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  1. #1
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    Learning to ride: My brain is wearing me out.

    I began the summer with the best of intentions. My parents got Meals on Wheels delivered for a while and I noticed on the site that you could do deliveries by bike. Yep. They loan you a trailer, help you hook it up, give you the lunches each day, and away you go. Seemed like a great way to provide a service to the community and get exercise. Only problems were my lack of bike and that I hadn't ridden since I was about 7 years old. No big deal. I had spent 6 weeks as a volunteer in a bike shop- starting from scratch- when I found the perfect bike. A 24" Schwinn Varsity. Bike acquired, all that remained was re-learning to ride. And that's where the much bigger trouble started. I'm not afraid of falling; I've got excellent brakes and I heal fast. No, the hard part is getting my competitive comparing self out of the way. Nearly every time I oversteer or fall over or catch my pants leg, I think "What the hell? I've taught a dozen 5 year olds to do this and it only took them half an hour. I've driven a car through Seattle traffic during rush hour. I'm 2 days away from 51 so what is wrong with me?" I only got 1 1/2 hours of practice in before I was too tired to lift my leg to put my foot on the pedal and so frustrated I was almost in tears. Is this common? Is it age-related? What's the best way to get past it?

  2. #2
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Ride---Ride and ride.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


    Spike Milligan

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bikey Mikey's Avatar
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    Yes, ride, ride, and more riding. When I got back on a bike after 30 years off, it took a little bit to get the confident riding back. As for your pant leg, I would get a strap or pant clip to tie/cinch the pant leg so it doesn't get caught. If you are a female(thinking Ramona nick means female), where Capri pants or shorts(good for males too).

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    Find a gentle slope that you can coast down hill on. If you are falling, lower your seat until your feet are dragging on the ground. Now coast down the hill with your feet skimming along the ground. Once you master this then put the feet on the pedals and ride on level ground. You will begin to feel confident with your riding, at this point you raise the seat back up to the correct height and hammer down.

  5. #5
    Senior Member gcottay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    Ride---Ride and ride.
    Or you could go for the unabridged version:

    Ride
    Ride often
    Ride at your speed
    Ride at your distances
    Ride relaxed

    Enlist your competitive comparing self in the BIG contest: Can Ramona have great fun on her bike?
    George
    Laissez les bon temps rouler

  6. #6
    A might bewildered... Dudelsack's Avatar
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    Sounds like normal stuff. If you mave to Portland your speed will improve on average of 2MPH.

  7. #7
    Casually Deliberate
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    Just re-read Catweazle's tips for newbie riders. I've been trying to stay off the grass but he advises learning to ride on it. My bike has been attracted to it like a magnet so maybe the bike is smarter than I am.

    Oh and I love Dudelsack's tag line. Reminds me of when I first started belly dancing classes and would whip up my shirt on the slightest provocation to show off my abs.

  8. #8
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Just ride. Ride as much as you feel like riding and no more. Before long, you will feel like riding more and more.
    Last edited by BluesDawg; 09-05-12 at 11:00 PM.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  9. #9
    Older I get, faster I was con's Avatar
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    Sorry, a different take....My experience is most folks in their early 50's don't have the level of balance problems you are describing when getting back on a bike. Ya might want to see your GP and get checked out, tell him/her about your balance issues.

    Could be nothing at all; would not hurt to make sure there is nothing else going on.

    Good luck to you

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    First, remember that you're not doing something competitive - except with yourself. You only have to be "functional", not a pro racer or a circus gymnast-cyclist.

    There's a distinct possibiity that you are riding all-tensed-up. This could relate to the oversteering problem. Easy to say, harder to do - try to relax. Look where you want to go and the bike will find its way on its own. Relax - don't think about it.

    As far as catching your pants, try standing up on both pedals simultaneously and then sitting back down --- could solve the snagged pants problems (unless your talking about catching your pants legs in the chain/chainrings, then try a pants leg wrap). If you're meaning you snag the crotch of your pants as you swing the leg over the saddle, try different pants or lower the seat a bit?

