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Returning to riding after a long hiatus

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Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.

Returning to riding after a long hiatus

Old 09-15-20, 08:19 AM
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OldYankee
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Returning to riding after a long hiatus

Greetings,

Having just turned 52, I may be one of the younger kids in this part of the forum, but lurking and reading about some of the exploits of the more seasoned members here makes me hopeful that there are many years of cycling left for me.

When I was a young whippersnapper I would leave the house shortly after breakfast on my road bike and come home for dinner, sometimes going back out until sundown. Depending on the destination, I would cover 50-100 miles every day. I grew up in a Hartford suburb, and sometimes would ride down to south Glastonbury, hop on the oldest running ferry in the US, cross over to Rocky Hill and continue on from there. Man, what I wouldn't give to be the wiry, energetic, dynamo I used to be.

Fast forwarding to more recent times, in 2008 when my son was about 6, I bought myself a nice entry-level Specialized HR XC so we could ride the Rail Trails together. That was about 12 years ago. Unfortunately the bike didn't see much use, and as I aged and remained mostly sedentary, weight gain ensued and medical issues crept in. My son grew and continued to remain active, and has just joined the Army, making me an empty-nester with time on my hands. This has motivated me to begin exercising a lot more. I started walking 5 miles per day and jogging part of the way which has helped tremendously with the energy level.

Having just downsized to a small apartment, while moving I discovered our bikes sitting in the garage and decided to hop on for the first time in years, and have rekindled my love for riding. I started riding again about a week ago and it has really been an eye-opener for what poor condition I'm in! But this has motivated me even more to get back into shape.

I started off riding my son's cheap 2014 Raleigh Talus. That bike weighs a ton, and the gearing isn't optimal, but it's condition is much better than the XC. Yesterday I decided to recondition and clean up the XC as best I could and take it for a spin, and I much prefer it to my son's Raleigh. The only issue is that sitting in a damp garage for most of its life has caused some corrosion of some exposed and unprotected parts. I have decided that over the winter I'll put my son's bike on an indoor trainer while rebuilding mine.

I plan to re-use the frameset and probably replace everything else except the cassette and front gearset, which are in great shape and the ratios suit my riding well. I've ridden newer bikes with disc brakes and find them superior to rim brakes, so I plan on converting to discs. Fortunately the frame and fork already have the required mounting points.

I prefer to rebuild rather than just buy a new bike for two reasons: One is that I can select the exact components I want, and two is that it gives me something mechanical to tinker with over the winter. I've always been a gearhead, from bikes when I was younger to antique automobiles and modern muscle cars. I find it therapeutic. And there is a real sense of satisfaction using a machine that you helped build or restore with your own hands.

Well, that's about enough for an introduction. I'm looking forward to a fun and fruitful road toward better health.
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Old 09-15-20, 09:22 AM
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Welcome back.

Just a thought - keeping up the motivation inside on the trainer is very hard. Without necessarily going full bore into winter riding (you may get their eventually), try to find ways to extend your outdoor riding into the cooler seasons as best you can - clothes, tires, gear, can all be accumulated gradually.
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Old 09-15-20, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Welcome back.

Just a thought - keeping up the motivation inside on the trainer is very hard. Without necessarily going full bore into winter riding (you may get their eventually), try to find ways to extend your outdoor riding into the cooler seasons as best you can - clothes, tires, gear, can all be accumulated gradually.
Thanks! I hope to extend my riding season as far as possible. I'm not comfortable with snow or ice, but if this winter is anything like the last two, I could be riding all winter long.
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Old 09-15-20, 09:52 AM
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My advice is to really research the setup you want. The biggest difference now are the wider gear ranges that help to offset climbing.

The important part is to focus on what a bike can do; take you someplace. That is what drew me to cycling, the ability to roll down the driveway and ride someplace. That is the goal of your re-build, to get you to a destination.

You may not go quite as far or for as many hours, but you might. And you will get into better shape.

Have fun.

