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  1. #1
    Giant-Riding Ogre Don Gwinn's Avatar
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    Hi, I'm a hillbilly from the prairie.

    Hi, folks, I'm Don and I'm an oversized redneck from the flatlands of Virden, Illinois. Uh. . . United States of America, if you're from a place where "Illinois" might not be familiar.

    I've always enjoyed a long breezy bike ride, but I don't race and I don't have time to spend hours a day doing it. I gained a lot of weight when I quit playing football (that's American football, the kind you play with your hands, not your feet. Except me; I really just knocked people over) and even more when I got married and adopted two kids. I'm working on losing weight and getting back into shape now, and that's where biking comes back into my life. I reached a peak of over 400 pounds before I finally got fed up. I've now lost a little over 80 lbs., which leaves me with about another 70 to go to reach my initial goal of 250. Before that, I have objectives at 300 and 275 to reach.

    To get back into riding, all I did was dust off my long-neglected Huffy Scout 10-speed "mountain bike." It's been great to ride again, but I want something better. I have time to look around a lot before I get some cash saved up. The Huffy would probably be adequate for what I need, but it has a bent rear rim, the gears don't shift correctly (I think there's something wrong with the "derailleur" or however you spell that word) and it's a rusty, creaky old thing in general. I want something better. Something strong, something designed for the road, something with reliable gear selection so I don't have to chug along in the lowest gear all the time.

    My experience with other tools (cars, guns, knives, power tools) has taught me that I'd rather spend the money for quality up front than deal with all the little cumulative aggravations of trying to make cheap junk perform. It has also taught me that when people are new to a discipline or hobby, they tend to think the cheap model at the Wal-Mart is just as good as any of the "better stuff," and they generally do an about-face after some experience.

    So basically I just want to poke around and look at threads about good bikes for beginners and casual riders.

  2. #2
    One Hep Cat Joe Dog's Avatar
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    Don - congratulations on your weight loss. That's really inspiring. I wish you the best in your journey. I've commuting largely for health and weight control and it's moving in the right direction, plus I have a lot more energy, which my wife tells me makes me more annoying, but I enjoy the pep. I think you would do well to step up to a name-brand bike from one of the better known manufacturers. You are so right - a little more up front cash more than makes up for the frustration of a low-end bike. Lot's of opinions about what's good and what's maybe not as good on the Forums.

    One tip: I have had a lot of luck searching the forums for answers and past discussions - in fact I think I solved the mystery of the creaky bottom bracket earlier tonight thanks to an old post. You might try that if you have a question since you don't have to wait for answers, then post a follow up if you need to.

    Welcome to the forums and congratulations again on the progress.

  3. #3
    Giant-Riding Ogre Don Gwinn's Avatar
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    You know, I did a little searching last night (I moderate at two other discussion sites, so I know the "SEARCH FUNCTION, N00B!" mantra.

    I didn't find much I understood. When I say beginner. . . I'm dead serious. I've heard of GT and Raleigh. The rest of the brands people are throwing around are mysterious to me. And when they start talking about the different components . . . . whew.

    Everybody has their areas of expertise, but this isn't mine. If you needed advice on which knife to buy, whether megafolders are cooler than tacticals, whether D2 holds an edge better than ATS-34, or some other knife question, I could answer that. But choosing between a Kona Dew and a Fetish would make me look stupid.

    I'm just going to continue to poke around and see what I find. When I know enough to ask questions, I'll start asking them.

  4. #4
    One Hep Cat Joe Dog's Avatar
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    O.K., then!!

  5. #5
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    Congrats on the weight loss, Don. I'm in the same boat myself, though my football experiences were limited to being a third string nose guard on my high school freshman team. Many years ago I used cycling to help lose weight (I went from 264 to 205, but never got any lower) and actually got into non-licensed racing. Unfortunately, time demands, a high-stress job and a love of fattening food have combined to push me off the bike and back toward the upper end of the scales as I've gotten older. I maxed out a year ago at 306, and I just couldn't feature that at nearly 50 years old. Now it's a year later and I'll be 51 in a few weeks, and I've hit my doctor's first prescribed goal of losing 10% of my weight. It's time to redouble my efforts and try to get back into cycling again to help toward that. That's why I joined up here, to get some encouragement (and advice on getting a new hybrid so I don't have to feel like a circus elephant balancing on my old road bikes).

