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Biking Gaper - help!

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I'm absconding with mkevenson's phrase in the "skiing helmet for cycling" thread for the name of this thread - because that's what I am.

Yes, that's right, I'm a middle-aged guy who never properly learned to ride a bike. I could get into all the gory details about my parent's crazy fears and controlling nonsense yada yada yada, but I already spent good money in therapy decades ago to deal with that! No comments from those of you who think I need to spend more in that area. :

So now that I'm living full-time in scenic Summit County, where everybody except me has a bike or three hanging up on their condo deck, I'm tempted to get into cycling for the exercise, for the enjoyment of the outdoors during the summer, and because everybody and their dog does it.

Where does a total newbie gaper like me get started? If I had to classify myself as a rider, using the ski-lesson level analogy, I'd be a fearful level 2 skier - not quite a never-ever, but can barely stay up. Who last tried on straight skis.

As I recall from the last time I tried it (which was, literally, in the summer of 1970 when I quit my pre-college summer job, thumbed down to the Cape, secretly stayed in the boathouse at the sailing camp my girlfriend worked at, and borrowed a bike to ride a few miles up and down Rt 28 to get to stores) I was not only wobbly, I was way more comfortable turning right than left. Which made for having to take the long way around to get where I was going!

Are there the equivalent of "Learn to Ski" packages for learning to ride darn near from scratch? Or just get a bike and just do it?

If I was looking to buy a starter bike, what should I be looking at? Note I'm not looking to spend big bucks yet on something to which I'm not yet committed. (Plus I need new ski boots and a couple more pair of skis for next fall!). I'd be mostly riding on local roads and on the rec paths - I'm not at this early juncture considering mountain biking. Last summer I was thinking about this and looked at some of the for-sale used rental bikes at Precision Sport - is something like that a reasonable way to get started equipment-wise?

How does a total newbie gaper get started?

(lurking Lisamarie is probably saying right now "oh great, something else you can fall off of while spending lots of money!" )
post #2 of 21
register on mtbr.com, there's a great newbie thread there.
post #3 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkXS
I Last summer I was thinking about this and looked at some of the for-sale used rental bikes at Precision Sport - is something like that a reasonable way to get started equipment-wise?
Only if you wish to learn to wrench at the same time.

Get more gears. Find a hybrid or "flat-bar" road bike for under $500 with a triple front chainring and not-narrow round-profile tires. Budget for acessories: shorts w. chamois, pump, helmet, spare tubes, tire levers, chain lube, waterbottles/Camelbak, safety lights.

You will climb (and generally ride) better with bike shoes and the appropriate pedals. Of course, getting used to them likely means a few slow-motion falls.
post #4 of 21
Geez Comprex - don't load him down right off the bat. That's like saying you need Goretex to ski for the first time.

Flat pedals are FINE to start - and so are regular sneakers and comfy clothes. A pair of shorts with a chamois can be considered if he's gonna be spending more than an hour or so in the saddle - but probably won't at first.

Mark, I've only been riding for about 3 years. Got my first bike since teenhood for my 40th birthday. I bought a used rental - and it was fine. I wouldn't go Wal-Mart or Huffy type cheap though. You are used to coughing up for skis, so you should expect to spend $400-ish or more for a decent bike (less if used).[Specialized, Trek, Giant,Ibex etc all have decent entry-level bikes in that range] That gets you "decent", and it won't fall apart at the first stop sign, but Top-o-line runs thousands.

You need a helmet. Gloves help alot. Water-bottles are cheap. Don't need a Camelback at first unless you plan to ride for hours. You should have a frame-pump of some kind, a spare inner tube and a patch kit. I haven't ever needed tire levers - guess I have gorilla hands. The cardinal rule of cycling is - Flats Happen - and sometimes in pairs. Be prepared. You can decide about shorts w/ a chamois pad a little later. but when you do - Commando is the rule - that's what the chamois is for.

Start out on the level areas just getting the feel for the bike - like skiing you'll eventually be able to maneuver with subtlety - but it might feel like a goat on roller skates at first. Don't be too heavy handed on the Left-side brake ( front tire brake) unless you want to do an endo. You'll get a feel for shifting, but to start, just find an easy gear and concentrate on balance and steering.

Keep us posted. I LOVE my bikes. And I'm STILL a gaper. MTBR is a good resource - but watch out for the p*ssing contests.
post #5 of 21
I carefully didn't say he needed shoes right off, but he IS in Summit Co.
post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 
Lennyblake, FRAU, comprex - thanks for the info.

