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  1. #1
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    Skills question directed at late learners

    I would like to direct this to those who started riding a bike later in life.

    I'm 55 and learned to ride at age 49, did not ride a bike as a kid. All of my riding is in the country on roads with little traffic. Sometimes on state highways with traffic but wide shoulders.

    I sometimes have a problem keeping my pedal stroke going, examples:

    A vehicle approaches from either ahead or behind me, sometimes I get tense and stop pedalling for a moment. I find it helps if I purse my lips and breathe out against resistance.

    I have difficulty going from coasting down a hill to pedalling. If I'm coasting, and the hill gets less steep or a headwind is slowing me down, I cannot easily restart pedalling again. Sometimes I have to wait until I have slowed down a lot before I can make my legs go again.

    I do best when I ride every day, and worst when I do not ride for several days. I also seemed to do well after watching the Tour de France on tv for 3 weeks.

    I ride with both hands on the hoods, cannot ride with one hand, or eat/drink while riding.

    I was wondering if any other "late learners" have experienced these problems, and how they have tried to resolve them.

    Thanks.

    Bill

  2. #2
    My name is Mike, not Cal
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    I'm 19, and first learned to ride a few months ago.

    In regards to no/one-hand riding, I think part of it has to do with the bike. For instance, I learned to ride on a road bike, and couldn't take one hand off the bars to do anything. With my current bike (mtb), I can easily take my hand off (although I haven't tried eating or drinking).

    So I think it's easier to do things on certain bikes. But whatever bike you ride, I think you'll certainly become better at "tricks" with time.
    "I got my lips chewed off by a dingo!" --David Letterman

  3. #3
    Geezer Member Grampy™'s Avatar
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    Most of your problem is probably confidence. A lack of it. Ride baby ride...... The part about "Needing to slow down before pedalling again" my be gear selection. Instead of slowing dowm, up-shift to a smaller (faster) gear.

    As you ride more Your confidence should improve.... if you are on a stretch of trail with no one around try taking a hand off the handle bar while coasting, if only for a second or two. You'll get used to it.
    Carpe who?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Red Baron's Avatar
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    Trainer helped me to maintain pedal stroking, as did my Fixed gear. Hard to get used to, but sure helped me alot. I agree with Grampy, as you ride more your confidence will improve. BTW- try to ride were traffic is MINIMAL.

    Good Luck!!!
    RB
    **Fate is a fickle thing, and in the end the true measure of a person is not fate itself, but how they master it**

  5. #5
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    You've been at this for six years, and obviously ride fairly regularly. I know from my experience in teaching mature-age adults that several factors do come into play.

    The first is bike fit. Does the bike really fit you? Bikes that are too big for a rider can instill a great sense of instability.

    Do this non-bike exercise: Stand with your legs crossed over, and your arms crossed so they are against your chest. Close your eyes and keep them closed for 30 seconds at least. If you feel yourself losing balance and cannot correct it, you may have a balance issue, most likely related to inner ear issues.

    Are you confident in how you use your gears. I am constantly pedalling, even on downhills. When you reach the top of a hill, make a special effort to keep pedalling and progressively change to higher gears so you still feel pressure on the pedals. You can still brake as much as you wish, but it's important to feel at least a light pressure on the pedals. I am not sure whether you are saying you can't start pedalling again because you physically are unable to move your legs, or because you can but you don't feel pressure on the pedals and spin wildly, the bike feels unstable. Whichever it is, by continuing to pedal, you should overcome this problem.

    The fact that you don't feel confident in lifting your hands off the handlebars leads me to suspect that bike fit is a significant issue and that your sitting position is not stable, and perhaps the top tube and stem combine so the handlebars are too far away from you. Also, a bike's design just leads it to feel squirrelly. You don't mention what type of bike you ride.

    I think most people get tense at times with motor vehicles passing them. Much depends on how close they get, but having been in your part of the world a couple of weeks ago, the drivers generally seemed pretty good. If you ride very close to the edge of the sealed road surface, make an effort to move to the left about a foot. That will give you extra space to act as a perceptual cushion. Make a special effort to keep pedalling.

  6. #6
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    First of all. You are doing fine. I've been riding since age 5.

    One handed riding or hands-free can feel spooky. The best thing is to just practice in a parking lot or something. Go hands on/hands off with longer and longer periods of time hands off. It's mostly an issue of trusting yourself. It may also be the bike. My commuter bike is a lot spookier than my road bike. A lot of that has to do with how much rake is in the forks. I've been told that many people feel more stable when they are pedaling.

    We all have our good and bad days. Just keep riding. And on days that you don't ride, sit back and imagine that you are. Visualize being on the bike. That may be why watching TdF helps you.

    The transition from a hill is kind of strange. A lot depends on how steep the hill is. Locally, ours are pretty steep. Even going to my top gears I can't spin them fast enough to make much difference when going down local hills and trying to get up there from the low gear I was in climbing the hill can take a bit of shifting. I have no problem coasting. I earned it.

    What you might want to do is pedal lazily while you are starting down and shift to the gear that you think you'll want at the bottom. Practice helps of course. Change gears near the top, while you are still going relatively slowly.

    I'm not sure what to do for your fear of being passed by a car. Do what helps, don't get too concerned. After a while you will develop a feel for traffic coming behind you and be able to judge. You'll be able to hear how far to the left they are. Is there anything wrong with pausing? Some people act like it's a crime.

  7. #7
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bw77
    I would like to direct this to those who started riding a bike later in life.

