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Catweazle 07-07-08 08:16 AM

For the 50+ 'newbie' rider
Hi. If you are a 50+ candidate who is about to take up cycling for the first time, or for whom it’s been so long since you were on a bicycle that you might as well be a newbie to the activity, this thread is for you. Hopefully we can help you address some of the decisions and dilemmas which will probably confront you.
That description above is me, too, by the way. I’ve taken up cycling this year, at the age of 56, after not having really ridden much at all since I was a young teenager. Things have changed quite a bot in the interim, so I had a lot to learn. Now hopefully I can pass that on to you and, with the help of others here, address many of the concerns you’ll be confronting. The following is a rather lengthy read, and I hope you find it helpful. It’s the ‘collected wisdom’ the good folk here at 50+ have passed on to me, and which has been responsible for my journey from novice to confident cyclist.

Choosing a bike

The first issue you’ll be confronting is the choosing of a bike to ride, and before you start doing that you need to have a good think about what sort of riding you think you’re likely to be doing, and where you’re likely to be doing it.
Are you thinking about taking long rides through the countryside? Do you want to commute by bicycle, to work and back? Are you thinking about going off-road, along rail and other trails through rural and wilderness? Are you perhaps thinking about leisurely rides around town and surrounds with the grandchildren? Just down to the local shopping centre and back, to do the shopping? Different types of bikes suit different activities better, so sort out the stuff about what you want to do, and it’ll be a bit clearer what sort of bike you need to get.
For most people that’ll be either a Mountain Bike, a Hybrid Bike or a Road Bike.

Mountain bike

Purposely designed for the riding which sees you off the formed roads and pathways, and lots of folk seem to choose them for commuting purposes because they’re generally more robust than the various types of ‘road’ bikes. Commuting and local on-road riding on a mountain bike isn’t a particularly good idea. On the sealed road they make for slower going and harder work, so if you do choose one for multi-purpose use be sure to swap out those chunky off-road tyres for tyres with a ‘road’ tread. (Or keep two sets of wheels handy – one for off-road and one for on-road.)

There’s one I have sitting amongst the family ‘stable’. Not all mountain bikes have that full suspension, front and back, but it’s the chunkiness and the suspension makes a lot of folk think that a mountain bike is what they need, even though they aren’t likely to be going off road. Think again. There are better ways to be comfortable, and that suspension absorbs a bit of your pedalling energy, so it comes at a bit of an energy-sapping cost.

Hybrid Bikes

Hybrid bikes are a ‘cross’ between a mountain bike and a dedicated ‘road’ bike. The frame will have a shape (or ‘geometry’) which is similar to that of a mountain bike, but in many other respects they are similar to a road bike. They are often a very good choice for commuters or as a first bike for newer riders, and bike shops probably sell more of them than any other sort of bike. (Here in Australia Hybrid sales considerably outnumber sales of other bike types.)

Be aware, though, that there are two broad categories of Hybrid bikes.

Comfort Hybrids

Within the broader spectrum of hybrid bikes the ‘comfort’ bikes sit a bit closer to mountain bike than to road bike. They come with front fork suspension, and almost certainly with seat post suspension as well, to give you a bit of ‘bounce’ under the bum! They come with what’s called ‘riser’ handlebars, to give you a bit more upright riding position. They’re a bit heavier than other types of road bike, but well suited to a range of riding conditions. Wheels are fitted with road tyres which are a wee bit wider than other.

The ‘slowest’ of the bikes designed for on-road use, for sure, but this’n is my own choice for general purpose riding, as my rides often see me travelling lengthy distances on roads with a variety of surfaces.

Fitness Hybrids

Don’t let that name put you off if you think it sounds too much like something designed for the gym nutter. A ‘Fitness Hybrid’ is merely a wee bit lighter and faster form of hybrid, without the front fork suspension.

Fitness hyrids are also sometimes called ‘flat bar road bikes’, and they’ll usually have a slightly lighter frame, a solid (no suspension) front fork, straight ‘flat bar’ handlebars, and a bit better quality and type of gearing, which is designed to help you get up to and maintain speed a bit better. The ‘entry level’ fitness bikes are generally a wee bit more expensive than the entry level comfort bikes.

Road Bikes

Way back in the middle ages, when I was a kid and we all used to chat with Geoffrey Chaucer and John Lennon, we used to distinguish between ‘touring bikes’, which were a bit heavy and cumbersome, and ‘racing bikes’, which looked pretty much the same but were lighter and faster. Nowadays racing has really moved on into high-tech territory, and the ‘road bikes’ of today are kinda like an updated and improved variety of the racing bikes of yesteryear.

