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Old 09-06-10, 08:56 AM   #1
dpeters11
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How important is a "power start" for a new rider?

I'm working on my wife learning to ride, with a League of American Bicyclists certified instructor. She now can get started and balance on the bike if she starts from a seated position, but is having a real problem with a power start.

We're planning mostly on trail riding together until maybe next year adding some road touring events. I know the power start is the best way, but how important is it to use that method from the beginning?
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Old 09-06-10, 09:06 AM   #2
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I'm assuming "power start" is stepping on the pedal before moving mounting the bike? If so then it's not important at all, in fact I believe sitting down before pedalling is considered the safer way.
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Old 09-06-10, 09:07 AM   #3
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Your wife has the right idea.
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Old 09-06-10, 09:16 AM   #4
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That's it. I've read Sheldon Brown's thoughts on it, that it is the only real way to get enough speed from the start without wobbling and to be able to start on an uphill. That seems mostly important for road cycling though.
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Old 09-06-10, 09:25 AM   #5
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I searched Sheldon Brown for 'power start', but no results. What is it?
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Old 09-06-10, 09:33 AM   #6
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With a step thru frame its pretty un needed, with a load of camping gear on the rear rack, it's impossible

Pushing off, left foot on the pedal, for momentum, and swinging the right leg over the saddle is something
to learn, but not essential , seated , pedal at the top of the power stroke, will do..

Another useful skill , more advanced. will be running with the bike.. and leaping on the saddle ,
landing on the inside of the Rt leg .. putting both feet on the pedals and accelerating ..

And dismounting, without losing momentum.. swinging right foot over saddle and onto the ground

passing to the right of the left foot, which is still on the pedal, and breaking into a natural stride ..

a run if you want , for getting up a short, steep hill that you cannot ride up,

or stepping over say a fallen tree. or leaping an intentional barrier or several, placed on the course

[they do that in Cyclocross Races]
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Old 09-06-10, 09:42 AM   #7
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I searched Sheldon Brown for 'power start', but no results. What is it?
He didn't call it a power start, that's what her instructor calls it. But he describes it in his proper starting technique.
http://sheldonbrown.com/starting.html

One other aspect of this, she has a pedal forward bike, a lowstep Trek Pure.
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Old 09-06-10, 11:47 AM   #8
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I see; well, not being able to start by yourself without help is kind of a problem I guess. Not a crucial problem maybe if you are always there to help your wife, but something she should try to get over eventually if possible imo.
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Old 09-06-10, 01:14 PM   #9
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I see; well, not being able to start by yourself without help is kind of a problem I guess. Not a crucial problem maybe if you are always there to help your wife, but something she should try to get over eventually if possible imo.
She can get herself going from the seated position, but is wobbly until she gets enough speed. It's starting from a more standing position that's giving her trouble. I guess my main question was should we continue working on the start until she can do that, or just move on to good turning, working with gears etc.
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Old 09-06-10, 02:00 PM   #10
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Just get going and ride wherever you want would be my advice. Small things like that will take care of themselve eventually imo.
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Old 09-06-10, 04:52 PM   #11
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How about this: use the 'stop sign start' -- one foot down, one on the pedal, and to start, you stand and weight that pedal, letting the saddle slide under you as you bring the 2nd foot up to the other pedal. Since I ride clipless, it's the way to go.
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Old 09-06-10, 06:50 PM   #12
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I don't start from the power position either. Can't get the hang of it and I'm tried of falling trying to learn it.

I start from the saddle now. I put the right pedal in the 3 o'clock position then I push down on it while simultaneously pushing off with my left foot.

There's a little wobble but not a lot. The big disadvantage I have found is that I'm not pedaling at the full seat height because I gotta have at least the ball of my left foot in contact with the ground to be able to push off.

One of the features of the crank forward bike (I assume that's what you meant when you said "pedal forward") is that riders should be able to have both feet relatively on the ground. Yet they should still be able to achieve the effective leg extension needed for efficient pedaling.

However, I do get the impression, just from looking and sitting on a few crank forwards, that the rider is in a more "laid back" position than usual. Under the circumstances, starting from a "power start position" may not be the best since the sitting position is a little further back on a crank forward.