    Best of luck and continued weight loss! And if anyone needs 20 year old advice, I'll be happy to pipe up. That's how long it's been since I was a "serious" rider.

  6. #6
    Occasional poster countrydirt's Avatar
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    Don, I am not anywhere near your weight, but I would wager a guess that many of the MTB wheels can handle you. You can probably find a great bike for around or under 6 bills that will serve you well. I only have experience with Specialized and Trek, but would bet that those makers can meet your needs. They are both great makers.

    Now...keep it up. I am proud of you. My wife has gone from 225 to 195 in about 6 weeks. She is getting hotter and hotter. I will ride with her on any day.

    I would ride with you as well, but you live about 1100 miles away. I have to work up to that. I will be there in about 48 months!

  7. #7
    Giant-Riding Ogre Don Gwinn's Avatar
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    She is getting hotter and hotter. I will ride with her on any day.

    I would ride with you as well, but you live about 1100 miles away.
    Hey, that not only rhymed, but also left itself open to a very inappropriate rejoinder. You don't see artistry like that on the forums nowadays.


    (Looks around)

    (Looks around again, checks the next room.)

    Dude, I REALLY screwed up yesterday. I went upstairs after a shower and put on a pair of brand-new warm-up pants--kinda soft, lounge-around stuff. I wasn't sure they'd fit, because they were 2XL, and believe it or not I'm just getting back into being able to wear 2XL stuff comfortably. But I knew my wife had bought them for me, so I tried 'em on and they were perfect. Loose, light, comfortable. . . I was still wearing them when she came upstairs.

    And said "Are those MY pants?"


    It's an uncomfortable moment when a woman realizes her husband has lost enough weight to wear her pants.



    Anyway, here's a question:
    I see references to "MTB" (=MounTain Bike, right?) and "Road Riding" and "Touring." What I do is ride around my local country roads and try to use the bike instead of the car to putter around town with my kids during the summer (I teach school.) So where does that fit? I think what I really want is something pretty comfortable, maybe fairly upright, to ride on pavement and gravel most of the time. I don't think I need a real mountain bike; I wouldn't even know where to ride real off-road terrain around here. The public bike paths around here tend to be gravel at a minimum. I do know the bike I ride now doesn't fit me. The seat doesn't seem to go high enough, but the handlebars are even lower, so I'm always bent over with my weight on my hands, which go numb in short order. Pedaling is weird. Especially when I try to stand, it feels like the circle described by the crank is way too small for me.

    I have to go into Springfield today. I think I'm going to try to stop at R&M Cycling in Springfield, as suggested on another thread, and just have a look at what's out there. I just don't even know what I'm asking at this point. Anybody want to suggest good questions to ask? I'm not going to be buying today--is it acceptable to tell a bike shop that?

  8. #8
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    Hi Don,

    Thought I'd jump in...I'm also trying to get back into cycling after 15 or so years. Also looking to lose about 30 lbs. My 15 yo bike is a touring bike (i.e, a road bike, meant to be rode in the hunched over position, has drop handlebars). I've been looking at new bikes, and there are some really nice hybrids and "comfort" bikes out there. Giant and Trek both seem to make nice ones in the low price range, and both are good brands. The comfort and hybrids give you a more upright riding position. From what I can tell, the most important thing is the fit of the bike to you, b/c the more comfortable you are, the more you'll enjoy riding and the more you will go. The upright position is more comfortable, but you'll have less "performance" (i.e, you'll go slower and be more affected by wind).

    You might want to check out trekbikes.com (l looked at the 7x00 series, and the Navigator series), and giantbicycles.com (I looked at the Cypress and the Sedona series). Each company offers one that is slightly more MTBish (based on tires and geometry) and the other slightly more road-ish. Each series ranges in price from the low 200s to around 600. All the bikes in one series will have the same frame geometry, so the fit should be the same whether you are on a Nav 50, 100, 200 or 300.

