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Thread: Which to buy?

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    Member Puddin's Avatar
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    Which to buy?

    I own a Townie Comfort Bike by Electra. I am not comfortable on a bike, never learned as a child, but I want to ride since my knees are going bad. I have a LOT of trouble with keeping the bike under control. I ran off a curb today and fell. Damaged bike and took it to a shop and asked owner what bike he would recommend, given my experience (not much) and skills (few). The owner of this reputable shop said that the Townie is not stable enough and contributes to my inability to keep the bike straight. Makes sense to me. He also said that the size of the tires are making me work harder to get the same distance as others in my beginner's group. I am nervous, hold the bars tightly and have trouble keeping in a straight line. I try to correct the wobble and lose control the other way. Last week I was almost hit by a bus as I nearly lost control in traffic trying to get to a path! I tried a couple of bikes at the shop: Specialized Crosstrail and a Cannondale Road Warrior. Both were easier to maneuver and more stable against my pulling. I know that I am a big part of the problem because I can't keep my hands steady. After two bad experiences, I don't think I can continue with the Townie, especially in light of the comments from the shop owner. Can you recommend a bike that might be stable? A bike good for a beginner? Are you familiar with any of the bikes I've mentioned? Also, what's the difference between the experience with flat bars and the curved? Thank you for your help.

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    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    I think that anything that you have confidence in will be good for you, even the townie given enough time to become adjusted to riding.

    Riding is one of those things that works by muscle memory (probably an incomplete description). It is impossible untill learned and then its "what was all the fuss about" Children do it easily, us adults can take a bit longer but it will happen.

    In your case though it sounds like survival till the learning is complete may be a problem. It scares me to think of anyone having to learn to ride and deal with traffic at the same time. How far is the bike path from you. Would it be possible to walk the bike partway there. Are there any large parking lots nearby that you can ride in on Sunday mornings till your comfortable on the bike.

    Relax.........your going to have fun.

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    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Those comments from the bike shop are hard to believe. The Townie was designed to be easy to ride, by people who aren't experienced riders. A very large percentage of Townie owners are people who haven't ridden much in years. It's "foot flat" riding position, wherein one can place both of their feet flat onto the ground while sitting on the saddle, is preferred by many inexperienced riders. I've ridden Townies a couple of times and found them extremely stable.

    It isn't a particularly fast bike, which is due more to the riding position than the tires/wheels.

    Does this particular bike shop sell Electra bikes?

    Now that said, it doesn't mean it is the most stable bike for everyone. The Specialized Crosstrail is a nice bike. It a bit like a Townie in that it has a relaxed geometry, although not quite as much as the Townie.

    The Road Warrior is very different than a Townie or Crosstrail. It's a more aggressive, more forward leaning riding position, fitness hybrid. Many inexperienced riders struggle to ride these bikes, finding them less comfortable. But again, that will certainly vary from rider to rider. It's a nice bike if someone is comfortable on it. While not equal in performance to a road bike, it's a pretty fast bike.

    I'm surprised they skipped over the Cannondale Adventure series, which is the next step up from a comfort hybrid like the Crosstrail.

    In terms of riding position and how the saddles and handlebars are configured, the steps are:

    Crank Forward (Super comfort) -> Comfort -> Standard Hybrid -> Performance Hybrid -> Road Bike
    Townie -> Crosstrail -> Adventure (or Specialized Globe) -> Road Warrior (or Specialized Sirrus) -> Road bike

    I would want to take a long test ride before jumping from a Townie to a Road Warrior. That's a big change. But it might be the right thing to do. No way for us to know.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

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    When I decided to get back into cycling I went to the LBS and tried out a few bikes. I ended up with a comfort bike and I tried quite a few. The Giant Suede was a strong contender at least for a daily rider. I agree they aren't as fast as some of the road bikes and Hybrids I tried but they are a lot easier on the back and should I say the sit bones. I went for comfort over speed. I am lucky however that there are bike lanes on most of the streets close to my house and they are pretty wide.

    I agree with just about everyone else that it is necessary to try out the other bikes mentioned before deciding the Townie is the whole problem. If a person is not relaxed it matters little what he is riding he will not be comfortable.

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    Senior Member deraltekluge's Avatar
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    Stay out of traffic until you get better at riding!