In the end, since she is still learning the basics, I'd just concentrate on that for now.

P.S. How is your wife doing on the Pure "crank-forward" bike? You know one of the big features of it, supposedly, is that the rider can have both feet on the ground while still on the saddle. This is in contrast to having to get off the saddle or lean the bike to one side with a non crank forward bike. However, beyond this feature, I'm curious to know about the handling? I may get one at my LBS but I'm waiting for the end of the biking season to get it, assuming it is still there.

Last edited by SunnyFlorida; 09-07-10 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 09-06-10, 09:17 PM   #13
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She likes it, actually we got two of them, though eventually I might go with something like a Trek FX and try out road tours. But we're likely to mostly do path riding, and I've taken mine to the post office and grocery and the path around the local airport. I think the crank forward helps her knowing she could quickly put her feet down if she felt like she was losing balance. That's pretty much the reason we got them.
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Old 09-07-10, 02:09 AM   #14
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I have a CF bike, and I start from a seated position with a pushoff from the ground. It's not really surprising that the geometry tweaks on the CF bikes lead to some technique changes.
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Old 09-07-10, 07:16 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by dpeters11 View Post
I'm working on my wife learning to ride, with a League of American Bicyclists certified instructor. She now can get started and balance on the bike if she starts from a seated position, but is having a real problem with a power start.

We're planning mostly on trail riding together until maybe next year adding some road touring events. I know the power start is the best way, but how important is it to use that method from the beginning?
This is an interesting case, because I think most of us learn to ride and develop our confidence on a bike when we are kids. Sure, we may not develop good techniques at that time, but we learn to balance and have that youthful fearlessness that lets us get into, and respond, to challenging situations. Through this process, most kids learn how to ride a bike pretty well.

As an adult learning to ride, she's probably a lot more fearful and less committed to the activity (in terms of concentration), and so she's probably also a lot more careful. Is that how you'd characterize her mental state?

If so, I'd say that it's probably going to take a lot more time and work for her to develop the confidence and competency to ride with surety...which is exactly what one needs to pilot a bicycle safely. Practicing the "power start" is essential, I think, not for the sake of the "power start," but for developing core confidence in bicycling.

By the way, when you say "trail riding," I presume you mean paved bike/multi-use paths (MUPs) and not singletrack, right?

Keep her practicing the power start. It's an important element of safe riding. I think.
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Old 09-07-10, 09:37 AM   #16
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This is an interesting case, because I think most of us learn to ride and develop our confidence on a bike when we are kids. Sure, we may not develop good techniques at that time, but we learn to balance and have that youthful fearlessness that lets us get into, and respond, to challenging situations. Through this process, most kids learn how to ride a bike pretty well.

As an adult learning to ride, she's probably a lot more fearful and less committed to the activity (in terms of concentration), and so she's probably also a lot more careful. Is that how you'd characterize her mental state?

If so, I'd say that it's probably going to take a lot more time and work for her to develop the confidence and competency to ride with surety...which is exactly what one needs to pilot a bicycle safely. Practicing the "power start" is essential, I think, not for the sake of the "power start," but for developing core confidence in bicycling.

By the way, when you say "trail riding," I presume you mean paved bike/multi-use paths (MUPs) and not singletrack, right?

Keep her practicing the power start. It's an important element of safe riding. I think.
She certainly was starting out. She's a lot less fearful now, and we only started two weekends ago. She's had two or three actual falls, but gotten back up and tried again. I did realize we should have gotten her a beater, as it seems right now her biggest fear is damaging or scratching her bike. Fortunately she's mostly to the point of being able to stop herself from falling. I'd been looking at adult training in the past, and some of the advice on forums and a LBS was to push her down a big hill and keep doing it until she didn't fall. I didn't think that would really work with her, plus as you say, an adult learning is different from a kid. They're used to falling a lot, got more rubber bones, and don't fall as far. Plus they don't feel they lose some dignity if they end up on the ground.

Yes, the trails I'm meaning are shared use pedestrian/bike paths. We're lucky enough to be fairly accessible to several, including one that goes at least 70 miles, adding more if Cincinnati's bike plan is actually followed through on in the next 20 years.
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