    The entry level bikes of each series are generally steel frames (and may not have suspension front forks), the higher up are aluminum. The higher ups generally have better components (brakes, derailleurs, shifters, cranks, etc).

    Usually your local bike store will only sell one or two "big" brands, so you might have to find several stores to test ride at. Definitely test ride. They should help you figure out what size frame you need.

    There are also likes of trailers and tag-a-longs for your kids if they're little...lots of threads about them in the family & rec forum.

    Hope this helps - I'm inspired by your weight loss progress and need to get myself out on the road.

  9. #9
    Giant-Riding Ogre Don Gwinn's Avatar
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    You're 30 pounds overweight? 30? Seriously? You must not have been trying very hard.

    Thanks for the advice. I need something relatively inexpensive; I already have two jobs and graduate school, plus two kids, and a house to renovate. I can't afford to walk in and drop a G on a bike, clothes, and stuff. I need a helmet, too.

    And I think I will go for a "comfort" style bike. Later, if I need more performance, I can get something specifically for that, and my backup will then be a quality, comfortable bike. That sounds wise. Might even pass the more comfort-oriented bike on to my wife at that point, if it's that good and can be fitted to her. Right now, I still weigh 320 pounds and I just don't think it matters that much what the bike is capable of doing until I can ride better than the bike. I learned this concept from shooting and all the guys who shell out for pistols that are guaranteed to group within 1" at 50 yards even though they, the shooters, have never and will never shoot that well in their lives.


    Rode my Huffy again this morning, not more than ten miles, with that damn rear wheel wobbling the whole way. I got brave and shifted a few times, but it sounds like it's flying into pieces when I do that. I think I'm going to go ahead and shorten the chain for now and see if I can't get it to be solid in one gear. THAT bike I can definitely use to its full potential. There's not one thing on that bike that still works as it should, except maybe the frame and the cranks. But honestly, for carrying a grizzly like me all over the place and spending one too many days out in the rain, it's held up remarkbly well. It's over ten years old now.
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  10. #10
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    Well, I'm only 5'2", and even if I lose 30 lbs, I would not be "thin"! Let's just say 30 lbs would be a much healthier weight!

    My kids are 5 and almost 2. We are borrowing a trailer, which we love, and are looking into a trail-a-bike for the 5 yo. If you are considering a trail-a-bike for riding with one of your kids, one thing to know is that almost all of them attach to the seat post (except for the wickedly expensive burley piccolo), and that most comfort bikes come with a suspension seat posts for a less bumpy ride. So you have to make sure there's enough of the non-susp part of the seat post exposed to hook the trail-a-bike up to. You probably won't have a problem with that, since you're tall, but keep it in mind if you think you (or your wife) might use a trail-a-bike someday. You can always replace the suspension seat post with a non-susp one, but that'll be extra $$.

    I can't decide what to buy...so I'm holding off. I rode my late '80s 12 speed road bike for about 30 minutes tonight and couldn't hack the hill on the way home. I am pathetic. I need those granny gears! But I'm also cheap, so I may try to make some replacements on my old bike (straight handle bars, maybe new shifters) and eek it out until I can justify the bucks after buying a trail-a-bike and a cyclocomputer. We also need a bike rack for the car. Also, I'm hoping to get my hubby out there too, so we can all go out together on the weekends, but he doesn't have a bike at all. I think the trail-a-bike & trailer will really help me get out there, because I can actually take at least one kid with me, so I don't have to find time to ride at night after my husband gets home. And the kids loved them on vacation.

    Your plan of a comfort bike that your wife will also be able to ride is very good, as long as you are both comfortable on it. If that's your plan, you might want to consider bikes that have a low top bar, but not the step-through woman's style. That way if it's a little big for your wife, it won't matter as much b/c that top bar won't be in her way.

    Good luck!

  11. #11
    Giant-Riding Ogre Don Gwinn's Avatar
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    My kids are 9-year-old twin boys, and they wouldn't stand for riding in a trailer. They have their own little 20-inch bikes, the kinda-sorta-BMX bikes you get kids. I like riding with them, but it's more about keeping them safe and hanging back with them when I do.
    I want to ride all-out sometimes.

