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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 06-27-11, 07:02 AM   #1
QuartzPoet
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Good Riding Habits?

So, I've seen a few posts here and there about "good riding habits", but I haven't actually seen them laid out anywhere. So, if you've got a moment to help out a rookie, what are the good riding habits that rookies need to know? Specifically in the context of road/path biking. For example:

- I've got a 21-speed bike (3 front, 7 back). What's the right way to go up a hill, gear-wise?

- Straight/flat road. Is there a reason NOT to be in the highest gear?

- So far, I haven't been standing when pedaling. Should I be? If so, when?

- Anything else you can think of would be greatly appreciated.

Also worthy of mentioning is that I'm a Clyde; 6'1, 290#, long torso with short legs.

Thank you!
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Old 06-27-11, 07:30 AM   #2
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QP, Google the "bicycle rules of the road" for your state for the fine points. Generally ride to the right, impede the normal traffic flow as little as possible, use hand signals and generally follow all laws that are applicable to motorized vehicles.

You'll develop a sense of how to begin a climb with practice. Generally shift to a lower, not necessarily the lowest, gear prior to the climb.

You don't need your highest gear once up to speed, it's not like a car with an automatic transmission. Think of your drivetrain as not having a high gear or a low gear, but what is themost appropriate gear for the moment. Riding at low cadence and high torque is also bad for your knees. Try to ride at about 50-60 RPM (cadence) in all conditions to start with.

The transition from sitting to standing is important. It is a practical skill, practice it. Getting out of the saddle is good for a position change, rapid acceleration and climbing (I am out of the saddle as much as seated on a climb.).

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Old 06-27-11, 08:40 AM   #3
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Generally, people are most efficient when they spin the pedals at around 70-90rpm. Find your cadence first, then find a gear where you can maintain this cadence.

On a hill, that may very well be your lowest gear, but maybe not.

On the flats, your highest gear is for going fast. If this is your goal, you'll have to shift up to it so you can maintain cadence at the speeds leading up to fast.

Spinning with a higher cadence also improves cardio and saves your knees.

As for standing, generally it's used when accelerating. It does take a little more energy to stand, but mostly it's personal preference.
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Old 06-27-11, 09:17 AM   #4
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Good riding style and habits can be very personal but generally... you should "spin" not mash. A cadence of around 80 is desirable but lower or higher is fine. There is no reason ever to stand and pedal however... its not a bad idea to get off the saddle, especially for long rides and use some other muscles. Also its a good way to power up short, steep hills however... for "fluffy" people you have to worry about applying too much pressure/torque to your pedal and snapping off a crank.

There is alot of literature about the right and wrong way of cycling. My advice is be a polite/aware rider - call out hazards and not ride like only you matter - so do cars and others like pedestrians. Practice using proper cadence (ie its not proper if you bounce on the saddle) and understand there are times to use pwoer and times to use cardio but by and large, cycling is a cardio sport (unless you are a track rider).
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Old 06-27-11, 09:23 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QuartzPoet View Post

- Straight/flat road. Is there a reason NOT to be in the highest gear?
I'll leave the rest for others. And, I concur with what others have been saying about riding in too high of a gear. Strive to keep a cadence between 70-90. Seventy is a good, "lazy" stroll ... eighty is pretty optimal ... and ninety is difficult to maintain for any amount of time if you are not used to it. On uphills, it is not uncommon to go 60 rpm or even less, depending on the steepness. The biggest hazard of pushing too high of a gear is that you'll wreak your knees. Really!
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Old 06-27-11, 09:31 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QuartzPoet View Post
So, I've seen a few posts here and there about "good riding habits", but I haven't actually seen them laid out anywhere. So, if you've got a moment to help out a rookie, what are the good riding habits that rookies need to know? Specifically in the context of road/path biking. For example:

- I've got a 21-speed bike (3 front, 7 back). What's the right way to go up a hill, gear-wise?
You use the gear you need to get to the top in the manner you want. You need to decide for yourself if you want to get there with the least physical exertion, or in the shortest amount of time. Those are your two extremes - lowest gear for the first option, and whatever higher gear you can push for the second. Ride a few hills and you'll learn where along that continuum your preferences lie. Keep in mind they'll probably change as you get stronger and/or lose weight.

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Originally Posted by QuartzPoet View Post
- Straight/flat road. Is there a reason NOT to be in the highest gear?
Yes. Your physical capabilities. I'm 99.9% certain that you're not going to be able to sustain riding in your high gear for an extended period of time on flat roads, unless you have a substantial tailwind. As with hill-climbing, it all depends on your abilities. As others have said, higher cadences are your friend. Find the gear that lets you continue to ride at a reasonable cadence for long periods without exhausting yourself. That target of 50-60 RPM is a good place to start, but you should probably try to work on higher cadences as you gain experience. I was always taught that 90 is a good general benchmark, but as with almost every other aspect of the sport, it's really up to you to tailor it all to your own body's preferences.

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Originally Posted by QuartzPoet View Post
- So far, I haven't been standing when pedaling. Should I be? If so, when?
There's no requirement that you stand at all. Many people do, as a means to generate power, whether for starting up quickly from a stop, or to muscle their way up a hill. It requires a higher gear than seated riding, and finding just which gear that is can take some practice.

