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Bike Beginner-Advice Needed

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I want to start trail bicycling for conditioning and fun, but not sure where to start. My son at college has a Specialized "Hard Rock" hanging in the garage and I want to put it to work. A few questions:

Is that bike OK for starters? Should I stick to level stuff initially? Are there any easy ways to find out where it is permissible to ride off-road? What should I know about technique? Injury prevention? Proper care and feeding of the bike under stressful use?

Any thoughts and advice appreciated.
post #2 of 13
Sure, your son's HardRock, provided it fits you, would be a fine entry level bike. Just ride it till stuff breaks and tehn upgrade those broken parts as you deem necessary.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Gill, thanks; the frame is a bit small, as he got it when he was, I think, a soph in HS but I have installed a long seat tube and it feels great. Any reason not to go with that?

post #4 of 13
As long as your seatpost fits down far enough inside the frame to handle the stress on it, I say you're good to go.

Ride that bike for a while. If you get the mountain biking bug, look to upgrade when you have a better idea of the type of riding you enjoy most.
post #5 of 13
and WEAR A HELMET! Good luck.
post #6 of 13
I've not been cycling for that long, so you'll get better advice from others here... but my two cents as a relative noob....

How long has the bike been hanging in the garage? If it's been years, I'd either take it for a basic maintenance check to your local bike shop or find a friend who knows what to look for. You don't want to start a long descent only to find out your brakes are shot; don't want to throw a chain in the middle of nowhere, etc.

Helmet is a MUST. Gloves are a good idea.

I'd also make sure you have the stuff for, and know HOW to change a flat - and have it WITH you on the bike. The pump and patch kit don't do you a durn bit of good if they're back in the car. Good idea to have the frame pump, patch kit AND a spare inner tube. I once had a rear flat downtown - no prob, patched 'er up and reinflated, but then the valve stem separated. I had no spare tube, so I was screwed. Had to sling the bike frame over my shoulder, pick up the wheel with the other hand and hump it to the bike shop. Fortunately, I was only 3 blocks away - and not 30 miles out into the state forest.:

Also, if you anticipate riding ALOT, it would be worth it to your joints to get fit tested to make sure the seat placement/pedal alignment is right for you.

Most of all HAVE FUN.
I love my bikes. I hate running/jogging, but I LOVE to pedal my brains out!
post #7 of 13

For a noob

Another good idea is to get a pair of cycling shorts. Baggies probably. They'll feel wierd and you may feel silly with the padding but they'll allow you a greater level of comfort. Similarly get a shirt that wicks moisture 'cause you'll get sweaty - having written that I use old cotton T-shirts that are disgusting by the time I've finished which isn't the most civilised way to go.

Then check out the pedals. Do they look too small for proper shoes ? If they are then they probably need special cycling shoes with cleats - there's a discussion about this on this board.

The bike is the least of your problems but at least a HardRock is a relatively good entry level bike which should suit easy off-road trail riding just fine.
post #8 of 13
Check the tires to be sure they aren't showing cracks and other signs of aging. If they are replace them. Also, ask you son if he replaced the rims on that bike and if so with what type of rim. Even on mild trails it is easy to bend a cheapo rim. (I've seen more people walking back from rides due to bent rims than for any other reason.)

My recommendation is to use the bike until things start breaking then get a new one. I wouldn't upgrade a Hard Rock. They are decent entry level bikes but not worth spending a bunch of money to keep running.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks, all, for the great info.

Sounds like the consensus is that the Hard Rock is a decent starter machine, so that's good to hear.

Yeah, I plan to check out the bike before any significant off-piste adventures. I know it needs new tires and I plan to replace brake pads, etc, etc. But the bike hasn't got a lot of mileage on it, as shortly after my son bought it (90% his own money, by arrangement), he got an attack of "the cools," which took biking off his radar screen.

