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Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.

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Old 09-29-07, 11:55 AM   #1
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A Thread for Beginning or Returning Bicyclers - Welcome

Please share your thoughts about what is important for 50+ returning or beginning bicyclists.

Here are mine:

Some thoughts from someone who started bicycling "seriously" 10 years ago at age 58:

You will progress much more quickly than you think you will. A 15 mile ride may seem impossible right now. It won't be too long before you whack off 15 miles as a warm-up.

It's more about the motor than the bike. You can start to get in shape on almost any decent bike that "fits" you, and waiting a bit to spend lots of money on a new bike is beneficial, as your thoughts about what kind of riding you want to do most of the time will change, as will your thoughts about "bike fit" and other issues.

Don't be surprised if you find yourself going through a cycle you never suspected. 1st, you may think of a "comfort bike and short rides around the neighborhood." But then you will hear about "hybrids" or "mountain bikes" and you might start thinking about longer and different rides. All of a sudden you may discover a road bike and think about a metric century, or riding your age. And then you may think about a very expensive road bike, or perhaps a recumbent. Most of us have gone through this cycle - don't be a bit surprised if you do, also. Many of us own multiple bikes.

Don't ever ride a bike to get fit. Ride a bike for fun and get fit in the process. If you ride to get fit, you will not be riding very long.

My first bike was a 1998 Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike with slicks (smooth tires). About $300. I rode it for thousands of miles, and still ride it. It was the bike I used for my first "Ride the Rockies" 353 mile week-long tour of Colorado passes in 1998, several months after I started riding.

FYI, here is an important thread on osteoporosis, which is associated with bicycling.

Most of all, have fun. Use this forum for advice and encouragement. Introduce yourself when you feel comfortable.

Good riding.

Last edited by DnvrFox; 07-09-08 at 05:33 AM.
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Old 09-29-07, 12:02 PM   #2
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Welcome: Jump right in, the water's fine! Try a lot of bikes before you buy one, and don't spend a lot of money on that first bike. You'll probably want to get a different bike once you figure out what you like to do, and this is easier to do if you didn't spend a lot of $$ on that first bike.
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Old 09-29-07, 12:46 PM   #3
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Distance riding- be warned but not put off. Follow the link below for suggestions .

Warning on that 1st. distance ride.
How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.

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Old 09-29-07, 01:21 PM   #4
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This topic is close to me right now, having come back to riding three months ago after 12 years of a sedentary life.

For the returning cyclist, especially one who used to race, I'd suggest taking it very slowly but ride often. Increase your mileage and your effort as long as it doesn't hurt, but if you have pain, back off because your muscles are likely to be stronger and get stronger faster than the ligaments and connective tissues. I'd also recommend re-adjusting your goals because trying to compete with your former self will only make you unhappy. Embrace all the other aspects of riding - social, familial, touring, and simply being out and enjoying the outdoors. It's a good life and a great activity.

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Old 09-29-07, 03:21 PM   #5
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Take my advice, even though you won't understand at first. Get yourself a white bike.
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Old 09-29-07, 03:23 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Digital Gee View Post
Take my advice, even though you won't understand at first. Get yourself a white bike.
You and wobblyoldgeezer make quite a pair!
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Old 09-29-07, 03:52 PM   #7
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My chip-in: Don't worry about distance for a few months. Instead, have fun, ride frequently with rest days when you need them, stay patient, check in here lots, share your questions and achievements (we're not about speed, machismo, kool threads, $6K bikes..........we're (and right now you) are about becoming better than whatever we used to be, staying healthy, and having a ball.

Most people here, even the the few predatory OCP types like Digitial Gee, started or returned to cycling at mid-life. The more ya ride, the better ya get-- with a little common sense and encouragement from your friends here.

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Old 09-29-07, 06:11 PM   #8
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I think it's a great idea!!

The contributions so far have been right on.

