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An Amateur's Guide to Cycling--Your Comments

Posted Aug 23 2008 10:37pm
Any recommendations for finding bikes for the large person? I really want to get into cycling, but I fear crushing the puny bikes under my weight. And I'll be honest I do not want to go get hassled in a bike shop?

People of all sizes get hassled in bike shops. I was just the other day trying to explain to a very thin friend of mine that there's a specific bike shop culture difficult to penetrate (she had just had a bad bike shop experience) unless you a) buy a bike there b) seem extra cool. I went with a), and I'd recommend that for you, too. Even if you don't purchase a bike there, if you enter with a certain amount of confidence (even confidence in your lack of confidence), they'll take you more seriously. I'd do some online research first. Or, as Rachel says:

When I got my first bike I found the best way to not get hassled was to walk in and be open and honest about your interest in biking and biking experience. I told the guy I hadn’t biked much before but I was interested in commuting, and biking on trails, that I had a certain price range and that I wanted to get something I would be comfortable on. Most of the people I encountered were amazing and helpful and genuinely wanted to see more people riding bikes and enjoying it.

I just realized I wrote a novel in your comments. Hope it was okay/helpful! Yay for fat girls on bikes!

RE: Attire

I strongly recommend actual bike shorts for long rides. You'll still be sore if you're a new biker, but that'll go away once you get used to the saddle as someone else mentioned. Overall though, they're life-savers.

That was actually a joke about the attire. I have noticed, and it could be because I'm a relative beginner, that I'm not less sore when I wear bike shorts than when I wear street clothing, and I'm trying to figure out why. I'd still recommend the shorts, if nothing else. Those and a pair of sunglasses, not just for the sun, but to protect your eyes from wind-borne particles.

@emmy - you really shouldn't be on the saddle that much (that's why it's called a saddle and not a seat).

See for more info.

Thanks for the reference. I actually went riding the other day with BSG, and as he came out of the saddle at one point, I asked him about this. He suggested (not that he's the definitive authority) that you get out of the saddle to change your position, reduce discomfort, etc., and that it's not necessarily related (as I originally thought) to the terrain. BSG told me, simply, to pretend the hills just don't exist. Um, but they DO exist, as I told him, and if he wanted confirmation, he should check my pulse.

Nice! As a runner hoping to try a triathlon in the next year or two, this is very helpful.

Now I just need to find the money for a good road bike -- I have a hybrid and I'm finding it difficult to average more than about 13-15mph on the thing (which is pretty darn slow compared to what I've heard I *should* be able to do on a bike, based on my running speeds). Any suggestions on finding good deals for decent road or tri bikes?

That's actually what happened with me on a hybrid. You'd be surprised how a road bike can increase your speed. I actually purchased my bike at a local shop (see above), figuring that whatever I was overpaying would be returned in service (they've already fitted the bike to me, handled minor damages, taken me on rides, etc.). I think it's worth the extra money. The other option is to get something in the fall, once the next year's models have arrived (kinda like at a car dealership).

I notice you didn't expand on the flat thing. In my experience, there are two ways to change a flat. A) have tire levers, an air compressor or pump, a bike multi-tool and a new tube. Take it apart and fix it yourself or my favored way B) Throw the bike in the back of the truck, pay a few bucks to the cute tattooed bike guy and have it done in way less time. (I know, not everyone has a cute bike mechanic, this really influences my flat changing.)

And to anonymous, I have that argument with my roommate all the time! But I ride more for distance than speed and my butt stays on the saddle a LOT more when I'm conserving strength for the ride back.

That item was meant to be a joke. I don't know how to change a flat. BSG insists that with a Ph.D. I should be able to learn, but I disagree. They are two entirely different skill sets. I have the above items with me, handy for anyone who comes along when I flat. My preferred method of changing flats, however, is B).

himawari, I wouldn't buy a dedicated tri bike unless you're looking to do a lot of tris. They tend to be more expensive and they're 'stiffer' meaning they tend to be more uncomfortable. If you're buying a road bike you might want to consider a touring bike which usually comes with a granny gear... this means you have more gearing range - and can get up hills easier. They're also set up to be a little more comfortable. You can also attach tri-bars for time trials or tris...

In terms of brands... There are some great bikes out there. When you get to a certain limit, though, there is a point of diminishing return. You can get a lot for your money with something like a Giant (I have a Giant and a Bianchi but am pining for an Orbea).

People, buy proper cycling shorts. Also, even though the skinny seats look painful they are, in the end, the most comfortable, but it takes a while to build up some tolerance.

There is nothing wrong with cycling outfits :-) And while it is, I believe, better to ride at a higher cadence, your legs won't get bigger if you ride at a lower range. They'll actually get stronger and help develop fast twitch fibers... a lot of people do some low cadence training so that they can improve power output.

Thanks for the input. My understanding of tri bikes (from BSG) is that they are specifically designed to ease the bike-to-run muscular transition. My quip with cycling outfits is more a runner's complaint with cyclists in general (the matching outfits are just easy targets). Did you catch the New York magazine article on who owns Central Park? If not, see here. Nothing, however, competes with the four-person, in-line skating team (in matching gear) I saw last week. True to their sport, they skated in line (conga style), holding each others' waists at times. It was quite a spectactle, until they passed me on Harlem Hill.

