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localtalent 09-21-05 12:53 PM

New Cyclist - looking for tips
Please don't mock, but I never learned how to ride a bike until much after most people. My parents tried a few times but I kept falling off and hated it.

I went with inline skating for a while when I was 16-18, went to school in the frozen North (Rochester, NY) where the roads are too bad for skating. School was far away from everything, and I decided I'd finally break down and buy a bike.

Went to the LBS and bought a Fuji Palisade, a nice 18-spd hybrid grip-shift for too much. Rode it all over the place, including along the highway to the mall a couple times.

Moved back home for a little while after graduation, bought a lovely Giant Sedonia LX - disc brakes, 24 speed hybrid, love it. I rode around our hilly, dirt/gravel road filled town.

Just got a job a few months ago, moved to Manhattan, bought a Peugeot UO-8 (again for too much) at a flea market. I *HATE* riding in NYC traffic, but I still do. It's been a constant adventure with the bike breaking all the time, and sourcing parts (and *what* parts) has been a difficulty.

Anyway, I still feel less than confident on the bike, especially since I got my tire caught along an old sunken train rail and took a tumble last week.

I don't think my seat position is correct.

I find I have to put one leg over the bike, sit down, then start pedaling.

I still put too much weight on my hands.

I'm not comfortable dismounting.

I can't ride without hands, my balance isn't good enough (not that I want to, just demonstrating).

Extremely slow speeds still mess me up.

I still can't deal with traffic.

Can anyone give me some advice?

va_cyclist 09-21-05 01:09 PM

The only way to get better at riding is to ride.

I'd suggest doing more recreational riding on paths or trails, or even parking lots, until you build up the confidence in your bike-handling skills to negotiate traffic.

As for fit, if it feels wrong, it probably is. Were you fitted by a bike shop for this bike? If not, considering taking it into one and getting a fit.

A typical rule of thumb for saddle height is to raise it up until your knee is just slightly bent (no more than 15 degrees) when your pedal is at the bottom of its stroke.

Lots of people have difficulty mounting & dismounting even when the bike fits right. Are you able to stand over the top bar with both feet on the ground? Do that, then step on one pedal to get going and lift yourself into the saddle with the same movement. To dismount, reverse this procedure.

See for lots more advice on basic bike-handling and fit.

UmneyDurak 09-21-05 02:16 PM

If you see white hair that barely sticks out above the steering wheel, beware. :D
Anyway practice, practice, practice. Thats the key to succeeding in anything.

Eggplant Jeff 09-21-05 02:43 PM

What happened to the sedona you liked so much? Why don't you ride it?

EricDJ 09-21-05 04:20 PM

Can you tell us the bike size, and your inseam. If you know these, we can help determine if the bike is completely the wrong size.

localtalent 09-21-05 08:19 PM

The Sedona lives out at my parents' house, it's too nice a bike to live outdoors in Manhattan. Bike theft (even with a NY Kryptonite lock) is not uncommon, and I'd rather not be riding around on it here.

Plus, I need something to ride when I go home and visit my dad. I'm probably going to fix up the Fuji and either keep it as a guest bike or donate it.

By 'bike size', do you mean BB to top tube, or what? And by inseam, you mean foot to crotch? I don't believe the bike is completely the wrong size, but I could be wrong.

Top tube size is 23", seat tube and downtube are 24". (measuring from the outside of the BB). My inseam (heel to crotch) is 30". I'm 5'10, 155lb.

cooker 09-21-05 09:26 PM

Seat tube 24"? If you've measured correctly, the bike may be too big for you. It should be centre of bb to top of seat tube (level with top of top tube). Can you straddle the bike without jeopardizing your reproductive future? RGC

DannoXYZ 09-24-05 07:57 AM

That's a 60cm bike, perhaps a bit on the large size for someone with 30" inseam?

"I don't think my seat position is correct."

Various fit philosophies and links to calculators here: Inseam vs. saddle height.

"I find I have to put one leg over the bike, sit down, then start pedaling."

Practice standing up out of the saddle with all your weight on one foot. This puts one crank at the very bottom and one at the top. Coast for a while like this, then switch legs. You want to get used to putting all your weight on one foot.

Then to take off smoothly, you swing one leg over and position the pedal near the top of the downstroke. Hop up on that pedal with all your weight to drive it down (and bike forwards) and lift yourself up at the same time. Then set your bum down on the seat while you get your other foot on the pedal.

"I still put too much weight on my hands."

Raise the stem a couple inches. Your seat may be too far back or the stem may be too long.

"I'm not comfortable dismounting."

Slow down gradually and get into that standing position off the saddle with all your weight on one leg. Take the other free leg off the pedal and hover it over the ground. As you come to a stop, lower that free leg onto the ground and shift all your weight onto it. Then you can pull the other leg off the bike.

"I can't ride without hands, my balance isn't good enough (not that I want to, just demonstrating).

Extremely slow speeds still mess me up."

This is easy. Find an empty parking lot and practice carving lines through the lot slowly. Ride in figure-8 patterns, draw the imaginary figure on the ground with your eyes and trace that line with your front-tyre. Practice the countersteering feel, you actually steer left to turn right and steer right to turn left. This is really obvious when you ride one-handed. You'll be able to actually feel the countersteering because you don't have two hands pushing in opposite directions cancelling each other out.

"I still can't deal with traffic."

Well, Manhattan's gotta be the worse place to ride a bike. You have to be extremely aggressive, jump into holes in traffic with authority. One moment's hesitation and pause shows uncertainty and that signals weakness to the driver and they'll take it. As a result, you both may be going for same spot at the same time. Use overt hand-signals to tell the drivers your intention, but not too early or they'll cut you off. Yell at people who haven't made eye-contac with you to make sure they know you're there. Learn to tuck & roll onto a hood while picking up the bike with your feet.

Mxu 09-24-05 07:38 PM

I started riding in NYC at the end of the summer. Yes, it scares you s##tless at first, but you get used to it, especially if you know what Avenues to ride on. I try to stick with Park on the East, and Broadway on the West.

Yeah, be aggressive.

####ing taxis.

mike 09-24-05 10:25 PM

Get yourself a bike with a step-through frame (a girl's bike).

If possible, get one with an upright riding position like an old three-speed or maybe even a single speed with coaster brakes.

Wider tires will also give you a more stable ride.

Hook up with a friend who knows something about bicycles and can adjust the seat and handlebars to fit you correctly.

Ride that around for awhile and your confidence and skill will improve.

folder fanatic 09-26-05 12:17 PM

Don't be embarassed about your lack of skills in this area please! We are here pretty much for the same reasons. Basically it is to improve on the skills we have for effective cycling. With this in mind, I will agree with Mike in the above post. I found that the simple cycles are the best in an all around situations of fast moving traffic. You concentrate on the activities around you-not the bike. My present bikes are in this mold. One is an old fashioned 1960s Ladies frame three speed with upright handlebars that is sure and quick to shift in any type of traffic. The other is a more modern but simple 3 speed folder that can collapse into a neat bundle when the weather or traffic becomes too much for me. While both these bikes can be ridden very fast, both are extremely stable in slower speeds and manuverable in tight situations. This is becoming more rare to fold up like this. These types of bikes are real skills and confidence builders and give me more as time moves on.

Frosty_UK 09-26-05 04:31 PM

Took me a while to ride a bike with no hands. I still cant do wheelies or endos and especially not bunny hops any ideas on how to do them? :P

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