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Old 09-23-11, 09:21 PM   #1
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Advice for reteaching my girlfriend how to ride a bicycle. With vintage content!

I've been riding bicycles for most of my life. Took a hiatus my first few years of college but I've been pretty consistently commuting or riding recreationally for the past 5 years. Recently my girlfriend has taken an interest in cycling as well. As I understand it she wants to explore the city and surrounding areas by bicycle as well as using riding to spend more time with me.

To this end I've diligently done some sneaky homework and put together a reasonably nice bicycle that should function just fine for her wants. It's a Nishiki Rally, not sure of the year since I'll be darned if I can find a serial number. The bars, brake levers, fenders, seat, tires & tubes and rear wheel were scavenged from a free Free Spirit. New cables and housing, with the rest of the parts being original. Spent most of my free time this week cleaning, lubing and checking the bicycle over to make sure it's safe and strong.


(Front fork distortion is all camera lens.)

Now, she hasn't actually ridden a bicycle since she was a teenager and although she's still very young (30, but I didn't say that ) I can tell she's going to need some work to get to a point where we'll both be comfortable riding on surface streets.

What I've done is removed the front derailleur so she has a 40t up front and a 6-speed 14-28 in back. This ratio should work fine and she won't have to worry about trimming the friction front derailleur.

My plan so far is to spend a few hours on Sunday tooling around the parking lot at one of our areas many empty and unused former big box stores. Practicing mounting/dismounting, looking over the shoulder, signaling and any other recommended bike skills. After that I figured we'd spend a week or two on our local MUPs and then work up to road riding on roads with a bicycle lane or sharrows and then riding on the road.

Just from test rides in the aisle at Wal-Mart the biggest hurdle I'm going to face is getting her to set the seatpost at a height that is appropriate for her. She prefers to be able to place a foot flat on the ground while on the saddle. This, of course, bunches up her knees while pedaling and does not work very well. Any tips? I planned to start low and slowly work up to the correct height as she gets more comfortable.

I'm going to refer her to some websites aimed more towards women like Terry Peloton's blog since it has very good instructional videos. Any other recommendations? Basic bicycle skills would be nice too, things such as removing a wheel, patching and flat and so on. I've found some good youtube videos but if anyone else has experience with this I'd be more than thankful for adivce.

Any advice on setting up the Nishiki is more than welcome as well. I still have a few more days before I present her with the bicycle.

I may be over-thinking this but I'm just concerned for her safety and want her to embrace an activity I find extremely rewarding and enjoyful.
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Old 09-23-11, 10:42 PM   #2
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Awesome, good luck!

My girlfriend likes this blog (I think the author is a member here?) because it focuses on both practical and, well, girly, aspects of bicycles: http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/

(I like it too).
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Old 09-24-11, 12:11 AM   #3
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I have experienced similar dilemmas in relationship and no, I do not
think you are over thinking it.

My experience is that new riders usually get so frightened riding
in any sort of situation involving cars and traffic that they often
do not persevere.

Your lifetime of riding in various situations (like mine) perhaps makes
us more insensitive to the very real dangers experienced by cyclists
in the USofA. But good luck and godspeed.

I think your plan of gradually raising the seat height is good, but
again, it is probably more important at this stage for her to feel
secure on the bike than to be efficient on it. Your risk is that
she will just quit if she gets really insecure or takes a bad spill.
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Old 09-24-11, 02:23 AM   #4
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I had to go through nearly the same situation. My wife rode when she was in her teens, but hadn't ridden until we met and I convinced her to go on a few rides with her boys and I. This was almost 2 decades later for her. I built up a Trek 830 MTB in her size and she disliked everything about it.
It didn't inspire confidence, too much fiddling, uncomfortable position.
I bought and set up a bike very similar to your Nishiki. She chose the step-through frame bike. A horizontal top tube is a no no for a woman lacking riding experience. Upright back swept bars, lowered seat, and index shifting are other desired points. I installed stem shifters and that got resistance. Newbie riders are anxious to take their hands from the grips.

I think you should swap the stem shifters for thumb shifters or Gripshifters. This one change of indexing Gripshifters gave my wife confidence and made quick strides. She nearly instantly took to raising the seat to the proper height, and rode a frame with a top tube and didn't mind it.
She now eagerly awaits a C&V Schwinn with a standard diamond frame and a GT mtb to be built and fitted.
This is no assurance that she'll want stem/DT/bar-end shifters. But I think once confidence is built, one will be open to try different equipment.
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Old 09-24-11, 07:43 AM   #5
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The Nishiki looks great and my bet is she'll be thrilled. The first of many bikes she rides, as her bike driving skills improve. How about a bell?