Ride as many days a week as time allows. If you have just 20-30 minutes each day to ride, you'll be surprised how the benefits add up each week. Every little bit will build up your strength and endurance (my "brick by brick" philosophy). Increase your distance and time by only 10% weekly. Be very patient with your progress and don't give up, it takes time to build and repair muscle at this age. Just feel the wind in your face and think about how much fun it is to be a kid again. In a few months you will be amazed at how much you've accomplished.
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Old 09-29-07, 06:52 PM   #9
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Welcome back to bicycling! If you stay with it you are very likely to be much happier and healthier than before. Just a few things to remember:

1- Take it easy at first. Don't expect to start off riding long rides, riding fast and feeling great while you ride and after you ride. You will need a little time for your body to adjust to the activity and to adjust your bike to you.

2- Find someone to help you set your bike up so that you can be as comfortable as possible. It is important that your bike fits. It is very hard for people on a message board to understand what is wrong and tell you what to do about it. We will try. But someone standing in front of you can do a better job more easily.

3- Be patient. You can't buy instant fitness or comfort. As long as you are not doing something completely wrong or have terrible equipment, you will start feeling much better after several rides. Buying new saddles, new handlebars, new bikes, new clothing etc will come later. Until you get through the initial process of adjusting to this new activity, you won't really know what different equipment you need.

4- Don't think that you need the perfect bike. As long as you are on a bike that fits, that is in good working condition and that is reasonably suited to the type of riding you are doing, just ride it and ride it and ride it. Eventually you may come to the point that the bike is limiting your riding, but not right away.
Bicycling is more about legs, lungs and heart than about frames, wheels, handlebars and saddles.

5- Once you are riding comfortably, you must abide by the overriding rule of bicycling, "N+1".
The number of bicycle you should have is N+1, where N is the number of bicycles you have now.
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Old 09-29-07, 07:53 PM   #10
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Back riding this year on my 1988 DeRosa. I cannot stretch out like I used to, 61, so had a fitting today and found that there is only one solution, Custom. No one makes a 60 with a short enough top tube for my neck and lower back. So I placed an order and made a deposit on a Lynskey, fortunately I can afford it although I may need to work a year longer than planned.
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Old 09-30-07, 08:47 AM   #11
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Figure out what you enjoy about riding and just build on that.......there are lots and lots of things to enjoy so have fun figuring it out!!
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Old 09-30-07, 03:17 PM   #12
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You don't need and expensive bike, but you do need one that is of good enough quality that it will shift properly and you definately need to buy a pair of cycling shorts. And as others have said it is more important to ride frequently than to try to ride far.
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Old 09-30-07, 05:29 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by jppe View Post
Figure out what you enjoy about riding and just build on that.......there are lots and lots of things to enjoy so have fun figuring it out!!
+ 1000 ... and some days/weeks/months have different motivations than others but so long as the motivations are about being on the bike, run the string for all it's worth...

oh, and the N+1 theory is true: now that I have a Surly Long Haul Trucker and an Xtracycle, I'm thinking about the 3rd bike...but it won't be white unless someone gives me a custom 68 cm frame in that color!
They're beautiful handsome machines that translate energy into joy.
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Old 09-30-07, 05:48 PM   #14
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1. If you even entertain the thought of a full carbon bike, do yourself a favor and buy one. You'll sleep better, and there will be some mountain range somewhere that will be glad it didn't have steel ripped from it's side.

2. Try some hills. They make you stronger. Or they kill you. Maybe both.
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Old 09-30-07, 07:31 PM   #15
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1. B.S. to everybody who says take it easy. Ride as often and as far as you can stand it.
2. Have fun while you are doing it.
3. Do not ever decide not to ride because the weather forecast sucks.
4. Buy the best bike you can afford right away, you'll never be sorry you did.
5. Wear a helmet.
It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.
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Old 09-30-07, 07:36 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Terrierman View Post
4. Buy the best bike you can afford right away, you'll never be sorry you did.
5. Wear a helmet.
That should be:

4. Buy a bike you can afford.
5. Buy and wear the best damn helmet you can find, whether you can afford it or not!
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Old 10-01-07, 05:44 AM   #17
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The most important suggestion for a 50+ returning biker is.................