They’re generally deeper in the frame than a hybrid bike, built from light but strong materials, have really good gearing, and sport those oh-so-skinny but fast wheels and tyres. They also almost invariably come with the curved ‘drop’ handlebars which allow the rider to get right down and aerodynamic, which is really useful for riding into the wind.

Today’s ‘road bike’ is very suitable for a wide range of riding, and doesn’t deserve to be shunned by commuter or casual cyclist. It’s the bike of choice for many of the more experienced riders, but don’t forget the drawback those skinny wheels bring. When riding it you need to be more conscious of obstacles such as cracked road surfaces or a bit of gravel on the road.

Other bike types

Outside the scope of this introduction, but there are other types of cycle which might suit your purposes better than any of the above. Recumbent Cycles have you sitting down lower, in a seat which has a backrest and with the pedals and crank set forward. Recumbant riders swear by them as being more comfortable and efficient, but (I’m told) they don’t handle hills as well as the ‘upright’ cycles. Folding Cycles are worth considering if your riding is going to be mixed with travel in bus, train or tram. Today’s dedicated ‘Touring Bikes’ sport a stronger and longer frame, to give you an increased wheelbase distance for comfort on longer trips, and they come with mounting points for just about any combination of fenders, racks and whatnot else.

Catweazle 07-07-08 08:18 AM

Where to buy the bike?

This section is included for one simple reason. We’d like to see you buy that bike from a local bike shop (LBS) rather than succumbing to the desire to go grab a cheapie from WallyMart or somesuch chainstore!
It’s often assumed that older folk have more disposable income than younger folk, but of course that’s not always the case. You might be a bit strapped for cash, and if so that $89 ‘special might look appealing up against the bike shop bikes which often start at around $350 or thereabouts. Please, please, PLEASE don’t get lured to the dark side. We like you too much!

Chain store bikes are cheap because they are made from low quality materials and components, and because they are mass market items which are assembled by people who aren’t necessarily trained for the task or do it well. Rather than being an easy and cheap entry to cycling for folk, they’re more often than not a discouragement instead, because they all too often end up unusable, abandoned and left to rust away. A couple of anecdotes, to illustrate:

A friend of mine recently succumbed to the temptation of a tight household budget and a Wally World ‘special’ and grabbed a couple of $89 ‘mountain bikes’ so she and her hubby could go riding along nearby rail trails with her young sons. The bikes looked attractive, and looked nice and solid, but by the time she returned from her first shortish ride the rear wheel was buckled so badly that the bike was effectively unridable. Those wheels were built from shoddy materials, and they hadn’t been tensioned adequately anyway! (In comparison, my ‘entry level’ $400 hybrid has now done thousands of kilometres on and off road, and there’s less than half a millimetre of lateral ‘buckle’ in either wheel!)

Perhaps an even more alarming anecdote is one posted at BikeForums recently. A recent topic elsewhere on the board was pondering whether or not WalMart could be sued for selling shoddy product. The wife of the fellow who posted the topic had purchased a bike from WalMart, and all had appeared well with it while she was getting used to riding. Until, a week or thereabouts later, she went down a hill for the first time on it! The brakes failed to pull her up! From the sound of things, they didn’t fail because the cables had stretched. Instead, they’d failed because the brake cables hadn’t even been securely tightened, and had pulled through the first time any real pressure was applied to them!

Staff at your local bike shop should be friendly and helpful, and concerned enough to show interest in ensuring you get a bike which suits what you want to do, rather than trying to convince you to buy something you don’t want. If you encounter shop staff who seem inclined to treat you as frail and incapable just because you’re an older customer, go find a better shop! Your bike shop staff should also be attending to ensuring that bike is adjusted for your body size before you walk out of the shop with it. We call that the ‘fit’ of the bike, and it’s explained a bit more below.
Also check for after sales support. Any bike shop worth its salt should be encouraging you to bring the bike back to them after a shortish period of time or a minimum number of miles ridden, so they can attend to adjusting the parts which have settled into place and the brake/gear cables which will have inevitably stretched a bit during that initial use. They should also be offering a period of free servicing to follow that up. (I got 12 months of free service with my own entry-level bike!)

