I would like to take up bicycling... any advice?

I’m a desk jockey who is looking to lose about, er, 20 pounds (…or so…) and have been looking and reviewing various exercises and activities for something that I would enjoy, burns calories, can be done outside, can be done with the whole family, and, if possible, can be useful (i.e., productive).

So I’ve decided to take up bicycle riding. San Antonio is blessed with a large number of bike trails, many of my local roads have bicycle lanes, and I live close enough to work that riding a bike is extremely feasible (hell, I live close enough in that it’s a 10 minute walk to begin with, just slightly over 2/3rds of a mile). There are also a fair number of bicycling clubs out there for people of all levels of skill and commitment, and I’ve never seen so many bicycle shops in any city I’ve lived in before.

Therefore, I’m looking for advice… I don’t even know enough to know if I’m asking the right questions, to tell the truth. So let me tell what I’m looking to do, and perhaps somebody will have some tips and tricks.

Most of my riding will be in the street, though some of the parks have natural surfaces in their bike trails, meaning I won’t want to purchase a bike that can only be used on asphalt/pavement. I have little to no experience with hand brakes (all my previous bikes were made by Huffy back in the 70s (it’s been that long)), and I’m wary of my ability to handle a bicycle with 10+ gears (some that I’ve looked at have over 20 ( :eek: ) gears!) I’m not looking to race or compete, but to ride around.

OTOH, I don’t want a bicycle that will punish me for going up a hill, so some gearage is necessary (to be honest, I really don’t understand how they work or what “setting” is to be used at what incline level (if that’s how it’s done)).

While I don’t want to say “money is no object”, I do not have a problem paying for a quality bike that meets my needs - sure I can go to Walmart and get a bike, but I have a feeling that for twice as much I can get a 5X-better bicycle at a local shop, which I will be happy to do.

So, questions:

  1. What are some questions/actions that I should do before I buy a bicycle?
  2. What accessories should a beginner get?
  3. Do I have to wear those spandexy outfits? What are the advantages of them? (Yeah, I’m sure that there are about 3,000 better questions, but I’m new at this).

Hell… like I said, I don’t even know the right questions to ask. I’ll be interested in anything anyone has to say, and if you need more information from me about my intentions, etc, ask away.

Let me be the first to say this: Local Bicycle Shop. Go visit a couple of LBS’s and talk with them. Tell them what you are looking for. Hell show them this thread if you want.
Listen to them and then test drive a few bikes.
Find what you like. Ride several different brands and price points.
based on what you have posted, probably a hybrid bike is what you are looking for. Don’t sweat the gears, shifting will come naturally after an hour or so of riding. The purpose of the gears is so that you don’t wind up with not being able to pedal up a hill, or having such and easy time you can’t go any faster. By changing gears, you can maintain a steady RPM on the pedals while the terrain changes.
[Ron White]Get a helmet, put on the damn helmet[/Ron White] There is a technical term for somebody that rides sans helmet. We call them organ donors.
Bike shorts, or biking underwear (with padding) might make getting used to riding a lot easier. You don’t have to wear the spandex, they make mountain bike shorts that look like regular shorts on the outside, but are bike shorts on the inside. I ride in bike clothes because they wick moisture away quickly and are comfortable.
A water bottle is almost a must in the summer and if you start riding for long distances, a Camelback is a wonderful item to have.
If you will be riding at any time except high noon, get a read flashing light for the back of the bike, and consider a white LED for the front. These really help you be visible to cars.
Again talk to your LBS.
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

Let me the first to second Rick’s suggestions. My background, I was a bicycle commuter in Los Angeles (for five years, I didn’t own a car) riding a minimum of a 125 miles a week. The sick and twisted thing was that at the height of my obsession I would then wake up on Saturday or Sunday and think nothing of doing a 50 to 100 mile ride for fun. Also remember, the more you spend up front, the better value you will be getting. Then again, don’t go crazy. I haven’t priced bikes in a long, long time, but I’m guessing about 5 to 7.5 hundred for an non suspension (front or rear) would get you a pretty decent entry level bike these days.

Also, get some coaching or read some books on bicycling. Back when, I was surprised at how complex it can be. Everyone knows how to ride a bike, but not many know how to bicycle.

First, I strongly recommend the local bicycle shop, like others here already have. Their knowledge on how to find a bike that fits you is worth whatever small premium you might pay.

You might want to ask about weight. As I alluded to before, get fitted for a bike. You’ll figure out the gears and whatever other bells and whistles come with a bike in no time.

A helmet. Tire patch kit, maybe. Speedometer/odometer if you’re interested in that kind of thing (I like my wireless unit). What you don’t need to get is shoes that clip to the pedals. If you’re just doing this recreationally, which it seems you are, you can wear tennis shoes.

I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing the whole cyclist uniform thing, but what you do want is a pair of spandex-type cycling shorts. You wear them commando style and they help big time to eliminate chafing. I wear regular gym shorts over them.

You’re right there are a lot more questions, but the LBS staff will help you figure out what you need to know.