I was aware of MTBR.com, though more from following the epic p*ssing contests of some Bears-on-Bikes: : - I didn't know they had a Newbie thread so I'll go check that out.

I get what you're saying, comprex - basically I shouldn't try to go "too cheap" if I want to get a decent start in the sport.

Think I get what you and FRAU are discussing about the pedals - If I plan to get anywhere outside of Dillon Valley, I'm going to be climbing.

Water bottles I've got. Trust me. Literally hundreds of water bottles. All with the address of Lisamarie's studio printed on them which is going to change in 3 months and make them worthless as promotional items. Already have a Camelback too, though it's the insulated winter-sports version.

And I definitely expect the "goat on roller skates" feeling and implied non-gracefullness for quite a while. Love that image! (Did I mention how badly I am on roller skates too?):

Thanks guys! Anybody want a free water bottle?
post #7 of 21

Yes, sort of.

The trouble with used or ex-rental gear is that you have to be your own fit and geometry expert from the get go. It's those balance comments that make me think you're best off with a shop that won't push a twitchy race, high-clearance MTB or cyclocross bike at you, but is willing to work with you and sort out a stable hybrid or touring geometry.

Funny, my local REI has a Learn to Bike clinic but nothing like that at the Denver or Boulder shops. Check your Metro Sports mag event listing for events like:
Quote:
No More Training Wheels. Learn to ride a Bike!
Date: Sunday May 14, 2006
Location: Denver
City, State: Denver, CO
Contact: Denver Bike Tours, 720-641-3166
Web Site: http://nomoretrainingwheels.com
post #8 of 21
If you came into the bike shop I work at and told me that, I'd recommend a hybrid as a starter bike. Something like a Trek 7.3 FX ought to do the trick. What's your price range?
post #9 of 21
Mark,

You can also go to www.cyclingforums.com Much like epic it's got 1,000's of members from all over the world that are more than willing to help newbies. They use the same BB script as epic too. It's where I go to get my more technical questions answered. EDIT: They even have a bike buying forum Buying a new bike

My $0.02 when buying a bike is don't be in a hurry. Take you time and visit as many bike shops as you can and ask a lot of questions of the staff. Ride a lot of bikes, a good bike shop will let you test ride. Rides bike that you may not intend to buy. This will help you know the differences between the high end and low end bikes. I just bought a new road bike and must have ridden 15-20 bikes during the process. I knew within 30 secs of riding the one I bought that it was the one. Even after riding many bikes that were more expensive, I kept coming back to the same model.

A good bike shop will not only let you go out an test ride, but should be willing work with you to make minor equipment tweaks at the time of purchase (slick tires for knobbies etc). Also, make sure the bike is comfortable and "fits". See the bike fitting guide at coloradocyclist Here. (Make sure you do the Mtb bike conversion.) I kinda agree with the flat bar road bike/Hybrid/MTB with slicks route. I like the MTB w/slicks idea, because 1). You aren't trying to go fast, and 2). If you want, you can always put knobbies on and start riding off trail. I don't think you need to go as far as full suspension, a "hard tail" bike should be more than enough at this stage of the game.

Good luck and welcome to a great sport!!

L

BTW Gaper bikers are called "freds" (don't ask me why, I don't know)
post #10 of 21
Definitely go with a comfort-style bike -- something with wide-ish tires, and it will probably have a minimal amount of suspension (i.e., springs to help absorb the shock of bumping into potholes / frost heaves / cracks / etc.) on the road. Wide tires also help in the suspension dept. -- think fat skis. They float. Both help keep your hands and tush a lot more comfortable! Virtually all bikes come with the shifters integrated with the brake levers in some fashion now. The end result is that you don't have to take your hands off the handlebars to shift or to do much of anything except to grab a water bottle.