If even an entry level ‘bike shop’ bike is out of reach for you, investigate purchasing a decent secondhand brand name bike. You’ll have to do a bit more homework/research, so you’re aware of size and fit matters, but a good secondhand bike is far preferably to a WallyWorld bike!

Catweazle 07-07-08 08:18 AM

Making it fit

Your bike shop staff should be doing the initial adjustment for ‘fit’ on your bike, but if you’ve purchased a secondhand bike or are merely interested in what it’s all about, here are the basics of it, in simple terms.

Before we start let’s check to be sure you’re not making a big mistake. You’re not clinging to that silly old idea about needing to be able to touch the ground on both sides whilst sitting on the seat (saddle) are you? That a silliness we used to hear, from folk who know little and say much, and it’s just plain wrong. We don’t leave our bums on the saddle when the bike comes to a stop! Instead, we come forward off the saddle as the bike comes to rest, and stand with feet astride the bar. If that saddle is so low that you can stand up when astride it, you won’t be able to have the bike adjusted properly for comfortable and efficient riding.

That leads into the first couple of things to be attended to.

Bar height

It won’t be an issue with step-through (ladies) bikes of course, but if that bike frame has a top tube you need to have clearance when standing astride it. For comfort and safety you should be aiming at a minimum of one inch (25mm) of clearance between crotch and bar, when you’re standing astride and off the saddle. If you don’t have that then perhaps look for a bike with a smaller or differently shaped frame.

Some (probably even many) road bike riders do ride with less 'top bar ' clearance than that, in order to have a bike with horizontal top bar and which still 'fits' their particular leg and torso lengths. If you are a newcomer though, or just plain not comfortable with the top bar cramping up the tackle, there are plenty of bike alternatives to explore. A bike with a sloping rather than horizontal top bar will give you better clearance.

Saddle height

If the saddle is too low your legs will be cramped up, you’ll be uncomfortable when riding, and you won’t be able to put enough power into the pedalling. If the seat is too high you’ll need to stretch to reach the bottom of the pedal stroke, again leading to discomfort and inefficiency. Long term, you’ll likely develop injuries or problems if the saddle is too low or high. So let’s get it right.

Have a friend watch you as you ride. The ‘shaft’ of the pedal should be under the ball of your foot, rather than the arch, as you ride and what you are aiming at is a saddle height which sees your leg extended but not ‘locked out’ at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Adjust the saddle up and down in accordance with the feedback from the person watching. When you get it ‘right’ there’ll be only a slight bend behind the knee when the pedal is fully down, and you won’t feel that you’re rocking at the hips or stetching the foot to get down there.

Got all that? Not really complicated, is it? We’re half way there so lets look at the rest of the ‘bike fit’ adjustments.

Saddle position

Saddle height is important, but the saddle also needs to be in the correct ‘position’ in relation to the pedal crank. If it isn’t we risk developing back and leg problems. Fortunately, it’s quite easy to get right.

Sit astride the bike and have somebody help hold the bike upright. Then, again with foot on the pedal correctly and the pedal crank under the ball of the foot, rotate the pedals until yo have them at the “3 o’clock/9 o’clock” position. Your knee should be directly above the pedal shaft on that front pedal. If it isn’t, adjust the seat forwards or backwards until you get that right.

If you find that a wee bit difficult to judge tie a weight to a bit of string and have your helper hold the end just at the bottom edge of your kneecap to have the weight hanging down (with your feet at that 3/9 position of course). That makeshift plumb bob should bisect the pedal shaft as it hangs.

Handlebar height and reach

Finish off by adjusting the handlebars to where you need them to be. Height will be determined by the position you feel most comfortable riding in. Adjust them up or down to where you want them, and then check the ‘reach’. When riding in your preferred position, your arms should be extended but not ‘locked out’. You need a bit of bend at the elbows to ensure that you have good control while riding, but not too much to have you cramped up. Adjust the handlebars forward or backward as necessary. You shouldn’t need to be sliding forward on the saddle to have reach or control.
Handlebar height and reach are adjustments for which the governing principle is YOUR COMFORT. Adjust them to where you need them.

The Saddle

Forgot about that, didn’t we? Obviously, if we’re not gonna be sitting our bums on the right spot on the saddle all the other stuff is gonna be mucked up a bit!