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    Senior Member Rober's Avatar
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    This may sound silly to you now, but its hard to imagine you not liking the Townie after you have had a chance to practice starting, stopping, maneuvering, and generally handling it. Yes, it is a heavy upright bike and it is not built for speed or agility, but it is stable. Try going to a large (empty) parking lot and doing some laps around it. Make yourself an imaginary "obstacle course" and practice steering and making deliberate turns at a moderate speed. Gradually increase your speed over the same course. I think part of the problem is that you are going too slowly, and that you are very cautious right now. Once you build some familiarity with the bike you'll do fine. It won't take as long as you think, but you have to be willing to try. Then try a few blocks in traffic.

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    Member Puddin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddmaxx View Post
    I think that anything that you have confidence in will be good for you, even the townie given enough time to become adjusted to riding.

    Riding is one of those things that works by muscle memory (probably an incomplete description). It is impossible untill learned and then its "what was all the fuss about" Children do it easily, us adults can take a bit longer but it will happen.

    In your case though it sounds like survival till the learning is complete may be a problem. It scares me to think of anyone having to learn to ride and deal with traffic at the same time. How far is the bike path from you. Would it be possible to walk the bike partway there. Are there any large parking lots nearby that you can ride in on Sunday mornings till your comfortable on the bike.

    Relax.........your going to have fun.
    You hit the nail on the head: I've lost confidence in the bike and in myself on the bike. Believe me, I won't go back near traffic until I can at least control whatever I'm riding on. I've been sufficiently frightened. I do live a few blocks from a path and I plan to walk the bike there. It's a small hike down and back, but that's what I'll do. On Sunday a huge city park is blocked off, and that will be my regular ride for a while. I joined a beginner's group for women, but some of the rides are too much right now. You remind me about that muscle memory concept. This will be the second potentially life-threatening thing I've learned in my 50s. I learned how to swim, after trying for many, many years, at the age of 52. I hope it won't take me that long to ride the bike safely. I tell you, this learning things you should have learned in childhood is tough...but eventually fun, as you pointed out. Thank you for taking the time to provide your comments and insights.

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    Member Puddin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post

    I agree with just about everyone else that it is necessary to try out the other bikes mentioned before deciding the Townie is the whole problem. If a person is not relaxed it matters little what he is riding he will not be comfortable.
    You are so right! I know that the Townie isn't the real problem. I wish it were. Relax is a key word and something people have been telling me to do for 50 years now. It's a key to this for sure, as it has been with my late-in-life swimming that I mentioned earlier.

    Thanks so much for your supportive comments. I look forward to reporting back here that I can at least ride in a straight line when I need to.

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    Member Puddin's Avatar
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    Those comments from the bike shop are hard to believe.
    I was surprised, too, and chose the Townie for all the reasons you mentioned. Consequently, I was feeling particularly frustrated. There is no denying that the other bikes were easier, even with my limited skills to keep straight. Psychological effect probably.

    Does this particular bike shop sell Electra bikes?

    Yes, they do. That made me feel more comfortable with his comments. That he just wasn't trying to sell me only what he sold---which is kind of how I ended up with the Townie.

    The Specialized Crosstrail is a nice bike. It a bit like a Townie in that it has a relaxed geometry, although not quite as much as the Townie.
    That's good to know.

    The Road Warrior is very different than a Townie or Crosstrail...
    Again, very helpful

    I'm surprised they skipped over the Cannondale Adventure series, which is the next step up from a comfort hybrid like the Crosstrail. I'll ask about that.


    In terms of riding position and how the saddles and handlebars are configured, the steps are:... Thanks so much. I think that as we age, we tend to over think things. I'm guilty, but I want data and information to compare. This was great.


    I would want to take a long test ride before jumping from a Townie to a Road Warrior. That's a big change. But it might be the right thing to do. No way for us to know.

    Believe me, I'm going slowly. Beginning with joining this forum and gathering information.
    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

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    Member Puddin's Avatar
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    Stay out of Traffic!

    Stay out of traffic until you get better at riding!

    As the young people say, "True That!"

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    Senior Member Rober's Avatar
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    Let us know how you are doing once in a while. I am almost certain you are going to love riding a bike after a few more weeks and some careful practice. Bike riding is the most enjoyable form of exercise and socializing I know, and I think you will soon agree. I hope you keep the Townie - whenever I see one I think, "What a great bike."

