat this easily so make sure they are a part of your hydration and nutrition strategy. It's also important to be able to adjust your strategy for the weather on race day, as you could have been training in sub-zero temperatures but will need more water than you think on an unseasonably hot April day.
Finding what works for you
There is no one-size-fits-all hydration and nutrition plan; you will have to devise your own. Some people are fine with a few litres of water and some energy gels while others find that fuelling with real food is much more effective. You can even make your own energy gels and bars for endurance training so that you know exactly what's gone into them; especially effective for those with a sensitive stomach or a food intolerance.
Make sure you trial different things in your training to find what works for you so that there are no surprises on race day. It's also important to be as self-sufficient as possible once you have found what works for you, as not all races will have what you need at the aid stations.
What to eat during a marathon
Some of the best foods to eat during a long endurance event like a marathon include:
- Protein balls
- Peanut butter sandwiches
- Pretzels (good for sodium but can be very dry, especially if you’re dehydrated)
- Pickles and pickle juice
- Dried or fresh fruit
- Sugar cubes
- Energy gels
- Sports/electrolyte drink
Top Tip: If you take on a lot of energy gels and sugary drinks during training, brush your teeth as soon as you get home to protect against cavities and tooth loss due to the excessive sugar consumption.
Cross Training For Runners
Once you have your training plan in place, you need to make sure you are also doing effective cross training. Putting in a lot of miles is a given for marathon training, but in order to avoid injury and perform at your best you will also need to cross train.
Cross training for runners is any other type of training apart from running that will supplement and enhance your training. Some of the best types of cross training are strength training at the gym, swimming, and cycling. All of these are low impact sports which will give your joints a chance to rest after pounding the pavements for hours on end while simultaneously working your muscles and increasing your power and strength, all necessary for putting in a good performance on race day.
What to expect at your first marathon
As the big day draws near it is completely natural to start to feel nervous. You will be wanting to know what to expect at your first marathon so that it doesn't come as much of a shock. Here are some of the most common things you're likely to experience at your first marathon.
Long toilet queues
If you've done a lot of races you'll already know the frustrations of a couple of portable toilets trying to accommodate thousands of runners and this won't be any different at a major marathon. The key is to join the queue early and be patient. So long as you get there with plenty of time, you won't miss the start and the time you spend in the queue would just be time spent pacing back and forth in your starting pen anyway. A top tip is to take a small amount of toilet paper with you as there probably won't be any by the time you get to the front of the queue.
A busy start
The start of a marathon with thousands of runners is always going to be busy and it may take a while to cross the start line. At this point you will be feeling pretty anxious and nervous but also very excited. Take this time to make sure you have everything you need and in place ready to run. Make sure your running watch is ready to go and switch it on early to make sure it can find a GPS signal among all the people.
Setting off too fast
All the excitement of the start may well cause you to set off too fast. Stick to your pacing plan and keep an eye on your watch to help you stay on track. Don't be tempted to rush off with everyone else; keep calm and start sensibly so that you can enjoy the race.
Hitting the wall
This is one of the most common fears among marathon runners and for good reason. Hitting the wall can take the form of anything from feeling a little lightheaded to physically not being able to move. The key to not hitting the wall when running is to stick to your nutrition and hydration strategy and to stay as hydrated as possible.
Read race reports
If you want to be well prepared on what to expect for the particular marathon you are running, it's a great idea to read race reports from people who have been there, done it, and got the finisher's t-shirt.
Experiencing the best day of your life
Even if you're hobbling along with sore feet, painful joints, and no energy, when you hit that finish line it will all be forgotten and you will remember this as one of the best days of your life. Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment and all of the long training sessions, dedication, and compromise will be worth it when you cross that line. The elation you feel will be like nothing else.