Never mind. You’re reading this through before you start fiddling with stuff, aren’t you? Getting the bike’s ‘fit’ right for you is really all about getting a good balance between those simple principles outlined above. If you’re doing it yourself, rather than have a bike shop do it for you, you’ll probably end up fiddling a bit and re-adjusting stuff. Get the seat position feeling right and then finding you’re riding a bit higher or lower than you thought you were gonna, so that puts the seat position back feeling a bit wrong. That sort of thing. Won’t take too much effort to get it right, that’s for sure! Right enough, anyway.

Putting your bum on the saddle right is easy. See those wide pads? They’re for your bum bones. That’s all there is to it. Your bum bones are really called your ‘sit bones’, and those pads are made for them. They’re the only place you put your bum bones, because putting those anywhere else ends up hurting, one way or another. The long bit at the front is there for control, not comfort. Inside of your leg keeps hold of the bike when you’re leaning over going around corners. (I never thought about that when I was a young fella. I soon figured it out after coming here, anyway.
Ladies saddles are usually a bit wider than gentlemen’s saddles. That’s no slight on their figures, though, because ladies ladies’ sit bones aren’t in the same spot. Gender doesn’t really make any difference. We all need to make sure we have a saddle which fits our sit bones.

A saddle which fits us is probably about the most important thing of all. Doesn’t matter how good the bike might be otherwise. If the saddle doesn’t fit it’s a crappy bike, because your bum hurts!

Catweazle 07-07-08 08:19 AM


Are you still with us? Good, because if you’ve persevered this far you now have a bike! (Even if that purchase has only really been made in your head, yet!)

It’s time to hop on the thing and go for a ride, and that can be a daunting challenge for those of us who haven’t been on a bicycle for a long time. Especially for those of us who, like me, hadn’t really thought about riding a bike in any ‘technical’ sense at all, ever. So we’ll spend a little bit of time talking about the ‘basics’ of riding, and the most basic thing of all is starting and stopping.

Taking off.

Swing your leg over that bike and stand with your legs astride the top bar, your bum forward of the saddle, and your hands on the handlebar. That’s your “at rest” position. It’s how you stand and hold the bike upright before you take off, and it’s how you stand and hold the bike up straight when you come to a stop. And it’s the position from which you can take off with best control of your bike. You do that in the following way. Don’t be put off by the detailed description of it, please. It all happens in one continuous, smooth action, so practice until it becomes easy.

Decide which leg you want to take off with. That’ll usually be your ‘strongest’ leg, but it doesn’t really make much difference which. Spin the pedals around until the pedal on that side is at the ’10 o’clock’ position. (Up and a wee bit forwards, in other words.)

Get your upper body a bit forward so you can support your weight on your hands, and push down on that pedal.
As the bike starts to move forward, bring your body up and back to sit on the saddle, and allow your upper body to come back and up a bit into a comfortable riding position.

Sounds technical, but it’s not really. That ‘weight over the handlebars’ when you take off gives you better control of the steering, and allows you to take off smooth and straight. It eliminates the ‘wobbles’ once you get the hang of it.


Pulling up to a halt is the reverse of the above, basically. Weight a bit forward again, bum forward and off the saddle, leg down to the ground to support you and then stand astride the top bar.

But what about the balancing?

There is one (and only one) exception to the principles outlined above about saddle height and starting/stopping. That’s the person who has genuinely never ridden a two-wheeled vehicle before, and who doesn’t yet have the concept of sitting on one when it is moving and being able to stay upright!

Learning to balance a bike is the same for older folk as it is for little kids, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘training wheels’. Training wheels suck! Learning to balance a bicycle is where that “you need to be able to put both feet on the ground” comes into play.

Drop the saddle down so you can put both feet on the ground. Point the bike downhill, sit on it, kick off and then lift your feet up off the ground. That’s how you learn to ‘balance’ a bike. There’s no other way. You keep doing that until you stop falling off, it’s as simple as that. When you’ve learnt how to roll downhill sitting on the thing, and turn the handlebars to steer it, you’re ready to put that saddle back up to where it should be and then learn to take off and ride correctly.

By the way. If you’ve chosen a nice,gentle, soft grassy slope to practise on (as most of us would do) don’t be too nervous about making the move to a harder sealed surface. Keeping a bike upright on grass is harder than keeping it upright on a hard sealed surface, so if you’re happy on the grass you’ll be right as rain on the pavement.

