Pedal Power

Learn the basics of biking with pro-advice, confidence-building drills, and a training plan developed by Cooking Light expert Gin Miller.

Reader: Beth Griffiths, Williston, Vermont

Her challenge: "I want to be more confident riding my bike."

Her story: "Last spring, in a quest to get in shape, my husband and I decided to use the money we had saved for a new mattress on bikes instead," Griffiths says. "We thought bike riding could help us feel just as good―if not better than―a new mattress. Plus, we have fantastic places for riding. I fondly remember bike riding when I was younger and thought this would be a great way to shape up. When the bikes arrived, I couldn't wait to give mine a try. But one hilly venture was too much for me. As I was pedaling myself uphill, I ran out of steam. When I tried to get off the bike to walk the rest of the way up, I tipped over. While my only physical injury was a scraped knee, my pride was substantially bruised," Griffiths says.

Gin's prescription:

I've teamed with Dotsie Bausch, a professional cyclist since 2002 and leader of the Colavita/Sutter Home Women's Cycling Team presented by Cooking Light, to create a beginner's training guide, supplemented with useful information, confidence-building drills, and simple tips for Griffiths and other new riders," Miller says.

Pace yourself. "Griffiths tried to do too much too soon in her first ride," Miller says. "While it's true that once you learn, you never forget how to ride a bike, becoming reacquainted with riding can be made easier with a little knowledge―especially for climbing hills, which shouldn't necessarily be part of a beginner's first ride." Plus, if you're rediscovering biking as an adult, your bike may have a few more bells and whistles than the one you rode as a kid.

Look for proper fit."Griffiths may have found bike riding to be harder than she remembered because her bike wasn't properly fitted to her body," Bausch says. "It's like walking in shoes that are too big or too small―it just doesn't work." If you're buying a new bike, have the sales assistant make the needed alterations. If you already have a bike, take it to your local bike shop for adjustments

Stay motivated. "One of the most basic things a new rider should do is keep up the effort," Miller says. "That means continuing to ride―even when you fall off. It takes a few excursions to develop what cycling enthusiasts refer to as 'biking legs,' which simply means allowing your body to adapt to the new activity. Once Griffiths becomes comfortable on her bike, she will see rapid improvement and be able to ride anywhere."