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pennydreadful 06-22-10 07:20 PM

Advice for adult beginner
So I recently bought a used bike off craigslist but the only riding I've done in the past is when I had a dept store Huffy "mountain bike" when I was 10. So yeah, I have very little riding experience.

I managed to ride around some quiet neighborhood streets but I've noticed that I have trouble keeping the bike straight while pedaling. I feel that I would have trouble passing anything without giving it a wide berth or that I could accidentally veer into someone who was riding next to me. Would this go away with practice or is something wrong with my bike? It's a 70s-era Schwinn 3 speed. I only plan to use the bike for short trips like going to the train station when I don't feel like taking the bus (1 mi) or to the grocery store or library (.5 mi).

I was reading through Sheldon Brown's site and realized I was starting and stopping all wrong. What else should I know?

Also this is an incredibly dumb question but I tried going up a mild incline and I couldn't even do that. I should be in first gear for hills, right?

Thanks for the help and I hope this is the right forum for this question.

StephenH 06-22-10 07:42 PM

Assuming the bike is not obviously bent or has loose handlebars or something weird like that, it sounds like it's just a matter of getting used to riding again.

One thing that makes learning to ride harder is that it is easier to ride straight when you're going fast than it is when you're going slow. And of course, if you're not too confident, you're going slow. But just keep at it and you should see some improvement. If you can find a big parking lot without much on it or get on a wide bike trail at a non-busy time, just ride around for practice. Generally, don't pay attention to how straight you're going so much as just watching out in front of you where you're going, and the going straight sort of naturally happens.

I'm not sure about the starting and stopping, but I would say that generally, if what you're doing works, don't worry about it a whole lot.

Generally, yes, you'd be in first gear for hills. More specifically, that's the one where the pedals spin fast and the bike goes slow. Usually, when I hit a hill, I just start up in whatever gear I'm in and then downshift as it gets harder.

A common issue for new riders is seat height. If you have your seat down too low, it makes it harder on your legs when pedaling. Ideally, your leg will be almost straightened out on the downstroke. If you want to look cool or jump your bike over stuff, you keep the seat low, otherwise, raise it up. That will help some on the hills.

Something that will help on a "mild incline" is hitting it faster in the first place.

When I first started riding again, I noticed some fairly fast improvement in toning my legs up, so you're likely to be going quite a bit better in two or three weeks than you are now.

If all you do is ride your bike a half mile or mile two or three times a week, you may not be riding enough to see much improvement in it. Get out and ride an hour every evening, and you'll see more effect.

aadhils 06-23-10 09:26 AM

The faster you go, the easier it is to maintain a straight line. Make sure your brakes are good.

Garfield Cat 06-23-10 09:33 AM

Going in a straight line: we tend to steer according to our eyes's focus. If we focus too far out, we tend to drift. If we focus too close to nearby objects, we start to over steer. I think this is true when driving on a highway.

IanHelgesen 06-23-10 12:20 PM

You might want to have a mechanic take a look at your bike. Your dificulty keeping a straight line is probably just be due to lack of practice, but a bent fork or misaligned wheel could also cause problems.

For hills, three-speeds tended to be set up with stupidly high gears. A decent bike shop can replace your rear cog with a larger one, making hills a bit easier. They'll still be a challenge until your body has gotten used to riding.

Also, your Scwhinn probably has steel wheels and a Sturmey AW hub. This means that your brakes will not work well if the rims are wet. Also, you should not stand on the pedals in 3rd gear. The old AW hubs could slip from 3rd into neutral under heavy load. Replacing the brake pads would also be a good idea, since pads harden (becoming less effective) with age.

pennydreadful 06-23-10 04:24 PM

Thanks everyone! I've only been able to ride for about 40 minutes total so far so I'll continue to practice. If I still can't keep the bike straight, I'll take it to a bike shop. It's possible the wheel is misaligned since I had to take it off to get the bike home and maybe I put it on wrong.

garage sale GT 06-23-10 06:04 PM

The fork should sweep forward, not backward. Your fork may be in backward. It is possible to assemble the fork backward, but with the handlebars and fender correct.

Putting the fork in backward would produce a feeling of wobbliness and the steering would seem to want to turn harder, the more you turned. A correctly assembled bike ought to have a slight self-centering feeling.

You should also check if your frame is cracked-gently pull the joints apart and see if they separate, although it would be almost unheard of for an electroforged Schwinn to crack.

The fork should rotate but not wobble in the frame, and the wheels should not be loose on their axles.

Last, ensure you have at least 50 PSI in the tires. Low tire pressure definitely produces a wobbly feel.

Riverrat2 06-25-10 10:38 AM

The best advice I see so far is to take it to a Bike shop and have them do a "full tune up." Most shops will do it for 50-100 bucks. I just had my local LBS do a tune up on my bike for a little under 150 (and that included new tires) and it rides so much better, shifts smoother, and so forth. Plus, while it's there, they can help you adjust for the best size. Well worth the investment.

SunnyFlorida 06-25-10 07:07 PM


=pennydreadful;11004048 I was reading through Sheldon Brown's site and realized I was starting and stopping all wrong. What else should I know?
Thanks for mentioning the above. I'm an adult learner too (going from a trike to a regular bike).

I read Sheldon Brown's article and even saw a Youtube video on the exact thing he talked about.

Since I've been riding on a trike I got into the habit of sitting on the saddle first and then pedaling.

I can well imagine how this wouldn't work on a regular bike.

Once I get my new bike (by next Wednesday, I hope) I'll be using this type of mount Shedon Brown described.

In the meantime, I'm practicing on the trike - definitely not the same of course - but at least it will get me out of the habit of getting on the saddle first and then pedaling out.

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