Catweazle 07-07-08 08:20 AM

On to riding the bike – Cadence and Gears

It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that, over the years, quite a few of you older ‘newbies’ have looked at the young folk on BMX bikes, their legs spinning around at a rapid rate and their bikes seeming to be getting nowhere fast, and thought “what a silly waste of effort!” But those young folk, with their legs spinning around, have something to teach us. Getting your legs moving a bit faster is the key to riding easy and riding well!


The rate at which you spin those pedals around is called “cadence”, and most experienced riders would tell you that a rate of about 80 revs per minute or better is a good goal to aim at. You won’t achieve that straight away, and don’t be too disappointed if it takes you a fair while to achieve. Different folk build up to it over different lengths of time, so it’ll come with practice. Hours spent riding is what gets you there. Just slowly, over time, build up the pedal rotation speed whilst keeping it to what feels comfortable and ‘right’ for you.

Simply put, a higher pedal rotation speed makes the riding easier, because it gives you more momentum and makes it easier to handle the ‘harder stuff’ like riding up hills or handling a head wind. When you are pedalling faster, and need to change gears for a bit of harder riding, you can still maintain your speed of travel. With a slower pedal rotation speed you tend to slow down too much when you change down, and then the riding gets harder.

So be sure to think, right from the outset, about getting those legs spinning around a bit more quickly. Your aging legs CAN do it, as most of us here can attest. Many of us have started off just like you, if you’re thinking that you might not be up to it.

Changing gears

The sheer number of gears on modern bicycles can be daunting to many folk. One of the most common questions asked by newbies is “How do I know what gear to use?” The answer to that is rather simple. Your legs tell you!
The general rule of thumb which will probably help you is:

“2 on the front and use whatever is comfortable on the back.”

The other general principle which will best help you use the gears effectively is:

“When you are approaching a steep hill which will have you needing to use the smaller and lower gears, change down on the front before you start climbing.”

Lets look at those gears a bit more closely, to explain it all.

You’ll likely have 3 cogs on the front ‘crankset’. The smallest of those is for the harder going. For climbing steep hills and riding into stiff breezes. The middle cog is where you’ll do most of your riding. The largest cog is for the really easy (and fast) going. Long, flat sections, maybe even with the wind at your back. Going downhill if you want to pedal rather than coast. That sort of thing. (Remember we just said, in our rule of thumb, that “2 on the front” is where you basically ride?

The rear (gearset) group of cogs is on the rear axle, and those are what you change most. You move up and down into higher or lower ‘gears’ so you can keep the leg pressure pretty much constant on the pedals. They are there to smooth out the need to ‘work harder’ when the going gets heavier. It is easier (albeit slower) to travel in a lower gear than to travel in a higher gear.

When your legs start to tell you that the going is getting a bit harder, change to a ‘lower’ (i.e. bigger) gear on that rear gearset. When the going gets easy again change back up to a ‘higher’ (i.e. smaller) gear. You’ll work it out soon enough, and when you get better and more comfortable with it you’ll start to anticipate the gear changes, and change before you put any noticeable extra strain on your legs at all. You’ll be riding longer and further then, because you won’t be tiring yourself as quickly.

Don’t ‘cross chain’

If you’ve understand the general gist of what was described above you’ll likely be realising that it’s really like having three separate sets of ‘gears’. Low, medium and high range, sort of. The front crankset gives you that. Most of the time you’re in ‘2’ on the front, and you don’t change that very often. Instead, you do most of your gear changing with the rear ‘gearset’.

It’s kind of important, though, not to have that chain stretched all the way from the small inner cog at front to the small outer cog at back, or from the large outer cog at front to the large inner cog at rear. If you find yourself doing that then you aren’t using those front gear changes effectively. It’s not good to ‘cross chain’ in that fashion, because it puts extra stress on the chain and causes extra wear and tear.

You have seven or eight cogs (maybe even more) on that rear gearset, right? Then think of them in this way.
The larger inner cogs are for harder and slower. The middle cogs in the gearset are for more ‘normal’ travel and speed. The outer smaller cogs are for the easier and faster riding. That matches up pretty well with how we are thinking about the front cogs, doesn’t it? Good. You’ve just now realised why the small cogs are at different sides front and back. They match up better that way for how you need to use them, so you can avoid cross-chaining.
If the going is harder and heavier, and you’re on that small front cog as a result, stick to using the larger (inner) and medium (middle) cogs at back. If you’re on ‘2’ at the front, where most of your riding happens, you can pretty comfortably use any of the cogs on the rear gearset without cross-chaining badly. If you’re up into easy and fast going, and on that big front cog, stick to using the smaller (outer) and middle cogs on the rear gearset.

