Biking for Beginners 8 tips from a former NOOB

Article by Francis Miller

Just a little over a year ago, I had just visited the hospital (for reasons we shall not discuss here). Long story short, the doctor told me I “needed more exercise.” I needed to do something, but the big question was: what?
One of my friends in Xi’an suggested biking, so I started riding in February of 2021. Just over a year later, I have lost more than 10kg, have completed dozens of 100km+ rides, and have conquered steep climbs around Xi’an. Just this past April, I rode my 7,000th kilometer and 45,000th meter of elevation (that’s more than 5 Mount Everests!). So how did this happen?
Well, what with all this beautiful weather we are having, I am offering some inspiration for those looking to take up a healthy outdoor activity. If you want to get into cycling, here are my top eight tips for getting started:
1 Don’t worry about what other people think. You think you look slow? Fat? Ugly? Unprofessional? No one cares. Just be yourself, enjoy your bike ride, and most importantly, get out there.
2 Don’t spend money until absolutely necessary. Especially don’t buy a new bike. The mountain bike that I started riding in Xi’an for 6+ months was free – borrowed from a friend of a friend who didn’t ride it anymore. Can’t find a free bike? Rent one from a nearby bike store. Want your own bike? Look for used bikes on the Xianyu app (but make sure you meet the seller and properly inspect the bike for wear/damage). Service? I got discounts at a local store recommended in a cycling WeChat group. Buying a new bike? Just don’t. All the money you spend will be wasted if you decide to stop. Get some kilometers on a borrowed, rented, or used bike first.
3 The exception to the previous tip is safety – splurge on a helmet that fits you and wear it properly! If cycling at night, get front and rear lights. Obey traffic laws!
4 Find people to cycle with and make them your friends. Marcus is the guy who encouraged me to get on a bicycle. He was patient and kind enough to wait for me at the top of countless climbs while I huffed and puffed my way to the top. Jin, my better half, accompanies me on many rides throughout the week. Without them, I never would have stuck with it. Join our Shaanxi Hills International Team (SHIT) WeChat group by adding Marcus on WeChat at marcus_meyer.
5 If you plan on doing long rides (20km+), get a pair of padded shorts (<100 yuan at Decathlon). Your butt will thank you.
6 Watch some informational videos for knowledge and inspiration. My favorite YouTube channels are the Global Cycling Network (GCN) and Sam Pilgrim.
7Get an app to help track your progress. My favorite is Strava. It lets you track your activities, share them with friends, and will organize your activity data for analysis. It’s also free! Follow me on Strava: I’m the only Francis Miller in Xi’an, Shaanxi.
8No matter what kind of bike you ride, take pride in it. And take care of it. Not only make sure it is safe to ride, but also keep it clean. A bike that looks and sounds great will feel great to ride too.
So that’s just about it. If you want to know more, join the SHIT group and just ask!

Francis is a college counselor and foodie who loves life in Xi’an. He can be reached at