Getting to the start line uninjured
One thing you will hear from a lot of people training for a marathon, whether it's their first or their 10th, is that getting to the start line uninjured is a big deal. It can be all too easy to over-train and end up with an injury that hinders your chances of performing at your best or even running at all. Some of the most common running injuries are caused by pushing yourself too hard and doing too much too soon, especially if you're new to running.
In order to stay injury-free, always listen to your body during training and don't underestimate the importance of rest. Some of the best ways to deal with running injuries are not to push through the pain, learn from your mistakes, and don't rush your comeback. Rest up and ease back into your training gently. Ideally, you shouldn't get injured at all when training for a marathon. So long as you eat well, train smart, and listen to your body, you should be good to go.
Organising with family and friends
Of course, for your big day you will want your family and friends to be there to support you. There's nothing worse than running along wondering where they are and when you'll see them, distracting you from your performance. Before the race, make sure you all agree where they will be standing to watch you so that you know when to expect them.
A top tip is to see them towards the end of the race when you're needing some extra encouragement. Not only will they encourage you towards the finish line, but knowing that you get to see them soon could keep you going when the race starts to get tough at the halfway point. We recommend Mile 20 as the optimum place to arrange to see your supporters.
Whether you're starting your first couch to 5k or you're a seasoned runner looking to run a marathon or even an ultra, one of the most important things is to have the perfect pair of running shoes. Follow our guide for everything from brand analysis, different types of running shoes, which shoes are best for you, and which shoes to choose according to your running goals. Everything you need to know is here in Sundried's guide to buying running shoes.
In this guide:
- Running shoe brands
- Can running shoes cause knee pain?
- Where to buy running shoes
- When to buy new running shoes
- Trail running shoes
- Running shoes for long distance running
- Trainers and sneakers for sprinting
Running shoe brands
There are endless shoe brands out there so it can be tough to push through the noise and find a brand that is perfect for you. When it comes to running shoes, there are a few big players.
- New Balance
- Hoka ONE ONE
Some of these brands are more well known than others, such as the global giants Nike and Adidas. However, the other brands are important as they specialise in running and therefore the designers really know what to look for and work on when it comes to running specifically.
Asics is a Japanese brand whose first product was a pair of basketball shoes designed and manufactured in 1950. Since then, this brand has become one of the biggest players in the running shoe game and they sponsor such prominent athletes as Gwen Jorgensen and Jan Frodeno. Asics running trainers are tried and tested and you won't go to a single running event without seeing many people wearing Asics running trainers. This is a great brand to trust and they make running shoes for everyone from those who over-pronate to those who under-pronate and everyone in between.
Nike is one of the biggest companies in the world, sponsoring world class celebrity athletes like Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, and they even have a range in collaboration with Michael Jordan. It's impossible to go anywhere without seeing people wearing Nike shoes or clothing and they have ranges from casual to performance and cover many sports from golf to tennis to running and CrossFit. Nike work hard on innovative technology and always have new shoes on the market with never-seen-before features such as Fly Knit, Air, and Zoom.
New Balance is an American shoe brand that is now internationally acclaimed after being a popular sportswear brand for over a century. It only became well-known in the UK fairly recently but is making waves, especially with huge sponsorship like that of the London Marathon.
Brooks Running is another American brand that was founded around a century ago. They enjoyed their prime in the mid 1970s but then the brand faltered in the 1980s. By the turn of the millennium, Brooks re-branded and focused solely on running with a special focus on performance technology. They are now one of the best-selling speciality running shoe brands in the world and have enjoyed accolades such as 'Best Running Shoe' by publications including Runner's World and Sports Illustrated.
Adidas is another of the global brands which is world renowned and can be found anywhere. In recent times, Adidas have pushed forward in running shoe innovation by developing Boost technology and their newer ranges of running shoes offer something really quite special. Collaborations with designers like Stella McCartney have launched this brand into the next dimension and they continue to grow year on year. Despite being perhaps best known for their fashion trainers, Adidas is a really big player when it comes to running shoes and they have a vast range with something to suit everyone.