I’ve never worn any sort of cycling clothes (that is to say, I wear normal clothes; I don’t bike naked), and I’ve never had a problem with chafing. When you first start, your butt will be a bit sore from the seat, but that goes away in a few days or a week.

For the gearing, you want to usually be in high gear for smooth, level surfaces, and if you find that the conditions (slope or roughness) are getting tougher, shift down. And when you’re coming to a stop, you also want to downshift, since it’s tough to get started again from a standstill in high gear. Modern gearshifts are far, far better than what they were 10 or 20 years ago, making this really easy to get used to.

For the hand brakes, the most important thing is to apply the rear brakes (the ones at your right hand) first, and only then to hit the front brakes (left hand). Applying the front brakes without the rear ones while you’re moving can flip the bike.

Learn how to change a tube and always carry a pump, spare tube, and tools with you.

Lights (front and rear) if there’s any possibility of riding in the dark.

[quote=“Chronos, post:5, topic:581608”]

I’ve never worn any sort of cycling clothes (that is to say, I wear normal clothes; I don’t bike naked), and I’ve never had a problem with chafing. When you first start, your butt will be a bit sore from the seat, but that goes away in a few days or a week.

it might be different if you’re doing 100 mile runs but if you’re just commuting and exercising

…accidently split post…

10-20 miles at a time normal clothes will be fine.

Don’t bother with cycling shoes. They’re a pain to walk on, normal trainers will do you fine. Definitely don’t be tempted by the shoes that clip onto the pedal or use pedals with straps on. If you’re cycling in the city you will need to be able to put your feet on the ground in a hurry sometimes.

The best advice i can give for a cyclist is to cycle defensively. Don’t blow lights, especially at junctions, don’t undertake lorries, buses or other large vehicles. In fact assume all large vehicles not only haven’t seen you but are actively trying to kill you.

I’m going to disagree with the no shoes that clip into the pedal crowd - those are one of the best things to help you go faster. For city riding what you want to stay away from are road bike pedal systems, where the cleat is huge and impossible to walk in. If you go for a mountain bike pedal system with a recessed cleat the shoes are as easy to walk in as a regular shoe, and you get used to pulling your feet out pretty quickly (just practice out of traffic first). Edit to note, not talking about mountain BIKE vs road BIKE - a road bike with mountain bike clipless pedals works well in the city, IMO.

Thanks for the advice, everybody.

Are there any particular brands or models of bicycles that I should be on the lookout for?

Totally depends on your budget, of course. It’s hard to go wrong with a Trek. Which model really depends on what you want to do. It sounds like the Dual Sport model would be good for you if you’re mostly riding on road surface but want the ability to do a little off-roading, too.

ETA: The Kaitai looks like it might be right in your wheelhouse…it’s only got 8 gears.

This depends, of course, on how far you’ll be from “civilization” at any given time. Most of the biking I do, for instance, if I got a flat, I could dismount and walk it home. It’d take a while, of course, but so would fixing a flat in the field, and this way, I don’t have to carry all that weight with me.

Bicycle seats were designed by Hitler. They will do bad things to a newbies crotch.

Fixing a flat should take no more than 5-10 min at most.

I carry extra tubes so I don’t have to patch by the roadside.

Regarding pedals and toe clips verses clipless I will suggest a third option; bear trap style pedals and a product called Power Straps. As far as I’m concerned it’s the best combination of all. Basically it is a large stiff strap and runs diagonally across the pedal. You angle your foot to enter the strap and the more you turn your heel in the tighter it holds your foot. To release you just turn your heel out and you are free. Back when I played with clipless pedals for a while then threw them out after almost breaking my shoulder when they didn’t release the way they should have.

I went to a bicycle shop tonight and after looking around at the bikes and accessories, it looks as if I’m going to budget about $750-1,000 ($1,100 including tax) for a bike, helmet, tube, and other accessories. I didn’t talk to anybody yet, just wanted to put the mental calculator in gear on the things mentioned in this thread.

Thanks for everybody’s words. Keep it up! :wink:

Congratulations - you might be the first to Godwinize a bicycling thread. :wink:

You kidding? I think rec.bicycles.* is where I first learned what Godwin’s law is.
For the OP - your LBS can help you with most of what you need, or what you need to know, but learning a little bit about maintenance will avoid extra trips back. Keeping the chain lubed, adjusting brakes or shifters when needed, and getting to understand how the bike ought to feel (and when it isn’t feeling right) will keep it safer and last longer for you.
Also, make sure someone helps you with fitting and wearing the helmet properly. It does you almost no good if it’s not on right.

Your cost of living may vary, but I think I got my current bike for about $400. Granted, that was a fall sale, and you’ll add maybe another $100-$200 all told for helmet, a pump, a spare tube, a patch kit, and a light set.

I would add one suggestion if you are getting any bike with thinner tires than a Mountain Bike:

Get a floor pump. Keep your tires inflated.

Hand pumps won’t cut it for anything but emergency inflation.