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  1. #1
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    10 years since I've been on a bike, how do I get back on?

    It has been 10 years since I've cycled anywhere, and I wasn't very good back then. About 5 years ago I was admitted to hospital with an ear infection that has thrown my sense of balance slightly off, so I'm kind of worried about getting back on a bike.

    A friend has kindly given me her old bike, that has been sitting in storage for about 10 years, but when I sit on it, I am literally 'en pointe', only the tip of my big toe touches the ground if I stretch (if I'm in my work shoes, I can't touch the ground with both feet). The saddle is as low as it can go. Should i try to relearn with this bike, or should I buy a smaller one? (I'm only 5ft 1, I'm not sure I'll find a decent used bike)

    The plan was to cycle to and from work, about 2 miles each way, and around the village over mostly paved roads, and if I was still cycling in 3 or 4 months to buy a newer, better bike (the bike I've been given was a very cheap, basic model when she got it 13 years ago, not that I'm going to refuse a free bike). By then I would (hopefully) be good enough to start following the trails in the woods 3 miles away.

    I really want to get in to cycling, and bad equipment won't help, but on the other hand I don't want to spend masses of money on a bike I'm only going to ride twice...

    So, opinions. Do I stick with the slightly too big but free bike, or buy a different one? If I do buy, what should I be looking for (I'm in the UK, with one LBS that gave the free bike a safety tune up but didn't really advise me, if that makes any difference)?

    Also, gears confuse me. What sites/videos give the best explanation on how to use them?

  2. #2
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Hi and welcome to Bikeforums. You really need a bike that fits. You should find a reputable bike shop and they will help you select a bike. Where do you live? Maybe your city has a bike Co-op that helps cyclist by offering reliable used bikes.
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  3. #3
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
    Hi and welcome to Bikeforums. You really need a bike that fits. You should find a reputable bike shop and they will help you select a bike. Where do you live? Maybe your city has a bike Co-op that helps cyclist by offering reliable used bikes.
    Agreed. Relearning on a too big bike is going to be a disaster.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Dave Cutter's Avatar
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    If you think about it.... you might have a similar sized friend or relative that cycles... and can instruct you on their bicycle. A little one-on-one help is always a great way to learn. And could be a fun outing mixed with a coffee or tea.

    I wouldn't worry about balance. Bicycles seem to roll along very well all by themselves when given a good push. If you can walk across a room... your balance is good enough to bicycle about town.

    Welcome to the forums and to cycling.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Brennan's Avatar
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    I think any experienced cyclist will agree with the above responses. If your return to cycling involves riding an ill-fitting bike, you will probably not like it, and you might even hate it. Also keep in mind there is more to bike fit than being able to reach the ground with your feet, although that is an important aspect, especially if you are not a very experienced rider. You should be able to find a good bike in your size that is reasonably affordable, but be sure to budget for a few accessories like a good lock and front/rear lights. If, after riding for a while, you decide that cycling is not your thing, at least you will know for sure that the bike itself wasn't the problem. Then you can resell the bike for a good price since it will likely still be in good condition after "3 or 4 months." Whatever money you lose in the transaction can be viewed as a very good price on a long-term rental.

  6. #6
    Senior Member LongIslandCamper's Avatar
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    What kind of bike is it? If you're up on the saddle then you probably don't want to be able to have both feet touch the ground anyway.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LongIslandCamper View Post
    What kind of bike is it? If you're up on the saddle then you probably don't want to be able to have both feet touch the ground anyway.
    I'd agree with that statement were it not for the "10 years since I've cycled anywhere" thing.

    Cycling 2 miles to work and back is going to cost out pretty well so just make sure it's enjoyable so you'll want to stick with it. Find yourself a small frame bike that you like.
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

  8. #8
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    Well, given that we're talking only about a 2 mile each way ride, I'm inclined to say just ride it. But, given that you've got a balance issue, I'd say to consider the route through the village you need to take and whether it involves multiple stops where stability when stopped may be a problem. If you're rolling, I'm guessing you'll be fine, but if you're perched up on one tip-toe at a light, perhaps after a vigorous effort or on a breezy day, it may be a prime condition for the balance thing to cause a fall. Perhaps you could get accustomed to dismounting and standing, but if the seat is slammed to the frame, you've probably got no stand over, eh?

    So there's no question that a smaller frame would be more appropriate, however, I wouldn't let the absence of that stop you from riding. Plenty of people ride around on too big bikes, and probably most of us, when we were kids, were too eager to get on our parents' bikes, but did that stop us?!

    Also, I think the approach to start gradually with the ride to work and build from there, without too much "hard target" expectations is a great way to ease into cycling again. Once you've got the wind in your face again and feel the thrill of gliding down the road, I'm sure you'll start thinking more about where you want to take the sport/hobby, about what your needs will be, and what kind of bike would suit you best.