Hoka One One
Hoka One One is a lesser known brand, but is very popular among athletes and serious runners. Serving a more niche market, Hoka's running shoes are specifically designed with a super thick sole and 'rocking' motion for long distance runners. It's said that if you run a marathon wearing Hoka shoes, your legs won't even ache at the end! Co-founders Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud wanted to create a running shoe that was more effective and cushioning when running downhill, and in doing so reinvented the running shoe.
Can running shoes cause knee pain?
The simple answer to this is yes, running shoes can cause knee pain. That's why it's hugely important that you understand your own personal anatomy and physiology before buying new running shoes so that you can buy the right ones for you. Not only this, if your running shoes are old, tired, and worn out, they are more likely to cause an injury.
There are three types of runner: those who over-pronate, those who under-pronate, and those with a neutral stride.
If you overpronate, this means that your feet roll inwards due to a low arch or flat feet. This can have serious implications if you run in the wrong trainers and you can end up with a whole host of running injuries. If you over-pronate, you need to wear stability shoes which have in-built arch support to keep your feet in the right place as you run and to take the strain off your knees to prevent injury.
If you have a neutral stride, you may benefit from barefoot-type running shoes. These shoes are more flexible and light and will allow your feet to take their most natural shape when you run. If you have a neutral stride - lucky you - you will benefit from a very wide range of running shoes and have a much bigger choice when it comes to buying running shoes.
Finally, if you under-pronate, you need to look for very well cushioned running shoes to prevent shock injuries and to absorb the impact on the outside of the foot. If you underpronate, you will land on the outside of your foot when you run and this is the foot's weakest part, so you need your shoes to work with you to prevent injuries.
Where to buy running shoes
The best way to buy running shoes is in person at your local running store. While a large department store or chain may seem like they have more choice, the employees are often paid commission to sell certain brands and you may therefore not receive impartial advice and end up purchasing shoes that are not in your best interest.
If you are thinking of buying running shoes online, it is best to read as many running shoe reviews as possible before you buy. It's important to bear in mind that fit varies from brand to brand and even from model to model so you need to check that they are true to size or discover if they run small or large. Additionally, check to see if the shoes provide adequate cushioning and response from the sole and if they will last the distance or if they will deteriorate after only a few miles.
If you buy your running shoes from a local expert running shop you will often be able to test them out before you buy on an in-store treadmill and therefore decide if they fit well. You will also be able to determine if they work for you personally and if they are right for your goals. Not only this, the expert at the shop will be able to give you impartial advice. Therefore, this is the best place to buy new running shoes.
When to buy new running shoes
There are a few things to look out for if you think you may need to buy new running shoes. Worn out shoes can cause a lot of issues, so make sure you stay aware of how many miles you've run in your trainers and are ready to buy new ones with time to wear them in before getting rid of your old ones.
A good quality pair of running shoes should last you between 300 to 500 miles of wear. For someone who is running an average of 80 miles a month, this means replacing your running shoes every four to six months. However, factors such as your running style and your weight can affect how quickly your shoes wear out. Heavier runners put more pressure on their shoes and need more cushioning, so may need to replace shoes more often.
It's always worth investing in a new pair of shoes if you feel like your running trainers are getting worn out so that you avoid developing injuries and niggles. You can check the soles of the shoes to see if there is any noticeable wear, and if your running style starts to feel different or you start developing pains you've never had before, it could be time to get a new pair or runners.
If your running shoes look like this, it's definitely time to retire them!
Trail running shoes
If most of your runs are done on mud, grass, or trails, it is worth investing in proper trail running shoes instead of ruining your attractive fashion trainers. There are lots of differences between trail running shoes and regular running trainers, such as a thicker sole and more protection against stepping on stones and rocks, as well as better grip for running on slippery mud.