John
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Old 09-15-20, 10:28 AM
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If you do take refuge on the trainer when the snow falls, look into Zwift or one of its competitors as a way to keep motivated.
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Old 09-15-20, 10:58 AM
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Sounds like a great plan. I second the Zwift recommendation. It's made the trainer bearable for me.
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Old 09-15-20, 02:03 PM
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When I made the fateful decision to restart riding bikes it was in the fall of 2018. I still work full time so that ment riding on the weekends and Fridays since I usually have Friday off. So for year 2018 I might have ridden 2 or 3 hundred miles before cold weather, enough to convince me that the days of riding 50-60 miles on a road bike in a day were gone. But, you know, undaunted I put the bike away for the winter and waited for Spring. So I did do some riding in 2019 but the bulk of the miles came (again) in the fall. Still, I was out of shape, a little better than 2018 but dissatisfied with my riding, I estimate that I rode about 700 miles between Jan 1 and Nov. 1 in 2019.

One thing that I did do in 2019 besides wish I was in better shape was I found on Craigs List a used and broken fluid trainer. I paid $50 for this thing, a Kinetic Road Machine. The trainer sat in a heap in my garage until about Nov. 1st when I got it out and fixed it, it was an easy fix. I installed a Kinetic InRide 3 sensor and got a few other things and Nov. 13, a day that will live in infamy, I opened an account with Zwift.

I'm not a salesmen for anything in the bike industry so take this with a grain of salt, but from Nov 13, 2019 to May 15, 2020, six months, I rode about 3000 trainer miles and climbed about 280,000 virtual feet. My point? I would have never done this on an exercise bike or a trainer that wasn't using an exercise program such as Zwift. Zwift isn't the only one there are others but for $15/month it is difficult to imagine something better.

When I started riding outside this year, after 2 or 3 rides it became apparent that I wasn't the same bicycle rider as I was the previous fall. Of course I did all of the work, I rode a trainer on days I didn't feel like it and there were times when I was in such pain riding basically a stationary bike but when you utilize Zwift (or other program) to it's fullest and keep at it riding 5-6 days a week you are going to get better. I picked up 3-4 miles per hour speed on the flats and I'm pulling hills that I couldn't imagine I would climb this time last year.

It is true that there are some fantastic days for riding left this year, but the season is winding down so I think now would be a good time to start thinking about the winter and making plans. People will say that they get on a stationary bike, turn up their Death Metal to full volume and ride staring at a sit com on the TV but for me at least I get better results riding with other people either in a social ride or race or just to complete a course. You can do all of this in Zwift (or other program) during the winter and be so happy in the spring. I'm going into this winter happy with my abilities but I intend to exit the upcoming winter better than I am now.
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Old 09-16-20, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by OldYankee View Post
...

I prefer to rebuild rather than just buy a new bike for two reasons: One is that I can select the exact components I want, and two is that it gives me something mechanical to tinker with over the winter. I've always been a gearhead, from bikes when I was younger to antique automobiles and modern muscle cars. I find it therapeutic. And there is a real sense of satisfaction using a machine that you helped build or restore with your own hands.

Well, that's about enough for an introduction. I'm looking forward to a fun and fruitful road toward better health.
As you can read from my signature, I am with you 100% on "rebuild rather than just buy new." I did originally buy the UO-8 new for my wife, but as a bare frame that I built up with the handlebars, shifters, and saddle she wanted and the gears and derailleurs I knew would help with the hills of the Santa Monica mountains. When she got too intimidated by traffic and started borrowing my mountain bike for trail riding, I repurposed the UO-8 as my commuter/beater, with drop bars, barcons, closer-ratio gears, and a different saddle. My 1959 Capo is a complete frame-up rebuild, following a splurge on an exquisite custom paint job, again with the components I hand-selected.

I am also 100% with you on the "fun and fruitful road toward better health." At age 70, I owe my current state of health and fitness to bicycling, supplemented with walking, jogging, and (wimpy, by gym rat standards) weight training -- we do what we can. The "gearhead" element was a major hook for enticing me, a totally nerdy kid with zero natural athletic ability, to love a sport so deeply.
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Old 09-16-20, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by OldYankee View Post
I prefer to rebuild rather than just buy a new bike for two reasons: One is that I can select the exact components I want, and two is that it gives me something mechanical to tinker with over the winter. I've always been a gearhead, from bikes when I was younger to antique automobiles and modern muscle cars. I find it therapeutic. And there is a real sense of satisfaction using a machine that you helped build or restore with your own hands.
.
Absolutely! build your own bike from a selection that fits your needs. It's fun, entertaining and sometimes brain challenging (all good stuff). Also it can save money but I would not guarantee that because I tend to buy better quality or with features that I don't really need.

