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Introduction and Question

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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

Introduction and Question

Old 06-28-01, 02:24 PM
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Kevin S
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Introduction and Question

I am new to cycling (again). As a child in a small town (25k) I rode everywhere and spent many summer days (and winter weekends <but mom, the snow's only 6 inches deep>) just riding. Rode a little through college (even spent one summer car free), but quit riding after a very unnerving ride in the suburbs of a large city. I'm now 43. I bought a cheap MTB, and last year I put 200 miles on it including a lot of time with my four children (got a "Co-Pilot by Kent" for the now-six-year-old) and a fund-raiser ride for the American Diabetes Assoc (25k). I also hoped to do some bike commuting, but couldn't figure out how to ease into a 30 mile round trip commute with the 5 miles nearest work being very busy, narrow, black top roads (I am a Cobb county/Johnson Ferry/Mount Vernon commuter for those familiar with Atlanta).

I discovered this forum while surfing from Ken Keifer's site. This is great, a Commuting forum! You all are inspiring. Since then I've discovered a bus route with a park-and-ride about the middle of my commute. That means I only have to get in shape for a 7-mile each way ride (and on the widened part of Johnson Ferry). I can do that! So this week I started riding 2 miles 3 days a week in my subdivision. I will add distance each week. When I get to 10 miles, I will start biking to the park-and-ride. We'll see where it goes from there, but at least it's a start and I have a plan.

Sorry to get so detailed. This is the first time I have put my plan in writing.

Here's the question. I am reasonable fit as I do 20 miles per week of fitness walking (I park 2 miles from work and walk the rest). Biking uses completely different muscles, so the two miles of bike riding seems like a good place to start (that is, I'm not starting the day with "jelly legs"). What recommendations do you have on how much distance I should add each week?

Thanks,
Kevin S.
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Old 06-28-01, 03:35 PM
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Welcome-- and what is it with all these forum members from Atlanta?! Is Atlanta the bike capital of the US or something? Really got me wondering. :confused:

As for your goal: unless you have some kind of physical handicap you didn't mention in your post, I see no reason why you couldn't do the entire commute every day, starting day one.

I started bike commuting, 5.2 miles each way, at age 51, and had no difficulty. I don't think Atlanta offers generally more hilly challenges than Kansas City, but I could be wrong. Some of the many Atlantan members will be quick to set me right, I hope.

But at least you shouldn't have any problem with the very conservative approach you outlined.

In short, my recommendation: just jump on in, no problem. But if you feel you need to be gradual, that should work, too.
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Old 06-28-01, 06:40 PM
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Congrat's on your return to cycling, and welcome to Bike Forum's! One piece of advice I can give is to take it easy in your commute. Do not make a race out of it, and enjoy the ride in. Start off slow and build from there. You can do it MAN!
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Old 06-28-01, 07:17 PM
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Kevin S,
Welcome to Bikeforum, hope to see more of your post on this site, as for your question, Just take it easy the first couple of month, if they can do it you can do it , right amigo,
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Old 06-28-01, 07:23 PM
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Welcome to Bikeforums!

I'd say if you're unsure just start with your plan, and you'll quickly be able to see how you are feeling and go from there.

I suspect JonR is correct, in that you'll find you can do the whole thing very soon. The heat and humidity might be tough at first though.

Go for it!!!
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Old 06-28-01, 09:34 PM
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Rats! I wanted to give you some good advice, but got busy at work and didn't get it done, and now I see that some of the others have beat me to it!
Welcome to a really great place for bikers on the net. You can learn a lot here, as well as add to strings as you gain experience.
I am 52, and started riding a bike and commuting in April of this year. Now, I've added little detours to my commute to stretch it from 7 miles to 10 to 12 miles. You will be surprised at how quickly you adapt to the ride! I believe that listening to your own body will be a good guide for you. Best of luck to you, and be sure and stop back here often!
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Old 06-29-01, 06:10 AM
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Kevin,

As an aspiring commuter, you have come to the right place. There are people here at the Forums that commute any where from 5 miles (me) to 30-40 miles. So, if you ever need advice, as we all do, you will feel home here. (Did that sound like a commercial?)
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Old 06-29-01, 06:23 AM
  #8  
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Kevin,

Welcome to BikeForums.com from a fellow Atlanta resident. If you visit regularly you will see there is at least one other regular poster (Pete Clark) also from Atlanta. He commutes about 15 miles one way into downtown Atlanta I think. And if I can get my ducks in a row (still looking for the "perfect" panniers), I'll be commuting from Decatur to Norcross starting Monday (14.7 miles one way). I believe Pete is the posting King. He has over 1000 posts and has lots of great advice. There are several others with great advice and stories, such as RainmanP, Ba-Dg-Er, JonR, aerobat, etc. The list goes on into the sunset.
After a few visits you will notice there are a few other Georgians here and everyone is VERY friendly and helpful. :thumbup: So don't be shy. You're among friends.