As for learning to ride... I've never seen a program that caters to teaching adults to ride. Wobbly-ness though generally means one of two things (or both !) is wrong:
a) A lot of beginner riders look at the ground in front of them. Don't! Just like skiing -- plot your course around the big stuff and let your skis / wheels roll right over the little stuff. The more experienced you get, the bigger the stuff that you'll be willing to roll right over becomes. I've seen a lot of beginner riders trying to evade every pebble etc. on the bike path. Rolling wheels are your friend. Once you start focussing your eyes further out you'll stabilize pretty quickly. You tend to go where you're looking so if you're looking decently far out, you'll go in a straight line towards it.

b) There is no need to death-grip the handlebars. Just keep a light functional grip on them. Bikes tend to wobble slightly anyway -- just the act of pedalling (left, right, left, right, left...) can cause the bike to tilt a tiny bit. Don't death grip the bars and try to steer it back, because your next pedal stroke is going to bring it back anyway. Bikes are fairly skittish machines -- i.e., it doesn't take much input to get them leaning one way or the other. The secret to becoming smooth is to learn how to gently shift your weight to bring the bike back to "neutral". Bikes are always wobbling slightly -- experienced rider just don't notice, as they've long since put subtle weight shifts into their subconscious. It takes some practice but once you learn that turning the handlebars is not how you cure "the wobbles", you'll be well on your way.

Summary of point "b". Turning the handlebars is for turning, not balancing. Beginner riders feel a slight wobble, and generally try to turn the opposite way -- which sets off a big wobble. It's a natural reaction, but it's the wrong thing to do. As Bob Barnes would say -- turning is to control direction!

As for turning right / left. A bike won't turn unless it is leaning. i.e., if you want to turn right, at some point you have to lean right. You can't just yank the handlebars (unless you want to be kissing the ground). So you have to get used to the lean, and you have to learn how to pull the bike up from a lean via shifting your weight. Which is the same concept as my point "b" above.
post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the great advice, gang.

I'll start looking around based on this. I'm hoping that somehow decent balance on skis will transfer to cycling. I wasn't *too* wobbly 36 years ago riding down Rt 28 or I would have ended up as Cape Cod Roadkill so hopefully things will go better this time around.
post #12 of 21
I think something likethis would be a good starter bike for you Mark. http://www.fisherbikes.com/bikes/bik...rt&bike=Kaitai
post #13 of 21
Great post Kevin.. Btw do you post at BF as well.. Same handle?..

I am going to have to go ahead and disagree with people here on that... Yeah... I think an el cheapo bike is not that bad an idea.. A single suspension bike from Target sells for 100 bucks.. That way you dont like biking, you didnt spend too much and if you do like biking then you can get a nicer one.. I got a schwinn from target when I decided to try MTBing and didnt want to shell the big bucks(having already spent a nice chunk of change on the roadie a couple of years back).. I have dished quite a bit of punishment to it and it still seems to hold up..

Mark, before you realize it you will be addicted and want a 3000$ Carbon Fibre road bike...
post #14 of 21
Hi Mark and welcome to yet another sport with costly gear. At least the riding is free.
You have gotten some good advice here. A couple of thoughts. There is a used gear store by the Safeway in Frisco. Do not know the name but you have probably been there already. They are pretty knowledgeable and helpful. My husband bought his Giant there as did a good friend. I bought my latest Mtn Bike at MSO in Dillon but I knew what I wanted. I find them pretty hit or miss as to expertise.


If you end up buying a bike used from the paper you will still want to try some at a bike shop to help make sure your getting a bike that is the right size for you.

Now is a good time to bike in Summit. The paths in and around Silverthorne, Dillon, Keystone are clear and it is not nearly as crowded as it will be in June and summer months. Riding on the bike path can resemble skiing down schoolmarm. :
All sorts of folks with varying abilities, plus dogs, kids on trikes, roller blades. You get the idea. You need to be able to maneuver with ease.

Biking for me is a very close second to skiing. Now I want the snow to melt so I can get on the trails. Hope you have fun with it.
post #15 of 21
my .02 would be to second all of those who have said to buy a mountain bike, even if you plan at present is to keep strickly to roads and bike path. Hybrids are great in concept but a classic satisficing item. If you wind up spending more than a little time on the road or trail, the compromises of the hybrid quickly show up--not as quick, agile or efficient on a long ride as a true road bike and down right scary with the narrower tires for true trail riding. A narrower set of tires quickly turns a mountain bike into a hybrid equivalent with the flexibility to switch back when you want to tackle tougher terrain.

I think something in the $500 price point represents a good tradeoff between getting the good stuff while not moving too far past the point of diminishing return. If you wind up buying used, I would look for the same level of components found on a new $500 bike.
post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by coug
Great post Kevin.. Btw do you post at BF as well.. Same handle?..
Thanks for the compliments. Yes, the bikeforums "KevinF" is me.
post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by coug
Great post Kevin.. Btw do you post at BF as well.. Same handle?..

