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Old 05-11-10, 08:06 PM   #1
Yalborap
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So...I'm pretty rusty, and need to improve my balance. A lot. How do I do this?

The title says it all. I dug the old bike out of the garage, finally, and...It didn't work out so hot. My balance was really bad, and coupled with a wonky street, I got maybe 20 feet before I panicked a little and hit the brakes. With my confidence shot, I just walked the thing home.

Now, I haven't ridden a bike in probably close to a decade. I'm rusty at this. But I'm also, if not a grown man, at least well on my way there. I can't exactly pop training wheels onto this thing until I get back up to speed.

Thus, my dilemma. What can I do to help improve my balance and control of this thing, short of the school of hard knocks?

Oh, and would tires without enough pressure make the problem worse? Because I checked them when I got home, and they were only around 10-15 PSI, when the side said they should be around 40-65.

Thanks!
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Old 05-11-10, 08:18 PM   #2
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Put 40-50 pounds in the tires and find a flat smooth empty parking lot. Put the seat down low enough that both feet touch the ground. Propel yourself forward with your feet for a while until that feels OK. Lift your feet onto the pedals and coast for a while. Then raise the seat enough so that you can pedal. Just stay in that flat smooth empty parking lot until it feels OK to ride.

On the other hand, 10-15 pounds of air may have been your major problem - that could cause things to feel not right at all. Airing up the tires might be all you need to get going. Find a good place, as above, to practice, though.
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Old 05-11-10, 08:39 PM   #3
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The seat's already down as far as it can go, unfortunately. I think the bike's just plain too big for me, but I can't exactly afford a whole new one before I can even ride worth a damn...Is there any way to mod it to go even further down, and if so, how expensive would that be?

I'll definitely look for a parking lot like that, either way, and I've already got the tires pumped up properly.
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Old 05-11-10, 09:14 PM   #4
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No practical way to make a frame smaller (if the post is inserted as far as it will go). When you are seated on the bike, does your leg have a slight bend in it with your foot at the bottom of the pedal stroke? If you rock side to side when pedaling, the bike is absolutely too big.

Try to relax when practicing.
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Old 05-11-10, 09:33 PM   #5
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Now that you have enough air in the tires, try your practice riding in the grass; softer landing than pavement if you happen to fall. Freshly mowed, of course, so you can also wear the clippings. (No, not really, just lower-cut grass is easier to roll over.)
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Old 05-11-10, 10:19 PM   #6
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Now that you have enough air in the tires, try your practice riding in the grass; softer landing than pavement if you happen to fall. Freshly mowed, of course, so you can also wear the clippings. (No, not really, just lower-cut grass is easier to roll over.)
I'll consider that, too. There IS a park within walking distance I could go to...

Though I've got to be honest, the fact that I couldn't control the thing properly as all has my confidence pretty shot, and I'm seriously considering looking into something else entirely for my cheap transportation needs... :\ Stupid human brain.
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Old 05-12-10, 12:05 AM   #7
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The secret for me was the phrase, "steer into your fall." If you feel like you are going to fall to the left, steer left. If you are falling right, steer right. You'll need to practice somewhere with NO TRAFFIC and preferably no people watching Once you figure out how to stay up, think about practicing turns. I remember having a hard time keeping my turns tight enough to get around street corners when I was first learning.

Grass is hard to ride on so I wouldn't recommend that but if it works, go for it.
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Old 05-12-10, 03:22 AM   #8
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I'm not crazy about the grass idea either. More likely to cause a confidence destroying spill. Just get some air into those tires before you go any farther. That was probably the cause of the fall. Low speed won't help, either.
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Old 05-12-10, 07:30 AM   #9
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Wear your helmet!

I last rode a bike in 1971, then bought a bike early this year. I know how you feel. I just went slow at first and the feel of a bike began coming back to me after just a few hours. No spills, so I was very happy.

Turns were a bit scary at first also. I found a flat open area and practiced making turns until I felt comfortable. People watching must have thought I was crazy!

It's like most things-takes practice. I ride frequently now.

Best
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Old 05-12-10, 07:40 AM   #10
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Any bike will feel wobbly at a walking pace. That's what's good about getting to a flat parking lot, you can paddle up to a decent speed and just coast till you're going slow enough to stop.
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Old 05-12-10, 09:18 AM   #11
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Falling is part of learning to ride a bike. Practice falling and the learning process will be faster.
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Old 05-12-10, 11:24 AM   #12
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You've gotta just ride that f'n bike, man. It will get a lot better in a very short time. By far the best way to get good at anything is to practice it. There's no way to get better at golf without swinging the clubs, there's no way to become a faster runner without pounding the pavement, there's no way to learn a language without speaking & listening to it, there's no way to learn to cook good meals without working in the kitchen.

Relax, keep at it, and HAVE FUN!
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Old 05-12-10, 12:02 PM   #13
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Learning to ride a unicycle helped me on slow-speed bicycle riding.
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Old 05-12-10, 12:28 PM   #14
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crank the tires up to their MAX pressure then take the bike to a quiet parking lot and practice going straight and turning. Sunday mornings are pretty quiet.

btw: a little under MAX pressure makes the bike more stable and easier to control but you were too low at 10-15!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 05-12-10, 03:34 PM   #15
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Also take the pedals off (15 mm wrench and LH pedal is reverse threaded). This will make it easier to reach the ground without having the pedals bite your shins. Deliberate wobbly of the bars helps get the feeling of the contribution to balance given by steering.
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Old 05-12-10, 04:32 PM   #16
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Extreme low saddle, no air in tires, low speed - Lance Armstrong would fall off of that bike.