Look through the old posts and almost any question you have about cycling has probably been answered.

By the way, I'm 56.

Ron
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Old 06-29-01, 07:51 AM
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Kevin,
Do you feel welcome, yet? It is great to have you. As you get started, give us a report every couple of weeks to let us know how you are doing.

Thanks, RonH, for the mention. Yeah, I've got stories, but a lot of them seem to fall in the "don't do this" category.

You should have no trouble at all with the distance in terms of fitness. I did basically what you are describing, rode around the neighborhood, etc. for a couple of weeks, increasing mileage until I was confident I could do the 8.5 miles in/11 (now 13) miles home. I found that the pedalling was pretty easy from the beginning. Getting my seat conditioned to riding took a few days.
Regards,
Raymond
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Old 06-29-01, 09:26 AM
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Thanks guys! Yes, you do know how to make a person feel welcome.

I've been lurking for a bit and Atlanta _is_ heavily represented. That's part of what inspired me. I'm sure city/suburb traffic is similar everwhere, but it sure helps to see others biking in your own metro area.

Thanks for the vote of confindence JonR. It will probably go quicker than I expect (four miles is challenging right now).

I will continue with my plan (which means I need to fit in a ride tonight or tomorrow morning), but try to ramp up the mileage quickly. I want to get commuting so that I'm not having to "fit in the ride." That's the reason I walk as part of my commute now (then I don't have to "fit it in").

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Old 06-29-01, 09:59 AM
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Here are my top three unasked-for tips:

1. Hydrate. Even for a 5-mile ride, be sure to carry water and drink before and after the ride.

2. Get your saddle just right. For me, this means absolutely level (I use a spirit level on the middle point of the saddle where most of the sitting occurs.) Some here advocate a slight downturn. I don't. I found with even the slightest downward angle, there was a lot more pressure on my hands and numbness was apt to result.

3. Get the distance between seat and pedals just right. Books will give all manner of complicated ways to do this, some pretty worthwhile but including a formula to three decimal places (!) which to a reader with a scientific turn of mind seems pretty silly.

The cardinal goal is to have the leg slightly bent when the pedal is at the 6 o'clock position. For a person just beginning to cycle this is often unobtainable: you'll fall off the bike when you stop, or you'll strain muscles. So the best thing to do is to reach that position gradually, by raising the seat no more than a couple of millimeters every other day. It sounds implausible, but such a tiny adjustment really does make a difference.
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Old 06-29-01, 08:46 PM
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Yo, Amigo! Como esta usted? You sound like me just a few years ago. I cut my teeth on Ken Kifer, and I will probably still be learning from folks like him until they throw dirt on my face...

I started out fitness walking. It's a good cardiovascular workout which subtly builds your heart and circulation, which is foundational to cycling. Once you start cycling, your legs will begin to adapt and your walking will turn out to be a great help.
In fact, walking is still my preferred cross-training exercise.

A good plan is to alternate cycling days with walking days. As you said, the two exercises use different muscles, so while you are doing one exercise, the muscles from the other are given some recovery time. A 24-hour recovery period will add pleasure
and performance to your rides. If you ever don't feel like cycling, it's o.k., just take a day off. You have the rest of your life to gradually improve. One mistake many of us have made is to overtrain (push too hard too often for too long). Then it may take weeks to recover. So just take a day on and a day off (walk on off days.) The object is to enjoy anyway, right? :thumbup:

(Jeff Galloway, a fellow Atlantan and former Olympic long distance runner, said on the local news the other night that he finds his best performance when running/walking intermittantly, that is, on the same outing: run, walk, run, walk. That's not exactly swapping days, but it may be similar.)

Atlanta has some great cycling opportunities and some great challenges. My bicycle commuting advice is to learn proper road cycling skills, if possible by taking an Effective Cycling course. Also, don't venture out onto roads you don't feel safe on. It will take time for you to build your confidence in traffic (it did me.) Just tackle each challenge as you feel ready for it, arming yourself with the knowledge afforded you by those who are already doing it, like John Forrester and John Allen. It's like driving--at first you are kind of scared out there, but as you practice you gain confidence. Don't feel embarrassed about not jumping right out there onto a busy artery in rush hour. It's probably your conscience warning you that you aren't ready, my friend! Nevertheless, in time you will be sitting in traffic with your bicycle,
and hear comments from open windows like, "Hey, you're not a car!"