It’s all easy enough. It only looks complicated because I described and explained it in detail. You just passed ‘Advanced gear changing 101’ if you followed it.

Catweazle 07-07-08 08:20 AM

Improving your riding

With a well chosen bicycle under you and set up to ‘fit’ you well, and some basic riding techniques learnt, there’s not much left other than to ride the thing!
Hours spent in the saddle is the path to improved riding abilities. The more you ride the better you get. It’s as simple as that. Your body gets more attuned to the activity. The muscle structure in your legs develops. Even your blood circulation improves, to get more ‘fuel’ down to where it is being used. But let it all happen at a rate which suits YOU, rather than trying to match what you’ve heard of or read about somebody else doing.

Different people need to develop their abilities at different rates. Some older folk can build up their riding capabilities and endurance really quickly, over a period of weeks. Some take months or even a year or more to build up to the levels they wanted to attain. It’s important not to hurt yourself in the trying, because that’s discouraging. No matter what your reason for taking up cycling might be, it ought to be fun!

You’ll soon know what your initial ‘limits’ are, and have a broad idea of what you want to eventually do with your bike, so use that knowledge to set achievable and relevant goals for yourself. Those can be whatever you want or need them to be. A ‘milestone’ ride of a particular distance, perhaps, or an increase to your average riding speed. Perhaps overcoming a hill which is a challenge for you. Whatever that goal might be, for you, be sure to set one which is a challenge, but a reasonably achievable one. And when you achieve that goal, think about what your next challenge might be.

Catweazle 07-07-08 08:21 AM

Cycling gear and stuff you need to carry

The more you carry the harder you'll have to work at riding, so 'keep it light' is the best principle. The following are what I'd consider the bare minimum necessities.

Tyre pump:
You'll probably have a more substantial tyre pump at home, but a lightweight, frame-mounted tyre pump is a 'must' when you're out on the road. There are many different types on offer, and having it mounted securely and out of the way is the important factor. Talk to your bike shop owner about which would suit your particular bike best.

Generally, a 'swiss army knife' type cycling multi-tool will be adequate for most minor roadside repairs you might encounter. It'll contain the spanners and allen-keys needed for tightening up nuts, bolts and fastenings which might work loose or need to be removed for repairs. Also always carry a set of tyre levers. Lightweight nylon ones are fine, but whether you choose those or more substantial metal ones, I always find that a set of three makes easier work than just a pair of them when removing a tyre.

One (or preferably two) spare inner-tubes. That's basically it! Until you maybe start venturing out on much more adventurous touring or activities, you won't need to cart spare parts. Maintaining your bike regularly and keeping everything well oiled will ensure that more substantial repairs happen at home, not out on the road.

Please, don't rely on a rear vision mirror alone to know what's behind you or overtaking, but at the same time don't go without one either. It's essential to be aware of your surrounds whilst cycling, and a nuisance to be continually turning your head, but at the same time that turn of the head is a visual signal to the motorists around you.

If your bike hasn't already got a water bottle holder fitted, be sure to add one. If you're riding any further than just down the corner store and back, it's essential to carry water with you for hydration.

Bike lock:
Whichever of the gazillion forms of bike lock you choose, remember that they are only a deterrent to casual, opportunistic theft. Walking home isn't fun, so even when locking the bike think about where you're leaving it sit. If you are choosing a chain or cable lock, be sure it's long enough for you to feed it through both wheel and frame, and around the structures you'll be attaching it to.

Some thing to carry it all in:
Bicycle pannier bags are a nuisance unless you're maybe doing the week's shopping or heading off on a long, multi-day road trip. Saddle or handlebar-mounted bags are generally roomy enough to fit the few things you are carrying with you. My personal preference is a handlebar-mounted bag with side holders for a couple of extra water bottles. It's more than roomy enough for the few tools and spares, a bike lock, my wallet, and even some snack bars for longer rides.

..And an optional extra:
It might see strange to include cycle speedometer in a list such as this, but when starting out I found it perhaps the most useful accessory I added to the bike. As you are developing your riding skills and capabilities a speedometer will give you constant feedback about how well you are doing, help ensure that you don't slip back into lazier habits, and give you positive reward for your attainments!

Catweazle 07-07-08 08:22 AM

Useful forum links

Handlebar choices

Check what other 50+ cyclists use to help alleviate hand and wrist soreness or numbness.