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- Anything else you can think of would be greatly appreciated.
Follow the rules of the road. In most states you have the same rights as an automobile, but the same responsibilities, too. If you ride in a group, be alert all the time. Don't ride more than 2 abreast, and don't overlap wheels with the person in front of you. Learn and use the appropriate hand signals. Never, ever, ever ride against traffic, even if it's on a sidewalk. A driver entering from the side and wanting to turn right will never look your direction until you're under their front wheels.
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Old 06-27-11, 12:22 PM   #7
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Get on your bike and do what's comfortable and fun.
Follow the traffic laws, regarding interaction with drivers.
Follow Wheaton's Law, regarding interaction with other cyclists and with peds.
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Old 06-28-11, 07:26 AM   #8
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Thanks all, for the feedback. It's been very helpful.
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Old 06-28-11, 08:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QuartzPoet View Post
I've got a 21-speed bike (3 front, 7 back). What's the right way to go up a hill, gear-wise?

- Straight/flat road. Is there a reason NOT to be in the highest gear?
in all conditions, you should be in the gear that is most comfortable to ride. Its actually better to be "spinning" as opposed to "mashing".. shift gears until you can pedal easily but still maintain speed without having to pedal too quickly. as you ride more you will be able to spin faster. spinning works your aerobic system more than your leg muscles so you can ride longer


Quote:
- So far, I haven't been standing when pedaling. Should I be? If so, when?
no need to stand if you don't need to.. usually this is only done when you need to put more force into a pedal, but if you can lower your gear you might not need to do that
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Old 06-28-11, 10:41 AM   #10
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If you start riding longer distances, standing is a good way to stretch and use slightly different muscles.

I like to stand on some hills just for variety, and to engage my inner quad muscles (important to keep your kneecap aligned properly).

I pedal at about 95 rpm on the flats. When I get to the bottom of a hill, I'll shift down to an easier gear to keep my cadence 80 or higher. If I decide to stand on the hill, I shift up to a harder gear and pedal at about 50-60 rpm; when I reach 65ish, I sit back down, shift down to an easier gear, and get back to pedaling at 80+ while sitting.
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Old 06-28-11, 10:58 AM   #11
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The only things that have not been mentioned already is more of a mechanical nature
First, when shifting, while you need to continue pedaling, let off of the pressure a bit--meaning, don't pedal quite as hard as you are shifting. It is much easier on your equipment and your shifts will be much smoother.

Second, beware of what is known as "cross chain" situations. When you are in the smallest gear in the front (where your pedals/crank arms attach--in cycle lingo the term is "the small ring") you want to avoid shifting into the SMALLEST gears in the back (at the back wheel--in cycle lingo these are called "cogs" and collectively they are the "cassette"). This also goes for the largest ring up front and the largest cog in the back. When you are in this combination the chain has to travel at a fairly severe angle which will wear it and the gear teeth much faster.

Since you said you have a 21 speed drivetrain that means you have 3 rings up front and 7 in back. At a minimum make it habit to never shift into the combinations of 1-7 or 3-1. You might even want to make it a rule to only use 5 back cogs per front ring. For instance: the smallest ring is only used for 1-5 in the back; the middle ring is for 2-6; the big ring is only for 3-7.

Your chain and gears will thank you!
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Old 06-28-11, 11:54 AM   #12
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If you start riding longer distances, standing is a good way to stretch and use slightly different muscles.

I like to stand on some hills just for variety, and to engage my inner quad muscles (important to keep your kneecap aligned properly).

Very good advice +1
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Old 06-28-11, 12:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QuartzPoet View Post
So, I've seen a few posts here and there about "good riding habits", but I haven't actually seen them laid out anywhere. So, if you've got a moment to help out a rookie, what are the good riding habits that rookies need to know? Specifically in the context of road/path biking. For example:

- I've got a 21-speed bike (3 front, 7 back). What's the right way to go up a hill, gear-wise?
Depends on the hill. Definitely gear 1 or 2 on the front, and gear 1-4 on the back. You should try to avoid combinations like 3/1, 3/2, 3/3, and 2/1. This causes the chain to cross over at a weird angle and accelerates wear on the drivetrain. Especially since you're going uphill you will be applying a lot of torque to the pedals, which compounds the problem.


Quote:
- Straight/flat road. Is there a reason NOT to be in the highest gear?
Depends on your cadence. If you're in the highest gear and pedaling at 40-60 RPM, then yes, you are in too high of a gear and should shift down. In general you will hurt your knees doing this. Buy a cadence monitor; try to shoot for 90RPM. You won't be able to at first if you're not used to it; I started at 70 and gradually practiced my way up to 85. Still working on 90.

Quote:
- So far, I haven't been standing when pedaling. Should I be? If so, when?
As a clyde, I would say no. Personally I find that I cannot balance myself pedaling and standing yet. Plus there's the whole "we weigh a lot, what if a crank or pedal breaks" issue. You're breaking a leg if that happens, no question. But as we lose weight the answer will probably gradually change to "yes", and "uphill".
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