Many running shoe brands manufacture trail running shoes, but it may be worth looking for a brand that specialises in this type of shoe. Topo Athletic is one brand that sell good quality trail running shoes. Topo's secret is that the toe box on the shoe is wide so that your toes don't get crushed and your feet have more room to move and breathe when navigating tough trails and paths.
Running shoes for long distance running
If you're training for a marathon or ultra marathon, you need running shoes that can go the distance. This means sneakers that have lots of cushioning and support. Pounding the pavement for hundreds of miles can put a lot of strain on your muscles and your nervous system, so it's important your trainers are supporting you.
When it comes to long distance running, you probably don't want to go for a minimalist running shoe. Instead, opt for one with a thicker sole and lots of cushioning, especially if you are a heavier runner.
As mentioned above, some brands design their running shoes specifically for long distance running, like Hoka ONE ONE, so it is worth exploring these brands if you are looking to run long distances injury-free.
Trainers and sneakers for sprinting
For sprinting, you'll want more lightweight running shoes so that you can achieve explosive power and speed and not be weighed down by your sneakers. There are many options when it comes to lightweight sprint shoes, such as the Nike Free Run series or the Asics Gel-Hyper Speed shoes. The best shoes for speed will be designed for precisely that and as such won't have as much cushioning as other running shoes. Due to this, you need to make sure you're not running long distances in racing flats because you may damage your feet and joints.
Sprinting would include distances up to around 5km. For any running distances farther than this, you should look into buying different running shoes.
A cycling helmet is often obligatory if you're going to be road biking and cycling in organised sportives and multi-sport races. It's important that you have a helmet that is perfect for you, so follow our guide to find out everything you need to know before buying a bicycle helmet.
Many thanks to Cycles UK for their collaboration on this guide.
Safety is always paramount, and this is the primary reason you will be wearing a helmet for cycling. Thankfully, all cycling helmets sold in the UK have to pass the same safety standards and so this is not something you need to worry about when buying a cycling helmet.
Aerodynamics have been one of the main areas of innovation in cycling in the last couple of years. Aero helmets used to be reserved for specialist track racing and time trials but they are now also a common sight at road races, triathlons, and club rides. Modern aero road helmets can save you as much as 40 seconds over a 40km ride compared to a standard cycling helmet, while a dedicated time trial helmet could save you almost double that. The major difference between the two is the amount of ventilation they have.
On a short sprint triathlon, a full aero time trial helmet could save you 30 to 40 seconds on the bike leg. The downside of this is that to achieve good aero performance, the helmets have very little ventilation and you need to keep your head relatively still. If you are on a closed road where you are not going to have to look up and around a lot, and it’s not a particularly hot day, this could be a good option.
Sundried pro triathlete ambassador Alice Hector wearing an aero helmet while competing at the Sundried Southend Triathlon
If you are doing a longer triathlon, or it’s going to be hot, you will probably be better of with an aero road helmet like the Specialized Evade. One of these helmets will save you 40 to 50 seconds on a standard triathlon bike leg but will still have enough ventilation to keep your head cool on all but the hottest and hilliest days.
Not everyone gets on with aero helmets and some people will want more ventilation on their training rides. You’ll also be looking at spending well over £100 to get a time trail or aero road helmet so it may not be an option for you if you are just starting out. In this case, go for a standard road helmet like a Kask Mojito or Specialized Echellon. These helmets still have some basic aero performance but will keep your head cool and your wallet relatively intact!
The hardest part about buying a helmet is the fit. Most manufacturers will give the size of the helmet in centimetres so you can roughly match them to your head. The helmet will then normally have adjustable systems inside so you can get the fit exactly right.
However, not all helmets are the same shape. Some manufacturers make their helmets long and thing oblong shapes, others make them rounder. Many cyclists find that certain brands' helmets simply don’t fit their head. If it’s your first time buying a cycling helmet, it’s well worth visiting a few bike shops and trying on as many different brands of helmet as you can until you find the one that works for your head shape.