  11. #11
    Has opinion, will express
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    I've developed and delivered courses for people just like you, and despite the well-meaning but misguided advice of people here, don't ride, ride, ride while you are learning.

    Take your early sessions in short takes. 10 to 15 minutes at the most. You've already found 30 minutes is a big ask. You admit you are trying to cram all this learning into a short period. What is happening is that the stress of your frustrations and efforts is mounting layer upon layer, until you are so frazzled after 29 minutes, you can't do anything.

    There are routines to riding a bike. They have to be learned.

    If you are having trouble even balancing on the bike, have the shop where you volunteered remove the pedals, and lower the saddle so your feet are flat on the ground when sitting on it. Then start scooting using your feet. Graduate to a downhill slope when you can scoot 10 or 20 yards.

    The most important thing to remember here is to look to where you want to go. DON'T look down, but choose a fixed point ahead of you on a wall or a tree, and aim for it. That helps no end in balance.

    When you feel confidence that you can scoot downhill, and use the brakes to come to a stop (keep your fingers on the levels are all times but avoid grabbing them hard if you feel you are going off course, instead squeeze them gently), put the pedals back on.

    You do need to get a little speed up here to help your balance. It takes special skill to balance a bike at 2 mph with your feet on your pedals, so you need to scoot along a little faster than that.

    Then report back here on your progress.

    Oh, and tuck the cuffs of you pants into your socks to keep them from getting caught on the chainring teeth, cranks or water bottle cages.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  12. #12
    Senior Member az_cyclist's Avatar
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    Just keep riding, Ramona. At some point you might switch to bike shorts (to eliminate the cuffs getting caught). It does take a bit to develop fitness and endurance. If you enjoy it, that is the main thing. There are all types of cyclists who ride at all speeds. The common thread is we love cycling

  13. #13
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    I am 6 feet tall and down to 150 lbs and I still don't see an ab after 4 years of yoga and bike riding. I may be the only person in the world to have no abs at all.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim p View Post
    I may be the only person in the world to have no abs at all.
    One of the other mechanics and I were talking about how people rave because Michelle Obama has arm muscles and wears sleeveless clothes. I said she has "cheater arms." I didn't mean she's fooling around; I meant she built those muscles using weight machines. I think that makes them less legit than if you get them moving bikes, turning a wrench, vacuuming or some other organic activity that involves dirt.

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    How is the riding progressing? Are you riding no hands yet?

  16. #16
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ramona_W View Post
    Just re-read Catweazle's tips for newbie riders. I've been trying to stay off the grass but he advises learning to ride on it. My bike has been attracted to it like a magnet so maybe the bike is smarter than I am.

    Oh and I love Dudelsack's tag line. Reminds me of when I first started belly dancing classes and would whip up my shirt on the slightest provocation to show off my abs.
    Need pics ... !

    So in this new pursuit, it seems you need to ride nearly all day on hills with a significant load on the bike. If you're feeling wasted after 1.5 hours that is a pretty normal thing. You do need to improve your conditioning to do this good work, aside from possibly needing to improve cycling skills. The way to do that is not to work to exhaustion every day. That route leads to overtraining, overstressing some aspect of your body, and likely injury or illness. You need to somehow make the effort easier and pace yourself. If some kind of "work, work, work, rest" routine can be managed, it will actually improve your progress. The rest, or recovery, allows your stressed muscles and tissues a chance to grow back what has been broken down.

    The level of effort should be kept below panting or losing the ability to converse as you go. Working all day at this level will result in endurance improvement, probably a lot better than going up to the lactate threshold (sore muscles while working is one symptom). This is what Gcottay meant in his posting.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by az_cyclist View Post
    Just keep riding, Ramona. At some point you might switch to bike shorts (to eliminate the cuffs getting caught). It does take a bit to develop fitness and endurance. If you enjoy it, that is the main thing. There are all types of cyclists who ride at all speeds. The common thread is we love cycling
    bike shorts or pedal-pushers.