    I have difficulty going from coasting down a hill to pedalling. If I'm coasting, and the hill gets less steep or a headwind is slowing me down, I cannot easily restart pedalling again. Sometimes I have to wait until I have slowed down a lot before I can make my legs go again.

    I do best when I ride every day, and worst when I do not ride for several days. I also seemed to do well after watching the Tour de France on tv for 3 weeks.

    Thanks.

    Bill
    I'll answer one of your problems- On downhills- I keep pedalling. Do not take a rest or even put in a lot of pressure.(Untill the speed gets above 35 where I cannot keep up with the pedals). I just keep pedalling with enough force to say I can feel the resistance of the rear wheel. Then when I am on the flat again- as I slow down I can actually put pressure on the pedals to keep the speed up. Then as my speed drops- it's down on the gears until the next uphill where I naturaly have to put more pressure on the pedals.

    Regular riding does improve you but beware of "over doing it" I ride on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at present. Saturday is spent checking the bike and normally a quick 10 miles at a leisurely pace to make sure that the legs still work.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  8. #8
    Email for new group DnvrFox's Avatar
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    http://sheldonbrown.com/gloss_an-z.html#angle

    Angles

    In general, bicycles with shallower, "slack", "relaxed" angles (lower numbers) tend to be more stable and comfortable. Bicycles with steeper, more upright angles (higher numbers) tend to be manuverable, but less comfortable on rough surfaces. Shallower frames tend to have longer wheel bases than more upright frames; bicycles with shallower head angles normally have more fork rake. All of these factors contribute to the riding characteristics cited.
    Your problems with riding with one hand or none may be directly related to the geometry of the bike, not your riding skill.

    My wife learned to really ride when she was about 60 - although she had ridden a bit before, she never rode much as a kid.

    However, there are some things that come naturally to someone who has ridden since childhood which still seem a bit foreign to her, particularly when it comes to any kind of risk taking. But, nine years later, she still rides a mean bike!
    Gone - email me at dnvrfox@aol.com for new group of old 50+ folks

  9. #9
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    Thanks.

    Thanks to all for your replies and comments.

    The bike is a Bianchi San Remo road bike with 700c wheels, sold as a light touring bike. I believe the bike is the right size for me, I had the fitting done at a Serotta dealer, using their fit cycle. The original stem was a 10cm, I felt too stretched out on that, tried an 8cm, and now ride a 9cm that feels good. I have the bars just a little below seat level, using a Nitto stem.

    The only thing I would want to change on the bike is the bottom bracket drop. This bike has a 65mm bb drop, which is the lowest I have seen listed for a road bike. Many road bikes have a 75mm or 80mm bb drop. I am not sure how a lower bb would feel to me, but it is something I would like to try.

    I do sometimes feel too high up on the bike, although the seat is not too high. When I was riding in the rain the other day, I had to remove my glasses, and that made the road surface feel much closer to me, and I felt more relaxed. And a lower bb would lower me a little closer to the ground.

    Thanks, again.

    Bill

  10. #10
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    How far below the seat are the handlebars?

  11. #11
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    The bars are about one inch below the seat.
    Last edited by bw77; 09-18-06 at 07:38 AM.

  12. #12
    Elmira>Taiwan>Elmira flatlander_48's Avatar
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    A note regarding passing vehicles:

    Remember that when a vehicle passes you, it it already too late to hit you from behind. Only 2 things can happen at that point: the vehicle can move over (suppose the driver had to swerve due to a stray dog crossing the street) or it can make a right turn in from of you. In the first situation, if the vehicle is going much faster than you it will be past you quickly and the possible danger will be over. If the speed differential is small, slow down a bit so that it is no longer beside you. In the second situation, if you are near a cross street or driveway listen or watch for signs of the vehicle slowing down to turn. In this case, slow down enough that you are no longer beside the vehicle. Even though the driver may have seen you before he started to pass, he may have forgotten that you are beside the vehicle but in the blind spot.

  13. #13
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    This is timely, as I posted on this last Sunday. Teaching an old dog new tricks

    I started to ride a "2 wheeler" a the age of 7 or 8. I've ridden thousands of miles, alone and with clubs. I'm 58 now. Last weekend for the first time I took a class on how to ride a bike and it was tremendously exciting. Some of the skills may have been too advanced for you, but we also covered basics like how to brake properly, how to ride one-handed, how to safely look behind you without swerving, what to do if the chain slips off the front rings, how to cross railroad tracks safely.

    My point is that while 99% of cyclists are self-taught, many of these skills are teachable, and just like with anything proper instruction can avoid a lot of trial and error and mistakes.

    Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we're fortunate to have various classes of this type, including an "Academy" aimed at beginners, emphasizing skills in riding in traffic and simple repairs. I don't know where you're located but I suggest checking out cycling clubs within a hundred mile radius, maybe someone does that, and it would be worth the trip.

    Good luck to you!

  14. #14
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Don't feel bad, Bill. I didn't walk until age 30 months, and I wasn't able to balance a bicycle until age 12. I have always had zero self-confidence in physical activities involving large-muscle or hand-eye coordination (but I can touch-type 120 words per minute), and, even with practice, I am never going to be able to ride with the elegance, ease, and grace of "normal" folks. I know my limitations and compensate for them, which means that occasionally I have to stop to wait for a gap in fast traffic, in a situation in which a more competent cyclist might smoothly negotiate his/her own gap. I am kind of slow on descents and through tight curves, but I compensate by being a halfway decent climber.

    Keep practicing and measure your progress against the only competitor who really matters -- yourself.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
    Capo [dschaw'-poe]: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
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