    My wife is 5'10" and Strong Like Bull. Right now, she feels like she's too fat to ride a bike. She has a "Wal-Mart Style" 10 speed, too, but hers is in much better shape than mine. It's hard because she has unusual allergies to dairy and to artificial sweeteners, so now I've found this great diet that works for me, but she really can't use it. I think she'd be shocked if she got out and tried it, but I don't want to nag her. I know it's driving her nuts that I'm losing weight and she feels like she's only getting bigger. But she lost two pounds this week without doing any significant exercise at all, which is pretty impressive.

    Anyway, I'm going to bed. Talking about riding makes me want to do it tomorrow, and if I don't go and get back before my wife leaves for work I won't have time the rest of the day. Thanks all!

    (BTW, I did stop at the bike shop on the way to my class today. They're closed on Sunday and Tuesday, of course.)
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  12. #12
    Pure Gonzo Biker electricwookie's Avatar
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    Doh! Sorry I didn't check this in time to let you know about R&M being closed. Probably would've forgotten anyway. It's the only place I've dealt with but I'd vouch for what the other guys said in my intro. thread. They won't make you feel like a dumbass if you have alotta questions. That's usually why I don't like going into specialty shops

  13. #13
    Giant-Riding Ogre Don Gwinn's Avatar
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    That's not your fault. We call that "The Gwinn Luck." I did at least drag myself out of bed this morning at 5:30 and take a ride out east of Virden. I tried to time it right to get back a bit before 7:00, but I got nervous that I was going to be late (thinking I'd have to slow down on the way back) and ended up coming around 6:30 or so. It was still a lot of fun. The temperature difference between evening, even when it's dark, and the early morning is amazing.

    I don't think I'm going to get a bike this summer after all, but I am going to get a helmet and some padded shorts. I think I'm going to shorten the chain and make the Huffy into a single speed, then add slicker tires. I only have another two weeks or so before I have surgery to correct a hernia, and by the time I can go ride a bike again, it will be almost fall. If I ride at all during the cold months, the Huffy will probably be no worse than anything else. I'll save up and get something better than I can afford right now. I just feel like I don't know enough to make an informed decision by walking into a few shops and picking out a bike right now.

    I feel good about getting up and getting going. Now I have to do it again tomorrow!
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  14. #14
    Pure Gonzo Biker electricwookie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don Gwinn
    That's not your fault. We call that "The Gwinn Luck." I did at least drag myself out of bed this morning at 5:30 and take a ride out east of Virden. I tried to time it right to get back a bit before 7:00, but I got nervous that I was going to be late (thinking I'd have to slow down on the way back) and ended up coming around 6:30 or so. It was still a lot of fun. The temperature difference between evening, even when it's dark, and the early morning is amazing.

    I don't think I'm going to get a bike this summer after all, but I am going to get a helmet and some padded shorts. I think I'm going to shorten the chain and make the Huffy into a single speed, then add slicker tires. I only have another two weeks or so before I have surgery to correct a hernia, and by the time I can go ride a bike again, it will be almost fall. If I ride at all during the cold months, the Huffy will probably be no worse than anything else. I'll save up and get something better than I can afford right now. I just feel like I don't know enough to make an informed decision by walking into a few shops and picking out a bike right now.

    I feel good about getting up and getting going. Now I have to do it again tomorrow!
    You make it out again? It gets addicting after a while. Morning rides are great around these parts. Best of luck with your surgery.

  15. #15
    Giant-Riding Ogre Don Gwinn's Avatar
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    Yup. Yesterday was the only day I didn't make it out in the morning for at least a few miles. The chain was skipping with every revolution and I had to take drastic measures (read: I stole the wheels and cogs off my wife's bike.)

    Today was the greatest. It must be in the 60's here, and when you're zipping along fast enough it's almost chilly. I took that ride out to Thayer on the trail and then looped out through the country east of Thayer to come back again, and it felt great. I can feel the difference in stamina already, and I'm losing weight faster now. But either that trail to Thayer got REALLY rough over the years, or I've forgotten a lot about it. It's nothing but torn up, rutted asphalt!