Special Thread for 50+ cyclists

50+ members share their thoughts and approaches to cycling.

Want to improve your pedalling?

The excellent advice given in this thread helped me improve cadence and understand how it fits in with gear changing.

Thread for beginning or returning cyclists

50+ members share their thoughts about taking up or returning to cycling. A wealth of excellent advice!

Books and other print resources

Cycling Past 50 by Joe Friel
Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100 by Roy M. Wallack and Bill Katovsky
Food for Fitness: Eat Right to Train Right by Chris Carmichael
Bicycling Street Smarts by John S. Allen

Catweazle 07-07-08 08:38 AM

I mentioned, the other day in the topic about stickies, that I'd been thinking about doing this and a few people at least thought it was a good idea.

Over to all of you now. It needs a few pictures and diagrams, which I'll look at adding over coming days, but more than that it needs your thoughts, comments, criticisms, additions and whatever else.

I seriously don't care if it's stickied or not. I'm happy to do whatever edits people might think it needs. At the least it could possibly turn into something wrth bookmarking, so it can be linked to for newcomers if need be. That's kinda why I wrote it. I've appreciated the help I've had from here :D


Catweazle 07-07-08 05:22 PM

Hi again folks. Quite a few thread views but no comments? Did I upset you by posting this? I hope not.

Have people perhaps got suggestions about favourite 'informative' threads they think would be worth adding to post #8 above?

DnvrFox 07-07-08 05:46 PM

One of the things that I enjoyed about the previous "newbie" sticky was a diversity from a whole lot of different folk's viewpoints, thoughts and ideas about what returning to biking was all about.

It was a surprise to me that so many offered such different views about what returning (or beginning) biking was all about. All the way from "basic" to rather complex viewpoints.

I'm wondering if perhaps some of the very diverse thoughts of others expressed in the previous thread might be resurrected into a portion of this thread.

Also, I think it would be nice to have a reference to the Special Thread for 50+ Bicyclists,

as some folks have found this useful in centering themselves and finding where they are or might be in bicycling.

aviatrix58 07-07-08 06:15 PM

As a newbie, I appreciate the info. Thanks to our bike-fanatic son and daughter in law, we've purchase our bikes but they live 3+ hours away, so the "fitting" information you gave is great as they haven't been around to help us with that. Thank you!

Louis 07-07-08 06:28 PM

Good job Catweazle. With your permission, I may print this out from time to time for newbies whose bikes I fix.

RonH 07-07-08 07:37 PM

What do you folks think? Is this worth my time to make it a sticky?

RoMad 07-07-08 07:44 PM

What are you waiting for

cyclinfool 07-07-08 07:53 PM

It is good material but may be a bit daunting to a newbie. When we were kids we just got on a bike and rode, this sounds like you need a PhD in bikeology just to get started. I'm not saying all this material isn't great stuff - but I think a dumb-it-down first step would be useful - kind of like teaching someone to write software in a new language - we need the "Hello World" example. That's my $0.02 anyway. The rest of the material will be needed to fill in the blanks. And besides - if we have a complete reference of everything you wanted to know about biking - what faffing would be left. :D

Yen 07-07-08 08:25 PM

Great write-up, CW. I read it at work but waited until now to post.... and I wasn't sure you'd want replies in the thread or just leave it info-only.

It's not a bad idea to incorporate others' comments as well, as Denver suggested, just to get a variety of views from a range of experiences.

Other newbie topics that appear here from time to time include preparing for a first century, and questions about nutrition.

Yen 07-07-08 08:34 PM

Another format might be to have each topic in it's own separate thread, with a list of the links to each topic in a stickie. The reader could then review the list and click the link for a topic of interest, rather than scroll down a long page.

Also......... those who are barely old enough to qualify for this forum might not consider themselves "older". :) Perhaps "For the 50+ newbie rider" might appeal to them more.

Lots of great info here, CW!

Road Fan 07-07-08 08:36 PM

Originally Posted by RonH (Post 7017695)
What do you folks think? Is this worth my time to make it a sticky?

RonH, this is exactly what should be a sticky, for it's content, good organization, clear and entertaining writing, and usefulness. Do it soon, please!!

Road Fan

Road Fan 07-07-08 08:39 PM

Originally Posted by Yen (Post 7018057)
Another format might be to have each topic in it's own separate thread, with a list of the links to each topic in a stickie. The reader could then review the list and click the link for a topic of interest, rather than scroll down a long page.