I've increased my cadence in order to be more efficient, too. I have noticed that through cycling, my legs have gotten more muscular (translation, bigger). I like 'em.

As a fairly serious bicyclist myself, I disagree with a few points, but I'll only bother addressing one: "Traditional" cycling attire is traditional for a good reason - it works. The chamois padding in the shorts prevents chafing, soreness, loss of blood flow to genitalia, and urinary dysfunction. And the jerseys are designed to cut down on wind drag, while wicking perspiration to evaporate it more efficiently and still allow your skin to breathe.

Wearing street clothing will slow you down, force you to work harder to bike the same distance, and quite possibly leave you in unnecessary pain or medical conditions. Why would you do that to yourself just to avoid being mocked? If you're not qualified to enter a race, don't enter a race; but riders of every skill level just out for a ride in, for instance, Central Park know that what you wear has absolutely nothing to do with your skill level, it's just what you wear.

On the other hand, if you don't bother to learn and obey the rules of the road, you don't belong on a road operating a bicycle in the first place, no matter how appropriately (or inappropriately) you're dressed.

Happy biking!!

Thanks, Topless. I actually checked at least the triathlon rules and learned that public nudity during a race is forbidden. As for the shorts, see above. I have heard that you should douse yourself in a good amount of goop before dressing--do you do this? Have you noticed the cops in CP clamping down on cyclists running red lights?
Topless New York is right about several things, including that fact that this post represents a rather limited point of view.

For instance, a hybrid is not by definition a "cheap" or poor quality bike; it really depends on the kind of riding you intend to do, and for some of us, on physical ability or limitations. (If your spine had the structural deformities of mine, you wouldn't assume that a road bike is the most comfortable fit.)

And I heartily second those rules of the road (and trail) comments. I frequently shout "on your left!" as I approach pedestrians on shared trails in my community, only to have them either freeze in their tracks, or worse, go to the left.

Of course it's limited--it's what's happened in my experience. My hybrid actually wasn't cheap at all (it was the same brand--Specialized--as my road bike). For me, a road bike works better (and is much easier to transport, to boot). I've done the "On your left" thing, too, but you're right, sometimes people get confused and go left themselves! It's hard to process information that quickly.

Or, just wear things that make you look/feel good. Dresses, jeans, shorts, heels, suits, whatever.

Try and for ideas. Cycling for exercise or sport is fine and dandy - cycling to get from A to B in your everyday life is revolutionary.

Oh - and if you're cycling in town get the cheapest sit-up-and-beg you can. You'll see the traffic coming, and it might not get nicked.

I did see someone cycling in heels the other day. Currently, my favorite bike gear is Essie's "Bike Ride" nail polish:

And so what if your legs "get big"?

Thinking about it, I have trouble imaging that this would have come up if a man was purchasing a bike.

I hate the way when it comes to exercised women are always cautioned about how to exercise without "bulking up". What's so wrong with women with muscle?

As for pedestrians, I disagree with your take on it, as someone who used to use a bike for transportation and now walks, and is going back to biking for long distances, from both perspectives I tend to do the not moving thing when a biker comes straight at me while I'm walking. When I was biking I found it was always easier to just go around people. I see them before they see me, I can move faster to get out of the way, and inevitably when a person walking moves, it's always in the same direction at the same time that the biker goes to avoid hitting them. The results of that are not good. I've found the same thing walking. When I started walking I tried to avoid bikers and got hit a lot more than when I finally learned to just trust them to go around me. And they do.

I wondered the same thing about a male customer hearing a similar warning. Re: pedestrians, I've actually changed my take on this, since I've started cycling. I actually used to freeze, too--it's a natural response at times, right? Now, if I have the right of way (e.g., the "Walk" sign at an intersection), I continue to walk and figure the cyclist will go around me. My concern was specifically related to pedestrians who aren't obeying traffic rules.

As a hiker and occasional bike rider, I must take issue with your item #4. At 20 mph you DO have an option when there are people walking on a shared path or by-way: SLOW DOWN. I am one who has surely displayed the anger you noted, when I am taking a leisurely hike in a national park and several bikes come careening around a corner, or at me from the rear, and expect me to move. Sorry, if you want an unimpeded right-of-way, don't use a shared trail. A bike is a wheeled vehicle, just like a car, and against a vehicle, pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way. PERIOD. Sorry to rant but it's a hot button item for me.

Used to be for me, too, before I started riding. I didn't know why the crazed cyclists couldn't slow down. But here's the thing, I'm not on a shared trail, I'm riding in the car lane in Central Park (which is usually closed to cars when I ride). Pedestrians are supposed to obey the crosswalk laws. If I have the right-of-way as I cyclist, I expect that the coast will be clear. If a pedestrians juts out in front of me, unexpectedly, I don't have time to brake. I've learned what can happen if you brake too abruptly (see original post), and don't need another visit to the ER. For shared trails, I agree with you completely.

Look, it's a dangerous sport, and while I approach the topic with humor and some irreverence, I know how serious it can be. On my ride with BSG, I saw three cyclists fall/already on the ground. Please be careful!
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