My "re-kindling" vis-a-vis biking was only a few months ago and it was due to CV-19 closing my gym. Desperately seeking ways to get my much needed exercise, I got my bikes out of storage, cleaned them up and started riding again after a hiatus of around 8 years. Hard? Darn right it was hard to get going again. Too much weight, too little of the right kind of leg exercise at the gym. I rode every day, at first only 20 minutes or so. But I kept doing it and now I easily ride for an hour every day. That may not sound like much according to what you are used to but it has worked wonders for me. I lost 2 inches off my waist and my legs are now in much better shape. I can rise from a crouching position without groaning and knee popping sounds. Not a lot of weight loss (a few pounds) but I feel so much better. I am 76, so at 52 I expect you to do better than me ...go for it! LOL

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Old 09-16-20, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by OldYankee View Post
............................When I was a young whippersnapper ...................
Oh my gosh! I'm not sure I've heard that since Grandpa Amos (Walter Brennan) said that on his TV series "The real McCoys" in the late 50's early 60's. <grin>

Welcome. It was about 52 yo for me also that life slowed down enough for me to cycle more and I went the route of cycling for fitness and riding at a fairly high effort.

I too started out rebuilding old bikes and putting very new components on them. But those bikes didn't get any lighter, though they were nicer to ride. Rebuild if you must to satisfy the DIY'er in you, but now that I just got a new bike I'm wondering why I waited over 41 years to get one.
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Old 09-16-20, 12:51 PM
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I started riding again at 50, after not riding at all for 30 years. I too was astonished at how weak I'd become. At first, I simply tried to ride up a 500' climb to our local mall, not to buy anything, just to do it. Once I could do that, once a week I'd ride away from home until I was tired, then ride back. I would go out for a 20-30 mile ride maybe 3 other days. I took it pretty easy on all these rides for maybe the first year. I bought a series of old 10-speed (2 X 5} 70s and 80s bikes, gradually buying slightly better used bikes. After 5 years of that, bought a new carbon bike, still ride it 20 years later. I rode my first double century on the last of those used bikes the year before I bought the new bike. I didn't peak in fitness until I was over 60, maybe 63. You have lots of fun ahead of you.
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Old 09-16-20, 02:20 PM
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Your situation is not uncommon. I started up again at 59 in much the same way as you; just pull an old bike out that had been sitting unused for years and start riding and move on to something else later on. While I do all my longer rides on a relatively new carbon road bike, I still ride that old beater MTB for early morning rides before going to work.
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Old 09-16-20, 04:04 PM
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I began cycling at about age 70 and have ridden 26,000 miles since, about 3000 miles per year. Obviously pro tours are not in my future but this does not diminish my enjoyment. Here in coastal Rhode Island we are able to ride all winter except for a few days and you may find the same. Most areas seem to have bike clubs and I enjoy riding with the club here. I believe most larger clubs have several levels of ride, for example a 70 mile ride for a fast group, a 50 mile ride and a 30 -35 mile ride for us slowpokes. With the larger clubs one can always find someone at the same speed. If you are not competing, cycling is like swimming in that you can continue with it for a good long time.
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Old 09-16-20, 04:44 PM
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Today I tossed the MTB in the back of the truck (gently) and headed to an area that used to be home to one of six Nike missile bases surrounding Hartford. We used to party there as young 20-somethings... I think kids still do these days... But anyway, these are unimproved dirt roads, relatively firm but with some loose soil and sand and medium size stones. I was afraid I might puncture a tire, but fortunately I made it through intact. Some roads have short lengths of smaller, more tightly packd gravel which isn't bad at all, except for the hills. And boy, the hills are steeper than they look! I did more walking than riding up those hills. But I was out there for about an hour-and-a half, and every time I would try a hill and have to stop, rest a few minutes, and walk up the rest of the hill. But each time it seemed to get ever so slightly easier, and I was able to ride uphill just a teeny bit further each time, until I was able to crest a few smaller ones. All total I walked/rode about 10 miles on those rough roads and boy am I beat, but it really felt great to be out there pushing myself. The farthest I've ridden this past week was just under 5 miles on paved roads, so comparatively today was quite a workout. I'm tired, but feel great! It's nice to be back in the saddle again.
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Old 09-17-20, 07:25 AM
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First I want to echo those who say fixing up old steel frame bikes may be fun but the end product may be somewhat heavy and the cost can make it not such a good investment. My newest bike is a 2006 Al frame roadie. Far from state of the art but light years better than my mid 80s Asian steel frame machines.