Remember, you have an advantage over motorists: you have plenty of driving experience, but they (usually) don't have any cycling experience. Make the most of your greater knowledge level. And read all you can about the subject.

(P.S. In the summer, check the ozone levels and avoid cycling if they reach excessive levels. This will benefit you in the long run.
Call (404)362-4909 for the hourly report for Atlanta. When the recording starts talking, press #1 to bypass the junk and get to Atlanta's report. Levels over 150 should be avoided in my opinion.)
I am so glad to have you in these forums, Kevin!
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Old 06-29-01, 08:57 PM
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Pete wrote, "Nevertheless, in time you will be sitting in traffic with your bicycle,
and hear comments from open windows like, 'Hey, you're not a car!'"

I can almost guarantee you'll hear even worse!
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Old 06-30-01, 07:55 AM
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Mui bien, gracias (horrible spelling no doubt). Un poco Espanol, but my children (especially the 6 y.o.) are working on that. There is a lot less Spanish in our house since PBS took Salsa (children's Spanish show) off the air.

I'm old enough that EC was the standard way to bike when I learned. Only those sorry folks who didn't know any better did it differently. A lot changed in children's education during the 30-some years since then . I've read the EC book and I will be taking the Road I class next month.

Alternating days walking and biking is my plan, thanks for the re-enforcement.

My favorite for the yelling was when two guys in the bed of a pickup truck yelled that I should be on the sidewalk.
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Old 06-30-01, 08:07 AM
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Kevin S
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Hey, I'm willing to listen to all suggestions. Sometimes I don't even know the questions, so keep firing.

Hydration, hydration, hydration. Yep! I'm the guy that carries a 10 ounce coffee mug all day at work...but, it's filled with water and usually consumed and refilled within the hour (yes, I also know where the restrooms are in almost every building I've been in )

Thanks for the tips on the saddle. The height thing is a bit of a problem since I have to take out the seat and post to install the co-pilot when I ride with the children. I use the quick setting of having a straight leg with my _heel_ on the pedal.

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Old 06-30-01, 08:30 AM
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Originally posted by Kevin S
My favorite for the yelling was when two guys in the bed of a pickup truck yelled that I should be on the sidewalk.
I hope you yelled back, "Well, looks like you're where you belong!"
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Old 06-30-01, 08:32 AM
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You can make a tiny mark on the seatpost where it meets the tube, with a hacksaw blade or engraving tool, so that you can reinsert it at exactly the same place every time.
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Old 06-30-01, 08:43 AM
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Originally posted by JonR

I hope you yelled back, "Well, looks like you're where you belong!"
No, it was too funny to have someone who was riding illegally (in the back of a pickup) to tell me how to ride (and be wrong to boot). They were gone by the time I recovered.

I'm working real hard on not being confrontational when riding or walking. I figure I will live longer that way and it also gives a better impression of walkers and cyclers (is that a word?). But, boy is it tough to not use "sign language."

Thanks about the hack saw mark, I'll do it today.

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Old 06-30-01, 08:48 AM
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Originally posted by Pete Clark
Y... arming yourself with the knowledge afforded you by those who are already doing it, like John Forrester and John Allen.
Who is John Allen? I did a quick search of our library web site, but didn't find anything related to bicycling.

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Old 06-30-01, 11:12 PM
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Check out, www.bikexprt.com, John S. Allen's home page.

He is the most helpful, unselfish "expert" I have ever encountered. (He is great!)

Once I e-mailed him about a crash one of our forum members had
("Ba-Dg-Er," or, Brandon) in which the police charged Brandon with "impeding traffic." Mr. Allen immediately defended Brandon's rights with precision (by e-mail) and suggested help through some acquaintences of his in Brandon's city (including law enforcement personnel.) Before we even had time to act on Mr. Allen's suggestions, the police in Tucson contacted Brandon to apologize for their error in charging him with the accident.

Mr. Allen was both correct and prompt in his offer to help.

Cyclists are all great, aren't they!

:thumbup:
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Old 07-01-01, 07:45 PM
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Originally posted by Pete Clark
Check out, www.bikexprt.com, John S. Allen's home page.
Thanks Pete, that's a great Web site. I'll be sure to check it out in greater detail during the week.

Kevin S.
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Old 07-03-01, 07:04 PM
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I agree with Kevin, Pete, that's a good bicycle startin' place for us newbies...I sent the link to one of my biking friends that's new to riding around in the our small-but-not-carless-town

Welcome, Kevin to BikeForums.com! There are truly no stupid questions (mainly since I've asked ALL of them)! Seriously, it's a great group of folks.

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