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    Senior Member RoyIII's Avatar
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    I would keep the Townie and practice riding away from traffic. Just get right back on the darn thing and master it. You are not going to find a more stable one. Personally when you are up to it you should try the Amsterdam. That's the Electra bike I like the best. I can pretend I'm riding in Holland. No, don't let that bike freak you out, get back on it!

  13. #13
    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    OK, Puddin, in your defense...

    I own an Electra Townie, bought for my wife. It's the least ridable of all the bikes I own, which includes a Lemond Buenos Aires, a GF Wahoo, and a Trek T1000 tandem. The only time I ride it is when it looks really lonely or when I want to embarrass my son or ride and drink coffee from an open container at the same time. I think it's not very maneuverable at slow speeds. I don't really like the bike.

    Get a good hybrid, or better yet, a road bike with relaxed geometry.

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    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    It does sound like you just need to get out and ride. Find someplace that has an empty parking lot in the evening or on weekends, like a school or business. Just ride around the lot. Pick some obstacles or spots to maneuver around, like light poles. Weave back and forth now and then. Ride a figure 8. Just ride, ride, ride.

    No reason to go out onto the streets until you are ready.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

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    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Weak Link View Post
    or better yet, a road bike with relaxed geometry.
    Sure, rub salt in my wounds.

    I've been back riding since Sept '06. Probably have about 1500 miles since then. I own a mountain bike, two hybrids, a flat-bar road bike, and a recumbent. I still can't ride a relaxed geometry road bike with any confidence - I'm an accident waiting to happen when I ride one. I find the riding position so uncomfortable and the bike very difficult to control.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

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    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    Just reflecting my love affair with the Lemond, at least until I run it off the road and injure myself....

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    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Two of my worst road bike riding experiences were on LeMonds, both new '07 bikes. One was a Reno, I forget what the other was. I remember getting out on the hoods of that Reno and feeling like I was stretched out of shape, had almost no control of the bike. Got off of it within 1 minute because I was afraid I was going to kill myself.

    Of course, the problem was with me, not the Reno.
    Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 06-15-08 at 08:55 PM.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

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    Member Puddin's Avatar
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    Still on the Prowl for a new Bike.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
    I'm surprised they skipped over the Cannondale Adventure series, which is the next step up from a comfort hybrid like the Crosstrail.
    Thanks for this tip. I visited the LBS and asked about this series, and they were out stock. However, they are expecting some in and I'll go for a test drive this week. I tried a "Specialized Vita Sport" and I really, really liked it. A little pricey for my tastes, but if it feels best, I'll go for it. My little toodle in the parking lot was easy and I was able to relax a bit. It is designed for a woman's body--that geometry thing. The handle bars are a little smaller, which I like. I was able to steer with not much wobble.

    I feel like summer is almost over, especially because I'll be out of town most of August. I hope to get my bike soon, so I can enjoy it before the riding season is over. I figure living outside of D.C., I can ride until October. I prefer riding in hot weather.

    Thank you again. Everyone on this list has been great, and I look forward to reading the new posts everyday.
    Our task must be to free ourselves ...by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. - Albert Einstein

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    My wife refuses to try, or even to discuss trying to ride a bike. She's afraid of falling.

    I have to give you credit for hanging in there. Soon you'll look back at this thread and laugh.

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    Hey Puddin, by an chance are the handlebars the problem? Are the handlebars on your Townie too wide for you? Could you have the LBS swap handlebars and let you ride for a while to see if there is a difference in your steering ability? I have a Giant Suede which seems to be extremely stable at low speeds and it is very similar to a Townie in geometry. I had to practice riding in empty lots for a time before I would ride near traffic last year. Also, now I swapped my flat wide bars for tourist handlebars off of an old Schwinn and feel even more comfy and confident.

  21. #21
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Puddin' I'd like to suggest you do a google on the words "counter steering". All two wheel vehicles use this inbuilt trait to both balance and steer the bike. It may well be that your instinctual skill and higher level car driving skills are at odds with each other and this is why you're having trouble steering the bike.

    Altering the style of bike to get different geometries doesn't change the fact that if your steering skills are confounded by conflicting messages in your brain that you'll end up riding in a hesitant and wobbly manner.