    Still a great ride, though. I did pick up a helmet the other night, along with a seat bag and a can of inflater/sealer compound. I'm really going cheap for now, but I was starting to feel dumb without a helmet. It's not nearly as uncomfortable as I thought. Also I feel less dumb when I wear it.

    Where are you riding lately?
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  16. #16
    Pure Gonzo Biker electricwookie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don Gwinn
    Yup. Yesterday was the only day I didn't make it out in the morning for at least a few miles. The chain was skipping with every revolution and I had to take drastic measures (read: I stole the wheels and cogs off my wife's bike.)

    Today was the greatest. It must be in the 60's here, and when you're zipping along fast enough it's almost chilly. I took that ride out to Thayer on the trail and then looped out through the country east of Thayer to come back again, and it felt great. I can feel the difference in stamina already, and I'm losing weight faster now. But either that trail to Thayer got REALLY rough over the years, or I've forgotten a lot about it. It's nothing but torn up, rutted asphalt!

    Still a great ride, though. I did pick up a helmet the other night, along with a seat bag and a can of inflater/sealer compound. I'm really going cheap for now, but I was starting to feel dumb without a helmet. It's not nearly as uncomfortable as I thought. Also I feel less dumb when I wear it.

    Where are you riding lately?
    'Lo 'gin. Trail along route 4 is indeed pretty crappy. Section that starts closer to town a little bit east of 4 is nice but it's not long at all. Saw some buffalo east of Virden couple days ago...neat. Been riding to, from, and around springfield lately. You should check out the lost bridge trail sometime. Was really neat. More to see than on the chatham trail. Met some new dogs, etc. Morning's definitely the time to be out. Only drawback is it gets hotter instead of cooler.

  17. #17
    Senior Member bransom's Avatar
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    Hi, Don,

    I've taken up riding again to try to get rid of my middle-aged gut, so I understand some of what you're going through. Doesn't biking just absolutely beat the crap out of a treadmill in terms of fun? :-)

    Suggestion: Go ahead and get that new bike. Fall is a great time to ride in the midwest and it will give you added incentive to get yourself going again after surgery.

    Meanwhile, keep riding!

  18. #18
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    Great post, Don. Definitely treat yourself to a new set of wheels, and good luck with the recovery.
    The Amazon link to my new favorite book: THE ART OF BICYCLING: A TREASURY OF POEMS (Breakaway Books; June 2005)

    Just got this as a gift, and can't stop reading it. The first ever collection of verse about cycling -- over 200 total, with photos throughout. There's even a poem by Pantani himself.

  19. #19
    Giant-Riding Ogre Don Gwinn's Avatar
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    Wow . . . blast from the past. Well, I did go ahead and get a Giant OCR2, and I still ride it. I had some other personal issues go nuts a couple of years after this thread ended, and I put most of the weight back on in the process. Now I'm in the process of bringing it down again. I started with a gym membership, but the Giant was in the garage not getting used much, so I brought it out and started riding again.
    I'm trying to build long-term habits this time, so no fad diets; I just have a routine for what I eat for breakfast and lunch at work, plus I walk at lunch every day and ride as much as I can. I've been working on commuting again, but I now work 30 miles from home, so instead of attempting a full commute, I drive to a point just outside the city where I work and leave my car at the intersection with the bike path. Then I ride about 7.5 miles to work, and back to the car in the afternoon. That's a great ride, but I know it'll be icy soon enough. Right now I'm saving for a trainer so that when it gets truly cold out, I can get up in the mornings and do some spinning before everyone else wakes up. I still have my gym membership, but I'd like to be able to give that up. I also rode in two centuries this year and plan on doing at least one metric and one full next summer.
    Also, in the interest of building habits, I'm joining the Springfield Bicycle Club and I've been doing one of their shorter local rides every Tuesday night. In the spring I plan to join a different ride on Wednesdays that should give me one good hard training ride in a group per week, whatever else I do or don't do.

    Anyway, I ballooned back up to 395 over time, and I've now worked my way back down to 330. Frankly, I was losing weight for the wrong reasons, and when the expected rewards didn't materialize, I gave up and fell back into old habits. This time I intend to live like a 200-lb athlete, eat like a 200-lb. athlete, and see what my body looks like after a few years.
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