THE BLOG
05/27/2014 08:32 am ET Updated Jul 27, 2014

Everything You Need to Know Before Riding a Road Bike

Pro cyclist Allison Tetrick offers tips that make the transition from spin class to tough terrain less terrifying.

By Jaclyn Emerick, SELF

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Photo credit: Courtesy Allison Tetrick

We have a major girl crush on Allison Tetrick, professional cyclist at TWENTY16 Pro Cycling. The 29-year-old blonde beauty is also in graduate school for neuropsychology and works in advocacy for Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer. (She's also got some of the best hair we've ever seen.)

But back to our topic: Tetrick wasn't always a cyclist. She was a collegiate tennis player. After graduation, she got into running, but kept getting injuries. So she tried spinning-- and liked it enough to buy a road bike. Soon after she started dabbling in triathlons. "My grandfather (who still races bikes at 84 years old!) suggested I try bike racing, but, frankly, I thought the outfits looked silly and that the sport was too extreme for me," Tetrick says. We don't think a lot of people would argue with that, but still, it wasn't enough to keep Tetrick from trying a race. And then another. Soon enough, she found herself at the Olympic Training Center for a Talent ID camp, where she signed her first professional contract and had the opportunity to race for the USA National Team. "It was as if I was always supposed to be on a bike, and I finally found a sport that made me feel at home," she says.

In the short amount of time she's been a pro rider, she's made some ridiculously awesome accomplishments, including representing the United States at such events as the Pan American Games, Giro Donne, Tour of New Zealand, and Tour of Qatar.

So how do her accomplishments affect you? Even if you're not looking to dominate a race, logging some miles on a road bike can be a ton of fun-- and an awesome workout. Here are Tetrick's top tips:

Gear you should probably get:
  • Chamois (Only amateurs call it a "shammy"): These are cycling shorts with the pad in them. They'll make your seat a little more comfortable so you can ride longer. Insider's tip: Go commando. Too much material down there and you're asking for chafing.
  • Saddle bag: Think of that little bag that attaches to the back of your saddle like your emergency make-up kit. You'll want to keep those "just in case" supplies, such as a new tire tube, a tire patch kit, CO2 cartridges, and tire irons, in the (unlikely) event you get a flat.
  • Shoes: In spin class, cycling shoes or cleats are optional. But you'll probably need them outdoors. They allow you to utilize all the muscles in your legs, including your quads, hamstrings, and glutes as you engage your entire leg around the circle of the pedal stroke (aka they make you more efficient). Clipping in can be scary, so definitely practice how to mount and dismount your bike safely indoors.

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Photo credit: Courtesy Allison Tetrick

Gear you can pass on:
  • A fancy bike: You don't need to have the most expensive bike and wheels on the rack. Don't get caught up in having to purchase the latest and greatest equipment. Make your first priority be that your bike and wheels are safe and reliable. Start with a "starter" bike and trade up when you need to.
  • Fanny pack: Consider that cycling jersey or jacket your bike bag. It should have enough pockets to hold snacks, keys, money, lip balm -- whatever you want to carry for your ride. You don't need a back pack or fanny pack.
  • Gadgets: Tracking your stats (pace, distance, time, elevation) is excellent to know, but you don't need to shell out for a pricy bike computer. Inexpensive apps like Strava can get the job done.

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