    Now this is very likely to start a HUGE argument because this is an extremely hot topic but I'm pretty sure from what you're describing your riding skills to be like that if you read about and then go and practice the DELIBERATE and CONCIOUS use of counter steering that it'll make you a better and more able rider. But the key is to conciously push the right grip to go right and the left grip to go left. This includes when you're balanced in a turn. If you're carving around in a right turn you actually push the left grip to go left and straighten up the bike. Once you're doing it conciously with good control you'll find that your brain will file this new reactions into the instictive bank and it'll come more naturally to you.

    You see, riding a bicycle is sort of like balancing a broom handle in your palm. You need to keep getting your palm back under the broom handle if it starts to tip. And if you want to move the broom handle and yourself from "here" to "there" you need to actually make the handle tip towards the way you want to move to get it started. Then you follow the handle until it's where you want to be. Then to get it back in balance you push your hand ahead of the falling handle to get it back into balance.

    The bike works the same way. You actually tip the bike to start a fall on purpose then you steer into the turn to balance it. Finally you steer FURTHER into the turn to lift the bike back up to vertical.

    Each and every turn is broken down into these same three phases as when you're balancing that broom handle. A)The deliberate roll into the lean by pushing on the grip towards the desired turn. B)Countering this deliberate roll by turning INTO the fall. And C) the recovery where you overcorrect for the turn by turning even further into the turn to move the bike back under yourself and roll it back to vertical by pushing on the grip on the outside of the turn. And yes it is all backwards to how you steer a car. And that's why it can often give some folks troubles with conflicting messages to the muscles if you try to rely on instincts and early childhood experience combined with your car driving experience.

    If all this sounds like Greek then I'd suggest you need to practice it and play with it in a safe area. Don't take my word for it at face value but read what I've typed along with looking at the other google results including some videos about this and then go and conciously try applying it yourself. I know that if you approach it with an open mind and let the bike show you that it'll be a "EUREKA" moment. I'd be very surprised if you don't end up being a more capable rider with better bike control skills as a result.

    I'm going to go and get my Nomex flame proof underwear on now because I know this whole topic verges on religious belief with some. I just ask that you read about it and then go and try it using deliberate and concious bar control consistent with counter steering principles. I'll let the bike speak for itself.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  22. #22
    Member AngeloOldSpokes's Avatar
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    not sure if this has been mentioned and I hope you don't throw a pie in my face for making the suggestion... but how about adult training wheels for a few weeks?

  23. #23
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AngeloOldSpokes View Post
    not sure if this has been mentioned and I hope you don't throw a pie in my face for making the suggestion... but how about adult training wheels for a few weeks?
    Training wheels turns a bicycle into a quadracycle and blows the learning of the proper steering practices out of the water. It'll confuse more than help because suddenly the bike can't lean or do any of the other issues that it needs to do to respond like a single track vehicle does.

    I've taught a few adults to ride that had never ridden a bike and showed absolutely no ingrained talent for it. I taught them by taking off the crank arms and lowering the saddle so it turned the bike into literally a push bike. That got the issues with pedalling out of the way for the time being.

    Then I taught them to push off and coast and when they start to fall to turn into the fall. A little practice with that and they were doing well at both turning a fall into a turn and by turning even more into the fall to pick the bike up back to vertical.

    At some point I went out and put some half filled pop bottles out and
    told them to ride in figure 8's around them. Two of them got it right away but the other after some shaky attempts asked me "how do I make the bike turn where I want it to turn?".

    I answered "You've been turning your falls into turns by turning into the turn, right?"

    "Yes..."

    Then what about turning away from the way you want to go to make the bike start falling that way and once it tips into the turn you want then do what you've already been doing?"

    .... Big grin on the student "that's all there is to it?"

    "yep...."

    20 minutes later we put on the pedals and she started learning to get going with the pedals. But now she already knew how to steer and balance and so the pedal transition wasn't too bad.

    This last one was the LBS owner's wife. All his attempts to train her with training wheels and some other folks had failed. She's still riding enthusiastically some 9 years later and often thanks me again for showing her how after all the other attempts had failed.

    If you look at what I was telling her and the others to do this is what counter steering is all about.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

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