OK it is good that you are back to riding. At 52 your'e potential if you keep at it should be good. When I ride with a local (and fairly large) bicycle club, one that has two or three rides a day, every day, and 1500 + members, I notice that at least here riding road bikes the average age is over 50. I don't know what that means hopefully the young people are riding off road and will discover road cycling at a later date.



Originally Posted by OldYankee View Post
Today I tossed the MTB in the back of the truck (gently) and headed to an area that used to be home to one of six Nike missile bases surrounding Hartford. We used to party there as young 20-somethings... I think kids still do these days... But anyway, these are unimproved dirt roads, relatively firm but with some loose soil and sand and medium size stones. I was afraid I might puncture a tire, but fortunately I made it through intact. Some roads have short lengths of smaller, more tightly packd gravel which isn't bad at all, except for the hills. And boy, the hills are steeper than they look! I did more walking than riding up those hills. But I was out there for about an hour-and-a half, and every time I would try a hill and have to stop, rest a few minutes, and walk up the rest of the hill. But each time it seemed to get ever so slightly easier, and I was able to ride uphill just a teeny bit further each time, until I was able to crest a few smaller ones. All total I walked/rode about 10 miles on those rough roads and boy am I beat, but it really felt great to be out there pushing myself. The farthest I've ridden this past week was just under 5 miles on paved roads, so comparatively today was quite a workout. I'm tired, but feel great! It's nice to be back in the saddle again.

When I restarted riding as mentioned in my previous post, my absolute first ride was on my street in the Pocono Mountains NE PA. I rode less than a mile, that was all I had in the tank. In my garage was a hybrid bike, I got it out and started riding a very flat MUP. That was all I rode on for the first year. My first time out on a road bike (after a year on my hybrid) was a organized hilly 30 mile road tour. I was using my old pedals with toe clips and straps. I ended up walking up 3 hills to finish the ride, which is humiliating. My thoughts were at the time that my riding on anything other than a rail trail were over. But I determined to give it a fair chance anyway. Shortly after that, in an effort to encourage myself to ride, I bought a pair of clipless pedals and shoes. I settled on mountain bike pedals, SPD/2 bolt (not 3 bolt road cleats) simply because I was expecting that I would be doing a lot of walking up hills while road biking.


I have a lot invested in SPD pedal systems but I regret it now because I haven't had to walk up a hill in over a year. And I have pulled some fairly challenging hills recently. So again it all comes down to putting in the time/effort and I cannot over state just how much using my trainer during the last winter down time helped put me in a better physical state for this year. Again I'm still not a honcho but I'm way better than I was when I first got back into things. I have a 4 1/2 mile loop in my neighborhood, rural roads, with about 800 feet of ascent. The final hill is the killer. It took me literally about 10 tries over about a 5 week period before I was able to do this loop without getting off and walking. And this was after a year of riding the rail trails. Now I do multiple loops, the only thing that limits me is the amount of available time I have to do a ride.

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Old 09-17-20, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Thomas15 View Post
First I want to echo those who say fixing up old steel frame bikes may be fun but the end product may be somewhat heavy and the cost can make it not such a good investment. My newest bike is a 2006 Al frame roadie. Far from state of the art but light years better than my mid 80s Asian steel frame machines.
Mine is aluminum, which is the only reason I'm considering it. I don't think I would touch any steel frame bike unless I was just fixing it up cheaply to sell it.
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Old 09-17-20, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by OldYankee View Post
Mine is aluminum, which is the only reason I'm considering it. I don't think I would touch any steel frame bike unless I was just fixing it up cheaply to sell it.
Food for thought...


