Just weeks after returning from Australia, the quarantine began. As an extroverted city-dweller, I looked for ways to transform my 1-bedroom apartment into acres of wide open land; I settled on a bicycle as just one way to combat the isolation.

A close friend of mine named Jason is a cyclo-cross racer–a form of cycling requiring the rider to quickly dismount their bike while navigating obstacles. He recommended a gravel bike for on-road (with narrower tires) and off-road (with wider tires). He also suggested a drop bar for faster riding than a typical flat bar.

His top three intro gravel bikes are:

  1. Cannondale Topstone Sora
  2. Trek Checkpoint AL 3
  3. Kona Rove DL

In Chicago, we headed over to The Pony Shop to explore their Cannondales. Their owner Lou helped me settle on a slightly upgraded Cannondale Topstone 105–a bicycle with hydraulic disc brakes and the capabilities of racing should I choose to upgrade with time. He gave me a stellar discount and equipped me with SPD bike pedals to complement my mountain bike cleats. Great thing about mountain bike cleats is they're walkable, versus road cleats. Lou also helped with a multi-tool and all the gear to change a tire while on the road (see video bel0w). A Kryptonite U-Lock, helmet, and bike computer are also good investments to consider.

From apps to videos, jerseys to bib shorts, I was given executive treatment when it came to the do's and do nots of riding. I thought I'd outline some of the best tips for anyone looking to get into cycling.

Safety and Essential Repair Knowledge:

  1. GCN Ride Safety
  2. GCN Ride Safety 2
  3. GCN Group Ride Etiquette
  4. GCN Changing a Tire – practice this before you have an issue on the road! Use a floor pump, not a C02 to practice. I can oversee after you watch the video if you like.

Fit – the more you ride the deeper you’ll go here. To start, the key fit points to be concerned with are saddle height and cleat adjustment:

  1. Saddle – GCN saddle height/ placement
  2. Cleat – if you use road cleat, or for mountain bike cleats, ensure that the ball of your foot is positioned just in front of your pedal spindle and that your cleats are nicely centered on your shoe and generally facing forward.

Heart Rate Sensor & Cadence:

  1. Wahoo Cadence Sensor
  2. Wahoo Heartrate Monitor
  3. Garmin Cadence Sensor
  4. Garmin Heart Rate Monitor

Kit – the next things you’ll want, especially for the summer, are padded gloves with the cutoff fingers and some type of jersey with the pockets in the back. Brands to consider:

  1. Rapha –  great quality, high prices
  2. Castelli – race-oriented, moderately priced
  3. Assos – very race-oriented, very pricy
  4. Specialized – same as your water bottle. Specialized also makes great bikes, saddles, shoes – I’ve always liked their stuff.
  5. Giro – helmets, shoes, and more.

Shoe brand recommendations:

  1. Shimano
  2. Giro
  3. Sidi
  4. Specialized
  5. Fizik

For frame bags, or any other cargo/ bikepacking needs:

  1. Revelate
  2. Apidura
  3. Ortlieb

Power Meters – once you are looking are looking to measure your power in watts:

  1. General Information (read this before doing anything)
  2. For best value, look for a crank/crank arm, or for power pedals. Jason uses Stages Power Meters, specifically the Stages LR Ultegra cranksets . You’ll have to confirm compatibility with Stages or your bike shop, as there are many different bottom bracket size/ type standards). You'll also need to get power meters installed, so ask a bike shop for help.

Indoor Trainer – if riding in the winter, this might be a better option than spending $4k + $500 per year on a Peloton:

  1. Wahoo Kickr, along with Zwift to ride virtually anywhere in the world
  2. TacX Neo 2T – including this one just because it’s the other big one. Jason recommends the Wahoo though.

Apps and additional resources:

  1. DC Rainmaker – the Consumer Reports of cycling gear
  2. Strava – the Facebook of cycling (tracks mileage and workouts, and great for city routes). Easy to sync with a bike computer if you purchase one.
  3. GCN – how to guides, and more
  4. MTB – the best for off road routes
  5. Chicago bike routes

😉