You are unique. A lot of what you will hear in the LBS (local bike shop) and on many forums applies to 14-30 year old cyclists. There are buckets of what to to fit...where to ride...information that may or May Not be appropriate to your situation. Ultimately you will have to make up your mind what fits...what works. Do some research. Ask lots of questions. This forum (50+) is full of some common sense information (and other stuff) about what works for us.

Whatever you do...........get out and ride. Go on, give it a try. Its as good as walking (better) and you will get to see a lot more of the world in the process.
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Old 10-01-07, 05:52 AM   #18
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My suggestions:

1. Determine what you goals are, weight loss, exercise, site seeing or maybe all of these
2. What type of terrain will you be riding, flat roads, bike paths, hilly areas
3. If you are brand new to riding and unsure of whether you will stick with it purchase a bike in the $500-$1000 range based on your budget. If you need to spend less look at a used bike.
4. Depending on #2 determine if a road bike, mountain bike, hybrid or comfort bike is best. Odds are a road bike may not be you best choice if you are brand new to riding.
5. Start out easy, say 5mi every other day and build up your time. Note I said time, as it is more important to be riding for longer periods of time rather than faster speeds, more hills etc.
6. If you want to really get into riding then look at picking up Friel's Cycling Over 50
7. If you find yourself doing >1000 mi per year be prepared to spend more money as you start upgrading
The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard and the shallow end is much too large

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Old 10-01-07, 06:27 AM   #19
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When I first started back I disdained cycling shorts and jerseys. I thought I would look like a poseur. Don't make that mistake. The padding in cycling shorts makes a huge comfort difference. The wicking abilities of cycling jerseys is critical -- cotton is death someone wrote here. Now I am about to try my first DC winter back in the saddle and am exploring appropriate cold weather wear.
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Old 10-01-07, 07:05 AM   #20
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A key advantage everyone has today is the absurdly high quality of bicycles. The performance per dollar is astounding. I doubt that any particular universal hint exists except fit. Fit is crucial, and I only know road bike fit.

So. Road bikes. I'm going to just address performance road biking, because that's all I know.

The most pragmatic and useful (generally) road bike fit discussions appear on Dave Moulton's bike blog. For the older rider, should prove interesting. The bent over position presents a clear problem for new road riders. The position gets one's *ss into things, gives better handling, etc. And is ultimately more comfortable. Competitive cyclist also has a nice fit page:

A few problems for the older cyclist. First, bike shops tend to sell what they have and sell performance road bikes for a younger group of riders. But some tend to automatically fit more mature folks on comfort bikes. So there's confusion. Unless you're very lucky, you have to do the fit. I'll make an assumption that someone looking at a performance road bike either has or is willing to develop pretty good flexibility, can fit about like a performance rider who is 25, and is looking for nice performance, not flashing criterium cornering etc. So. Figure the top tube length, stem length, and handlebar drop. Don't worry too much about the other details, but that stuff is needed for fitting. A little drop to the handlebar really helps comfort and handling.


Most shops fit too big. This is particularly a problem with compact frames.

Compact frames are the ones with the sloping top tube, look small, fit all bodies with few sizes. They're great! But very easy to get fitted wrong.

Geometry. Two main types these days. Racing type with a 73 to 73.5 degree head tube and the "GT" type (my term) with slightly slacker head tube, down to 71.5 degrees. Depending on size. Both seem to work nicely for performance riding so long as the centerline of the most forward handlebar bend is within 1 cm of the axis of the front wheel. This is a trap. Many of the slacker angle bikes have stems way too short, giving lots of understeer and providing less control. I don't know why this is. Let's a rider fit on a frame too big. Anyone driving a performance bike hard isn't going to like the bars back from the front wheel that far. This is really important. Dave's fitting chart gives a good view of this.