She prefers to be able to place a foot flat on the ground while on the saddle.--spoonrobot.
That's what I observe on the daily commute as well, that's the way some women play.
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Old 09-24-11, 07:53 AM   #6
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Echoing what has been said about making her experience enjoyable. Electra is making a fortune selling bikes that you can put your feet flat on the ground. Beginners need to know that they can stop easily without falling over. You can raise the seat up after she builds up confidence. Same with shifting. While you are in the parking lots, just pick one easy gear and leave it, but when you think she is ready to go out on the street, she will really appreciate having thumb or grip shifters. A three speed hub is another option. With just a low for going up hills, a medium for most riding and high for tailwinds, a three speed reduces the number of things for her to think about. An added bonus is she can shift while stopped or coasting. I put together a bike for my daughter to take to college that was similar to yours, but with a three speed Shimano hub. Using the small chainring, will give you a nice range of gears.
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Old 09-24-11, 04:12 PM   #7
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I think that it's easier to learn to ride a bike when you're a kid. You're less afraid of falling, and probably do less damage when you do; plus center of gravity of everything is lower.
Take it easy, that's my advice. Don't start with shifting until she's totally confident with the balance/turning/braking stuff, esp if shifting is friction. A mountain bike or something with 26" wheels and wide (but smooth-tread) tires is less intimidating and less foreign-feeling than a bike 700C or 27" wheels; really! Ride the bike yourself, and make sure that the steering seems really reassuring (some bikes, like those Dutch bikes that seem to be having a vogue) are really scary in the steering department, even for me.
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Old 09-24-11, 04:46 PM   #8
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Sounds fun, and looks like an excellent bike for it -- just read and memorize this post, first: http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2010/...-get-bike.html
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Old 09-24-11, 05:21 PM   #9
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Thanks for the input so far!

I've got a spare 6-speed indexed thumb shifter I'm going to put in later tonight, should work better with the points that have been raised by some of the responses. The Lovely Bike Blog looks very good for her as well, just knowing that other people have gone through the same learning process is always a good boost to self-esteem when doing something sort of new.
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Old 09-24-11, 05:38 PM   #10
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My wife rode with us very little, even though I had made her a bike that I thought was a really easy/comfortable ride. She never really warmed up to the men's frame and trigger shifters. This year I got her a single speed Giant 700c cruiser and she has been out a lot more. I don't know that she even realized she was uncomfortable on the other bike.

I think it's a great idea to start her out in one gear and not worry about shifting. Let her have the seat low if she is comfortable. Raise it a little at a time over a long period.

The seat looks a little far forward to me. Especially if she has the seat set fairly low.
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Old 09-24-11, 05:56 PM   #11
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My guess...after hitting the first puddle or getting caught in the rain, you'll be installing fenders w/better coverage.
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Old 09-24-11, 06:25 PM   #12
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Those fenders were more for looks than anything. I tried to make it closer to her aesthetic conception of a "city bike" because I can't afford a Public Bicycle or any of the current trendy step-throughs. The seat hasn't been adjusted fore/aft, I just raised it high enough so I could pedal around the block and check the shifting.
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Old 09-24-11, 08:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Wahl View Post
I think that it's easier to learn to ride a bike when you're a kid. You're less afraid of falling, and probably do less damage when you do; plus center of gravity of everything is lower.
Huh. My personal center of gravity continues to descend as I get older. Not muscle, though. *Sigh*.

I met my wife after she'd done some organized bike tours. After about a year and a half of dating and riding together, she suggested we join a ride in Oregon- that was Cycle Oregon 4. We just rode Cycle Oregon 24 together.

She's still beautiful, while I'm beginning to resemble a junkyard reject. Dammit.
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Old 09-24-11, 09:18 PM   #14
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Some things you generally don't forget.

Like riding a bicycle.

Among other things.
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Old 09-24-11, 09:20 PM   #15
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Some things you generally don't forget.

Like riding a bicycle.

Among other things.
Don't be so sure about that. I've come this close to forgetting my wife's name. Tattooing it on my arm won't help- I never look there.
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Old 09-25-11, 02:18 AM   #16
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I was in the same situation as your girlfriend when I turned 30: Hadn't ridden a bike since age 17. I thought it would take me a while to get back into it, but it took no time at all. I didn't have to "re-learn" it or anything; the skill was still there after all those years. Couple of months later, I began cycling for transportation in Boston, on my own, and having a great time.

Getting on a comfortable, upright stepthrough bicycle was key for me and it looks like you built up just that for your girlfriend. I think it's the right way to go. And yes, I had to keep one foot fully on the ground when I just started - no big deal, and I gradually raised my saddle higher and higher as I learned to balance better and got more comfortable with the bike.

Good luck to you both and have fun!
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Old 09-25-11, 05:01 AM   #17
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Don't be so sure about that. I've come this close to forgetting my wife's name. Tattooing it on my arm won't help- I never look there.
Just don't call your bike the wrong name. That never ends well.
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