What kind of pitches should I start out with? What kind of accidents do I need to watch out for? Steep hills on boards don't bother me too much, but the prospect of a header on a steep dry land slope tangled up in a machine gets my attention. It's not the fall I'm worried about, so much as that collision with the planet.

post #10 of 13

Take it easy and enjoy

Local bike stores will be able to direct you to rails-to-trails, dirt roads, fireroads, easier single-track, and then on up the food chain. You'll enjoy the outdoors and get fit doing it without going gonzo. A good cross country workout can be as much fun as a tough downhill down a stream bed. With your bike you aren't going to be doing any tougher freeride and downhill type terrain anyway. Or if you do you'll kill your bike if not yourself :

And you're right - you don't get hurt biking, just falling :
post #11 of 13
Joe, I agree with everyone above.

Good on you for putting on a longer seatpost. But PLEASE be sure to pay attention to the seatpost's marking for MINIMUM INSERTION. you need to have sufficient seatpost inside the frame to prevent excess stress at the frame juntion of top tube, seat tube, seat stays. if you didn't notice the marking on the seatpost, loosen it again, pull it out, and note where it is marked. even the cheapest Taiwanese posts will have some sort of marking for minimum insertion.

second is to adjust the saddle tilt and fore/aft. if you tilt the saddle with too much "nose down" (the tip or nose is pointed toward the ground) you will quickly tire your hands and shoulders, as you have directed more weight away from your butt/saddle point and to your hands/handlebar point.

conversely, too much "nose up" will remove weight from your hands/handlebar and put it on the butt/saddle points, which might make your off-the-bike sit-downs for the next few days pretty painful, even on the most comfy sofa. the uglier part is that for us men, too much "nose up" puts a LOT of pressure on the prostate and can lead to "sleepy peepee" in milder cases and tissue damage in worse ones. :

saddle fore/aft is just the act of sliding the saddle on its rails within the seatpost clamp. you want to approximately put your knee's foremost point (the kneecap) plumb over the ball of your foot when your foot is at the bottom part of the pedal stroke. move the saddle fore or aft until you get near that point, and then make microadjustments as needed to stay comfortable and/or deliver better power.

tire pressures should be about 35-45 psi, check the tire sidewall for range.

make sure the brakes work well and slow you down sufficiently. get used to their power before taking the bike down any serious descents.

make sure the gears shift smoothly from one to another. if they don't, you have to decide whether to become an amateur wrench or to give your local bike shop some business.

you can always PM me if you have weird/random Qs too.

good luck and welcome to the sanest group of recreaters on earth. we are better than skiers, if I dare say. skiing tries to be as good as MTB riding. it comes pretty close some times. usually when there's snow on the ground, if you catch my drift.
post #12 of 13
Make sure you have a proper tire (tyre for WTFH) repair kit with you. On one of my first rides on a rail trail I had a bad flat.:

But I was prepared...

I had my tire repair kit with a spare inner tube.

I flipped the bike over, yanked off the rear wheel, took off the tire, pulled out the damaged inner tube. Then I grabbed the brand new inner tube.............




It was a road bike inner tube. ......... I have a lovely mountain bike.: Boy did I feel stupid. I was five miles from anywhere.

Lucky for me another biker came along. He had a spare tube. He gave it to me in exchange for the damaged tube. I'm still riding on that tube. Glad to say I've paid the favor along to other riders on several occasions.

Learn from my stupidity. Make sure the repair kit you have is appropriate for your bike. Also, take along a first aid kit. You never know when you will need it.

Have fun pedalling your legs off. It keeps you ready for the real sport, skiing.

BTW "Biking for Dummies" has some good information for the beginner.
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
Great detailed stuff. Everybody's advice has been great, but it's nice to hear that the "pros" are on board. I will pay special attention to seat angle, for the reasons you mentioned. (Guy my age doesn't need to annoy Mr. Prostate.)

T-Square, good point on being prepared with spare tube as well as repair kit and first aid stuff. DrFrau earlier made similar points. I hear you.

TruckeeLocal, appreciate the terrain primer. I'll keep that stuff in mind.

Thanks, all.
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