An example will show the trap. Let's look at a 5'10" rider. Fits 54.5 cm CTC frame w/ 55.25 cm TT and 115 / 120 stem. I'll pull up the Specialized line. 54 & 56 available. 54.8 or 56.5 cm TT available. Stock stems are 100 mm for both. 100 mm might be too short for this bike! But is it? That's a C-C - so you need to figure the horizonal run. Probably more like 105 given the angle of modern stems. But still, a bit too short. Very likely to understeer with the stock stem. This one is easy. An older rider is likely to run short on the reach, and possible have a slightly farther back saddle. No more 120 rpm up the hills spinning, a bit more laid back. So the 54 cm with a 115 equivalant stem (I'd try a 110) would be where I'd start. I'd also be starting with about and 8 cm drop to the bars: That's a great starting fit for a 5'10" rider. But go into a shop and you'll get the 56, possibly with an 80 mm stem done high rise. Handling is out the window, tension builds in, and the bike gathers dust!!!

Now, the fit on the equivalent slack angle bike, the Roubaix: Surprise, same seat tube angle, slacker head tube angle. This one will fit even better if you can handle a 115 stem, giving effectively 120 reach. The head tube is taller, making getting the drop right easier.

Handling difference: The Tarmac will feel racy, can dive into turns, feels very quick and nimble. Roubaix feels smoother, carves turns, can still be leaned through turns very very hard. But more forgiving. With the long stem! Get the Roubaix with a short stem and it will understeer, feel unsteady, and generally be more difficult to drive.

Take a good hard look at bikes in the pro peloton. Plenty of the support riders are on basic stage race bikes like the Roubaix. Great for long distance smooth riding, can handle the tough parts. Not necessary to have a super snappy handling bike for the average rider. If you're leading out a pack in a criterium, yes, but if you're just running fast along country roads and whipping through normal road turns at reasonable (say, below 40) speeds, then the Roubaix type design is plenty. Only if sized correctly.

Anyway, there's the sizing trap. "You're 5'10" - you need a 56." Well, maybe for a long bodied young fellow to stetch out on and spin like a demon!

Frame Material

I never thought I'd be writing this. Plastic. I've been riding a long time. I've had aluminum, composite, steel, and borrowed Ti. Plastic is the ticket. Folks refer to it as "carbon," but it's plastic. Comfortable, stiff, fast. Just be careful with it, and keep in mind this is for performance road. I'm setting up my commuting bike right now, this morning, and it is aluminum/carbon. I am much less likely to kill the frame doing stupid at 7:30 am. And if I do, it's a cheap frame relatively speaking.

Carbon offers the designer the chance to most effectively contour the behavior of the frame as a whole and build in the right flex. I cannot push myself hard enough to break the carbon frame bikes I've ridden free. They stick. They're also very comfortable in general. Great material.

My second choice would be top-end steel or Ti.

Third choice is aluminum. There's something about even the best aluminum frames that rubs a certain high percentage of longer-distance riders wrong. Usually in the *ss. I've got an excellent AL / carbon frame right here. Fast, comfortable, great handling. But it is still a bit clunky compared to the nice carbon frames, and it's still harsh after 60 miles.


For a performance road bike for a reasonably fit or will be fit person, I'm driven to recommend a carbon compact. The compact runs great out of the saddle, especially up hill. If you're sitting down, no difference. But out of the saddle, any time the bike is flipping back and forth, the compact just feels great and goes like a rocket. Geometry? Doesn't matter too much, but I like the old Colnago approach, slightly slack head tube, long stem. In major brands, the Roubaix, Giant OCR, Madone is a bit racy, but would do (The 520 is tempting - a 21" would be a great commuter for me!); Fuji CCR.

Also, for those with stiffness problems, the woman's bikes with shorter TT are great!

Have fun. I'm riding a tiny bike for me, with a long stem, and a long seat post. Feels great!
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Old 10-01-07, 08:37 AM   #21
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Mandovoodoo nailed it, but I’ll add my 2c.