Also......... those who are barely old enough to qualify for this forum might not consider themselves "older". :) Perhaps "For the 50+ newbie rider" might appeal to them more.

Lots of great info here, CW!

reading your comment, Yen, I think CW's posts are not just for 50+ newbies but for many younger adult newbies.

I wonder if the site software supports more levels of message hierarchy, to keep the "instructional" content in an outline organization? RonH?

Road Fan

Road Fan 07-07-08 08:45 PM

Catweazle, I think this an excellent start, and I like the organization you've chosen. I do think we need to think about how people who wish to contribute should fit in their comments in a way that will make them accessible to people who are browsing for a particular topic, and would benefit from diversity of viewpoint.

The tone you have set is wonderful and welcoming.

Road Fan

Yen 07-07-08 08:48 PM

Originally Posted by Road Fan (Post 7018081)
reading your comment, Yen, I think CW's posts are not just for 50+ newbies but for many younger adult newbies.

I was referring to the word "older" in the title. :) :) :)
[3 smilies because it's only MHO and trivial. I think CW has done a great job.]

Catweazle 07-07-08 11:53 PM

Originally Posted by DnvrFox (Post 7017036)
..a diversity from a whole lot of different folk's viewpoints, thoughts and ideas about what returning to biking was all about.

It was a surprise to me that so many offered such different views about what returning (or beginning) biking was all about. All the way from "basic" to rather complex viewpoints.

I'm wondering if perhaps some of the very diverse thoughts of others expressed in the previous thread might be resurrected into a portion of this thread.

Done and done. Topics are included in the links list.

I'd like to mention that, in writing the above, I've tried my best to stick to the 'factual' info and to what emerged to me as the 'concensus of opinion' expressed here in relation to the matters covered. The only stiff in there which didn't originate from this 50+ section is the bit about the two different types of hybrid bikes. That bike came from the bike shops around here, when they were explaining the current manufacturer catalogues to me.

It's all also very much a 'first draft'. I figured out a basic system of organisation for it, and then just sat down and wrote the thing. I've briefly checked it over for typos and spelling, probably haven't found all of those, and I've done no revision or editing whatsoever on it. It can all be changed in whatever way people think it needs to be. :)

Originally Posted by Louis (Post 7017293)
Good job Catweazle. With your permission, I may print this out from time to time for newbies whose bikes I fix.

It 'belongs' to BikeForums, not to me. Posting it here means that I gave it away, rather than sold it. I'm happy for people to whatever they will with it :D

Originally Posted by cyclinfool (Post 7017801)
It is good material but may be a bit daunting to a newbie.

Thoroughly agree. It all came out as a rush of words, I was surprised to see it blow out to 6000 words, and I was worried when I posted it that it might come across as daunting.

It needs some pictures and diagrams, as mentioned, but do you think it'd help if each post commenced with a brief, point form synopsis?

Originally Posted by Yen (Post 7018007)
Other newbie topics that appear here from time to time include preparing for a first century, and questions about nutrition.

Linkys, please!!!!

I've a few I know about which I'll be hunting for so I can include links to them. Suggestions for additions to the link list will be MUCH appreciated :)

Originally Posted by Road Fan (Post 7018110)
I do think we need to think about how people who wish to contribute should fit in their comments in a way that will make them accessible to people who are browsing for a particular topic, and would benefit from diversity of viewpoint.

One way to address that would be for people, who wish to contribute alternative approaches or possibly other aspects of cycling I've not covered above, to simply post their own informative/thoughtful/whatever posts amidst the chatter we're conducting here. We could later get a kind moderator to strip out the chatter and leave just the informative content, perhaps?


P.S. I'm done with this for today. My daughter has just informed me that it's my birthday, so I'm off to celebrate what I'd forgotten about :D

DnvrFox 07-08-08 05:08 AM

As regards 50+ vs "older rider" I much prefer 50+. We had a lot of discussion about this when we started the forum. "Older" is a non-defined term which could be anywhere from 25 to 80, depending upon the reader's viewpoint. 50+ has a real meaning.

Many forums have some sort of a sticky about choosing a bike, etc. I.e., the Clydesdale forum has special info for heavier and larger riders.

So, let's not try to do a "be all" thing, but instead the special things aimed at 50+'rs.

Good job, Cat

The Weak Link 07-08-08 05:34 AM


Diversity is overrated. Great job, CW!

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