I am going to have to go ahead and disagree with people here on that... Yeah... I think an el cheapo bike is not that bad an idea.. A single suspension bike from Target sells for 100 bucks.. That way you dont like biking, you didnt spend too much and if you do like biking then you can get a nicer one.. I got a schwinn from target when I decided to try MTBing and didnt want to shell the big bucks(having already spent a nice chunk of change on the roadie a couple of years back).. I have dished quite a bit of punishment to it and it still seems to hold up..

Mark, before you realize it you will be addicted and want a 3000$ Carbon Fibre road bike...
I can't agree with coug. I went out to Denver on Business last May and rented a bike to ride at Red Rocks with a friend that lives there. It was a $350 dual suspension bike. I brought my own pedals and shoes. The bike made me want to quit for fear of it disintegrating underneath me. Just like skiing, it's a lot easier to ski with boots that fit properly than in rear entry rentals. A better bike will have a better suspension fork and will shift and brake better, making it easier, more fun and SAFER. Plus, when you buy from a reputable bike shop, they usually cover adjustments for the first year, and you'll need the brakes and shifters adjusted as the cables will stretch when they are new.

And if you decide you don't like it or (more likely) want to upgrade, you can sell it or use it as your rain/tooling-around bike.

If you are using it for fitness, you might also want to spend $15-$25 and get a bike computer. If you already have a heart rate monitor (I'm guessing you might have one already?), you can use that in conjunction with the bike computer.

Here are some tools/ other stuff you might need (many have already been mentioned). Spare tubes (at least 2), tire levers, CO2 or a pump, patch kit, a devent multi-tool for on-road repairs (I use a Topeak Alien - heavy but lots of tools built in). All of these together are well under $50. Then gloves and a helmet. I wouldn't recommend using the ski helmet because they don't vent as well. Even my Giro Fuse can't vent nearly as well as a decent bike helmet. but you don't need to spend $100+ on a helmet. A $30 helmet will protect just as well.

Q - What do you call a bike rider w/o a helmet?
A - An organ donor!
post #18 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnH
you don't need to spend $100+ on a helmet. A $30 helmet will protect just as well.
I just bought a new Bell helmet at Costco for $15.99. My guess is that it's in the retail price range that JohnH suggests.
post #19 of 21
Buy accessories online whenever possible. Shops get the most markup on tools, clothes, helmets, etc. Usually about 120%... Trust me I work in one.
post #20 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF
As for learning to ride... I've never seen a program that caters to teaching adults to ride.
League of American Bicyclists:
http://www.bikeleague.org/

Check the Local Resources page.
post #21 of 21
Mark,

I started biking again a few years ago. (I did the Biking Merit Badge thing in Boy Scouts as a kid with an old clunker single speed.)

My first bike was a mountain bike. I mainly do rail trails around here with it. Its fun and I enjoy it. I have a fairly complete repair kit that I keep with it. Make sure you have the right equipement. On one of my first rides I had a flat about 3 miles in on the trail. No fear, I got the gear! I was a Boy Scout, I can handle this. Flipped the bike over, ripped off the rear tire, removed the flat tube, reached into my repair kit, and pulled out the spare tube..............for a road bike......: Ahh crap........ Luckily a nice guy came by. He had a spare tube that he traded me for my dead one. A few minutes later I was on my way.

Had a nice talk with him. He did 25 miles a day on the trail, summer and winter (when the snowmobiles run on it with him). Peddaled with bare feet, had a beard (Sort of looked like Volantaddict).

So make sure you have the right stuff with you.

First major purchase and upgrade was clipless pedals. Set them up so you can get out easily. (The release has adjustments like bindings.) I've never done the "Arte Johnson" thing with them on. (Yet, at least.) I feel very secure using the clipless pedals. I've got the Shimano pedals that flip over and have a "normal" pedal on one side. That way I can use the bike without special shoes if I want to.

Last year I got a comfort road bike, a Trek 1200C. It has the drop down bars but the frame is set up so you are more upright. I really like the setup for on the road. I'm not Lance, I don't need to be hunkered over that much. It satisfies my need for wind in my face when riding. (The mountain bike is geared lower and I can't get going as fast as I like on the road.)

Good luck with it and have a blast.
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