    Bon chance!
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

  9. #9
    Senior Member spdracr39's Avatar
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    It shouldn't take but one or two rides to decide. After that get the correct size bike.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    If you're rolling, I'm guessing you'll be fine, but if you're perched up on one tip-toe at a light, perhaps after a vigorous effort or on a breezy day, it may be a prime condition for the balance thing to cause a fall. Perhaps you could get accustomed to dismounting and standing, but if the seat is slammed to the frame, you've probably got no stand over, eh?
    The stand-over height, I think, is a good question. Can the OP straddle the bike, off the seat, with both feet on the ground without impacting the top tube? It sounds like it might be a woman's style bike, so if it's a step-through frame, the size may be "okay for now." I'd say ride the bike on the weekends and get a feel if the OP's balance is sufficient to ride and if the OP likes it, then start a search for another, better fitting, bike.

    The "dismounting and standing" approach to stops is worth learning and might get the OP past the feeling that the bike is way too big.
    Last edited by Altair 4; 03-19-14 at 10:39 AM. Reason: Grammar and Spelling

  11. #11
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    I'd agree with that statement were it not for the "10 years since I've cycled anywhere" thing.

    Cycling 2 miles to work and back is going to cost out pretty well so just make sure it's enjoyable so you'll want to stick with it. Find yourself a small frame bike that you like.
    I remember when I first started riding and also remember a few roads that were Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when it comes to Rush hour. Roads that now seem rather calm were scary when I first started. Hmm come to think of it one such road was even scary one time when I was at my peak. (Rush hour from hell, Ventura Freeway was closed in the San Fernando Valley during rush hour, half hour commutes because 2-3 hour commutes. Any road that was moving had drivers flying).

    But back to my point. I'd suggest the Op ride the route to work when traffic is light and then pay attention when driving to work to see if he would be comfortable. I think the odds are he will be. But 2 miles while painfully short is plenty long enough to have 2 or 3 nasty spots.

    Going back to when I first started riding I think it is entirely possible that the commute in rush hour traffic could well be scary for the OP right now and a piece of cake in 6 months. The saddest thing would be to try it just a bit too soon and get *** shy.

    OP, remember the flip side, things that you are not comfortable with right now you should reexamine in 2-6 months. It can be shocking how quickly you gain skill and confidence.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Kinda funny that the common simile for something you don't forget once you've learned it is "It's like riding a bike."
    Ride more. Fret less.

  13. #13
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    There is likely nothing wrong with this bike's fit. She just has this girl mentality that you need to plant your feet on the road while seated. The cure is a crank forward bike. Otherwise, just learn to hold the brake on and stand on the pedal to dismount or stand on the curb when possible. Get someone to verify the safety of the adjustment and lubrication.

    I hope it's not a walmart bike.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
    There is likely nothing wrong with this bike's fit.
    Might be right but where's your evidence?

    Right now the potential buyer FEELS that the bike is too big. So how do you suggest she overcome this feeling so that she can be comfortable riding a bicycle?
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

  15. #15
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vctrlysn View Post
    It has been 10 years since I've cycled anywhere, and I wasn't very good back then. About 5 years ago I was admitted to hospital with an ear infection that has thrown my sense of balance slightly off, so I'm kind of worried about getting back on a bike.
    The best "bike" for you (and many other challenged riders) is an adult tricycle of which there are many model with and without gearing.

    I own a trike for those times my balance isn't 100% which (sigh) is often anymore.
    My preferred bicycle brand is.......WORKSMAN CYCLES
    I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

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  16. #16
    Senior Member Brennan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LongIslandCamper View Post
    What kind of bike is it? If you're up on the saddle then you probably don't want to be able to have both feet touch the ground anyway.
    That's a fair point. I misread the OP and assumed they were talking about standover height, not reach from the saddle.

  17. #17
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightshade View Post
    The best "bike" for you (and many other challenged riders) is an adult tricycle of which there are many model with and without gearing.

    I own a trike for those times my balance isn't 100% which (sigh) is often anymore.
    Also consider recumbent trikes. Same principle, but cooler.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Dave Cutter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
    I hope it's not a walmart bike.
    Quote Originally Posted by Vctrlysn View Post
    ....... If I do buy, what should I be looking for (I'm in the UK,
    I don't think Sam Walton ever got around to building in the UK... but I you make me wonder if the Chinese export the lower price BSO's to other nations besides America.

  19. #19
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    IMHO - 10 years, no problem. Potential balance issue - no problem. Bike not fitting - safely - a concern.
    You need a bike that fits more appropriately. Your "untall" size is only a tiny speed bump. Many bike shops, at beginning of cycling season (very soon) have an annual sale of bikes brought in my customers. Bikes have a way of accumulating in storage, their owners have the shop sell their unused bikes, proceeds often go to a new bike. Often these sales are a good way to look at various bikes and find a smaller frame model.
    ride long & prosper

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