I started out with a Cannondale hybrid: shocks on seat post and forks, but lighter than on a MTB. This served me very well as a getting back into the saddle motivator. As others have said, ride often and add to your distance. Your fitness will improve quicker than you might think if you keep a regular schedule. As my fitness improved I made changes to the bike; first off I tossed the gel saddle and bought a true road saddle, next I dropped tire size from 32 to 25. These two things made a big difference, but not one that I would have noticed/appreciated when I first returned to riding. I added. Time pedals and bar end grips for more hand positions as my rides grew from 14 mi to into the 20s and time in saddle went from 35 min to 75 min. At the end of 4 months I was ready to move to a true road bike, and with my albeit limited experience I was better prepared to make a more informed purchase. I bit the bullet and purchased a TREK PILOT 5.0. Three seasons later, and riding over 4000 miles a season I LOVE my PILOT. BTW - I have changed out the seat post on the Cannondale to a nonsuspention post and have added fenders, this is now my rain/winter ride.

Soo… the advice to not spend too much on bike no1 is one I agree with, mine was $900 plus mods as described. Don’t go too cheep as you want it to be reliable and to function well i.e. shift/break ($800-$1100). Initially, tires should be 25-28s. These will ride smother and flat less than traditional roadie 23s. (I now ride 23 on front and a 25 rear) Ride often but do not push yourself too hard as some injuries take a long time to recover from and this can be very discouraging, but do add miles as you can tolerate. Most noobies spin too slow – i.e. mash. Learn to spin at 90 rpm, this saves knees and builds lungs… Start every ride with tires properly inflated. Bike fit is VERY important. Purchase bike clothing, it makes riding much more enjoyable. You’ll need to experiment with sizes as they vary from mfg to mfg.- NO COTTON. You’ll need to try on pants so a LBS is the place to get these. EBay is a great place to grab other cloths until you get picky about fit and fabric etc. Wear bright colors to be seen. Learn how to change a tire and carry both a spare tube and pump. Drink before you are thirsty. Carry a cell phone and $5, just in case. Wear glasses, a yellow jacket or fly in the eye at 30mph can ruin a day. Aim for smiles / mile rather than MPH, if it isn’t fun you’re not going to get bit by the bug! Oh, and if you live in a snow belt, as I do,get a good trainer or develop a winter cardio program so that you do not have to start ea spring from scratch and 20 lbs heavier.
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Old 10-01-07, 09:01 AM   #22
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For what it's worth, I'd offer to a new rider or a returner -

If you're not smiling, you're doing it wrong, if you're smiling you're doing it right. Don't get too grim and earnest about having to 'ride right, ride harder, get fit fast'. The most important thing is to like it and to want to do it again.

A ten minute pootle to get coffee is a bike ride. Leading your six year old round the park is a bike ride. Test riding bikes to clarify what you might possibly one day want instead of your yard sale clunker, is a bike ride. (Actually, one of the best kinds).

Maybe, so long as you keep smiling, you might find yourself smiling with a few other friends trying to cover a bit more distance. Or smiling through an organised charity ride. Or building some bike hire into a vacation. Maybe taking a 'cycling for softies' type vacation tour.

And then, guess what, presto-imperceptible-changeo, you're a cyclist. Passed through the 'to do is to be' door.

(That's when the trouble starts. You can't smile unless it really really hurts, and you write to strangers on web sites about just how important white bar tape is).
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Old 10-01-07, 09:51 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Digital Gee View Post
Take my advice, even though you won't understand at first. Get yourself a white bike.
Does it count if I paint it white?
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Old 10-01-07, 10:10 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by tntom View Post
Does it count if I paint it white?
Yep! You appear to understand, grasshopper.
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Old 10-01-07, 11:51 AM   #25
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Clipless pedals are worth it even if you must overcome some intimidation and fear of falling. Practice with them. Think about them before you come to a stop.
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