Have someone who knows something about bikes help you set up the bike, then go cruise the empty parking lot. You will probably be fine.

It may feel funny until you get used to riding again, but give it a chance.
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Old 05-12-10, 06:55 PM   #17
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Having only 10-15 pounds of pressure in the tires would make the handling really, really sketchy for sure. Also check to make sure that any quick releases on the axles are properly tightened because if they aren't, things get interesting in a hurry as well.

As for sizing, the bike's probably not too big for you if you can straddle the top tube with both feet flat on the ground.

For adjusting seat height, I usually start with the seat set up so that my leg is fully extended at the bottom of the pedal stroke with my heel on the pedal. No, you don't ride with your heel on the pedal, but this tends to give the knee about the proper amount of bend when you ride with the ball of your foot on the middle of the pedal. Note that if your seat height is properly adjusted for efficient pedaling, you will probably not be able to put both feet on the ground at once while sitting in the seat, unless your bike is a cruiser or similar geometry.
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Old 05-12-10, 09:37 PM   #18
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As for sizing, the bike's probably not too big for you if you can straddle the top tube with both feet flat on the ground.
I just BARELY can. As in I feel slight pressure on my manly region when I do it.

Random question: How are tire sizes measured? Just a straight line through the center with a tape measurer, or something more arcane?
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Old 05-12-10, 10:34 PM   #19
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wet grass is slippery and it's easy to fall when turning.

tire sizes are marked on the tire sidewall somewhere, just like the air pressure is.
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Old 05-13-10, 06:57 AM   #20
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BTW - good on ya for getting back on a bike!
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Old 05-13-10, 10:16 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Yalborap View Post
I just BARELY can. As in I feel slight pressure on my manly region when I do it.
It's possible to ride a bike with zero or even negative stand-over clearance, since you tend to lean the bike as you put one foot down. Not something I'd feel comfortable doing, however. In any case, zero stand-over clearance is usually a sign that the frame's too big, unless you have a really strange body geometry (short legs/long torso).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yalborap View Post
Random question: How are tire sizes measured? Just a straight line through the center with a tape measurer, or something more arcane?
There are usually two numbers, designating rim diameter and the width of the tire (eg. 700 x 23, 26 x 1.50). For some rim sizes, these numbers are in mm, for others, in inches.

Everything you ever need to know about tire sizing is here:
http://sheldonbrown.com/tire-sizing.html
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Old 05-13-10, 05:48 PM   #22
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If you ever rode a bike before you will never completely forget it. It's in you for life. Have someone look at the bike and make sure it's working properly and set up correctly for you. Dress comfortably, go to an empty parking lot and practice.

Wear a helmet. A minor, sudden fall can be unpleasant. I'm not getting into another helmet discussion here. It won't save your life when a truck runs you over but in case of a minor spill it can make a difference between a small bump on your head versus a trip to ER to get five stitches.

Don't use clipless pedals or toe straps, just flat pedals and comfy sneakers.

Put the bike in an easy gear, shifting will come later.

Look forward, sideways but never, ever look down on your wheels or pedals. Don't look down even when you're stopped and getting your foot on a pedal: let your foot find the pedal without the help from your eyes.

Don't THINK about your balance, don't think about falling, think about going forward. If you start thinking about your balance you will lose it. Balance on a bike comes natural once a person overcomes the fear of falling.

Before you can learn to ride, you have to learn to stop. Practice safe stopping until you're confident that you can stop your bike. When stopping DO NOT take your feet off the pedals until the bike almost completely stopped moving. Then you take ONE foot off the pedal, lean to that side and put that foot down. The other foot STAYS on the pedal! You'll need to figure which side is your favorite.

Put the saddle low, so you can reach the ground while seated. Relax, loosen up, sit firmly on the saddle, arms relaxed, palms relaxed, easy grip, don't look down. Put one foot on the pedal, don't look down, push with that foot while you let your other foot find the pedal, don't look down - rotate a couple of times, break GENTLY using both brakes and stop. Repeat until you can stop without much thinking. Never, ever look down!!!

The "handlebar grip" thing is important almost as much as the "do not look down" thing if you death-grip the grips and stiffen your arms you're more likely to jerk your handlebar and lose balance. Keeping your front wheel steady is the key to your balance, any sudden moves will upset it. You do that by keeping your arms bent and palms relaxed. If a bike is set up properly it should have a natural tendency to go forward more or less, so you need to remain relaxed.

And yes: congratulations. You're doing a great thing. Take it easy, take it slow, don't get discouraged. If in doubt, post here for moral support!

Oh, if the bike is indeed too large, try to sell it or trade it for something the right size or you may have really hard time, no fun, and pick up bad habits.

Last edited by AdamDZ; 05-13-10 at 06:03 PM.
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Old 05-13-10, 08:17 PM   #23
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I agree with AdamDZ, especially with the part about looking up farther ahead to where you want to go. Whatever point you are looking at is where you will unconsciously steer. If you look down too close to your front wheel, you'll wobble. My friend just started riding again last year and kept running into me because she was watching me as she tried to stop. (We both wear helmets.) After I told her to focus on where she wanted to go, even while stopping, she was able to control the bike way better. Hope that helps. Good riding.
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Old 05-14-10, 02:29 PM   #24
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So how's it going? Any updates?
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Old 05-15-10, 02:55 AM   #25
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Unfortunately, I made my latest try on Tuesday. I had work on Wednesday, had a dental appointment that shot my day on Thursday, and worked today. Plus tomorrow and Sunday. So I can't get back on the thing until Monday.

However, I HAVE thought of some good parking lots with minimal cars, and I have full intentions of getting things done on Monday.
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