    Rowan's advice is excellent. It's much much harder to balance a bicycle below 5 mph than above.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim p View Post
    How is the riding progressing? Are you riding no hands yet?
    I'm not. I have been doing a good bit of practicing. Saturday I several times got going fast enough to feel a breeze and to think "This is so freakin' cool! I wish I've been doing this forever!" (That last sentence wasn't quite right. I know when I took French and German there must have been a verb tense to express the desire to have been continuously doing something one hasn't been doing and there must be one in English too. Beats me how you write it though.)

    One thing I've learned is that what muscle memory I have was obviously formed on a bike with a coaster brake. I kind of knew it had to be based on the time frame but it was really brought home by my immediate impulse to pedal backwards when I want to slow down or stop. This does not work on a Schwinn Varsity and I need to learn to use the real brakes in case I ever get going faster than Flintstoning is going to enable me to stop.

    Between volunteering in the bike shop and learning to ride, I'm acquiring a few minor wounds from... Trying to ride with the seat too far forward and catching my cropped pants on the handlebar, vigorously scraping both ankles at various times with the rat-trap pedals, neglecting to fold in the kickstand before flipping a bike over and scratching my stomach. Nothing really impressive though. Yet. (Not like the still visible 30 years later line on my finger from trying to slice cheese and meat for sandwiches in a moving car or the gravel under my skin caused by a European motorcycle accident.) We'll have to see what future riding brings. You gotta love a good scar with a battle story to go with it, huh?

  19. #19
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    Don't know if anyone here cares of even remembers that over a year ago I was trying to learn to ride a bike. On the off chance that anyone does, here's an update. It looks like I may have finally gotten the hang of it about ten days ago. What it took was wanting to no longer be in a mixed relationship- cyclist and noncyclist- and a bike I really loved and felt comfortable riding. Oh and figuring out a way to distract my brain so it would stop criticizing my every move. Long story shorter: I rode to a nearby park last Sunday on an 18" Avigo Knockout which is a very pink BMX bike. This week I moved up to a 20" Magna single-speed with gorgeous newly swapped-in purple rims. I added front and rear brake, repacked the bearings, and removed the kickstand. (Yes, I'm still volunteering at the bike shop.) Thursday, I did the drive-through at Muchas Gracias on this bike and this morning I rode it to and from breakfast. It'll be a while before I consider myself a proficient rider but I'm out there, I'm on my way, and I'm already scoping out the next bike to add to my stable. Maybe an older Trek 240 we've got here that's begging to be made a project.

    Thanks for all the encouragement. It took a while to come to fruition but in the end it has helped.
    Quote Originally Posted by halfspeed View Post
    Earmuffs!!! This is a family forum, miss!

  20. #20
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    That's wonderful. I'm glad you persisted. One day you'll be riding down the road and realize that some miles have flown by and you didn't even notice.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  21. #21
    Pedo Grande Popeyecahn's Avatar
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    Congrats! I sense that in moving to a smaller bike (24"->20"), your confidence has increased due to the overall feeling of stability and control that would come with a bike closer to a proper fit. How tall are you by the way?
    And tell my mama I'm a hundred years late
    I'm over the rails and out of the race...

  22. #22
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    I'm 5'2 1/16" and I have a 28 1/2" inseam.

    I think another thing that helped was riding something without drop bars. I was wearing the cropped pants someone suggested and I had a tendency to catch them on the bars on the Varsity. I tried it again last week when I felt a little more comfortable and while I didn't stuck I'm still not a fan of them. Maybe someday... I *am* curious to see how the Trek 240 will handle when I get done with it. I rode one of the 20" bikes Columbia Sportswear collaborated on and it felt too sedate compared to the Magna. The Magna is kind of squirrely, which I like, and the guys were telling me that since I'm doing a lot of my learning on it then any other bike my size should be a breeze to handle.
    Quote Originally Posted by halfspeed View Post
    Earmuffs!!! This is a family forum, miss!

  23. #23
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Huge grins. Standard English has no durative tense, BTW. Weird, huh? Black English does, however. "She be riding now."

    My wife is about your size and loves her MTB modded with drop bars, brifters, and road slicks.

    And yes, love is totally unreasonable.

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