I'm not in any way a ninny trying to advise people on the best use of their time and/or money. I truly believe we should do whatever makes us happy.


But you are asking for opinions, information and so forth. You are correct that there is a difference between steel and aluminum. But I'm speaking about a concept not a specific frame and it's material.


My hybrid is a 2004 TREK 4500. I'm not conversant with the Specialized HR XC but I did some link chasing and I would say that my TREK and your Specialized are quite similar. I got this bike for the same reason you got yours, to ride with my kids although we didn't get out all that much.


In the past I have thought about doing exactly to the letter what you are considering. In particular the disk brake upgrade and the forks. I have a friend that I went riding with early on in my riding rebirth, nice guy, he has a Gary Fisher bike, much higher up the quality scale than mine. On our first ride together he literally blew my doors off. It was terrible, I was laid to waste by this guy. Before and after the ride he made a point of pumping up his forks and fiddling with his disk brakes and commenting on his 29" wheels (mine are 26"). In my mind at the time I equated air or oil dampened shocks and disk brakes on 29" wheels with riding skills and endurance. So I wanted to do the upgrades, my bike also has mounts for disk brakes.


I hadn't had a chance to ride with this guy since my initial ass kicking in the fall of 2018. I got him out on the same trail about two months ago for a comparison ride. This time it was much different. I let him pick the distance and speed but he knew and I made sure he knew that the days of me dogging it well behind him were long gone. In other words, this time he was the one crying uncle not me. One other thing I discovered is my V-brakes, properly adjusted and with premium pads, actually work better than his disk brakes. Could be that his need service but that is what happened.


So I'm glad I didn't fall to the temptation and throw money at my bike. To be fair I have installed good SPD pedals and upgraded grips but that is it. I have logged in 5 or 6 metric centuries this summer on my TREK and one ride of 75 miles non-stop on my local MUP (the D&L trail). I've put a lot more miles on my road bike though. I like my TREK more now than at any time in the 15 years since I brought it home. It's a simple no-nonsense bike that keeps me riding along with the big boys.


I'm not sure if my advice is welcome or not and no problem either way but I would suggest that you consider just letting your bike be what it is and work on fitness. That is where the performance gains will be made. I have been out on the D&L which can get quite crowded with bikes and have spoken to guys with shiny new sub $300 Walmart MTBs, complete with disk brakes and full suspension. I'm not lumping you in with that crowd but I have heard comments that suggest that my bike is a piece of crap that I paid too much for. That is until we get back on the bike and put the hammer down. I say now that when I outgrow my bike that will be a great day.

I doubt that you will be able to recoup the cost of any upgrades if you sell. I could be wrong but not likely. Ask yourself the question how much would you pay for those upgrades when you can under normal conditions find something factory with the bells/whistles and overall better quality frame? And if you find yourself riding mostly technical single track MTB trails then you are going to eventually want something far better than what you can get out of your XC with upgrades.

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Old 09-17-20, 01:01 PM
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I appreciate hearing about everyone's experiences. It helps provide a perspective I may not have considered before. My immediate goal is to just ride the heck out of the bike I currently have until it gets too cold or treacherous to be out there every day. My main reason for rebuilding this bike is not because I think new parts will make me a better rider, but because parts are simply corroded or wearing out, and if I have to replace parts I might as well upgrade them with the parts I want.

I certainly could just buy a new bike but as I mentioned in my original post, I'm a tinkerer and find mechanic work to be therapeutic. There was a time when I throw money at something for the sake of it, but those days are past.

No matter what anyone's reasons are for buying, building, rebuilding, etc. the important thing is that the bike gets used!
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Old 09-17-20, 04:44 PM
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JGaerlan
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OldYankee, age is just a number. Just like you, i'm a tinkerer as well. I'm close to a decade older than you and some of the upgrades i've done lately is to go the way of 1x drivetrain. Single sided shifting. No need to worry if I should shift left or right side, Also have gone to more upright bars to avoid neck and back aches and slightly wider saddles.

In today's time where we have to physically distance, cycling has kept me sane . Just keep on riding !
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